Durban – It was a case of third time’s the charm for Chris Brouckaert who received his PhD in Chemical Engineering on Thursday at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s 2022 Spring Graduation.
The 74-year-old, who was the oldest graduate at the ceremony, said this was his third attempt at his PhD.
“The first being in 1972, so my age at completion is largely a reflection of poor strategy and time management,” he quipped.
Brouckaert, from Glenwood in Durban, began his academic career in 1967, when he registered as an undergraduate student alongside the late Professor Chris Buckley.
Buckley – who headed UKZN’s world-renowned Pollution Research Group, which is now the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Research & Development Centre, for many years until his untimely death last year – would become his lifelong colleague and mentor.
According to UKZN, on completion of his undergraduate degree Brouckaert registered for postgraduate studies but was unable to complete his studies at the time.
“He took up a position as a lecturer in chemical engineering at the then University of Natal in 1978 and was offered a contract research post in the Pollution Research Group, headed by Chris Buckley, in 1990,” said the university.
UKZN said Brouckaert remained with the Pollution Research Group for the next 30 years, until his retirement last year.
The university said Brouckaert’s dissertation is based on a series of five papers published in Water SA that set out a framework and methodology for the mathematical modelling of bio-processes that have significant interactions with inorganic aqueous physicochemical processes.
“The papers represent a distillation of modelling experience of the Water Research Group (WRG) at the University of Cape Town and the WASH R&D Centre at UKZN, over some 15 years of collaboration,” said UKZN.
Academic leader for chemical engineering at UKZN, Professor David Lokhat said Brouckaert’s PhD was very well received by his examiners.
One examiner said he had “never before granted the doctorate without recommending any adjustments”.
Lokhat said this is a testament to the excellent body of work that Brouckaert had been involved in for a long time at UKZN.
“We can only hope that some of his talent has rubbed off on the next generation. This PhD has been a long time coming for Chris, but I imagine nonetheless most fulfilling for a career dedicated to chemical engineering,” said Lokhat.
He added that Brouckaert was instrumental in developing a number of undergraduate courses, lectured within the programme and mentored and guided many postgraduate students on water-related projects.