School of Engineering


PhD candidate, Mr Siphesihle Motsa (left) with Professor Georgios Drosopoulos (centre) and Professor Georgios E Stavroulaki after one of many brainstorming and discussion sessions at the Technical University of Crete and energising with Greek coffee at the northern entrance of the Samaria Gorge.

PhD Candidate Spends Three Months in Greece

PhD candidate in Civil Engineering Mr Siphesihle Mpho Motsa is back in South Africa after spending three months at the Technical University of Crete in Greece.

The medium of instruction was Greek and Motsa managed to pick up a few words such as kalimera (good morning) – and efcharisto (thank you).

Motsa spent much of his stay working on two projects relating to the structural analysis of masonry arch structures while incorporating sophisticated contact mechanics.

Academically, he was introduced to machine learning. ‘I used machine learning to predict the structural behaviour of a masonry arch structure. The findings of this project will be made available for publication in a few months,’ he said.

‘I was also involved in another project which is related to linear and nonlinear dynamic analysis of massive masonry structures subjected to site-scaled earthquakes according to the design codes. This was applied to an existing monumental structure where the numerical results will be correlated to the damage measured by the research group led by Professor Georgios E Stavroulakis. A scientific publication is being prepared where the findings of this study will be presented.’

Motsa achieved a few milestones while abroad – it was his first trip overseas and he had snails for the very first time! ‘The food was amazing. I got the chance to eat various types of cheeses including Cretan soft cheese. I also tried snails – which were a culinary delicacy for the ancient Greeks. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the meal.’

He explored the scenic beaches on the Island of Crete and hiked the 16km Samaria Gorge that ended on the shores of the Libyan Sea.

The MSc Civil Engineering cum laude graduate found the trip enlightening, interacting with students from various countries including Botswana, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Ukraine and The Netherlands. ‘One of the major challenges was understanding the language and another was the heat which was unbearable, especially during the last month of my stay. The temperature would go up to 35°C.’

Motsa paid tribute to his host supervisor Professor Stavroulakis and his PhD supervisor, Professor Georgios Drosopoulos. ‘I’m part of the UKZN Structural Engineering & Computational Mechanics Group which is led and organised by Professor Drosopoulos,’ he said. ‘I would also like to acknowledge the Erasmus+ Program for this great opportunity.’

His plans for the future include completing his PhD studies – a priority, cementing his academic career as a researcher and registering as a professional engineer.

Born in Piggs Peak in Eswatini, Motsa spends his spare time reading and researching various structural analysis techniques, music production (he’s a producer, deejay and part of the business management team for the music group/band Secret Souls), taking long walks on the beach and hiking.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Supplied