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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Laser Focus to Success

FOCUSED: Adrian Wyngaard in front of the optical breadboard on which the group works on their laser FOCUSED: Adrian Wyngaard in front of the optical breadboard on which the group works on their laser

Adrian Wyngaard was surprised to hear he graduates his MEng Electrical Engineering summa cum laude at this year’s autumn graduation.

The 26-year-old had never even considered working towards this kind of accolade, concentrating instead on the work that interested him.

He is one of the first two students to ever achieve this particular distinction at CPUT – it means both of his examiners for his Masters gave him more than 75% in their final assessment.

Wyngaard’s thesis was overseen by Dr Kessie Govender, a physicist in the Electrical Engineering department.

Govender started the Quantum Physics Research Group in 2014 and Wyngaard joined a year later. He says the other lecturer who also helped get him started on this particular path was Prof Christine Steenkamp from Stellenbosch University.

Growing up Wyngaard was the child who took things apart and he always knew he wanted to study computer engineering. Originally he wanted to get into designing the circuitry that makes up the computer but he soon realised he was interested in both programming and circuit design after his first year at CPUT.

He did his in-service training at the South African Astronomical Observatory and connected to the research environment, which spurred him to return to CPUT.

His Masters topic was Saturated absorption spectroscopy of rubidium and feedback control of Laster frequency for Doppler cooling, which meant investigating how to use a laser to cool atoms.

“We knew it could be done, but could we do it in our lab,” asked Wyngaard.

“Dr Kessie is an experimental physicist and has been working on quantum technologies previously at UKZN. When he joined CPUT he started a new research group in this field."

“We are one of three academic groups in South Africa doing this kind of research.”

He thinks the summa cum laude pass mark will help on his CV when applying for funding. He points out that applying for grants and attending conferences is still slow going because CPUT does not have a physics department dealing with fundamental research so they have to continually justify what the research group is doing. 

“It shows the calibre of students coming through the group. We are learning about quantum physics that is not taught on our engineering curriculum."

“It shows students can learn on their own, and yes, I know that is expected on a Masters level. But, it took two or three years to cover the work required and I did this while also working on my thesis.”

Next, he wants to work on a doctorate as the group continues and see where research and development take them.

Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.