Top of the Class!

Four of UKZN’s 48 Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) graduates received their degrees summa cum laude.

They were Mr Thesan Appalsamy, Mr Nikyle Bisseru, Dr Sarisha Harrylal and Mr Jared Sabbagha.

‘The four of us worked closely together over the past four years and if you ask anyone of us we will all say the others played a part in our success,’ said Bisseru.

Advice sought from UKZN lecturers led Bisseru to study Mechanical Engineering and now with a first class pass in his pocket, he is currently employed as a mechanical engineer at Royal HaskoningDHV – an independent project management and engineering consultancy firm that offers professional services to clients locally and internationally.

‘I decided to work in consulting after meeting several industry professionals who convinced me of the benefits,’ he said. ‘I plan to progress within the mining industry and earn my professional engineering certification.’

Bisseru had some wise words to offer current students in the School of Engineering: ‘At times during your degree, you may feel despondent and want to throw in the towel but just remember the end goal and where you want to be in the future. If you are struggling, seek help. Always push yourself to the limit and do your best in every test, tutorial, practical and exam. It is the small successes that add up and pay off in the end. I am testament to that.’

For Appalsamy graduating has provided a sense of gratification not only for him but also for all those who have helped him through his journey. ‘Graduating shows that this investment has paid great dividends and also signifies a new beginning as a metaphorical stepping stone towards future endeavours,’ he said.

Appalsamy’s goal has been not only to learn but also to contribute. This led to his participation in many different science fairs, developing projects that targeted areas such as renewable and alternative energy. ‘Being able to develop solutions to prevalent problems intrigued me, but on a deeper level, I always wanted to create something to help others,’ he said.

Appalsamy said former UKZN lecturer and Astrophysicist Dr Megandhren Govender (aka ‘Dr G’) had significantly impacted his thinking. ‘From when I was in primary school, Dr G would host science classes to encourage students to get involved. He cultivated a strong love for science in me and inspired me to continue learning and to improve myself.’

Appalsamy is currently part of the CSIR’s graduate training programme.

Harrylal already holds an MBChB degree awarded to her from UKZN. ‘Working as a medical doctor exposed me to some of the struggles faced by the majority of South Africans,’ said Harrylal. ‘This is where my eagerness to pursue a career in engineering developed. I believe engineers have the tools to develop solutions that can potentially have an impact on a large number of people.’

Harrylal plans to work in research and development in the field of either biomedical engineering or renewable energy.

Sabbagha was home schooled using the Cambridge syllabus owing to his family being on the move a lot. He passed his International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams, obtaining distinctions for his A levels through self-study. He was motivated to study engineering by his late grandfather who was a civil engineer.

Sabbagha is currently doing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, working within UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG). ‘I am doing research and design work in the areas of aeroelasticity – that is the intersection of aerodynamics and structural dynamics,’ he said.

All four students said they received excellent guidance from their lecturers Dr Jared Padayachee and Professor Michael Brooks. They thanked their families as well as friends in Mechanical Engineering for making the degree a little easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.

Words: Saneh Mahlase

Photographs: Supplied