We have staff members at all three NITheCS nodes. Our staff, most of whom served at NITheP for several years, are passionate about science and our community. They are:

Prof Francesco Petruccione

Prof Francesco Petruccione


Francesco Petruccione is a physicist and academic leader, serving as both a professor of Physics at Stellenbosch University and the Director of NITheCS. Prior to his appointment as Director, he served several years as the Interim Director of NITheCS.


With a wealth of experience in his field, he previously held the position of professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Big Data and Informatics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). He is also a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa.

Born in Genoa, Italy, he pursued his undergraduate studies in physics at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where he earned his first degree in the field. He continued his academic journey at the same institution, earning his doctorate in 1988 and his Habilitation degree (Dr. rer. nat. habil.) in 1994.

In 2004, he became a professor of Theoretical Physics at UKZN. A year later, he was awarded an Innovation Fund grant to establish a Centre for Quantum Technology. Prof Petruccione went on to hold the position of South African Research Chair for Quantum Information Processing and Communication Technology in 2007.

In addition to his role as interim director of NITheCS, Prof Petruccione also held an adjunct professor position at the Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology. In 2018, he was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor of Big Data and Informatics at UKZN. Four years later, he moved to Stellenbosch University as a professor of Physics and Quantum Computing in the Physics Department and the School of Data Science and Computational Thinking.

He has published more than 190 papers in refereed scientific journals. He has co-authored a monograph on ‘The Theory of Open Quantum Systems and co-published a monograph with Maria Schuld on ‘Supervised Learning with Quantum Computers’.

Prof Petruccione is the editor of several proceedings volumes and special editions of scientific journals. He also serves on the editorial board of the journals ‘Open Systems and Information Dynamics’, ‘Scientific Reports’, and ‘Quantum Machine Intelligence’.

Prof Petruccione is highly regarded in his field. In 2023 he was honoured with the title of Cavaliere della Stella d’Italia, or Order of the Star of Italy, at a function at the Italian Embassy in Cape Town for his groundbreaking work in physics and quantum computing.

In May 2024, he was appointed as the Director of NITheCS.

Prof João Rodrigues


Prof Rodrigues’ key research interests are non-perturbative properties of field theories, the 1/N expansion, strings and superstrings. His work relates to identifying and the possible gravitational description of a closed radial sector of multi-matrix systems and a constructive approach to the O(N) Vector/Higher Spin Correspondence from collective fields.

Rene Kotze

René Kotzé


René has a BA degree from UNISA. She joined NITheP in 2010 as the communications officer, who facilitated communication with NITheCS stakeholders. These include the DST, NRF, Steering Committee, Associates, students and bursars.


Prior to this, René worked in a variety of industries and positions. She has experience in the travel industry, making game lodge reservations and serving as a tour guide for international groups. She has also worked as a leasing agent for international guests, a temporary personnel consultant, in HR management and administration, and in PR and marketing.

René is passionate about the field of Theoretical and Computational Sciences and motivates young people to pursue STEM careers, hoping that the “next Einstein can come from Africa,” as Prof Neil Turok stated. She loves a video by the Next Einstein Forum, which underlines the issues concerning young scientists in Africa, and important gender issues.

Nelisiwe Mncube

Nelisiwe Mncube


Nelisiwe joined NITheP in 2007. She has a BCom in Marketing and Information Systems & Technology. Previously, she worked at the School of Physics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as an administrative assistant. Her duties include financial administration, liaising with bursary holders, organising seminars and workshops, and general office management.

Rene Kotze

Farah-Naaz Moosa


Farah-Naaz, the Senior Administrative Assistant for the NITheCS Gauteng node, is located at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg. She manages our projects, finances and administration.

Prior to this, she obtained a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and Marketing through WITS. She is currently registered for an Honours degree at WITS.

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