Over the seas and far away - new academic vistas

04 April 2005

Friends and sojourners: Chemical engineering students Disa Setlogelo (left) and Rethabile Melamu, photographed in Tübingen, Germany.

Anyone will tell you: chemical engineering is a tough course. But there are some welcome add-ons for promising students, like travel to far-off lands for vacation training (but the criteria are strict). This is what seven students did earlier this year, thanks to relationships that have been built up through the chemical engineering department's research contacts overseas, ranging from opportunities in mining to catalysis research.

Martina Welz and Nhlamulo Baloyi visited Johnston & Matthey in Redding, 20 minutes outside London; Nadia Barnes and Theresa Janse van Rensburg travelled to Perth in Australia; Kudzia Changunda journeyed to the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre at the University of Queensland; and Disa Setlogelo and Rethabile Melamu settled at the University of Stuggart in Germany.

Setlogelo, currently in her final year, said the visit to Germany had been "the most fulfilling adventure of my life". She worked at an institute of chemical technology, researching the characteristics of dealuminted zeolite Y by using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. "I learned a lot about zeolite, both structures and industrial applications."

Having co-student Rethabile Melamu with her also proved useful. "Since we both had no knowledge of the German language, we needed each other to handle situations that came our way and to vent to each other when things got a bit unbearable."

Melamu adds: "Travelling is eye-opening. You get to see that as much as the world is a global village, there is a lot to see and experience in other countries. You are so aware how people value time on that side; inspiring you to work harder academically."

Changunda, who went Down Under, worked on a mineral flotation project.

"It was interesting because it was a new technique I had to learn and I had to be able to produce good results in a short time."

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