Apr 06, 2012
Wits hopes ‘science stadium’ will set stage for new science championsBack
Construction|Engineering|Africa|Education|Industrial|PROJECT|Africa|Equipment|Screen|Environmental|Kevin Balkwill|Melanie Keartland
© Reuse this
The facility also has a number of different laboratories, specifically chemistry (376 seats), biology (300 seats) and physics (408 seats), and holds 23 tutorial rooms, some sponsored by industrial companies, seating between 30 and 50 students each. The projected occupancy of the tutorial rooms and lecture auditoria will be 95%, she adds.
“This facility is specifically for first-year engineering, health sciences and science, but it is also focused on liberating space in the existing discipline-specific buildings for research and postgraduate studies, and providing the postgraduate scientists of the future,” she says.
The university has about 3 200 first-year sciences students, which is a significant portion of its total 30 000 student complement, and aims to increase this number to 5 000, making the development of the facility a priority.
“We are a research institution and must ensure that we have postgraduate students, specifically master’s and PhD students, to conduct primary research.”
Lectures are recorded as podcasts and there are cameras above the lecturers to enable them to project demonstrations, experiments and calculations onto a big screen, so that all the students can participate. Further, the lecture halls also have equipment that enables lecturers to use input from students, in the form of multiple-choice feedback, to ascertain whether students have grasped key concepts.
“We now have space in the physics and chemistry buildings for laboratories for postgraduates. We expect to have more postgraduates over the next few years. Not only are we dealing with the quantity issue, but because we have consolidated our teaching, we are also dealing with the quality of graduates. “We are also starting to refur- bish the discipline-specific build- ings to make additional space for more postgraduate laboratories,” she details.
The new science stadium enables more effective teaching of undergraduates, which means that undergraduates are better prepared for postgraduate studies, says University of the Witwatersrand head of the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences Professor Kevin Balkwill.
“We attract a number of postgraduate students from Africa and across disciplines but the bulk of our postgraduates come from our own students,” he notes.
“The laboratories in the science stadium are specifically for under- graduates and are much more spacious than our previous laboratories.”
There is a significant interlock between the university’s sciences and engineering disciplines, says Keartland, adding that the university aims to consolidate its science libraries and open a single, modern library near the stadium.
Balkwill cites the numbers of natural sciences students, noting that while mathematics has a flat growth rate for the year, geo- logical sciences have enrolled 140 students, at least double their usual 60 complement.
“We have 530 first-year students in the introductory life sciences course who will enter into the fields of anatomy, physiology, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, plant sciences, zoology, and environmental science, ecology and conservation. “We have had to do a reshuffle of first-year health sciences practical classes because we could not cope with the numbers.
“One of the former first-year laboratories has already gone to molecular and cell biology, because, instead of having 119 second-year students, as they did last year, they have 190 this year. On the postgraduate side, one of the former first-year labs will be used to house postgraduate students of three research groups,” he emphasises.
“We now have space to accommodate postgraduate students and will need to increase our staff,” he adds.
“Further, we are emphasising research readiness in our undergraduate teaching. The science stadium facilitates better first-year teaching and [should improve] pass rates, which, in turn, leads to better development of high-level skills in more second- and third-year students. This will mean that students graduating with degrees will be better prepared for undertaking research within their postgraduate degrees,” he says.
“It is not just the skills but the ethos that university education creates. People who have gone through university, for example engineers, are more likely to become entrepreneurs, to develop new technologies, new businesses, innovation and research and development,” says Keartland.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Science and Technology News
Article contains comments
Recent Research Reports
This Week's Magazine
South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel has announced its fourth consecutive year of profits. The group's results for the financial year 2013/2014 were recently announced at its head office in Centurion, south of Pretoria. Revenues grew by 17%, net...
There is little opportunity for JSE-listed infrastructure company Group Five to grow shareholder value in the domestic market, says CEO Mike Upton. He says value can still be found in the private sector, in the renewable and industrial power sector, as well as in...
The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) has announced the event dates of the 2015 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS). The event will take place from October 14 to October 25, 2015, at the Johannesburg Expo Centre, Nasrec.
UK engineering support services provider Babcock is set to deliver the largest order of global truck manufacturer DAF’s truck tractors in Southern Africa to bulk carrier road-based logistics company Ngululu Bulk Carriers (NBC), with 133 trucks to be delivered in...
Digital radio communications in the African local government space can open up the world, but have many challenges to overcome, notes integration and migration of legacy radio communications infrastructure with digital mobile radio company Emcom Wireless head of...