Meet our Alumni: Vanessa van Rensburg

12 Aug 2014 - 11:15

Vanessa van Rensburg, one of the graduates of our Radar Masters programme, kindly agreed to be interviewed for the website:

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Vanessa van Rensburg Vanessa van Rensburg

I work at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, in the field of Non-cooperative target recognition (NCTR) in the Radar Applications Group of the Defence, Peace, Safety and Security (DPSS) business unit.

I matriculated from Sentraal Hoërskool in Bloemfontein and obtained a B.Eng (Electronic) from the University of Pretoria in 2009 before becoming an employee of the CSIR in 2010.

In 2011, I registered as a part-time student for the Radar Masters programme, and graduated from the University of Cape Town with a M.Eng (Radar and Electronic Defence) in 2013.

Were you involved in any interesting research during your studies?

Vanessa presents her work in a poster session at the 2013 IEEE International Radar Conference, held in Ottawa, Canada Vanessa presents her work in a poster session at the 2013 IEEE International Radar Conference, held in Ottawa, Canada

I was working in the area of radar target recognition and radar imaging. The problem of high range resolution (HRR) profile alignment for translational target motion compensation was of particular interest to my work and also formed the basis of my dissertation topic. Under the guidance from my supervisors, Willie Nel and Dr. Amit Mishra, I wrote a conference paper based on the work in my dissertation, that was titled “Quality measures for HRR alignment based ISAR imaging”.

I had the privilege of presenting my work in a poster session (see the photo) at the 2013 IEEE International Radar Conference, held in Ottawa, Canada during May of that year.

(You can read the Abstract of Vanessa’s MEng Dissertation here – and also download a PDF of the document.)

What benefit did you derive from the Radar Masters programme?

I had chosen the Radar Masters programme because I was looking for training in the field of radar principles and in proper research methodology. I also gained exposure to and contact time with international experts in different and some very specialised fields of radar, a benefit that is not easy to obtain through other means by young engineers in the field of radar.

What did you find the most enjoyable?

Of the programme as a whole, I enjoyed the lectures. It provides contact time with various lecturers, which in many postgraduate programmes is not the case. If I had to choose the courses I enjoyed the most, I’d have to say “High Resolution and Imaging Radar”, presented by Dr. Marco Martorella and Prof. Fabrizio Berizzi from the University of Pisa, who are both internationally recognised experts in the field and excellent lecturers.

What did you find the most challenging about the course?

Pursuing part-time studies while being a full-time employee implies that one has quite a heavy work load, especially considering the nature of the course that includes preparing for and writing examinations. It was challenging to be that busy, but there are also many benefits associated with it, such as learning proper time management skills.

Prof Mike Inggs and admin assistant Judy Mackintosh with the students of the first course run in 2011, i.e. EEE 5104F (2011) - Introduction to Radar

Class photo of the first course run in 2011 – Vanessa is in the front row, the third from the left

What is your current area of interest or research?

Non-cooperative target recognition and radar imaging (high range resolution radar). Research into classification methodology, image processing, signal and data processing have been complementary to my understanding of my field of work so it forms part of the research I spend time on.

What are your goals for the future?

I’d love to see the NCTR techniques I developed being used and adding value in operational systems. This goal drives my work to remain relevant and practical, while also considering new and creative ways of solving NCTR related problems to provide research outcomes.

What advice do you have for your fellow students?

The field of radar engineering is vast and diverse. I would urge students to choose from the selection of specialised courses on offer ones that they find exciting and interesting, because chances are that there is a “flavour” of radar that can appeal to any engineer.

 Thank you very much for participating in this interview, Vanessa. We wish you much success.