Tough Academic Journey Culminates in PhD Success for International Student

Dr Daniel Kubelwa of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has fulfilled his dream of graduating with a PhD in Engineering.

After matriculating he registered for a Bachelor of Science Engineering (Diplome D’Ingenieur Civil en Electromecanique) at the Polytechnic Faculty of the University of Lubumbashi in the DRC.

Kubelwa’s passion for understanding the power generation sector drove his studies and his final-year undergraduate project focused on the design and selection of electrical and mechanical parts for the Busanga Hydropower station in the DRC, with outcomes from his research being used in the construction of the station.

He then started studies at UKZN where he completed his MSc Mechanical Engineering degree and can now add a PhD in Electrical Engineering to his name.

Kubelwa’s doctoral research established experimental and numerical benchmarks for the development of a practical design tool that can be used by overhead power transmission line designers.

In addition, his research project aimed to develop technical procedures for the indoor performance Aeolian vibration assessment of a bundle conductor-spacer-damper system. The modal analysis via the frequency response function (FRF) and Euler-Lagrange formalism was used to develop the experimental and numerical benchmark.

‘This research is paving the way for the development of a useful algorithm for elaborating the efficiency optimisation techniques of spacer dampers in the bundle conductors,’ said Kubelwa, whose research topic was proposed by a B2 overhead line working group of the International Council on Large Electrical Systems (CIGRE). The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the United States sponsored his research.

During his studies he obtained best student paper awards at symposia hosted at UKZN and in the United Kingdom, and delivered a keynote speech in Morocco.

Kubelwa described his PhD journey as a challenging one demanding dedication and sacrifice.  Currently he is writing up and submitting papers from his doctoral research and is involved in peer-reviewing papers for the IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery journal. He is also co-supervising undergraduate and master student projects from his hometown university in the DRC.

Kubelwa manages to find time to read, write, travel, listen to gospel music and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kubelwa thanked God, his wife Dr Yollande Ngoy, his two sons Elikia and Elmaleh, and his extended family for their unconditional support.  He acknowledged his late mother Ms Audrey Kakenge and late sister Ms Lois Kubelwa for the part they played in his achievement.  In particular, he paid tribute to his father Mr Leonard Kubelwa Musaya who sadly passed away two weeks before his graduation.  ‘It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons,’ he said.

Kubelwa also thanked his supervisors, Dr Andrew Swanson, Professor Konstantin Papailiou and Professor David Dorrell for their support.

Papailiou responded: ‘It has been my pleasure and privilege to accompany you during your thesis, Daniel, as you have been diligent, innovative, persistent and hard-working – attitudes that will help you in your future career.’

Kubelwa is well-known amongst the international student community at UKZN as he worked for a time in the International Student Office, where his first-hand experience of the administrative challenges faced by international students proved invaluable.

Words: Leena Rajpal 

Photograph: Supplied