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UKZN’s engineering master’s student outdoes herself

Woman in a black dress.

Giselle Pillay graduated cum laude for her Master of Science in Engineering degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Published Nov 24, 2021


Durban - GISELLE Pillay graduated cum laude for her Master of Science in Engineering degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She specialised in waste and resource management, a new master’s programme now offered by the university.

“Graduation is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Completing my master’s degree was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Pillay.

According to Pillay, her fascination for engineering studies began during her high school career, having won a South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) competition.

“After winning the SAICE bridge-building competition, I discovered my interest in engineering and further research in this field led me to complete my degree in civil engineering.”

Her first choice of university was always UKZN.

“I chose UKZN as it has a worldwide reputation for academic excellence and a well-structured engineering programme,”

After enrolling at UKZN, Pillay developed an interest in waste management studies during her undergraduate years. Pillay wanted to pursue studies on how the construction industry can ensure sustainable development.

That led to Pillay’s research degree zooming in on how waste recovery systems in the construction sector can be optimised. The study also looked at designing a socially economic and environmentally feasible construction and demolition waste management system for the eThekwini Municipality.

Pillay is gaining solid knowledge in the waste management and sustainable development field, having been paired with field experts.

She is currently employed by JG Afrika, a firm that administers consulting and environmental services in civil and structural engineering. She is also part of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Resilient Water team that works on a South African national faecal waste management strategy.

Pillay is also a researcher. Her research is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and she conducts a needs assessment of gender integration for sanitation partners in Africa. The project has much to do with collecting information on how to make the sanitation sector more economically inclusive of women.

“I am looking forward to the next step in my career, which is to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa as a professional engineer, progressing into project management and making a difference in society,” said Pillay.

Professor Cristina Trois, who holds the National Research Foundation South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Waste and Climate Change, said Pillay was a stalwart and an astounding young woman.

“She is the first student to graduate from our new master’s programme, and an amazing, strong young woman!” said Trois, Pillay’s supervisor.

UKZN hosted virtual graduation ceremonies for a total of 2,042 degree certificates for their graduates today.

Of the 2,042 graduates, 1,108 certificates were awarded to undergraduates while 934 were awarded to postgraduates.These graduates completed their studies between April and August 2021.

Sunday Tribune

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