The 2004 materials engineering honours students at the Centre for Materials Engineering will be the first crop to emerge from the programme, eight students from around the country, with a variety of science backgrounds.
For some, the engineering environment was new and novel, posting more than a few surprises - the terminology for one, words like "extrusion" and "blow moulding", which had them scratching their heads initially.
"The hard work in assimilating this new field was made worthwhile when by mid-year all had won full bursaries," said Associate Professor Candy Lang.
The diversity of the group is borne out by Nazeeba Moerat, a mother of four children, aged between four and 16, who came to UCT from teaching. Many of the other candidates came to the department from the science faculty, having studied chemistry before making the switch. Sigqibo Camagu, for example, opted for materials science as it was "more hands on" than chemistry.
"It took a while, but I got to grips with the engineering concepts."
Chumani Mshumi echoes these words. Most of her family have chemistry backgrounds but she was attracted by civil engineering before being won over by the scope offered by materials engineering: "At first it was horrible, my goodness, all the new terms. But I've applied for master's next year - we need more women in engineering."
For Ziyande Fotoyi, a graduate in biochemistry, the foray into a new field was undertaken with a sense of adventure. "At the beginning of the year I thought, it will make me or break me."
All agreed on one thing: Lang has been the backbone of the course and their mainstay in a year of many challenges. "She had faith in us," said one student. "You can talk to her", added another.
And then of course there was centre director Professor Rob Knutsen's motto that spurred them on: "Nothing but the best."
Good luck to the eight who will be graduating next month: Sigqibo Camagu, Ziyanda Fotoyi, Sanele Nkosi, Nazeeeba Moerat, Ntombi Mathe, Chumani Mshumi, Mashudu Manwatha and Lerato Tlharipe.
(There were also three babies born to the platinum group within a week in August, including PhD graduand Miyelani Nzula's daughter, a veritable race between PhD completion and delivery.)
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