Unisa College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Department of Life and Consumer Sciences Master of Life Science

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Unisa College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Department of Life and Consumer Sciences - Master of Life Science

2018 master’s and doctoral research focus areas


Department of Life and Consumer Sciences


Master of Life Science

Contact details for the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences

Ms Emelda Pimentel for all applications to the Masters of Life Science programme

E-mail: pimente1@unisa.ac.za

Prof S Gildenhuys, Postgraduate Coordinator for the Masters of Life Science programme,

Tel: +27 11 471 3295

E-mail: gildes@unisa.ac.za


A research proposal module (MPLCS90) and a dissertation (DFLSC91). Students are required to first register and comply with the requirements for completion of the research proposal module and ethics application before registration for the dissertation will be allowed.

Purpose of Research Proposal Module: MPLCS90 for Master in Life Sciences

The purpose of this module is for students to gain the knowledge and skills required to execute a research project that falls within the scope of the research groups particular to Life science. The learner accredited with this module will be able to:

  • Identify a research problem

  • Formulate the problem, research questions and/or set appropriate hypothesis

  • Set well defined research objectives

  • Compile a literature review

  • Present a suitable methodology and data analysis for the research project

  • Identify the contribution the research will make

  • Draft a research proposal that addresses all of the above

Purpose of Dissertation Module: DFLSC91 for Master in Life Sciences

The purpose of this module is for students to gain the knowledge and skills required in their identified field of research within the various disciplines within the Life Sciences in order to complete a research dissertation for the purposes of the MSc in Life Sciences. Students credited with this module demonstrate a wide range of specialised skills in implementing practical research towards identified research projects that address complex and challenging problems within the field of Life Sciences. Students will be able to conduct scientific research, provide scientific arguments, challenge existing theories, processes and procedures and propose new knowledge and academic arguments through the research conducted. Develop a draft article of the research conducted.

Application dates

Students interested in the Master in Life Science program need to apply during the bulk application dates of Unisa as posted on the Unisa website.

Admission requirements for the Master of Life Science

Admission to Master's studies is dependent on the candidate being in possession of a Bachelor of Honours degree (or equivalent) in any of the Life Sciences fields. A student who is admitted on the strength of an equivalent qualification and who has not completed a module in research methodology may be required to complete such a module at NQF level 8 for non-degree purposes (NDP) before he/she will be allowed to register for the research proposal module.

Selection procedure

An approved selection procedure which is in line with Unisa’s policies and equality and diversity in the discipline or department will be implemented. The following selection procedure will be applied:

  • All students are required to first choose a qualification within the College of their choice

  • All applicants are required to initially apply for a student number

  • Students are then required to apply for admission and provide the required supporting documents

  • Administrative verification will take place whereby students will be informed if any documentation is outstanding

  • Application should reach the student admission office no later than the closing date indicated on the Unisa website

  • The application will be forwarded to the Postgraduate Coordinator in the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences for consideration

  • A selection committee consisting of the Research Committee within the department , supervisors in the Life Sciences discipline and Postgraduate Coordinator for the MSc in Life Sciences will complete the review process of the application by a date determined early in 2018

  • In cases where clarity is required on the application, the Postgraduate coordinator may consider requesting an interview (telephonic or in person) with the candidate

  • Applications of selected candidates will be forwarded to the College Office for Research and Graduate Studies where after the selected applications will be forwarded to the College Research Innovation and Higher Degrees committee for final approval

  • Successful candidates will be notified by the M&D section who will then assist with further registration for the Research Proposal Module.

Procedures for unsuccessful applications

  • Candidates who were unsuccessful may apply to the Postgraduate Coordinator for the Master of Life Science programme for the reasons for rejection of the application.

  • All appeals will be considered by an appeal committee consisting of the Head of the College office for Research and Postgraduate Studies, Director for the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Chair of the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences and members of the Research Committee of the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences.

  • The outcome of the appeal will be submitted to College management for approval

  • A further appeal may be submitted through the appropriate Unisa procedures.

  • To appeal the following document should be completed and submitted to the Postgraduate Administrator in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at pimente1@unisa.ac.za

Documents to support application

In addition to the admission requirements, ALL APPLICANTS WHO HAVE NOT STUDIED WITH THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES BEFORE must submit the following documentation:

  • A transcript or an academic record,

  • A 4-page PDF concept document describing their intended research according to the project details and descriptions provided on the departmental website and after consulting with a potential supervisor: which will have to include an appropriate topic, research problem, objectives, brief literature background, suggested methodology and references.

  • The Departmental Selection Document Form 1

  • An updated CV


  • Academic record

  • Copy of ID document

  • A page on which the title of the study and potential supervisor is indicated

All documentation has to be submitted in pdf format.

Selection criteria

Students who have not completed a qualification with Unisa before will be accepted on the following criteria as will be evaluated in the template provided:

  • Applicant information provided

  • Suggested research focus

  • Research concept document evaluation

If there is no supervisor capacity for the detailed project the application will not be considered for admission.

Alignment to Enrolment plan 2018

The admission of Master in Life Science students are aligned to the 2012 - 2019 Enrolment plan developed by the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences

New intake for 2018

The Enrolment plan for 2018 was designed to accommodate 48 students in the Master of Life Science programme. The selection committee will select 50 students from the applications received. Depending on the number of applicants, an additional 5 students will be placed on a secondary list in case any of the selected students on the primary list is unable to register. The selection committee may decide not to accommodate any applicants due to the quality of the concept documents submitted. The selection committee may also not make use of the secondary list of students depending on the number of applications received and the quality of the submission. Should 48 students apply and are found not to be successful in their application they will not be admitted. Students interested in multidisciplinary research or research with a teaching and learning focus may apply for the Masters in Life Sciences and will be evaluated according to the relevant focus of the research within the Teaching and Learning and ODL supervisors in CAES.

Motivation for intake

The MSc in Life Sciences programme to annually increase their intake by 9% in each year. Currently there are 8 permanent senior life scientists with PhDs and 4 permanent lecturers with an MSc who can supervise MSc research. There are also academic staff members appointed on contract who can add greatly to co-supervision and supervision where applicable. In addition, laboratory staff can assist with technical aspects of projects. Additional posts will be filled in the current year. There is enough capacity within the department to supervise selected students.

Alignment of intake to Research Fields

Applicants will be required to align the proposed research they will be presenting to any one of the research themes stipulated below. The research outline if required should be presented as a four-page PDF document and should be in line with the research interest of a potential supervisor. The proposed research should be developed within the broad context of the research project in consultation with the potential supervisor.

Potential Life Science supervisors and their specialisation areas

Potential supervisors

Specialization area of supervisors

Prof SL Lebelo

Male reproductive function

Prof S Gildenhuys

Protein biochemistry

Prof MM Ntwasa

Drug Discovery & Development

Prof JB Dewar

Microbiology and Molecular biology

Dr M Dingaan

Grassland Ecology

Dr TJ Makhafola


Dr N O Mapholi

Molecular genetics

Dr N Parbhoo

Computational protein chemistry

Dr FT Tabit

Food Microbiology

Dr Swanepoel

Sodium and blood pressure

Ms. LT Mankga

Plant evolution

Mr MC Monyama

Medical Microbiology

Mrs. C Myburgh

Cardiovascular Physiology

Mrs EA Symington


Ms A Lithole

Vector-Borne Diseases : Systematics & molecular epidemiology

Motivation for the number of students accommodated

Depending on changing circumstances, the number of students admitted will also be determined by the availability and capacity of a supervisor. This may mean that a supervisor may be able to take more students than the enrolment numbers or as allocated in the projects listed above. The enrolment number may also be determined by the number of applications received which may be fewer than required. The selection committee will determine the circumstances for selecting more or fewer students depending on unplanned changes to the profile of the available supervisors.

Research project options

Potential supervisor with contact details

Research Theme

Number of MSc projects within this theme

Prof S Gildenhuys

email: gildes@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3295

Characterizing structure function relationships of proteins


Prof SL Lebelo

Email: lebelol@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3644

Medicinal plants effects on the processes of spermatogenesis and spermiogenesis


Prof SL Lebelo

Email: lebelol@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3644

Effects of medicinal plants on the function of Leydig cells and sertoli cells


Prof MM Ntwasa

Email: ntwasmm@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11  471-2272

Anticancer and antimicrobial Drug Discovery


Prof JB Dewar

Email: Dewarj@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11  471- 3112

Molecular epidemiology and characterization of gastroenteritis viruses and bacteria


Prof JB Dewar

Email: Dewarj@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11  471- 3112

Water analysis


Dr M Dingaan

email: dingam@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3580

Plant diversity and productivity in the Grassland Biome, South Africa


Dr T J Makhafola

Email: makhat@unisa.ac.za

Ethnopharmacology (Antimicrobial, anticancer, antimutagenic activity, Chemoprevention)


Dr T J Makhafola

Email: makhat@unisa.ac.za

Toxicology (Hepatoprotective and nephroprotective effects of South African plants)


Dr N O Mapholi

Email: maphon@unisa.ac.za

Population genetic variation, identification of genomic region associated with disease resistance using DNA markers, and DNA/RNA sequencing for genes associated to economic important traits.


Dr FT Tabit

email: tabitft@unisa.ac.za  

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 2080

Prevalence and characterisation of foodborne pathogens isolated from food products


Ms LT Mankga

email: mankglt@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3604

Plant systematics, Biogeography and climate change


Mr MC Monyama

email: monyamc@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 670 9562

Exploration of bacterial communities by next generation sequencing


Dr N Parbhoo

Email: parbhn1@unisa.ac.za

Tel:+27 (0)11 670 9563

Protein-protein/drug interaction analysis


Dr B Swanepoel

email: eswaneb@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3438

Sodium consumption and blood pressure in children aged 6 – 12 years


EA Symington

Email: syminea@unisa.ac.za

Tel: +27 (0)11 471 3438

Nutrition during pregnancy and early development


Research Proposal module details

All research projects listed above feed directly into the development of the research proposal MPLCS90 for which students will register if they have been successfully admitted to the Master of Life Sciences.

Assessment mode for MPLCS90

The research proposal will be assessed through the use of an assessment template consisting of key assessment categories that pertain to a research proposal

Assessment criteria for Research proposal

The assessment of the research proposal will be conducted as follows:

  • The proposal will also be vetted by two appropriate internal departmental experts of which one should at least be familiar with the field of research. If these experts’ results are consistent and in agreement, the result will be communicated to the students’ supervisor from the office of the COD. If the experts’ results differ substantially (acceptance and rejection), a third examiner will be asked to review the proposal and provide an outcome.

  • A vetting committee consisting of the Research Committee in the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences consisting of the following profiles - senior staff members and/or may have NRF rating and/or are supervisors or co-supervisors of students and/or have examined research proposals before and/or have been requested to act as an external examiner for other universities - will meet and determine the outcome for students where examiners reports were substantially different and if there are any particularly extraordinary circumstances with a proposal or student.

  • The supervisor is required to be present at the vetting committee meeting convened for a student under their supervision.

  • Verbal feedback will be given to the supervisor and the template on which the comments were documented will be returned to the supervisor in order to amend the proposal where necessary

  • If the proposal is approved, the student and supervisor will receive a letter of approval from the COD

Assessment criteria for Research Proposal for Master in Life Sciences

Mode of delivery of MPLCS90

  • Online delivery will be followed through means of various tools on myUnisa,

  • Video conferencing sessions may be organised by the post graduate programme coordinator for all MSc students in the department of Life and Consumer Sciences

  • A seminar may also be organised for the presentation of completed research proposals which may be delivered through video conferencing or on the Florida campus

Mode of supervision for MPLCS90

Supervision may be delivered in different modes depending on the requirement of the supervisor and study design:

  • One-on-one contact sessions may be required which can be delivered through video conferencing for students in remote areas or through personal visits to the supervisor if the student is able to visit the Unisa Science Campus

  • Email contact on a personal basis to assist in addressing student queries will be the main mode of delivery

  • Track-changed documents or scanned pdf documents in which the supervisor has made corrections or provided suggestions will be used.

External supervision

Should the need arise to include an external supervisor, the decision will be made based on the expertise or assistance required from an external supervisor on a particular part of the project. This will only be implemented if the internal capacity of supervision cannot support the requirement of the research project. Students undertaking research outside the borders of South Africa must be allocated an external supervisor/co-supervisor who is knowledgeable, or resides in the area in which the research is undertaken. Students are welcome to identify possible external supervisors, however, the selection and contract appointment of these external supervisors remains the responsibility of the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences.


The Department of Life and Consumer Sciences has collaborative agreements with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Agricultural research council (ARC)

Where relevant, a student may be placed in collaborative research with the above institution or with any other institution as and when collaborative agreements are made.

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