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Divisions in the Department of Human Biology

The Department of Human Biology brings together four divisions:

  • Division of Biomedical Engineering
  • Division of Cellular, Nutritional and Physiological Sciences
  • Division of Clinical Anatomy and Biological Anthropology
  • Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine

Division of Biomedical Engineering

The Division of Biomedical Engineering covers a wide range of research topics including medical imaging, medical devices, musculo-skeletal biomechanics, cell and tissue mechanobiology, biomechatronics, signal processing, rehabilitation engineering, healthcare technology management, and health innovation. The division's focus is on biomedical engineering that addresses health in Africa, yet is globally relevant.

Head of Division

Prof Ernesta Meintjes


Division of Cellular, Nutritional and Physiological Sciences

The Division of Cellular, Nutritional and Physiological Sciences is focused on basic life sciences research, undergraduate teaching for medicine and biomedical sciences students, and the training of postgraduate students. Research in the Division spans the disciplines of cell biology, human nutrition and physiological sciences.

Research in cell biology encompasses diverse approaches to understanding normal cellular processes and how they are altered in disease. This includes the study of cancer, neuronal development and regeneration, synaptic signalling in the brain, vascular and ocular biology, stem cells and the identification of novel therapeutic approaches to treat a wide range of diseases from cancer to epilepsy.

In physiological sciences, research focuses on human physiology with emphasis on exercise and neurophysiology. The main research fields include cardiovascular physiology, the effects of stress, ageing and exercise on the brain, neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. Parkinson's Disease) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), cellular architecture of the mammalian visual system, and neural development, regeneration and degeneration in lower and higher vertebrates.

Research in human nutrition aims to contribute to the specialised, unique body of knowledge in nutrition science and dietetics,

Head of Division

A/Prof Dirk Lang


Division of Clinical Anatomy and Biological Anthropology

The Division of Clinical Anatomy and Biological Anthropology in the Department of Human Biology is diverse: bringing together human anatomy, culture and history, evolution and adaptation of the human form including biological aspects of human body size, shape and function. We teach clinical anatomy through dissection and lecture with undergraduate and postgraduate students in Medicine, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and BSc Med Honours programmes, as well as run the Biological Anthropology programme. We offer an honours in Applied Anatomy and Biological Anthropology, as well as Masters and PhD by research. Students are provided with hands-on learning experiences through the instruction of dissection, experimentation, case studies and field experiences; this is where students observe the practical applications for the information learned. We use a range of learning styles, innovative teaching methods and incorporate information from our research and experience to advance the knowledge of our students. Critical and logical thinking skills are essential these are applied through course content and problem solving exercises to improve student learning and success.

Head of Division

A/Prof Delva Shamley


Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine

The Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM) was founded in 1989 by Prof Tim Noakes and a group of researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT). Although ESSM is located at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, it is part of the Department of Human Biology within the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT. ESSM boasts state-of-the-art equipment, extensive facilities and internationally renowned research staff whose primary functions are teaching and research.

Head of Division

Prof Alison September