Department of Human Biology


The Department of Human Biology (HUB) brings together several medical, scientific, clinical, and engineering academic disciplines organised in four divisions: Biomedical Engineering, Cell Biology, Clinical Anatomy and Biological Anthropology (CABA), and Physiological Sciences. HUB contributes substantially to the undergraduate teaching of most programmes in the Faculty of Health Sciences in the pre-clinical years and trains over 250 excellent postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows per year.

The department conducts widespread discipline specific research including curriculum development and medical education. It hosts world class researchers including 5 B, 16 C and 3 Y National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researchers. Several HUB staff are members of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), Global Young Academy (GYA) and UCT College of Fellows and are fellows of the European College of Sports Sciences.

Our researchers have received prestigious international and national funding awards and fellowships including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institutes for Health and Care Research (UK), Royal Society, Wellcome Trust, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), African Academy of Science (AAS), The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, International Development Research Centre (Canada), European Union Horizon, World Rugby, Global Challenges Network, European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDTCP), ERASMUS Programme, Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authorities (MerSETA), Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP), South African Medical Research Council (SA-MRC) and NRF.

Undergraduate Programmes

HUB contributes undergraduate teaching in the:

  • MBChB programme (Years 1-3)
  • Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Programme (Years 1-2 in the Divisions of Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Communication Sciences and Disorders)
  • Science Faculty (BSc Years 2-3 with majors in Human Anatomy and Physiology)
  • Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment (a semester introductory course on medical engineering)
  • Fundamentals of Health Sciences course (a semester course for Year 1 MBChB, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students)

Postgraduate Programmes

HUB has the largest cohort of postgraduate students within the Faculty of Health Sciences, with over 250 students hosted every year. Postgraduate students in HUB have the opportunity to obtain a Honours, MSc, MPhil and/or PhD degree in a wide range of programmes in niche areas such as: 


The Division of Biomedical Engineering undertakes postgraduate training and a wide range of research including medical imaging, medical devices, orthopaedic biomechanics, cell and tissue mechanobiology, biomechatronics, signal processing, rehabilitation engineering, healthcare technology management, health innovation, telemedicine and neuroscience.

The Division of Cell Biology is focussed on teaching and research of 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, stem cell organoid modelling, the ultrastructure of the blood brain barrier, and the identification of novel therapeutic approaches to treat a wide range of diseases from cancer to epilepsy.

CABA is focused on teaching and research related to anatomy and biological anthropology for applied science and clinical practice. The Division focuses on human and comparative anatomy to examine variation, evolutionary concepts, the adaptation of structures, and their impact on function. CABA also has a strong focus on biological anthropology using innovative approaches to study morphometric analyses (2D and 3D), forensic anthropology, forensic taphonomy, and medical anthropology.  

The Division of Physiological Sciences is focused on teaching and research related to the clinical and physiological determinants of health, including sleep, nutrition, and physical activity, as well as diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, HIV & cancer, disordered sleep. The Division is also active in sports performance and nutrition, sports and exercise related injuries and medical conditions, biomechanics of human movement, and mechanisms of brain injury during infection. The Division hosts the International Collaborating Centre on Sports Medicine which is recognised by the International Sports Medicine Federation (FIMS).

Departmental Committees

HUB Communications Committee facilitates communication of news, opportunities, successes and achievements of staff, students, and alumni through managing the Departmental website, social media accounts and producing the Departmental newsletter, The HUB Connexion. 

The HUB DRC oversees research-related administration in the Department. It is constituted of representatives of each of the four divisions. The Head of Department and the Directors of the core research facilities are ex officio members.

The PEC monitors postgraduate student academic progress, and reviews and informs HUB staff and students about UCT postgraduate teaching and learning policies and processes. The committee oversees transformation imperatives among postgraduate student cohorts and establishes lines of communication to address grievances of postgraduate students. The committee promotes and supports staff and student development and training by organising or disseminating information about PG teaching & research workshops, seminars, and conferences.

HUB Project Management Committee (PMC)

The PMC contributes positively to the morale and mental wellbeing of HUB staff and students by identifying and resolving infrastructural issues that affect the operational needs of the department and serves the staff and students by improving their teaching, learning and research experiences.

The TEC focusses on three key areas namely: transformation, equity, and social responsiveness. The committee facilitates and promotes a culture of transformation through ensuring the application of employment and equity policies and practices, creating an awareness of the history and heritage of South Africa and the African continent, co-ordinating social responsiveness activities and engaging with relevant non-academic constituencies.

HUEC facilitates the implementation, ongoing management, and evaluation of all undergraduate educational activities. It provides a forum for staff to discuss matters related to HUB undergraduate courses, provides oversight on undergraduate teaching, and promotes staff development and training by organising and disseminating information related to teaching.

Facilities and Programmes

The department hosts several facilities and programmes unique to the University of Cape Town

  • Anatomy Museum, an important hub of teaching and learning in all of our programmes
  • Body Donor Programme for training and research
  • Confocal & Light Microscopy Imaging Facility specialising in advanced fluorescence image acquisition and  analysis
  • Biomechanics laboratory for advanced analyses of human movement
  • Electronic workshop
  • Environmental chamber to measure physiological responses under various conditions
  • Full body X Ray scanner (LODOX)
  • Histology laboratories for the preparation of tissues and slides for teaching and research, widely within the department, faculty & other faculties of UCT and external institutions
  • Human Skeletal Collection of UCT
  • Mechanical Workshop
  • Medical devices prototyping & manufacturing facility
  • Metabolic chamber to measure resting and active energy expenditure
  • Orthopaedic biomechanics facility
  • Stem cell and tissue culture facilities
  • 3D printing, 3D scanning and medical 3D printing facility
  • 5G telemedicine test bed facility

University Research Committee accredited Research Entities