New Research Chairs at South African university

23 July 2015

Two new Research Chairs have been launched by Stellenbosch University (SU) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

One Chair is in quantum, optical and atomic physics and the other is in artificial intelligence. The Chairs were launched in Stellenbosch on 20 July during an SU/CSIR research seminar that focused on particular areas where expertise existed at both institutions.

The Faculty of Science will host the Chair in Quantum, Optical and Atomic Physics, while the Department of Information Science in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will be home to the Chair in Artificial Intelligence.

Dr Hermann Uys, a physicist at the CSIR and SU, and Prof Arina Britz, the CSIR Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) representative at its SU node, will hold the respective Chairs.

Prof Eugene Cloete, the vice-rector of research and innovation at the university, described the launch as a celebration of SU’s relationship with the CSIR, while Dr Rachel Chikwamba, the CSIR group executive of strategic alliances and communication, said “the launch of two Research Chairs is absolutely amazing”.

She thanked the university for the partnership and said the council would not be able to solve everyday problems and develop new knowledge without the support of universities.

Referring specifically to the Chair in Quantum, Optical and Atomic Physics, Prof Louise Warnich, dean of the Faculty of Science, said the launch “is quite a moment for the Faculty of Science, the Department of Physics and SU. In five years’ time we will look back and be quite amazed of what has come of this research chair.”

It will allow researchers to focus on the use of single trapped atomic ions for studying quantum phenomena, and on developing laboratory technologies for the field of research that can be commercialised.

Highlighting the benefits of the Chair in Artificial Intelligence for the institutions, Prof Bruce Watson, the chairperson of the Department of Information Science, said it would double the department’s research capacity and allow for the allocation of bursaries to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

“It would make it possible to bring more artificial intelligence research into our courses and would also create a student pipeline for the CSIR in the sense that students may one day work with or for the CSIR.”

Artificial intelligence, he said, was one of the very interesting research areas and could find application in defence, service delivery, and information and communications technology.

Stellenbosch University is a partner institution of CAIR, a national collaborative research network that originated in 2011 as a joint initiative between the CSIR and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

It has an active memorandum of understanding in place with the CSIR. This agreement provides a framework for the establishment of strategic co-operative project-specific agreements, and for collaboration in selected areas of research, development and administrative initiatives. It lends itself to collaborative research activities, staff development and the relevant sharing of facilities and other resources.

Source: Stellenbosch University