Doctoral​ Studies

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The doctoral study is assessed on the basis of a doctoral thesis only. Like a research-based MSc student, a PhD candidate works on a single research project. The PhD dissertation differs from an MSc dissertation in that it must represent a substantial original contribution to a particular field of research.

Students are requested to contact a prospective supervisor to enquire about an available project, or suggest one; after acceptance by a supervisor the student must apply online and then register before the end of March (for the first semester) or before the end of August (for the second semester).

A project proposal must be submitted to Faculty within 6 months of registration (otherwise registration will be cancelled). The proposal is first submitted as an oral presentation during a departmental colloquium and after that in written format on a template (these meetings are three times a year, please see printout in the Zoology Tea Room for details).

Application for ethics must accompany the written proposal (see Faculty of Science website). The written proposal is approved by a Lecturers committee and thereafter submitted to the Faculty Degrees Committee for approval.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the duration of a PhD?

The minimum duration is 2 years and the maximum is 4 years. UJ provides bursaries for no more than 3 years.

What bursaries are available?

Unless bursaries are linked to the supervisor’s project grant, students should submit a bursary application to the NRF. Please see the following website for details on NRF bursaries: If a candidate has missed the NRF’s deadline, he/she can still apply for Faculty/UJ Bursaries, but must apply for the NRF bursary at the next opportunity. The following Faculty/UJ bursaries are available: a) Faculty of Science top-up bursary and ‘merit’ bursary (for students who obtained an average percentage of 65-74% for their previous degree); these bursaries are automatically awarded once a student has signed a Memorandum for Masters and Doctoral Bursaries; b) UJ Merit bursaries: For students with a previous achievement level of at least 70%; c) Assistant bursaries (65% and above): minimum of 4 hours’ work as demonstrators per week; d) URC international student bursaries (please see the Faculty of Science website for details).

What requirements are there for completing a degree, in addition to handing in the thesis?

Presentations: PhD candidates must present their work on 3 occasions; one of these is the departmental colloquium mentioned above, and the remaining two may be presented either at conferences or in the department before submitting their thesis for examination.
Publications: Presently, proof of acceptance of at least one publication (note: this may increase to 3 publications in the near future) must be submitted to the factuly before the Higher Degrees Committee meeting. Publications must be approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DoHET); this includes ISI-listed journals and approved South African Journals. Conference proceedings count as publications only if they have been published in approved journals.

Are there any format requirements for the project proposal and the thesis?

Templates are updated several times a year, and the latest one should be acquired from the Faculty of Science website (or contact the postgraduate office in the Faculty)

When is the deadline for handing in a project write-up/thesis? If you miss these dates, what are the options?

There are three colloquia per year (approximately in March, May/June and October/November, please see the Calendar in the Zoology Tea Room for details). Ideally, students should have their proposals/theses ready at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid unnecessary delays. Proposals/theses can only be submitted after oral presentations. For project proposals, please also make sure that you have completed the latest ethics approval form (see Faculty of Science website, these are frequently updated).

How long is a supervisor allowed to edit the thesis?

University policy states that the editing of a thesis should take place “in a reasonable amount of time”. We consider this to mean approximately 3-4 weeks. If it takes longer without any obvious reason, please contact the HOD.

Research Groups

Ongoing programmes. Please contact the head of a particular research group about MSc projects.

Cave and groundwater ecology

Contact: Prof Francois Durand
Our research includes studies of cave-dwelling bats and invertebrates. We are interested in the identification, distribution, feeding and roosting requirements of bats and especially the food web that exists in caves and groundwater.

Research on the impact of Acid Mine Drainage on freshwater ecology on the West Rand

Contact: Prof Francois Durand

Genetics of marine organisms

Contact: Prof Peter Teske
Projects use cutting edge technology to study stock structure, taxonomy, conservation and connectivity of coastal organisms. Methods include DNA barcoding, eDNA metabarcoding, population genomics and gene expression analyses.

Ecology of streams and wetlands

Contact: Dr Matthew Bird
Projects focus mostly on aquatic invertebrates as indicators of stream and wetland health

Research on sub-Antarctic islands

Contact: Prof Bettine van Vuuren
Projects focus on genetic structure and adaptation of animals to extreme environments

Aquatic Health and Physiology

Dr Lolo Mokae
Prof Cobus van Dyk​​
Mrs Refilwe Lukhwareni