Mechanical Engineering PhD Graduate Fentahun Moges Kasie’s Proud Moment!


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Dr Fentahun Moges Kasie graduated with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The late notorious engineer and one of Ethiopia’s first aerospace scientists, Mr Kitaw Ejigu served as Kasie’s role model. ‘He successfully passed all the challenges from being born in the rural region of Ethiopia. He invented two aerospace mechanisms that were patented under NASA’s new technology and he collaborated with other scientists to create space shuttles and rockets that assisted in planetary science research and the exploration of planet earth. Among his greatest achievements while working on space technology was his innovative creations on the improvement of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and a revolutionary and dynamic flight simulator for the Boeing Company,’ said Kasie.

The aim of Kasie’s research was to develop a decision support system that would be used to perform a decision-based part or fixture assignment and fixture flow control during the planned production period. ‘It was designed to assist its users to reuse or adapt the retrieved fixtures or manufacture new fixtures depending on the state of the retrieved fixtures and the similarities between the current and retrieved cases. Various elements of artificial intelligence (case-based reasoning, rule-based reasoning, fuzzy set theory and analytic hierarchy process) and discrete-event simulation techniques were integrated to develop the decision support system,’ said Kasie.

He describes his experience whilst studying as ‘mostly challenging to reach this stage’. ‘The first difficulty was to define the research problem, which had significant contributions to the existing body of knowledge and could be applied to solve industrial problems. Another challenge was the lack of funds to participate in professional conferences and access online sources of literature to complete the study according to its intended objective,’ said Kasie.

Kasie, who is family orientated and curious, likes visiting historical places and reading recent scientific discoveries to be able to apply them to solve industrial problems.

Kasie would like to improve and broaden the applicability of his research decision support system. ‘In order to achieve this, it is required to work in collaboration with professionals in various disciplines. My postdoctoral research will focus on multidisciplinary research outputs in collaboration with professionals in various disciplines such as electrical engineering, software engineering, information technology, business management, etc.’

‘Engineering is a multidisciplinary and dynamic profession to solve problems faced by humans and improve the lives of people in society. In order to achieve this qualification, Engineering students should be capable to apply scientific theories to problems on hand and have to be aware of recent technological advancements, especially advances in information communication technology. Unless they are equipped with these two significant requirements, Engineering professionals will be challenged to compete globally and to contribute innovative ideas and solutions to the current problems faced in society.’

Words: Manqoba Hadebe


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Biochemistry Masters Graduate is Inspired to Inspire Greatness

Biochemistry Masters Graduate is Inspired to Inspire Greatness
Ms Silungele Blose received her MSc in Biochemistry with her family by her side.

Ms Silungele Nontuthuko Blose lists graduating with Masters in Biochemistry as her greatest achievement.

She said her journey to graduation had been a roller coaster ride that resulted in tears at times. Graduation for Blose was a moment of recognition of her hard work, as well as an opportunity to focus on the next steps she will take. She is currently working for the South African Police Services as a forensic analyst. Her aim is to be the best in her field. She plans to pursue her PhD in the near future.

Blose began to pursue her degree after she discovered she was pregnant. She said that expecting her son gave her the courage to face the late nights and restless weekends ahead. She works hard to be the best so that those looking up to her can achieve greatness in all that they do.

Blose pursued her undergraduate degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry at UKZN with the aim of fulfilling a high school dream of being the person to discover the cure for HIV. She developed a love for scientific research. She encouraged students to persevere through the challenges of being at university, focus on their studies, learn to love their work, as well as trust in God.

‘The secret to  finding happiness in this world is not to do what you like, but to learn to love what you do,’ she said.

Blose said that her father has been her hero, who has supported her dreams. Her mother, Thobisile Blose, described her as a positive, enthusiastic person.

‘Anything she touches she has the ability to turn into gold,’ said her mother. ‘She has become a role model to her siblings,’ she added.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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Naadira Ballim Qualifies as a Civil Engineer

Naadira Ballim Qualifies as a Civil Engineer
Ms Naadira Ballim was still beaming after she received her BSc in Civil Engineering.

Ms Naadira Ballim was the proud recipient of a Civil Engineering degree cum laude, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Graduation ceremony.

Ballim plans to pursue her master’s degree while gaining experience as a consulting engineer.  ‘I hope to develop a successful career that will have an impact and enhance the quality of life for all,’ said Ballim.  She attributed her success and determination to the support from her family, adding that she admired her aunts ‘who have managed to synchronise the attainment of academic achievements with professional careers and family life effectively.’

Describing her degree as challenging yet rewarding, Ballim was appreciative of the support given to Civil Engineering students.  ‘The Civil Engineering department is very supportive and always willing to assist students to make sure they can both understand and apply the knowledge they obtain. You are also encouraged to think about your role as an engineer in society and be conscious of the broader environment,’ said Ballim.

Passionate about advancing women in engineering, Ballim believes that engineering should not be looked at as a male dominated career.  Her advice to young ladies who wish to pursue an engineering degree: ‘To the women, I would like to blur the idea that engineering is a male-dominated career. Get yourself a comfy pair of female safety boots and don’t be afraid to climb. You are more than capable.’

In her spare time, Ballim enjoys reading a good book and travelling.  She warned future Engineering students that they will be challenged and stretched to solve problems using complex solutions that they would need to try their best to understand. ‘Develop a passion for your chosen field and go the extra mile while studying. You will leave your degree a more well-rounded individual with the ability to think multi-laterally. You will be surrounded by intelligent young individuals, many of whom you will form long lasting friendships with.’

Words: Prashina Budree


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Proud Graduate Thamini Moodley receives MSc in Construction Management Summa Cum Laude

Proud Graduate Thamini Moodley receives MSc in Construction Management <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
Ms Thamini Moodley.

A passion for construction has earned Ms Thamini Moodley a summa cum laude Master’s degree in Construction Management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Moodley, a quantity surveyor at Saint-Gobain, said working within the construction industry intrigued her curiosity.

She described the construction industry as ‘continuously evolving’, adding that delays, however, in project delivery was an issue that was seen negatively.  Her master’s research therefore dealt with establishing the causes that related to the delay in project delivery.  The aim of her research was to offer a solution that could positively contribute to the South African public sector. Moodley’s research topic was titled: Delays and Disruptions on Construction Projects within the Public Sector: Integrated Project Delivery System as an Alternative.  ‘There exists an abundance of attributing factors which hinder project success and I felt that this needed to be investigated in an effort to change the industry,’ said Moodley.

Recognising the encouraging support from her supervisor Professor Theodore Haupt, Moodley admitted that the process of obtaining her masters was somewhat challenging at times due to ‘medical adversities’.  However, such adversities did not stop this highly motivated young lady to persevere.  ‘Prof Haupt’s constant motivation and confidence in my capabilities was refreshing. I firmly believe that I would not have pursued my masters so willingly if not for him,’ said Moodley.  Her mother, who she regards as her role model because of her passion and sense of perseverance, was a firm supporter and provided encouragement to her.

Moodley, who plans to pursue her PhD in the future, has this message for aspiring students: ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.’ (Aristotle). The thought of returning to “campus life” seemed daunting to me but once I understood my purpose and the extent of change that just one idea can possess, nothing could keep me away from completing this study. I think my advice would be to stay curious, stay inspired and always be willing to learn. It’s these qualities which keep one motivated and hungry to know more.’

Words: Prashina Budree


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Budding Forensics Analyst Graduates Honours Summa Cum Laude

Budding Forensics Analyst Graduates Honours <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
Ms Sharren Peter waves as she graduates with her Honours in Forensic Genetics.

Hard work and determination paid off for Ms Sharren Peter, who graduated summa cum laude with an Honours degree in Forensics Genetics.

Peter lived by the motto: ‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ It was a dream come true, not only for Peter, but also her proud family.

Her passion and enthusiasm for forensics, science and genetics guided and led Peter to choose the field of forensics. Peter believes that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, ‘hence, I chose to study what I love’.

Along the journey to her graduation, Peter faced a number of challenges, coupled with the passing away of her dad during her second year of undergrad. Her biggest hurdle was the financial constraints ‘as it caused a lot of difficulty in terms of tuition fees and even obtaining a laptop, which was crucial during the time of my research project,’ she said. ‘Despite the struggles, through perseverance, a positive attitude, a few people and the help of NSFAS funding I was able to overcome these issues,’ said Peter.

Aspiring to become a forensic analyst at the South African Police Service (SAPS), Peter intends on completing her MSC and PhD in the near future.

Her advice to undergraduate students was to never let circumstance determine what you can and cannot achieve. ‘Work hard, but also work smart and manage your time well. Help your peers whenever you can. The world is your oyster but never forget to be humble.’

Peter thanked both God and her guardian angel, her late dad, for her achievement. She also acknowledged her mother and brother for their support.

Mentor to Peter and PhD candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Farzeen Kader, praised Peter as a motivated, outspoken yet humble individual and an absolute pleasure to work with.

When asked what inspiring greatness means to Peter, she said: ‘It means to bestow on others my knowledge and experiences and help them by influencing and motivating them to become the very best versions of themselves’.

Words: Zolile Duma


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Siblings Graduate Cum Laude from UKZN

Siblings Graduate <em>Cum Laude</em> from UKZN
Brother and sister Kreesan and Chrysantha Palan both graduated this year.

It was a double celebration for the Palan family when siblings Kreesan and Chrysantha both graduated cum laude from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Kreesan graduated with Masters in Geology while Chrysantha graduated with Honours in Media and Cultural Studies.

Kreesan’s work during his honours year in 2015 earned him the Geological Society of South Africa’s (GSSA) Haughton Award, which boasts a long line of UKZN recipients. He chose to realise his dream of pursuing geological research at UKZN due to its reputation for being a research-driven institution.

His master's research involved a detailed bathymetric and seismic analysis of a series of unusual submarine canyon system morphologies off the west coast of South Africa which are not accounted for in the literature.

‘Their peculiar morphologies were proposed to have evolved from a combination of conventional seafloor erosional processes and gas venting,’ said Palan.

‘The significance of this study is to suggest a new mechanism by which canyons evolve as the variables change depending on the various study sites around the world.’

Kreesan plans to pursue a PhD in Geology and progress to an academic career in this discipline. He thanked supervisors, Professor Andrew Green and Dr Errol Wiles, for their guidance and support during his studies.

His fashionista sister, Chrysantha, chose to pursue her postgraduate degree because she wanted to merge creativity with academia. ‘I’m very passionate about fashion and the creativity behind it.  I saw the opportunity to bridge a gap and I just couldn’t miss it.’

Her research gave an insight into Durban’s thrifting fashion subculture and how its members create cultural meanings in everyday life. It addressed the cultural meaning of fashion in a marginalised segment of society where expectations of conformity are confronted by individuals that use subcultural resistance to frame their identities.

Chrysantha described thrifting as a way of shopping for fascinating items at a low cost at second-hand retail stores, flea markets or charity shops.

‘People do not need to purchase garments at high prices and follow trends set by the elite. By engaging with thrifting, you are supporting local charities, creating your individual identity, and gradually stopping the environmental and social exploitation behind the fashion system,’ she said.

Their mother Alice, who is also a UKZN staff member, said she was extremely proud of both her children.

‘As a mother and staff member at the University, I fulfilled the role of a mother by making sure they got to campus on time to attend all their lectures and all assignments were done.  I also made sure that they balanced their lives around good eating plans and exercise, as this plays a pivot role in producing good mental stability and lesser stress levels. 

‘I also counselled and guided them in a biblical way, as this was our lifestyle in our home, as I believe without God in our lives we are nothing.  Chrysantha has now registered for her masters and Kreesan for his PhD. They are the future shining stars of UKZN academia and their aim is to receive their doctorals.’

Words: Christine Cuénod and Melissa Mungroo  


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Decade Long Journey to Doctorate

Decade Long Journey to Doctorate
Dr Kerryn Taylor shares her PhD graduation celebration with her family.

Hard work paid off for Dr Kerryn Taylor who received a PhD in Molecular Biology. ‘Graduating is a huge achievement and acknowledgement that all my hard work was worth it’, said Taylor. She said it was a long and arduous journey, during which time she kept her eye on the prize. ‘When studying long-term (10 years), it is always difficult to stay focused and motivated. I took it day-by-day and reminded myself that every small task completed was one step closer to achieving my goal of completing my PhD,’ she said.

Dr Paula Sommer, who supervised Taylor during her honours, master’s and doctoral research described her a meticulous, inquisitive, motivated scientist who generated a body of excellent data in the course of her PhD and has successfully published her work in high impact journals. ‘She has been a pleasure to supervise.’

Taylor entered the field of molecular biology because she wanted to use her passion to help people. ‘I loved biology at school and I had great hopes to help find a cure for cancer,’ she  said.

In 2013, Taylor was selected as the only delegate from the southern hemisphere to participate in the Inaugural Croucher Summer Course in Cancer Biology. She considers this to be her greatest achievement thus far,

She attributed her success to the unconditional encouragement and support of her parents, Ian and Marilyn Houston, her husband Russell Taylor, and supervisors Dr Paula Sommer and Dr Angus Macdonald.

She plans to continue her cancer research and hopefully make a discovery that could increase ones understanding of the disease and result in better therapies.

Words: Sashlin Girraj


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Biochemistry Technician Achieves PhD Triumph

Biochemistry Technician Achieves PhD Triumph
Dr Nirasha Nundkumar received her PhD in Biochemistry with love from her family.

Senior Biochemistry Laboratory Technician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus, Dr Nirasha Nundkumar, graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry after successfully balancing her full-time duties as a technician with her research on nanomaterials in gene delivery.

Nundkumar’s research centred on the important field of gene therapy, wherein treatment of the underlying cause of a disease or condition rather than simply its symptoms is becoming increasingly possible. Gene delivery, however, is still one of the major hurdles in gene therapy strategies, which led Nundkumar to choose this area of study in the hope that she could contribute to the development of efficient gene delivery systems.

‘Coupled with nanotechnology, this project opens a new window in the area of nanomedicine and in the development of potential therapeutic gene or drug delivery carriers for the treatment of genetic disorders, including cancer,’ said Nundkumar.

Nundkumar, who matriculated at Burnwood Secondary, pursued a degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the then-University of Durban Westville (UDW), followed by her Honours and Masters in Biochemistry. After achieving her masters in 2002, Nundkumar worked at the University’s Chemistry department as a tutor, in the Biochemistry department as an ad-hoc lecturer and in the Pharmacology department as a laboratory technician. She returned to the Department of Biochemistry as the senior laboratory technician in 2010.

The research in Professor Mogie Singh’s laboratory sparked Nundkumar’s interest. She approached Singh to supervise her research on the design, synthesis, characterisation and biological application of hydrotalcite-like nanomaterials in the area of gene delivery.

Singh commended her for the immense determination she showed in the pursuit of her degree and continued commitment to her work in the research laboratory.

‘I am extremely proud of her achievement today,’ said Singh.

Completing her PhD, said Nundkumar, gave her a sense of confidence and satisfaction, for what had been an interesting and challenging project.

Nundkumar is continuing her work as a senior technician, providing important research support to researchers and postgraduate students. She hopes to pursue an academic career in the future. She expressed her gratitude to Singh for being a supportive and encouraging supervisor, adding that she deeply appreciated Singh’s guidance and mentorship.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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PhD Graduate Explores Atmospheric Sulphur Dioxide Levels Over South Africa

PhD Graduate Explores Atmospheric Sulphur Dioxide Levels Over South Africa
Dr Sangeetha Venkataraman graduates with her PhD, with her husband Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman and their children at her side.

Dr Sangeetha Venkataraman graduated with a PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for her research that explored the atmospheric sulphur dioxide levels over South Africa.

Venkataraman, wife of UKZN staffer and fellow Atmospheric Scientist, Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman, is originally from Chennai in India, where she completed her schooling.

She completed her Masters in Environmental Science in Chennai and was drawn to UKZN thanks to its high standards and her desire to continue research in the field of air pollution studies, an area in which UKZN has demonstrated excellence.

She said pursuing her studies at UKZN laid a foundation for her career, adding that the continued support and guidance she received at UKZN enabled her to achieve this accolade.

Venkataraman said that working towards a PhD was important, as it taught her the value of managing time well to achieve her goals.

Her research is important when understanding how South Africa is impacted by SO2levels, even in unpredictable conditions like those following volcanic eruptions on neighbouring continents. Venkataraman also paid attention to SO2 levels, even at altitudes as high as 15km. This pollutant can pose health risks if levels are not monitored.

Last year, she published a paper titled Seasonal SO2 Variation and Assessment of Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) Measurements at Sharpeville (27.86 °E; 26.68 °S) a South African Ground-Based Station’, in the International Journal of Remote Sensing. She is due to have another paper published. Venkataraman, a fan of both classical and modern music and an avid reader, is exploring career options in her field, which might include starting her own business.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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Chemical Engineering Graduate, Shaista Shah Celebrates her Hard Earned Achievement

Chemical Engineering Graduate, Shaista Shah Celebrates her Hard Earned Achievement
Ms Shaista Shah receives her Masters in Chemical Engineering.

Ms Shaista Shah graduated with a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Shah’s research focused on the design, construction and validation of a pipeline viscometer, used together with non-Newtonian theory, to investigate the viscosity of C-massecuite. Experimental data was then used to develop a correlation to assist in the estimation of C-massecuite viscosity. Tongaat Hulett maintains an interest in the viscosity of C-massecuite from a process and equipment design perspective as massecuite viscosity is a critical physical property that is used in the selection of pumps and design of piping networks, evaporative and cooling crystallisers, crystalliser drives and reheaters in the C-station of a sugar factory.

The research was presented at the South African Sugar Technologists’ Association conference at the ICC in September last year. The paper was well received by the industry and was judged as a “Highly Commended Factory Paper” by the SASTA committee and was also selected for publication by the International Sugar Journal,’ said Shah.

Shah is currently employed by Tongaat Hulett’s Technology Group. She believes businesses are facing increasing pressure to operate sustainably and to reduce their carbon footprint.

‘I am already involved in such initiatives but hope to make a greater contribution in this area,’ said Shah.

She said she would also like to continue teaching and performing as a belly dancer. ‘I’ve performed in Shall We Dance at The Playhouse which is the most exhilarating experience. I hope to continue to perform as a member of the Shall We Dance cast,’ said Shah.

She is grateful to her parents and supervisor, Dr D Lokhat, for teaching her to excel in all that she does. ‘They taught me that life is all about balance and that anything can be achieved with hard work and sufficient planning. My mum completed her PhD in Psychology whilst raising our family and managing her own practice. She worked on her PhD whilst we did homework. It was inspiring and I always wanted to be just like her,’ said Shah.

She described her journey in completing her masters as difficult yet rewarding as she was studying part-time while having to manage a full-time job. ‘I completed my studies over five years, with intensive work concentrated in the last three years. However, it was lovely to see the project come together. My colleagues at Tongaat Hulett’s Technology Group and Maidstone Mill were extremely supportive. The team at Maidstone Mill fabricated the water bath according to my design and they allowed me to take over a room in the laboratory to house my equipment for almost a year. The whole experience was extremely rewarding and well worth the hard work,’ said Shah.

 ‘A career as an engineer is a rewarding one, especially when you are involved in the production of a commodity that you use on a daily basis or in technology advances that will change the world we live in,’ said Shah.

Words: Manqoba Hadebe


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Top Achieving Student Yuvraj Dwarika Graduated with an MSc in Mechanical Engineering!

Top Achieving Student Yuvraj Dwarika Graduated with an MSc in Mechanical Engineering!
Mr Yuvraj Dwarika graduated with his Masters in Mechanical Engineering, supported by his family.

Mr Yuvraj Dwarika graduated with a Masters in Science in Mechanical Engineering. Dwarika’s research dealt with undertaking and improving a theoretical simulation analysis and implementing a practical system. ‘This system is to measure and capture critical data on the trailer manufactured by Transet Engineering. This will allow a better understanding of loading characteristics of trailers in the port environment and validate the existing design with the data acquired from practical field testing,’ said Dwarika.

The young man attributed his core qualities to the values instilled in him by his parents.  ‘In our lives, everything around us changes, except the consistent qualities within, which makes us an individual, our upbringing and what we choose to value from life’s test and situations,’ said Dwarika. His future plans include obtaining a degree in business management.

Whilst many found pursuing a degree challenging, Dwarika describes his experience as exciting.  ‘There was no assumption for the expected results. However through the work carried out and the guidance from my supervisor, Dr Clinton Bemont, the project was successful.’

In his spare time Dwarika enjoys building and playing with a radio-controlled vehicle while still keeping his interest in engineering and its development by mentoring students pursuing the same profession. His advice to aspiring Engineering students was to have a passion for the profession and understand what it entails early on as the industry is vast. ‘Your development during your degree is the stepping stone to your success. Students should do their utmost to meet the requirements and enjoy studying whilst achieving it.’

Words: Manqoba Hadebe


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Civil Engineer Mduduzi Zulu Graduates Cum Laude

Civil Engineer Mduduzi Zulu Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Mr Mduduzi Zulu received his BSc in Civil Engineering with the support of his family.

Mr Mduduzi Zulu felt proud to graduate cum laude as a Civil Engineer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Graduation ceremony.

Zulu hopes to one day pursue his PhD in Civil Engineering and is looking forward to breaking into the working world where he can gain experience in the field.

Zulu, who describes himself as an avid reader, enjoyed the experience leading up to the completion of his degree, ‘I have learnt to work hard as an individual and as part of a team.  I also learnt time management and am able to complete all tasks timeously.’

Zulu was inspired by his role model, Professor Thokozani Majozi, a Chemical Engineer in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pretoria and recipient of the S2A3 British Association Silver Medal. Majozi received the medal for his outstanding research. He became the first African to receive it since it was established in 1932.  Majozi’s successful career spurred

Zulu’s message to future students is: ‘Studying towards an Engineering degree opens a window of opportunity for those who wish to play a role in changing people’s lives. For example, water scarcity is a global issue that needs more research in order to develop new conservation strategies that will benefit future generations. Also new strategies need to be developed and implemented to reduce greenhouse gases that are produced by human activities.  We need to protect our environment at all costs.’

Words: Prashina Budree


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Curtis Russell Swanepoel - Proud MSc Civil Engineering Graduate

Curtis Russell Swanepoel - Proud MSc Civil Engineering Graduate
Mr Curtis Swanepoel receives his Masters in Civil Engineering.

Hard work paid off for Mr Curtis Swanepoel who graduated with a Master of Science in Civil Engineering.

Despite experiencing difficulties in his first year of study, Swanepoel enjoyed his journey in obtaining his masters. Through perseverance and hard work he proved himself by coming out top of his class towards the end of his undergrad degree. ‘My case study was based on a small Island off Zanzibar which was experiencing major erosion as a result of larger waves being allowed to propagate over the surrounding reef. I got to spend two months there and it was an amazing experience. Back home it was a tough couple of months putting all the information together and compiling my thesis but the long hours were worth it in the end,’ said Swanepoel.

Currently working as a Structural Engineer, Swanepoel based his master’s thesis on the effect of coral reefs on wave attenuation. Swanepoel, who plans on becoming a professionally registered engineer, hopes to find a long lasting solution to the erosion of the island. ‘Long-term, I hope to contribute toward something in my field that will be remembered,’ said Swanepoel.

He advised aspiring students to attend classes. ‘I started off first year coming with great marks in school thinking it would be super easy.  I was slacking and didn’t attend many lectures. As a result, I failed most subjects and I had to basically restart first year. I knew I never wanted to go through that embarrassment ever again. I worked hard, went to class, never gave up and I definitely reaped the rewards. If you get knocked down, stand right up and show everyone what you are capable of,’ said Swanepoel.

Words: Manqoba Hadebe


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The Desire to be a Scientist

The Desire to be a Scientist
Dr Lucretia Ramnath graduates with her PhD in Microbiology and her family by her side.

During Dr Lucretia Ramnath’s schooling at Danville Park Girls’ High School, she knew she wanted to be a scientist.

This desire led to her pursuing a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. During her undergraduate studies, Ramnath realised she wanted to become a microbiologist.

‘I think having a passion and curiosity for your chosen field of study motivates you to continue studying further,’ said Ramnath. After completing her undergraduate degree, Ramnath went on to do her honours research where she discovered a novel bacterial species growing in the Sua salt pan of Botswana. This finding inspired and motivated Ramnath to pursue her master’s degree.

After successfully graduating with a masters, she set her sights on undertaking her doctoral studies. 

In her research Ramnath investigated the microorganisms present in Eucalyptus wood (used to produce pulp and paper) and determined how one could use enzymes produced by these microorganisms to benefit the wood pulp industry.

‘The use of microorganisms and molecular techniques has infiltrated every avenue of science imaginable, making it a very diverse and interesting field to be in. Especially at this time in our earth’s history, with the effects of global warming and pollution, we are always striving to reduce our carbon footprint and preserve the planet as best we can. Turning to green energy and bio-processing may be our salvation. Microorganisms may be small in size but they impact our lives in a big way, and on a daily basis,’ said Ramnath.

Ramnath’s research allowed her to develop a specific cocktail of enzymes to degrade sticky deposits naturally present in the pulp. The sticky deposits reduce the quality of the pulp produced and cause the breakdown of machinery at the pulping mills, resulting in a loss of revenue. The method of enzyme treatment developed is an environmentally friendly and economical alternative to the traditional method of treatment which uses chemicals. Reducing the amount of chemicals used to treat pulp will reduce the amount of waste generated by this industry. In addition, if the wastewater is treated appropriately, it may be recycled back into the mill, thus reducing this industry’s dependency on municipal water.

Professor Ademola Olaniran, Dean of the School of Life Sciences said: ‘Lucretia’s passion, dedication and commitment to research since her BSc Honours year through to her PhD studies is commendable. Her smiles and calmness even when confronted with challenges in her research demonstrates her resilience and determination to fulfil her dream. Her PhD research is relevant to providing a safer and cheaper alternative for pulp treatment to address some of the challenges associated with the use of chemicals. Congratulations to Dr Ramnath and her supervisors on this great achievement.’ 

School of Life Sciences lecturer, Dr Roshini Govender, said: ‘Lucretia’s personality, character traits and drive to be a scientist allowed her to overcome the challenges of her ambitious project. She not only impressed with her skills as a scientist: molecular biologist (cloned and expressed two genes coding for esterase enzymes), biochemist (production and characterisation of several enzymes); wood profiler (wood extractives), cocktail designer (special cocktail of enzyme catalysts to prevent pitch formation during pulp production) and lab manager, but provided us with tasty treats from her successful experiments in the kitchen.  She has strong leadership qualities, is an excellent mentor to junior scientists and has a bright future wherever she goes.’

Ramnath, is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) in Mount Edgecombe where she is looking at molecular breeding of sugarcane for commercialisation.

‘SASRI is one of the world leaders in sugarcane research and I am excited to be a part of it,’ said Ramnath.

Ramnath’s studying experience can be summed up as, ‘It was one of the most difficult challenges of my life, but definitely the most rewarding.  The sense of accomplishment you feel when you complete your PhD is indescribable. Not to mention the pride you feel when someone calls you doctor.’

Ramnath expressed her gratitude to the National Research Foundation (NRF) for supporting her throughout the postgraduate studies.

When Ramnath is not researching, she enjoys baking, reading, travelling locally and internationally.

Words: Leena Rajpal


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A Qualified Mechanical Engineer, Riaan Fourie

A Qualified Mechanical Engineer, Riaan Fourie
Mr Riaan Fourie receives his Masters in Mechatronics Engineering with the support of his family.

Mr Riaan Fourie was the proud recipient of a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering - Mechatronic at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Graduation.

Fourie plans to continue to grow in his career and would like to become a professional engineer. ‘I would consider studying towards a PhD if I had the opportunity to pursue my studies full-time,’ said Fourie.

He attributed his accomplishment and determination to South African born physicist, engineer and entrepreneur, Mr Elon Musk.  ‘His constant innovation inspires me to be a better engineer and to push my own limit.’

He described his journey in pursuing his masters as ‘very challenging.’ ‘I completed my master’s part-time whilst working.  Over weekends I designed, built and wrote up my dissertation. At times it was exhausting but there was some degree of satisfaction to see things completed,’ said Fourie.

His research focused on the mechanical design of a prosthetic hand. ‘I used mainly computer-aided design to integrate the components of a mechanical and mechatronic prosthetic hand starting with a prototype to final design,’ said Fourie.

In his spare time, Fourie enjoys reading a book, being outdoors and exercising.

His message to aspiring Engineering students: ‘I would encourage them to pursue Engineering with a goal in mind. They should know which field they would like to work in once they have completed their degree. During the degree, they should work hard every evening so that they can afford to take breaks on weekends or when necessary as I believe rest time is as important as study time.’

Words: Manqoba Hadebe


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Construction Studies Student Graduates Cum Laude

Construction Studies Student Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Mr Isharlan Pillay graduates with his BSc in Property Development.

Mr Isharlan Pillay graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Studies cum laude at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Pillay, who enjoys playing the drums in his spare time, was thrilled to have completed his degree.  ‘During my years of studies I learnt the importance of being able to collaborate and work with other individuals who have different work philosophies and concepts. It has been an overall enjoyable experience studying towards this degree, because not only did I acquire the necessary tools and skills to become a professional in this field, I also acquired other qualities and life skills outside the confines of the classroom that I know will be beneficial for my future career,’ said Pillay.

Pillay, who plans to pursue his Master’s degree in Construction Management in the future, attributed his success to the encouragement and support of his family.  ‘I believe that family are your first and most important teachers in life. Their influence shaped my character and personality into what it is today,’ said Pillay. 

The University of KwaZulu-Natal prides itself on aspiring young minds of this country and in support of this Pillay’s advice to aspiring students is: ‘It is not about the money! A degree certificate is not a bragging right or a guaranteed salary certificate. An Engineering degree requires an unquestionable love and desire to push boundaries and question that which seems perfect. Engineering is a profession that requires consistent dedication and discipline. You need to find a positive study routine and lifestyle that makes you feel inclined to work hard and consistently improve your efforts.’

Words: Prashina Budree


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Student Graduates with a PhD in Electronic Engineering

Student Graduates with a PhD in Electronic Engineering
Dr Ayodele Sunday Oluwole.

Dr Ayodele Sunday Oluwole graduated with a PhD in Electronic Engineering. The Electronic Engineering student described his journey in achieving his PhD as long, arduous and largely solitary. ‘In my experience, there were two key factors which kept me going. The first was the time expended during the process of research and the most important was the support, compassion and gentle prodding of those around me towards the completion of my degree,’ said Oluwole.

Oluwole was grateful to Professor Viranjay Mohan Srivastava, who he described as his role model, for his guidance and counselling throughout his PhD. ‘He is known for his professional integrity, stoicism and grace under pressure to display the professional qualities someone would like to emulate. His presence and optimism provided an invaluable influence on my career and outlook for the future. I consider it my good fortune to have had an opportunity to work with such a wonderful person,’’ said Oluwole.

His research dealt with the Analysis and Design of Smart Antenna Array for improved directivity at GHz Range for Wireless Communication Systems. ‘Smart Antenna Arrays techniques attracted a lot of attention. Some aspects such as directivity and transmissions of data at a higher frequency range from gigahertz (GHz) to terahertz (THz) technology have to be examined. Hence, the motivation for this research that emphasises the analysis and design of Smart Antenna Arrays for improved directivity from (GHz) to (THz) range for wireless communication systems traversing from theoretical analysis to simulation on the effect of the antenna and their performances,’ said Oluwole.

Oluwole is very passionate about academia and has chosen it as his life long career path. With interest in teaching and research, he believes obtaining a PhD creates an opportunity to publish scientific research in reputable journals.

His message to aspiring students: ‘A degree in engineering enhances the nation’s economic productivity and improve the quality of life worldwide. The world is facing significant environmental challenges. There is great opportunity for engineering to serve as a force to help society solve the problem associated with these challenges. This requires a holistic understanding of economic growth and development in terms of the principal of sustainability.’

Words: Manqoba Hadebe


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Ross Holder Graduates with a Computer Engineering Master’s Degree Cum Laude

Ross Holder Graduates with a Computer Engineering Master’s Degree <em>Cum Laude</em>
Mr Ross Holder.

High achiever, Mr Ross Holder, has done the Discipline of Electrical, Electronic And Computer Engineering proud by completing his master’s degree cum laude at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Holder’s research focused on Facial Expression Recognition (FER) for crowd monitoring.  ‘By identifying the emotion of individuals in a crowd from their facial expression, I was able to create an algorithm that recognised when groups of individuals within the crowd started to become aggressive and posed a threat to public safety. Security officials could then be alerted to this threat and remove the aggressors from the crowd as soon as possible; greatly improving public safety at mainstream events,’ said Holder.

Holder is currently employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria and hopes to contribute to projects at the CSIR that will improve the lives of South Africans.  However, he also intends on pursuing his PhD through the CSIR.  ‘Although challenging at times, studying at UKZN was an insightful and invaluable experience that taught me many skills, like the importance of time management and project planning, which I have already put to use in the workplace,’ said Holder. 

He was grateful to his parents, lecturers and Master of Science supervisor Professor Jules Tapamo, for their motivation and support.

During his spare time, Holder enjoys spending time outdoors and playing tennis. 

‘Although pursuing any degree may seem daunting at first, I would encourage anyone with a passion for learning and strong work ethic to pursue a degree in Engineering. There is a huge feeling of self-accomplishment on completion of an Engineering degree. At UKZN, there are numerous resources that are available to you to help you achieve this. Having a degree in Engineering will open a world of new and exciting possibilities for you in the future, whether in the form of furthering your studies or joining the workplace,’ said Holder to other aspiring students.

Words: Prashina Budree


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Tenacious Student is Climbing Her Way Up

Tenacious Student is Climbing Her Way Up
Ms Boitemelo Setlhare graduates with her Masters in Microbiology with her family and supervisors by her side.

Ms Boitumelo Setlhare graduated with Masters in Microbiology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Setlhare, who described it as her greatest achievement, said, ‘This moment in my life is a celebration of hard work, sacrifices and investment that will open up a world of possibilities.’

Her passion for microbiology stemmed from her fascination with micro-organisms. ‘I was intrigued by the applications of micro-organisms, when I learned that they don’t only cause diseases but also keep us healthy. I was amazed to learn that they can be used to make wine, yoghurt and cheese,’ she said.

She said becoming a scientist often means forging financial rewards to further one’s career. ‘It was not easy telling my mother, who is a pensioner, that I was furthering my studies after honours instead of getting a job. Up until that point, she and my sisters had assisted in funding my studies’, she said. To follow her dreams, Setlhare also had to relocate to KwaZulu-Natal from the Free State to join UKZN.

Setlhare knew that she could not rely solely on family support and worked on weekends doing promotions and also worked as a demonstrator at university. Finally, things got better when she secured an NRF-grant linked bursary from her supervisor.

Setlhare’s success can be attributed to her tenacity, a sentiment echoed by her supervisor, Dr Paul Mokoena. ‘Boitumelo’s impeccable tenacity in times of disappointments and hardship has earned her the stripes to be a successful person in the academic arena,’ he said.

She plans on doing her PhD and using her work to make a difference in the world. ’I want to pursue my doctoral studies and develop innovative ways to solve existing problems, boost our economy and change lives through science. I want to be a leader in my field and mentor young people one day so that they become the best versions of themselves,’ she said.

Her advice to fellow students was to look beyond their books for answers. ‘Not all career information can be found on a page or online. ‘Go find yourselves a mentor in the field, who could guide you in your career path and give you a practical perspective,’ she said.

Words: Sashlin Girraj


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Masters Graduate Contributes to Understanding Durban’s Coastal Environment

Masters Graduate Contributes to Understanding Durban’s Coastal Environment
Ms Arissa Shanganlal is sandwiched in her parents love.

Ms Arissa Shanganlall graduated cum laude with a Masters in Geology after applying her mind to research on a coastal zone that is poorly understood in terms of its response to storm waves and sediment dynamics.

Spending time on the beach as a child intrigued Shanganlall about coastal systems, and led to her completing her Masters at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Coastal and Marine Geology. Shanganlall is going on to her PhD studies in the same field.

Shanganlall’s research focused on the near shore zone. She examined the near shore of the Isipingo embayment in KwaZulu-Natal from a bathymetric and wave modelling perspective to assess the morphological changes of the seabed over a winter period.

This kind of work and the methods used address scientific, industrial and environmental concerns around proposed engineering schemes in Durban, said Shanganlall. It also demonstrated how detailed multi-beam mapping was effective as a tool for accurately assessing coastal change and modelling nearshore waves.

She hopes this will add to the greater understanding of the nearshore and the interactive processes that are responsible for the morphological changes that occur in this coastal region.

Shanganlall thanked her supervisors, Professor Andrew Green and Dr Carlos Loureiro, her parents and fellow Geology masters graduate, Kreesan Palan, for their support and guidance during her studies.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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Parasitology a Passion for Masters Graduate

Parasitology a Passion for Masters Graduate
Ms Ekuyikeno Umo receives her Masters in Biological Science.

Ms Ekuyikeno Umo graduated cum laude with Masters in Biological Science for her research on parasitic malaria-related co-infections.

The Nigerian national attended the Lutheran Senior Science College, and is passionate about the field of parasitology, as parasites are such a huge health challenge in the world. She chose to pursue her postgraduate studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Calabar in Nigeria.

Her masters research centred on the role of cytokines and haematological profiles in Sprague-Dawley rats experimentally infected with Trichinellazimbabwensis and Plasmodium berghei ANKA.

‘Parasite co-infections reportedly have important but poorly understood consequences for disease development, severity and transmission dynamics,’ said Umo.

She aims to become a leader in her field of research, and is working on her PhD, striving to maintain a good balance between research and teaching, as well as develop effective leadership skills.

‘Ekuyikeno has matured rapidly and has achieved a good grounding through her MSc studies to pursue her PhD studies to completion. I am delighted with her achievement,’ said Umo’s supervisor, Professor Samson Mukaratirwa.

Umo said her graduation was a moment of celebration and reflection of what she has achieved. For Umo, the University slogan of ‘inspiring greatness’ means to be the best and to never settle for anything less.

She encouraged other students to set and pursue their goals with enthusiasm and to stay focused. She thanked her parents, siblings and supervisor for their support throughout her studies.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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Student’s Success Rooted in Struggle and Determination

Student’s Success Rooted in Struggle and Determination
Ms Anathi Nkayi graduates with her Masters in Biology with her friends at her side.

Ms Anathi Nkayi’s greatest achievement was graduating with a Master of Science degree. ‘Graduating with my masters feels like the end of a long journey that required dedication and constant motivation,’ she said.

A student of the School of Life Science, Nkayi recalled that her choice of career path stemmed from a need to save the planet. ‘At university I became fascinated with applying concepts of conservation in a unique way (cryo-preservation), which then became the focus of my studies,’ she said.

Nkayi endured a tough journey to her graduation, working several jobs to pay for her studies while juggling a full academic load. She also fell ill during her studies and required treatment. ‘I had to learn to take care of myself while again staying on top of my school work’, she recalled. Her biggest setback was the death of her mother. ‘I lost my motivation, but I knew that I needed to carry on as my mom was my biggest motivator,’ she said.

Each of these hardships tested, taught and strengthened Nkayi, ultimately inspiring greatness within her. ‘I hope those who read my story will be inspired to do great things in their own lives,’ she said.

Nkayi’s advice to fellow students pursuing degrees, was to prioritise their schoolwork and not get carried away with their ‘little freedom’, live a balanced life but not be afraid to miss out on social events as it was worth it in the end.

Words: Sashlin Girraj


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Engineer Extraordinaire Receives Honorary Doctorate from UKZN

Engineer Extraordinaire Receives Honorary Doctorate from UKZN
Honorary graduate Dr Trueman Goba being capped by UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld.

An honorary Doctor of Science in Engineering was awarded to Trueman Tandabantu Goba, former member of the National Planning Commission and current non-executive Chairman of Hatch Africa (Pty) Ltd Consulting Engineers and Project Managers, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Graduation ceremony.

‘It’s certainly most humbling to be awarded such a high honour by one’s alma mater,’ he said.

‘It’s also an institution with its own importance in KwaZulu-Natal – with a lot of history, and plenty of potential for influence on progress for development in that part of our country. I’m very proud.’

Goba, a UKZN alumnus, has supported the University’s Engineering initiatives in line with his vision for societal transformation through engineering and education.

The renowned businessman and entrepreneur grew up in a Durban township during apartheid. In 1975, before going to university he visited a company, Keeve Steyn and Partners (KS&P), which encouraged him to consider studying Engineering. This visit conceived a dream that led to his graduation in 1979 and the subsequent establishment of his own consulting engineering company.

After matric, Goba studied at Mmadikoti College in Polokwane (then the only technikon for Black people in South Africa) where he completed a diploma as a survey technician. This earned him a prospect to apply to university, and with assistance from the then-University of Natal (UN), obtained permission from the Minister of Higher Education to enrol for a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree at UN in 1976.

He completed his degree in 1979, making headlines across the segregated country, and then joined KS&P. He registered as a professional Engineer, went on to complete a Masters in Engineering at Cornell University in 1986 and then worked further in Maryland in the United States.

Returning to South Africa, Goba partnered with his friend Ebenezer Moahloli to found Goba Moahloli and Associates Inc. (GMA) in 1993 in Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape, with offices later in Durban and Cape Town.

GMA merged with KS&P to form Goba (Pty) Ltd, and the company took on several projects in the region, growing to a staff complement of 500. In 2013, it merged into Hatch Africa (part of a global multi-disciplinary group of over 10 000 staff), and now operates across the African continent and in Europe.

Goba (Pty) Ltd projects included road works at the Umgeni interchange in Durban, the King Shaka International Airport, the widening of the Durban harbour entrance and subsequent relocation of the Sewage Pump Station for eThekwini. In Johannesburg, the company worked on Gauteng freeway upgrades prior to 2010, the Nelson Mandela Signature Bridge, the Berg River Dam in the Western Cape, and various infrastructure and services projects in the Eastern Cape.

Goba’s accolades include a SAICE Gold Medal, a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Engineering from the South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA), and honorary doctorates from Stellenbosch University and McMaster University in Canada.

Goba is a former president of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering, and is president of the Engineering Council of South Africa and the South African Academy of Engineering.

Having benefited from various training opportunities and experience, Goba advocates for these to be priorities for young people embarking on a career of their choice and hoping to be part of building successful enterprises of the future. He has proved to be an inspiration for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, encouraging them to learn constantly.

Words: Christine Cuénod


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A Science Dream from the Stars

A Science Dream from the Stars
PhD graduate Dr Sphumelele Ndlovu poses with the book he wrote.

Dr Sphumelele Ndlovu graduated with a PhD in Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, an accolade he claimed was by no means a final destination on his trajectory.

The young graduate, who had his start in UKZN’s Science Foundation Programme (SFP), wrote a book called Aiming for the Stars about his upbringing, hardships and academic journey.

Ndlovu comes from the village of eMaswazini, where his mother sold chickens to provide for him and his brother. Ndlovu has called his mother the greatest person in his life, teaching her sons that education would be their future.

During his school years, a lack of resources meant sometimes three scholars sat at a desk made for one.

Early in his matric year 24 of the school’s 28 teachers walked out, leaving him and his peers to teach themselves. He passed Mathematics and Science, but just short of a matric exemption to enter university.

The SFP enabled him to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Physics at UKZN, and Ndlovu excelled. He did even better in honours and masters, completing his masters in 11 months.

Ndlovu believes studying what he loves shaped him as a person. He was accepted into the Professional Development Programme for PhD studies under the Space Geodesy Programme at Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO), where he was part of the first African team working on measuring the growing distance between earth and the moon using lasers.

His PhD formed part of the important, ongoing development of the Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) system at HartRAO. His work involved developing a mathematical tool to optimise efficiency and estimate signal path parameter of the LLR system.

Ndlovu explained how the team he was a part of is working toward understanding how the moon’s movement away from the earth could affect its systems.

He had the chance to attend the International Laser Ranging Workshop in Washington D C in 2014, where he presented part of his PhD work. He received a prize for the best PhD oral presentation at the Annual South African Institute of Physics 2015 conference, and in 2016 was selected to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany, as well as the BRICS Young Scientists Conclave in India.

Ndlovu says, even with a PhD, he has more mountains to climb. He wants his children to know him as someone who always aimed for the stars and never stopped pushing.

It motivated him to write his book, a difficult endeavour during his PhD studies, but often a welcome reminder along the way about his life and what led him to that point. ‘I wrote the book with only one purpose: to tell fellow young South Africans that anything is possible,’ said Ndlovu. ‘I wanted people to know about this village boy who plucked his science dream from the stars. I have travelled the world, seen places I have never imagined and met important people,’ he said.

Ndlovu says his book is aimed at everyone, reminding the privileged to work hard to maintain their standard, and telling the poor that it can be done.

He thanked his partner, Promise Shabangu, and their two sons Siyanda and Siyabulela for their encouragement and support, and acknowledged his brother Ntuthuko and twin sisters Nozipho and Nosipho Mahlase for their friendship.

He thanked both the Ndlovu and Khubone families, and Mr Morris Madlala for walking his journey with him. Ndlovu also gave special thanks to Professor Naven Chetty, his masters supervisor and PhD co-supervisor, for believing in him and making him a better scientist. He expressed gratitude to his PhD supervisor, Professor Ludwig Combrinck, saying it was an honour to work under his supervision.

Ndlovu is currently working with the South African Weather Service as a scientist in their Air Quality Services department.

 

Words: Christine Cuénod 


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Gaming Enthusiast Graduates with a BSc Mechanical Engineering degree, Cum Laude

Gaming Enthusiast Graduates with a BSc Mechanical Engineering degree, <em>Cum Laude</em>
Mr Shailin Govender receives his BSc in Mechanical Engineering.

Gaming enthusiast and problem solver, Mr Shailin Govender, graduated cum laude in Mechanical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science Graduation ceremony.

The infamous Elon Musk, CEO of Space X and a successful entrepreneur, engineer and investor motivated and inspired Govender.  ‘Elon Musk, is a pioneer in modern technology and is also an entrepreneurial prodigy. I admire his perseverance, vision and ability to capitalise on any opportunity,’ said Govender.

He described his experience whilst studying as ‘extremely developmental and enlightening’.  ‘The extreme difficulty of the course content taught me how to better manage my time as well as cope with stress. My perception of problems and problem solving has improved dramatically,’ said Govender.

Govender, who prides himself on hard work and perseverance, thanked his mother and sister for having a positive influence on his life.  He plans to advance his capabilities as an engineer through experience in industry as well as undertaking courses to enhance his skillset. 

‘An engineer’s greatest asset is their ability to be dynamic in their approach towards solving a problem. The courses are truly difficult but if you learn how to find it interesting, prosperity will find its way to you. Never allow self-doubt or laziness to hinder your progression towards greatness and success. Anything is possible with perseverance and dedication. Keep yourself motivated. The market is currently dire and the best way to ensure a good starting job is to obtain a bursary with a major company or volunteer as an intern during vacation periods with the major companies. Learn as much as possible and strive to be a better person,’ said Govender to future engineers.

Words: Prashina Budree


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Scientist Driven to Make Social Change

Scientist Driven to Make Social Change
Ms Yanga Mdleleni graduated with her Masters in Biology.

Ms Yanga Mdleleni was proud to have graduated cum laude with a Master's degree in Biological Sciences.

She is proud of how far she has come and where she is going. ‘It is a reminder that hard work will always be rewarded, and it is a step closer to fulfilling my dream,’ she said.

Mdleleni chose to enter her field of study because she wanted to help her fellow Africans and empower women to challenge the status quo. ‘In Africa, we face numerous diseases and hardships. I wanted to address some of these issues by becoming a scientist who can develop solutions. I also wanted to break the stereotype that women cannot persevere in male-dominated fields, such as science,’ she said.

During her academic journey Mdleleni struggled to find balance. ‘Striking a balance between my social and academic life was difficult at first but with the support and understanding of my friends and family, I managed,’ she said.

Her advice to her undergraduate students was to not lose focus. ‘Set your priorities straight and always have the end goal in mind. Never be misled by varsity fun and forget what you’re here to do,’ she said.

She is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Health at UKZN, as she is passionate about making a difference in the lives of township children. ‘We all deserve a chance, irrespective of our background, which is why I started a non-profit organisation to assist underprivileged children. We aim to help them reach their full potential through life skills, health education and academic mentorship,’ said Mdleleni. 

To help push this agenda, she plans on partnering with the Department of Health,  the Department of Education and the Department of Rural and Social Development. ‘Through these partnerships, I hope to bring forth solutions to health and socio-economic issues on our continent,’ she said.

This is also in line with her definition of inspiring greatness. ‘It means using what you have learned to excel and to inspire those who come after you to know that it can be done,’ she said.

Mdleleni’s mother, Ms Bulelwa Mdleleni, said she was not surprised by her daughter’s ambitions and successes thus far. ‘My daughter is very humble, caring and has a beautiful heart. She grew up always believing in herself and always wants to stand out from the crowd, hence she has achieved exceptional results in her academia at such a young age. I am very proud of the young woman she has become. With God by her side, I know she will do so many great things,’ she said.

Words: Sashlin Girraj


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Conservation and Family Drives Student’s Ambition

Conservation and Family Drives Student’s Ambition
Ms Roxanne Munsamy graduates with her Masters in Environmental Sciences.

Ms Roxanne Munsamy graduated with a Masters in Environmental Sciences. ‘Graduating depicts my merits and signifies the end of a significant chapter in my life and the start of new beginnings,’ said Munsamy. A keen interest in the environment led Munsamy down her chosen career path. ‘It was the pursuit of knowledge, my love and appreciation of nature that made me realise my passion for the environmental sector. This led me to pursue a career within the environmental sciences, and the result was three degrees, a Bachelor of Science (BSc), BSc Hons and now masters.

Her father, Mr Rajan Munsamy, said as a child, Roxanne had a generous heart and compassion for the environment. ‘She was always focused and worked hard to attain her goals. We are very proud of her achievement and know that she will flourish in the environmental sector,’ he said.

Munsamy attributed her success to her parents. ‘My parents taught me how to be an independent woman and stay true to myself. I believe that I am the person that I am today because of their upbringing and encouragement,’ she said.

Munsamy said pursuing her masters was not easy and sometimes felt unobtainable. ‘Sometimes I felt overwhelmed with the complex statistical analysis and machine learning algorithms used to process my data. I would accomplish one goal, but then have several setbacks. During these tough times, I always remembered that setbacks were not failures, but just speed bumps that help you learn more and makes you appreciate the work that you are doing once you have accomplished a goal,’ she said.

Her definition of inspiring greatness, was empowering oneself to be the best individual that you can be.

Munsamy advised fellow students to not lose focus. ‘Venturing into the unknown is always scary, especially as an undergraduate.  Have a plan of action and follow it through. Always aim for greatness and push yourself to achieve a little more success each time,’ she said.

Munsamy was selected to participate in the WWF-SA Environmental Leaders Graduate Programme and considers it to be one of her greatest achievements thus far.

She plans to enter the environmental sector and be part of efforts to conserve and efficiently utilise the natural resources. ‘I am currently focused on completing my internship at Wildlands Conservation Trust through the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Graduate Development Progamme, where I am working as an ecologist on conservation projects. The road and possibilities to my career journey are endless,’ she said.

Words: Sashlin Girraj


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MSc Mechanical Engineering Cum Laude Graduate – Mikhail Narsai Stands Proud!

MSc Mechanical Engineering <em>Cum Laude</em> Graduate – Mikhail Narsai Stands Proud!
Mr Mikhail Narsai received his Masters in Mechanical Engineering with his family by his side.

The internationally accredited Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is greatly sought after by aspiring engineers.  One such proud aspirant was Mr Mikhail Narsai, who graduated with a Master of Science cum laude

The journey to his success, however, proved to be stressful yet extremely rewarding.  ‘Stressful would be the understatement of the century. The Mechanical Engineering degree required a lot from us.  In first year it was an adjustment to finish lectures late and still have to study,’ said Narsai.

He said studying towards a degree in Mechanical Engineering requires strict discipline, but admits ‘it was a world of fun’ and many of the memories he made will be treasured forever.

Narsai regards Chris Gardener, an American businessman, as his role model.  ‘Chris Gardner has persistence and drive. He made it his goal to become proficient in a field he knew nothing about, and he attained that goal out of necessity. He became successful through his own innovativeness and shear willpower. I hope to attract success in the same way that Chris proactively did,’ said Narsai.  With a dream of one day owning a business in South Africa, Narsai hopes to help address the water and electricity crisis in the country.

Narsai, who has interest in 3D printing, action cricket and taekwondo, said other students should find the path they wish to take. ‘People will tell you that it’s not for you sometimes. People may give you a multitude of reasons to do something else. Find out what you want to do. You can be everything you want to be and more. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be sure to help those who ask you.’

Narsai’s research for his master’s degree:

The dissertation addresses the complexities of stresses at joints and buckling. The space frame design consists of two segments of iterations. The second and more important segment is based on optimisation through finite element analysis (FEA). The design and execution of a new test method was developed to validate FEA results. The test method involves applying compressive stress on tubes fabricated using unidirectional (UD) fibre set at 35°, to induce compressive and shear stresses along the primary fibres. In this way, four major failure criteria were compared. The Hoffman and Tsai-Wu criteria were shown to be accurate and conservative. The Hill criteria showed inaccuracy by having incorrectly high strength ratios, while the Maximum Strain criteria had the highest strength ratio, proving to be the least conservative and most inaccurate. This dissertation shows that certain failure criteria may be used confidently in applications such as filament winding and continuous pultrusion methods, which are widely used in producing closed sections.

Words: Prashina Budree


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