College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

CAES Newsletter

Volume 1 | Issue 2

A quarterly overview of activities, events, achievements and news from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.


Professor Albert Modi
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of College

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science is continuing on the path of success. This is always measured against the framework of UKZN’s strategic goals. The purposeful integration of academic and professional services yields commendable outcomes. There are clear advancements in achieving our objectives in relation to maintaining and developing our reputation in research, teaching and learning and community outreach. Beyond publication in high impact journals, our researchers generate new knowledge. This is evidenced by the many prestigious awards for staff from all our Schools, and their ability to attract highly rated scientists and engineers nationally and internationally to come to UKZN and share current knowledge for future development. In the context of our talent mapping and development, it is encouraging that four of the six prestigious national and international awards received by our staff were awarded to women. 

As the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon, Apollo 11, and the debates about climate change are heating up, our engineers are counted among those who come up with solutions. Our success largely resides in collaboration with researchers from different parts of the globe. We are proud of the positive impact of our community outreach programmes. We are now on record for assisting the eThekwini Metropolitan to deal with the negative impact of floods this year. We launched Africa’s first recycled water handwashing station prototype. We continue to inspire greatness through our successful showcase events to attract the attention of business and industry to UKZN, which has positive spill over effects on potential students. The College leadership is encouraged by the cohesive nature of our successful efforts to ‘walk the talk’. Let us continue to generate knowledge for progressive development and greater awareness.




Deep Learning IndabaX, a locally organised version of the annual Deep Learning Indaba meeting, recently took place at UKZN’s Unite Building and was attended by researchers, students and experts in machine learning from across the continent. The event is aimed at ensuring an even spread of knowledge sharing and capacity building in machine learning across Africa. The meeting enabled experimentation with methods to strengthen African machine learning and its local communities, allowing more people to contribute to the conversation around machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

UKZN’s Centre for Functional Biodiversity (CFB) was officially launched at an event on the Pietermaritzburg campus attended by academics, students and researchers. The centre was initiated to draw together research efforts in biodiversity and ecological sciences happening across various disciplines at the University. It will form a virtual hub for leading researchers, including UKZN’s SARChI and University research chairs, with expertise in studying the origins, distribution and maintenance of biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems. Postgraduate training in basic and applied biological sciences will be a focus of the centre. The centre will also develop a regional community of practice involving academic institutions, protected area agencies, non-governmental and municipal biodiversity interest groups or stakeholders. 

The mathematics discipline in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science hosted its 12th annual workshop on numerical methods for differential equations on the Pietermaritzburg campus. The annual workshop is seen as a central pillar in capacity building and in developing mathematical skills at UKZN, in particular, and South Africa in general. Numerical analysis is an area where mathematics interfaces with computer science in creating, implementing and analysing computer algorithms and in answering questions on aspects of accuracy, convergence, consistency and efficiency of numerical schemes. This provides real-world applications of algebra, calculus and geometry to solve mathematical models in the fields of science, medicine and economics.

The UKZN Mu Eta Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN) Honours Society hosted a latex writing workshop for postgraduate students on the Howard College Campus. The workshop, held in partnership with Overleaf Latex in the United Kingdom, was organised to assist students in research writing skills. The focus was also on preparing postgraduate students for thesis writing, journals and conference writings in line with scientific standards.


UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) stand at the annual Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg was awarded a Silver Medallion for 2019. The UKZN stand included displays from a range of academic disciplines in the College as well as a variety of plants, mammals, reptiles and insects from the University’s agricultural, botanical, zoological and entomological disciplines. In particular, the display highlighted research done by postgraduate students in the School of Life Sciences. A star attraction at the stand was ‘Twinkie’, a male Dumeril’s boa, from Madagascar. Also of interest were exhibits from UKZN’s Frank Bush Zoological Museum collection, some of which are more than 100 years old. With STEC@UKZN'’s ‘Dr T’ wowing both young and old with her magical science show, there was always a fascinated crowd on hand to learn more about what UKZN has to offer. The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has exhibited at the show for several years, consistently winning prizes for its displays. The Royal Show, which has been held for over 160 years, is the premier agricultural and lifestyle event in KwaZulu-Natal, attracting more than 180 000 people during its 10-day run.

UKZN’s Pollution Research Group (PRG) in partnership with Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, and Khanyisa Projects (an engineering consulting company) launched Africa’s first recycled water handwashing station prototype. Having been piloted on Howard College Campus, the Autarky Handwashing Station, so-named to reflect its self-sufficiency, was moved to an informal settlement that has limited access to piped water, where it will be tested for three months. The handwashing system serves a need in public spaces where there is nowhere to wash one’s hands before eating. The goal of the pilot project is to show that the station works reliably when it has high usage and to find out whether people are willing to use the recycled water. Extensive tests in the laboratory over the past eight years have shown that the system reliably removed pathogens, malodor and colour from the recycled water.

Petrol heads abounded at the annual Cars in the Park exhibition held at Ashburton outside Pietermaritzburg where UKZN Mechanical Engineering students and staff showcased some of their most prized mechanical designs and possessions. The UKZN display showcased four vehicles - a 1926 Ford Model T, a convertible Ford Mustang, the UKZN Solar Car and a Technology human-powered Pedal Bus. The theme of the stand was Past, Present and Future: Evolution of Technology in Motor Vehicles. In perfect weather conditions, the national car show attracted more than 1 500 vehicles from across South Africa and some 15 000 people. While the Solar Car, Ford Model T and Mustang were major draw cards at the UKZN stand, it was the Pedal Bus that was the hot favourite with the crowds. The pedal bus is a multi-passenger human-powered vehicle that can be powered by a maximum of ten cycling passengers, while the steering and braking is controlled by the driver. ‘These unique and innovative vehicles tell the story of the evolution of engineering design and transportation over time,’ said Dean and Head of the School of Engineering, Professor Glen Bright.

In response to Easter flooding in Durban, a clean-up of the harbour area was organised by Refilwe Mofokeng, a UKZN student studying towards a PhD in Marine Biology. The iniative was driven by the Refilwe Matlotlo Foundation, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that was formed by Mofokeng in 2016 to highlight the importance of conserving marine life. Wearing protective gloves, around 80 volunteers made up of students and members of the public gathered at Wilson’s Wharf and went straight to work, collecting the waste into plastic bags provided by Plastics SA. The litter collected was then divided into different waste packages, with the plastic being taken in for recycling.

The College once again hosted its annual July school holiday outreach programmes. These included “Be a Scientist for a Week” on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses, where grade 10 and 11 learners were given the opportunity to participate in various hands-on scientific activities drawn from a range of scientific disciplines; and the very popular Engineering Winter School held at Howard College, where some 100 matric pupils who had expressed an interest in studying Engineering at UKZN spent time working in the different Engineering labs and exploring all options on offer.

UKZN reached out to thousands of learners in KwaZulu-Natal at its annual Open Days held on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses. Prospective students were treated to a programme that included ‘magical’ scientific displays from Dr Tanja Reinhardt of the Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC). Students from the Schools of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Life Sciences, showed them sheep, snakes and hedgehogs, and the Automatic Weather Station in action. Chemistry and Physics senior students attracted visitors with exciting, eclectic displays and activities, including physical and analytical chemistry experiments involving fool’s gold and golden rain, while others demonstrated ‘burning’ money and crushing cans. Physics students invited guests to test physical distribution by reclining on a bed of nails, and created fascinating patterns using a homography demonstration. This flagship annual event provides an opportunity for youngsters in Grade 11 and Grade12 to learn more about the various academic programmes on offer at UKZN, admission criteria and the application process as well as student support services and what funding is available.

UKZN’s Science Centre recently embarked on a CompLit4U outreach project, to empower cleaning staff with basic computer literacy skills. The project was the brain child of Science Centre Coordinator Dr Tanja Reinhardt and College Web Administrator Mr Sashlin Girraj, who had a joint vision to upskill campus management staff. Having secured a donation of 15 laptops from Information and Communication Services (ICS), the pair developed the curriculum, secured participants, obtained resources and taught the content. The course was run as a pilot project over five days with 10 cleaning staff members and covered fundamental topics such as computer basics, Microsoft Word, how to use the internet, how to send an email and computer/online security. Since the project was launched, there has been considerable interest from the rest of the campus management staff to attend.


The UNITE building, home to UKZN’s Engineering School, has a dynamic new space. It’s multi-purpose, stand-along cafeteria is now complete and open for business.  

The upmarket venue, with beautiful views inland over thick Durban coastal bush, is ideal for intimate events.  

Recently it saw the unveiling of the first art installations born of the Neptune Project, an innovative Waste-to-Art recycling initiative undertaken by SARChI Chair for Waste and Climate Change, Professor Cristina Trois.


From April – August 2019 the College made 22 new appointments. We welcome Ms Sedzesani Magelegeda (Senior Technician) to the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences;  Mr Ayanda Ngubane (Principal Technician), Miss Hlengiwe Dlamini (Technical Assistant), Mr Sbongiseni Sishi  (Technical Assistant), Mr Doctor Mbense (Technician) and Mr Cyprian Mthembu (Senior Technician) to the School of Chemistry and Physics; Mr Senzo Shange (NGAP Lecturer), Miss Khuthadzo Mugodo (NGAP Lecturer), Mr Timothy Velthuysen (Lecturer) and Dr Oladimeji Olalusi (Lecturer) to the School of Engineering;  Ms Busisiwe Mbhele (Assistant Admin Officer), Miss Sibusisiwe Dube (Assistant Admin Officer), Miss Nonjabulo Jali (Assistant Admin Officer) and Miss Noyise Ntshobeni (Technician) to the School of Life Sicences; Mr Asandile Tshijila (Senior Technician) and Mr Sisize Simo Mthethwa (Lecturer) to the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science;  and Mr Phumlani Mbatha  (HR Consultant), Mr Wonder Mlitwa (HR Consultant), Miss Nqobile Kweyama (Student Counsellor), Miss Ronelle Msomi (Student Counsellor) and Mrs Nozipho Hlalukane (Principal Academic Development Officer) to the College Office.


Wonder Women In Science is an annual College initiative that commemorates National Science Week and Women’s Month, by highlighting pioneering women in science from each of our five schools.  Our 2019 Wonder Women are:


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