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Friday, 02 July 2021

The sweet smell of success

ACCOMPLISHMENT: The Free State-born New Generation of Academics Programme Lecturer, Morakane Khahledi graduated with her Doctoral degree in Engineering recently. ACCOMPLISHMENT: The Free State-born New Generation of Academics Programme Lecturer, Morakane Khahledi graduated with her Doctoral degree in Engineering recently.

The relationship between a PhD student and a supervisor can be a complicated one. When this relationship is neither effective nor proficient, it may yield undesirable outcomes, such as academic failure.

However, Department of Civil Engineering and Survey Professor, Rainer Haldenwang and Morakane Khahledi, who graduated with her Doctoral degree in Engineering recently, have maintained a father and daughter relationship for the past 15 years.  Reflecting on her relationship with Haldenwang, Khahledi says: “My first encounter with Prof Haldenwang was in 2004 when I was doing my in-service training at (the) Flow Process and Rheology Centre (FPRC) under supervision of Prof Fester.”

The Free State-born New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) lecturer has worked directly with Prof Haldenwang since 2006 as her supervisor for the BTech: Project Management dissertation. During this time, he introduced Khahledi to Prof Raj Chhabra a visiting Professor from India who played a significant role in her development as a researcher. Haldenwang was also her supervisor from 2012 to 2015 when Khahledi was doing her MTech in Civil Engineering. For completion of the Doctoral degree in Engineering, Haldenwang was her main supervisor, and she was co-supervised by Prof Veruscha Fester and Prof Raj Chabbra.

“I learned unique attributes while working with Professor Haldenwang and the key ones are great ethics, professionalism, accountability and responsibility on all the activities. Prof Haldenwang identified my potential and he believed in my success to complete this journey,” says Khahledi.

The 38-year-old research title was: Effect of sharp-crested orifice shape and Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids properties on discharge from a tank. The research focussed on developing an empirical design protocol when using sharp-crested orifices for determining the flow rate of non-Newtonian fluids flowing from tanks.  

To reach the pinnacle of her career, it took, “A great deal of compromise of my family time, desire to achieve what I had started and live the dream of achieving the highest qualification in Civil Engineering.  I feel excited about it and believe it will have a positive impact and influence on the future generation pursuing a similar career,” says the high-spirited marathon runner who has managed to run many marathons and ultra’s including two oceans and comrades during this journey. 

To juggle between her busy schedule and family, the married mother of two says: “It’s time management; I spend one hour and thirty minutes on physical activity to boost my mental strength, spend dedicated days with family, and spend at least two hours for study work and adhere to employment working hours for work purpose.”  

However, she concedes that there were challenges along the way such as balancing the time and responsibility in-between her family, lecturing role and studies. “Exhaustion played a part but I had to endure the challenge.”

The support that CPUT gave her was to give Khahledi an opportunity to be on the nGAP programme.  “I had massive support from my Head of Department, Ashaadia Kamalie and my Civil Engineering colleagues.”

Meanwhile, Haldenwang also reveals that his journey with Khahledi started when she did her BTech Research project under his supervision, then her MTech studies which she completed in 2015 up to her Doctoral degree which she received earlier this week. “Her gentle spirit, willingness to learn and to work hard, has not changed over the years.”

Haldenwang says Khahledi is a self-motivated hard-working, dedicated, humble and kind person who listens and is always willing to learn. “I have seen her mature over the years to where she is today performing her duties in the department with confidence, being a role model to others… Success does not come overnight. I am extremely proud to have been Dr Morakane Khahledi’s supervisor and mentor.”

Khahledi, the family-oriented introvert who is flexible to socialise when necessary says: “My aspiration is to be a professor, mentor and a motivational speaker.” 

Written by Aphiwe Boyce