‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help.’ – Meet PGSC member Zak Schlebusch

Sometimes parents simply know best, which was certainly the case for Postgraduate Student Council (PGSC) member Zak Schlebusch, hailing from East London, when he had to choose a field of study.

“It was initially my dad’s idea to study chemical engineering,” explains Zak, who is the Transformation Portfolio Coordinator of the PGSC. “[However], I began to enjoy the challenges and subject matter presented by each module. Needless to say, I enjoyed process engineering enough to keep studying it even after undergrad was finished.” Today, Zak is an MEng candidate, under the supervision of Prof Robbie Pott and Dr Margreth Tadie. His research topic is: Utilisation of promising biosurfactants in extracting hazardous heavy metal contaminants from mine wastewater. “[This] is an important topic because we need to make every effort to protect our environment from industry, and make sure our own progress does not lead to the damaging of natural habitats,” explains Zak. “Biosurfactants present a potentially safer, more renewable option for treating dangerous industrial waste streams, rather than utilising alternative chemicals that fix one problem while contributing to a range of other issues.”

Zac has wonderful advice for future chemical engineering students, which is that they don’t have to go through challenging times on their own. “Make sure you get to know the people in your class,” says Zac. “There is no better help than the help you get from the people who are going through the same thing as you are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either, there is guaranteed to be at least one or two of your classmates struggling with the same thing.”

As with every PGSC member, we also asked Zac what his favourite engineering joke is. “It’s more of a lame chemistry joke but: Why do those white bears from the arctic keep dissolving when they get in the water? Because they’re polar!”