Tell us a bit about yourself:
I grew up in the Eastern Cape and went to high school in East London.
I then enrolled at UCT in 2003 for a BSc in Electrical Engineering which I completed in 2007.
After graduating, I worked in the car manufacturing industry for a year, before I joined my current employer, Denel Overberg Test Range (OTR), in 2009, as a junior engineer.
In 2010, I registered with the RRSG for a part-time masters in the radar field, which I completed in 2012.
Were you involved in any interesting research during your studies?
My masters dissertation involved modelling the synchronisation and signal digitising subsystem of our tracking radar.
There was minimal documentation available on this subsystem – it was essentially a black box. I thus started my research by reading the various design documents of the radar, some dating as far back as the 1980s.
At the same time, I was also working through various radar texts, trying to understand the principles behind radar.
The key to understanding the subsystem I was modelling was in aligning the hardware designs with the radar theories.
(You can read the abstract of Justin’s MSc dissertation here – and also download a PDF of it).
What benefit do you think you derived from your studies at UCT?
The masters definitely helped me to fast-track my understanding of our radars here at OTR. When I completed my MSc, I found myself to be the expert on matters pertaining to our tracking radars. Of course, universities sit at the vanguard of technology and I was fortunate to be able to interact with and tap into the minds of experts in the field of radar.
What did you find the most enjoyable?
Doing a part-time masters on the radars at my workplace meant that I could work hands-on with the equipment that I was modelling. This made the whole process much more enjoyable and “real”. As I went along, I could test the behaviour of my model against how the actual subsystem was performing.
What did you find the most challenging?
Although my MSc was on a work-related project, most of my research and development work had to be done after hours. Working an eight hour day and doing research after hours was not easy. Also, the learning curve was quite steep, as I was new to the field of radar and the tools I used to construct the models were also quite complex.
What is your current area of interest or research?
Currently, I manage the radar division here at OTR. My role now is primarily the management of development and maintenance projects on our radars and all the system level engineering tasks that go with it. Although my role is not as technical as it was when I was an engineer, I often find myself looking through my MSc research documents when we are tackling technical issues on the radars. I also try to keep abreast with developments in the field to incorporate these into development projects on the radar.
What are your goals for the future?
Well, I am still young in the field of radar, so I’d like to grow technically, perhaps by means of some further studies.
What advice do you have for your fellow students?
I think a BSc or MSc is a good start. But we live in a knowledge economy, so it’s important to keep learning. A lot of what I learned and now apply in my current job, I learned after having left university.
Thank you very much for participating in the interview, Justin – and best of luck for the future!