Spotlight on UKZN’s Civil Engineering Sustainable Transportation Research Group
The work of the Sustainable Transportation Research Group (STRg) in Civil Engineering at UKZN was highlighted in the Outlook newsletter of the Durban branch of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering.
The article drew attention to the group’s focus on sustainable solutions for national and international transportation issues.
Founded by Academic Leader Professor Mohamed Mostafa, Professor Dillip Das, Professor Johnnie Ben-Edigbe and Mr Senzo Shange, the STRg was created following a process in the School of Engineering to strengthen its academic and research offerings through the upgrade of infrastructure, the improvement of its work environment and an increase of staff capacity in key areas such as water, structures, geotechnics and transportation.
The STRg group unites experts in transportation to advance research in sustainable road transportation to contribute to alleviating global challenges said to be brought about in part by the movement of people and goods, including environmental degradation, ecological imbalances, climate change and more.
Expanding capacity in transportation research and teaching at UKZN means postgraduate and undergraduate students are exposed to different aspects of the transportation industry such as traffic engineering, transportation planning and roads design, construction, pursuing novel research and design through research theses, and final-year design dissertations and projects. The group offers full- and part-time study opportunities for master’s and PhD students and is working towards establishing a research chair in sustainable transportation.
STRg researchers are pursuing basic and applied research in smart transportation, sustainable road materials, public transport systems, road safety engineering, transport planning, traffic management, pavement modelling, pavement management systems, pavement life cycle assessment, and integrated transportation systems. To accommodate novel research on embedded sensors, non-conventional and nanomaterials, UKZN’s transportation laboratory is undergoing a significant upgrade that includes the acquisition of advanced equipment.
‘We are striving to establish a transportation research hub in KZN by focusing on national and local problems in the sector to provide innovative solutions to achieve economical and reliable transportation infrastructure,’ said Mostafa. ‘We work closely with industry and governmental institutions as we believe research must address the needs of local communities to be internationally recognised.’
STRg research projects also include Applied Systems Analysis approaches to smart city research and the implementation of information communication technology solutions to public transportation in developing countries. It has received international publicity in international journals as well as conference proceedings.
‘We envisage contributing new knowledge, innovative concepts and designs towards developing products and artefacts and technology that will enable sustainable road transportation in Africa and globally,’ said Mostafa.
The group is also focusing on planning aspects of public transportation systems such as road humps and the development of an innovative traffic light system to enhance road safety.
‘We endeavour to contribute to solving complex transportation problems with our research, innovation and problem-solving competency to lead to a more sustainable and liveable habitat,’ said Das.
STRg’s work has resulted in the recognition of its researchers in the South African National Roads Agency’s A category, which supports four projects that the STRg is collaborating on with other universities, research institutes and consulting agencies. The group has international relations with universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Dean and Head of the School of Engineering Professor Glen Bright highlighted UKZN’s placement in international rankings where it features in the top 2.5% of the world’s universities - confirming its commitment to sustainability and quality - and its internationally accredited engineering qualifications position the School to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the quality of life for all communities.
Words: Christine Cuénod