Recipient of the prestigious Square Kilometre Array bursary, Dr Heiko Heilgendorff, graduated with a PhD in Astrophysics. Heilgendorff recently returned from Switzerland where he worked on the drone based calibrator for the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s HIRAX telescope. Heilgendorff said: ‘Graduating means very little, as I did this to prove something to myself, not seek accolades from others.’
Heilgendorff, who had interest in acquiring skills in electronics, programming and data analysis, decided to study Astrophysics. It was his Masters in Science degree in Renewable Energy that garnered his interest in the field of Astrophysics.
‘My master’s was on renewable energy where I tested the receiver efficiency of a concentrated solar thermal cooker. This project sparked my interest in computer programming and electronics’ said Heilgendorff.
Heilgendorff recalled the financial struggles he had to overcome during his studies. ‘Overcoming these struggles required a lot of patience, restrain and a great support structure’. Despite the hurdles, one of Heilgendorff’s greatest accomplishments was registering for his postdoctoral fellowship.
Attributing his success to both patience and determination, Heilgendorff looks forward to future endeavours where he has the opportunity to be involved in ‘an exciting new project at UKZN called HIRAX’. ‘I look forward to helping this project grow from its current prototype to an experiment of great consequence to the global scientific community’.
He advised current undergraduate students not to start a postgraduate degree unless they needed it to get to where they want to go. ‘If you start something, finish it!’
Heilgendorff’s supervisor, Hsin Cynthia Chiang, said: ‘Heiko is a talented experimental astrophysicist who has made an impressive range of contributions to several projects throughout his PhD. If anyone can go on an instrumentation rampage and get the job done, it’s Heiko’.
When asked what inspiring greatness meant to him, Heilgendorff said: ‘I guess inspiring greatness is showing by example that to be yourself is all that you can do’.
Words: Krielan Deby and Zolile Duma