University of Cape Town


The University of Cape Town (UCT) was founded in 1829, it is not only known for its picturesque location but its excellence as a research institution. UCT has been described as a cultural melting pot with the students and staff comprising over 100 different countries from within Africa and the rest of the world.

The department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UCT offers a three year undergraduate Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Genetics, Microbiology and/or Biochemistry. The first year of the course is a standard B.Sc in which chemistry, mathematics, statistics and biology are some of the subjects required. The next two years are specializations into at least two of the majors offered by the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. The third year also includes a mini research project which contributes to the overall mark of the course and a pass is a prerequisite for graduating.

Honours courses are then available within the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, or the Faculty of Health Science with the latter offering medical honours degrees in Forensics Genetics, Human Genetics, Physiology, Medical Biochemistry, Infectious Diseases and Immunology and Bioinformatics. There is now a Masters in Biomedical Forensic Science, which falls under Division of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology in the Faculty of Health Science, please click here for more information on this course.

BSc(Med)(Hons) in Forensic Genetics

The forensic genetic honours course consists of two general modules, four specialization specific modules and a research project. It is offered at UCT medical campus with Table Mountain and devil’s peak as the backdrop. The prerequisites for this course are a BSc degree or equivalent with a major in any of the biological fields as well as a MBChB degree. Special entry premised on prior learning and experience can be considered under special circumstances. The course is a highly intensive year long course made up of 4 main components:

  • 7 week intensive techniques course (15%)
    • Allows all the students to be on the same level of knowledge.
    • Some of the techniques covered are PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and gel electrophoresis, western blot, restriction enzyme digestions (RFLP), cloning, imaging and ELISA.
  • Four 3-week modules, three of which relate to the field of study (30%)
    • Two of the modules will be based on forensic genetics, with some of the aspects covered being basic molecular biology, DNA markers, typing kits, allelic ladders, interpreting DNA profiles, DNA databases, software used in interpretation, mitochondrial analysis, Y-chromosome markers and gender identification, the legal system and legislation in South Africa and forensic report writing.
    • One of the modules is a choice from the genetic stream, either pharmacogenomics or diagnostic genetics.
    • And the final module can be a non-related module taken from one of the different honours streams.
  • A research project within the Division of Human Genetics (40%)
    • The subject of the research project is in the field of study.
    • This takes place from April to October.
    • In addition to a written dissertation, an oral presentation will be performed
    • This course teaches the student how to conduct experiments, develop a hypothesis and interpret experimental data.
  • A scientific communication course which occurs throughout the year. (10%)
    • This develops the students’ ability to write scientifically.
    • A literature review is one of the components with a topic unrelated to the chosen research project.
    • This course allows the student to learn to search the literature, identify the salient information and the ability to combine all the information into a written report in a specific scientific format.
  • Comprehension exam is the final contribution to the overall mark (5%)
    • This final exam highlights the students’ ability to receive a piece of published research outside their field of knowledge and be able to interpret.

For more information on the UCT programme you can contact Dr. Jeanne Rousseau (

Biomedical Forensic Masters Degree

In 2012, the University of Cape Town launched a new MSc (Med) (Biomedical Forensic Science) degree.

This is a first for any South African University and a qualification sorely needed in South Africa. Graduates will be part of a selected group of Scientists with advanced training, laboratory and legal expertise who can manage and develop forensic laboratories as well as conduct high impact research.

As is well-known, there is a dearth of forensic scientists in the country and while the state forensic science laboratories are trying to cope with the workload, the staff seldom has the time or the training to conduct high quality scientific research.  There is a definite need to establish forensic research units in the various disciplines that constitute the complex field of forensics. Tertiary institutions are ideally suited to conduct such high impact research and train these much needed scientists.

The programme UCT is an integrated, multidisciplinary Master’s course and will address the lack of post graduate trained forensic scientists as well as provide the foundation for research in this field from a South African perspective.

Click here for more information, or if you interested in applying for this MSc, please contact Dr Marise Heyns at UCT on or tel (021) 406 6604.