Masters Research Shines Spotlight on Sugar Mill Operational Efficiencies
The future is bright for Ms Phyllis Kwenda who graduated with a Master of Science degree in Bioresource Systems from UKZN.
Supervised by Dr Gareth Lagerwall, Kwanda worked on a research project titled: Systems Analysis of Operational Efficiencies at Mhlume Sugar Mill Using Milling Season Modelling Approaches. Her research aimed to test the applicability of the LOMZI model for risk management and decision making at a sugarcane milling area in Swaziland.
‘With the milling area currently operating at a capacity of 70%, this information points out that optimising production at the milling area entails deeper research to identify other important issues crippling productivity,’ said Kwenda.
Whilst studying for her BSc Honours degree in Microbiology, Kwenda researched the response of two Saccharomyces Cerevisiae strains – one of which was unknown – to different concentrations of ethanol. This research motivated her to choose a related project for her Masters research as she had an interest in biofuel production. ‘The postgraduate degree in Bioresource Systems gave me an opportunity to combine biotechnology and engineering skills to help optimise productivity at a sugarcane milling area,’ she said.
Kwenda said pursuing her Master’s degree was the greatest challenge in her academic life because she had to learn a lot of new things such as computer modelling and using various statistical packages to analyse data – all of which she had no prior experience in since she came from a biotechnology background.
Nevertheless she advised aspiring bioresource students that the pain was worth it. ‘Stretch your mind and realise your full potential,’ she said. ‘Perseverance will make you achieve things you never thought you would, things you never knew your mind was capable of processing.’
Kwenda had a word of advice for her fellow students: ‘Supervisors might not know everything but they certainly know way more than you do,’ she said. ‘This means you need a good supervisor in order to complete your studies successfully.’
Kwenda’s role model is her father as she admires his hard work and determination. ‘With God and strength of mind anyone can reach the stars,’ she said. ‘This is what motivates me to leave a significant mark in the world of Science.’
Kwenda intends to pursue a PhD in Biotechnology and wants to work on a project that has to do with quality assurance, optimising the quality of products in the sugar or any other related food industry.
Words by: Manqoba Hadebe
Photograph by: Abhi Indrarajan