Chemical Engineering Master’s graduate Ms Dayna Hamilton with her mother Charmaine and brother Travis.

Desire to Assist the Disadvantaged Leads to MSc in Sanitation

Ms Dayna Hamilton was delighted to graduate with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.

Hamilton completed her matric at Westville Girls’ High School in 2009, and obtained a BSc in Pure and Applied Mathematics and Chemistry and a BSc Honours degree in Chemistry from Rhodes University in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

She then joined the MV Logos Hope – a ship operated by a German Christian charitable organisation that features a mobile bookstore – as a volunteer crew member for two years, during which she was exposed to the poverty in and around Asia, and East and West Africa.

Hamilton enrolled at UKZN in 2017. ‘When I met Professor Chris Buckley and heard about the sanitation-based research he was doing as head of the Pollution Research Group (PRG), I decided to pursue a master’s degree at UKZN,’ she said. ‘The PRG is focused on developing sustainable sanitation systems for the developing world, and I wanted to contribute to this effort.

‘My exposure to the immense need in the world whilst on the MV Logos Hope led me to choose a Master’s project that would use my chemistry and mathematics skills to assist the disadvantaged,’ said Hamilton. ‘Sanitation is a key area since it is foundational to the health and wellbeing of communities. I chose a Master’s project that contributed to innovative sanitation strategies.’

Hamilton’s study was titled, Near Infrared Spectroscopy for on-site Quality Analysis of the Proximate Components of Urine Diversion Dehydrating Toilet Faecal Sludge as a Feed for Farming Black Soldier Fly Lavae. She examined whether Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) can be used as a rapid screening tool to determine the level of moisture, sand, protein, fat and fibre in faecal sludge loads taken from onsite waterless toilets.

‘A 20 ton per day Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) production facility has been built to process faecal sludge from Urine Diversion Dehydration Toilets (UDDT) in Isipingo, Durban. This facility serves as a disposal and resource recovery step in the Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) chain that is important for addressing sanitation needs in developing countries,’ explained Hamilton.

‘My pilot project aimed to inform municipalities on the potential to introduce entrepreneurs and public partnerships to the sanitation field. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a grant to Khanyisa Projects and eThekwini Municipality, the investigation aimed to provide scientific data to aid the formulation of future contracts,’ she said.

Hamilton described her Master’s journey as a capacity building experience. Coming from a solely mathematics and chemistry background and knowing nothing about sustainable sanitation or NIRS, she feels privileged to have been put in a challenging position from which she emerged successfully.

‘It has built my confidence. I know that if posed with a difficult scientific/engineering question in the future I will be able to come to a valid answer. It has taught me a level of tenacity to be able to engage successfully in high-level planning and investigation,’ she said.

Hamilton is currently working at Technical Finishes KZN as a Chief Research and Development Chemist.

Words: Zolile Duma

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan