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SU engineering couple graduates together
Author: Corporate Communication
Published: 09/12/2019

​It's an all round celebration for Dr's Wouter and Louzanne Bam, a husband and wife couple who received their PhD degrees in Engineering at the same graduation ceremony.

The duo not only graduated alongside one another, but Wouter also celebrated receiving a joint degree, namely a PhD in Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University (SU), and a PhD in Economics from KU Leuven. Louzanne was awarded a PhD in Industrial Engineering.

The couple, who are both lecturers in the Faculty of Engineering, were amongt 623 graduates who were awarded qualifications at the Faculty of Engineering graduation ceremony held on 9 December 2019.

Wouter says completing a joint-degree was a fulfilling experience as it exposed him to interdisciplinary knowledge at both universities.

 “The only 'difficult' thing about a joint-degree is that you have to meet the requirements of both universities. This meant, for example, that I had a bigger panel at my oral examination, with representatives from both universities in order to meet the requirements of both institutions," he says.

Wouter's research  focused on industrial policy-making in mineral-rich developing countries with a focus on policies that promote the value add to mineral products before export. He investigated how mineral value chains may be conceptualised to enable a holistic contextualisation of such policy.  

Although an engineer at heart, Wouter has always been interested in economics as well. After obtaining a BEng (Industrial Engineering) cum laude in 2012 at SU, his interest in economics spilled over to a master's degree at the University of Cambridge. "The research for my master's dealt with the viability of renewable chemical feedstock value chains. After completing my master's degree, I naïvely thought that investigating the question of whether mineral-rich developing countries should beneficiate their minerals locally would be an easy and natural progression from my masters studies," he adds.

 "It turned out that my topic, which investigated the issue of whether it is better for countries to export or process their own raw materials, was more complex than I expected," said Wouter.

 Meanwhile Louzanne's research interest was triggered by the word “creativity."

 "When I was in high school I had no clear idea what to study after Matric. One day my attention was drawn to an advertisement in a newspaper which stated that if you are creative and you like Maths, you should consider studying engineering. This sparked my interest and, after attending the Stellenbosch Engineering Winter Week in my Matric year, I was hooked on Industrial Engineering," she said.

For her PhD research, Louzanne's  focused on the foundational elements of a managerial framework to support team creativity in engineering organisations.

 "A few years ago, I attended a talk on creativity at the SU Business School and this stimulated my interest in the subject. I reflected a lot on the importance of creativity in the work of engineers. Engineers solve problems, and creativity surely plays an important role in the problem solving process.."

The perspective adopted in the research is that creativity is not, in itself, an outcome that organisations should pursue. Instead, the point is to be aware of boundary conditions that stimulate team creativity towards positive rather than negative results; that would constitute a truly significant outcome.