College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Ms Iksha Singh.

Summa Cum Laude Graduate Forges Career as Female Engineer

Ms Iksha Singh graduated with her Master’s in Civil Engineering summa cum laude in April and now the engineering whiz is using her ambition, determination and fearlessness to shine in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Singh grew up in a Durban household where her father, a professional engineer and consultant, exposed her to the world of engineering and where she also took cues from her mother in developing the strength and confidence to succeed.

Growing up, Singh developed an interest in Maths, Science and the built environment. She enrolled at UKZN’s Howard College campus for her undergraduate studies, drawn to UKZN by its engineering qualifications as well as quality of its graduates.

For her master’s degree, which was supervised by Dr Georgios Drosopoulos, Singh investigated the performance of steel structures by examining the effects of fire protection on a steel connection exposed to elevated temperatures. Drosopoulos’s expertise was, Singh said, exceptionally helpful and allowed her to elevate her research above the mediocre. She gave him credit for his knowledge, guidance and support. ‘This research was aimed at improving fire design of steel structures in a local and/or international context, and by extension, contributing to a safer built environment,’ she said.

Singh – a Candidate Engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and Associate Member of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE)- works for international engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald and aims to become an ECSA accredited professional engineer in Civil Engineering and perhaps one day pursue her PhD.

In the year between completing her undergraduate studies and commencing her master’s degree, Singh worked full-time on site as a graduate engineer for a well-known construction company. ‘A female engineer on site full-time is still quite a rarity,’ said Singh, who is grateful for the experience she gained.

She assured aspiring young engineers, particularly women, that despite the challenges of being on site, direct involvement with engineering was one of the most fulfilling jobs.

Singh has received numerous accolades. In 2017, she was selected to attend the Joint Structural Division awards in recognition of outstanding work or superior achievement in Structural Engineering. In 2016 at the SAICE National Investigative Project Showdown, she represented UKZN against five other top South African universities, receiving first prize and a postgraduate bursary.

She also participated and featured in the SAICE Women’s Month social media campaign and served as the Logistics Coordinator for South African Women in Engineering and as an occasional mentor to aspiring young female engineers with GirlEng KZN in 2016. She is a member of Consulting Engineers South Africa’s Young Professionals Forum which regularly conducts Maths workshops for Grade 11 learners in underprivileged schools, and since 2004 has volunteered with the Sandipha Bhajan group, undertaking charity work and activities for community upliftment.

The high achiever says her recipe for success is her unwavering support system and drive to produce excellent work. ‘First and foremost, I aimed to make my parents proud. The love, blessing and support I have received from my family is immeasurable.’ She thanked family members Sunil, Shamini and Sanav Singh for their invaluable support; her partner Mr Nitesh Jaganik for his unwavering love, help and encouragement; and her friend Ms Cerissa Ramsumer for her companionship.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph supplied by Iksha Singh