School of Engineering


Doctor of Science Award Culmination of 50 Years of Distinguished Academic Achievement

Civil Engineer and Senior Research Associate in UKZN’s School of Engineering, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey G S Pegram, who has the following string of qualifications after this name: PrEng, BScEng, MScEng (Natal) and PhD (Lancaster), can now add DScEng (UKZN)!

The pinnacle of academic achievement, a Doctor of Science (DSc) ranks higher than all previous degrees, including a PhD.

Pegram’s unsupervised DSc thesis was titled: Contributions to Hydraulic Engineering and Stochastic Hydrometeorology.

‘This thesis contains a collection of my selected published papers, books, book chapters and my curriculum vitae,’ said Pegram.

‘It documents the research and development of innovative computer-based solutions for an important class of hydrometeorological and hydraulic problems with a view to fostering research in my department of Civil Engineering at UKZN, capacity building in industry and to grow a cohort of postgraduates in the process.’

Pegram described how the studies he had collected had grown from his early research days to the present, and addressed important issues that deal with South Africa’s water management, assessing and modelling problems associated with rainfall, streamflow, reservoir reliability, soil moisture, radar rainfall, storms, floods, simulation, data repair and basic scientific research, such as the Hurst phenomenon and copulas.

‘The works are all aimed at advancing practice in water resources endeavours, particularly in rainfall, runoff and reservoir reliability,’ he said. ‘This in turn assists in updating planning and design procedures and contributes to the important field of stochastic hydrometeorology, recognised both nationally and internationally.

‘These studies resulted in papers, reports, presentations (to academic circles, consultants, government departments and industry) and books on inter alia: multiple streamflow and rainfall modelling, conditional merging of radar rainfields with rain gauge data, state-of-the-art algorithms such as developing the method of Empirical Mode Decomposition (EMD) in 2-D space and time, downscaling Regional Circulation Model rainfall to gauge sites using recorrelation and Circulation Pattern-dependent quantile-quantile transforms for quantifying climate change, besides my early work on Markov Chains and Reservoir reliability based on my doctorate,’ said Pegram.

‘My work, sprung from association with others, has paved the way for multifaceted advancements in monitoring, understanding and modelling of hydrometeorological and hydraulic processes,’ he said.

Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at UKZN, Professor Dillip Das, described Pegram as a ‘legend’ who had acted as a great source of personal inspiration to him; whilst academic leader for the cluster, Professor Mohamed Mostafa, said Pegram was a ‘true model’ who he was honoured to work with. ‘To my knowledge, this is the first senior unsupervised doctorate awarded in our School,’ he said.

Pegram’s response to the flood of congratulations from his colleagues was heartfelt: ‘I am delighted this journey is coming to an end!’ he said.

Pegram has had a long and distinguished association with UKZN and the former University of Natal, having first been employed by the Institution some 52 years ago on 1 January 1968.  After teaching at Howard College for over 40 years, he was appointed in 2011 as an emeritus professor – a permanent academic honour for outstanding academic standing.

‘Professor Pegram, you have served Engineering with distinction,’ said Dean and Head of School, Professor Glen Bright.

Words: Swasti Maney and Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied