Avocado Research Earns Graduate MSc in Agricultural Engineering Summa Cum Laude
Motivated by a passion to succeed, Ms Alaika Kassim has graduated with her Agricultural Engineering Masters degree summa cum laude. She says the work and commitment involved in getting the degree were extremely demanding and challenging but enjoyable and rewarding at the same time.
Her research-based masters, supervised by Professor Tilahun Workneh and Professor Carel Bezuidenhout, was all about avocado pears! It focused on the integrative effect of postharvest handling techniques of pre-packaging, packaging and suitable storage conditions on the physical, chemical and subject sensory quality of avos.
The pre-packaging treatments were Avoshine® wax and hot water dipping and the packaging materials were perforated low density polyethylene bags and perforated corn starch biodegradable bags. The types of storage conditions analysed were fixed temperature and relative humidity and that of varying temperature and relative humidity (simulation of the avocado cold chain).
Very aware of the shortage of agricultural engineers in South Africa, Kassim says she chose the degree partly to make more people aware of the field as a career choice. ‘Seeing this niche, I immediately knew that I was able to fill it. The science field has always intrigued me and I wanted to pursue a career that was challenging,’ said Kassim.
‘As Agricultural Engineers we are duty bound to ensure quality, productivity and sustainability in food production.’ Kassim’s role model in life is her mother, who she describes as a strong and determined woman instrumental in steering her children towards professional qualifications.
With regards to future plans, Kassim said: ‘I have a passion for research and contributing to science. I hope to now pursue a doctoral degree after which I aim to lecture at a tertiary institution as well as focus on additional research and consulting. The opportunity of being at a tertiary institution will enable me to undertake academic research in addressing problems facing communities.’
Kassim is an advocate of empowering women. ‘Women are now able to enter fields that were previously male-dominated, which is a big step forward for South Africa,’ she said. ‘I have on numerous occasions done presentations talks and engaged with female students to motivate them to pursue a career in the science field, specifically in Agricultural Engineering. I now have to try to be a model for many young women to become more proactive in their communities.’
- Prashina Kallideen