Jurgen Strydom, one of the graduates of our Radar Masters programme, kindly agreed to be interviewed for the website:
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I work at the CSIR in Pretoria, within the Radar and Electronic Warfare group, which is part of the department of Defence, Peace, Safety and Security. I had obtained a B.Eng (Electronic Engineering) from the University of Pretoria in 2009, while completing an internship at the CSIR the same year.
I joined the CSIR as a full time employee from the start of 2010 and have since grown to the level of Senior Engineer within the Experimental Electronic Warfare team.
I enrolled as a part-time student for the Radar Masters programme during 2011, and graduated from the University of Cape Town with a M.Eng (Radar and Electronic Defence) the following year.
Are you involved in any interesting research?
I worked, and continued to work, on hardware in the loop simulation for real-time radar environment simulation with specific interest in clutter – including sea clutter, ground clutter, and clutter from a moving airborne platform.
Hardware in the loop simulation is used to either increase the fidelity of a simulation by incorporating an actual hardware component in the software simulation loop, or to increase control by replacing real-world phenomena with real-time simulation on hardware. Utilizing hardware in the loop techniques reduces cost by moving tests and experiments from the field to the laboratory.
For radar environment simulation, a test and evaluation system is built to simulate targets with complex scattering, electronic countermeasure techniques, as well as radar clutter. Radar clutter is especially complex because of its large range extents, and time correlated nature.
For my masters project, I researched methods to efficiently simulate radar clutter on hardware platforms. This involved obtaining a detailed understanding regarding the nature of radar clutter, simplifying the complex behaviour while still capturing its essence, and developing algorithms to produce the desired signals.
(You can read the Abstract of Jurgen’s MEng Dissertation here – and also download a PDF of it.)
What benefit did you derive from the Radar Masters programme?
The programme is directly aligned with my current work and research interests, and provided an accelerated big and detailed picture within my field, more quickly and thoroughly than I could have achieved by myself in the same amount of time.
An accredited and official qualification proves that the holder of the degree is capable within the field, as well as capable to operate on a certain level.
The degree helped to accelerate my career to where I am today, and helped me to think differently about problems, both within and outside the radar field.
What did you find the most enjoyable?
UCT is a great, beautiful and diverse campus! It is the top university in Africa and among the top universities in the world.
I enjoyed the format of the masters degree, which accommodated full-time work, and part-time study very well. I enjoyed flying to Cape Town a few times a year for a week at a time.
I had a great time interacting with the field-leading lecturers who were brought in from all over the world to teach their respective courses. I made new friends, and built connections.
What did you find the the most challenging about the course?
Studying and working full time was tough, but the course format made it a possibility. I was really challenged by the lecturers and the course content. I learned many complex and detailed concepts during my years at UCT.
What is your current area of interest or research?
I’m currently working on a international project to build a EW receiver and Jammer system. I have the responsibility of being a Systems Engineer as well as Signal Analyst on this project; this is great because it allows me to continue contributing in the field that I have worked in for the past 5 years, as well as having a new growth opportunity in the field of systems engineering.
I am also involved with designing, and producing radar clutter environment simulator subsystems, which form part of our larger radar environment systems, for international markets.
When I am inspired, I research methods to efficiently simulate arbitrary radar clutter distributions; later this year (2014), I will be presenting two papers on this topic, one at the European Radar Conference (EuRAD 2014) in Rome, Italy, and one at the International Radar Conference (RADAR 2014) in Lille, France.
What are your goals for the future?
In my view, anything is possible because everything is interesting. It is thus no surprise that my goals change more quickly than the clouds rolling over Table Mountain.
I would like to complete a PhD in hardware in the loop simulation and at the same time, I would also like to learn about topics such as systems engineering, business strategy, and technology management.
I am interested in this wide variety of topics because of the unique challenges that are encountered in each of them. I am very fortunate to work at the CSIR, which is uniquely positioned to provide me with access all of these and many other opportunities, while at the same time making a difference for South Africa and its people.
What advice do you have for your fellow students?
Never give up, and stay committed. Keep on taking the next small step, while at the same time never losing sight of the big picture and where you are heading.
If you get stuck, ask for guidance; if you accomplish something, verify it and share it with your peers, and assist others where you can.
Dream and capture every idea you have, no matter how small or how big.
Thank you very much for the interview, Jurgen.