Sandile Ngcobo

Laser Resonator Designer

A researcher with the mathematical optics group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Sandile Ngcobo has had an interest in science from an early age and in school he stood out among his peers who did not enjoy the subject.

“I felt that the science arena offered many opportunities and wanted to establish myself in a scientific career. In this, my father always supported me and today I can look back on the many sacrifices he made along the way as a contributor to my career. He was always there, always supportive and I wanted to make him proud.”

Ngcobo studied physics because he loves the subject. While still busy with his honours degree he landed a job at the Hartebeeshoek Radio Astronomy Observation centre (HartRAO).

He now designs laser resonators and is part of the CSIR team that showed that laser beams can be digitally controlled within a laser device.

Ngcobo says the nature of science is that of a challenge: since it requires constant learning and there are always new challenges, it is not a place for the complacency-seekers. Things move faster than in any other field, even though research is painstaking and may seem like a slow process.

He says his motto in life is that, if someone else can do something great or challenging he can do it also.

“Experience (and observing what is happening in the world around you) is the best teacher, so advice from those older than you or who have more experience than you, is a valuable addition to your own experience.”

Ngobo has recently been awarded the Best Innovative PhD Work award by the SA Institute of Physics.

He says that awards are a good indication of one’s contribution to science, but not being awarded does not demean the work that is going on right across the scientific spectrum. Ngcobo is currently planning his PhD, is married and father of two children. He says his life goal is to become successful in anything he decides to do. Asked about what would be the pinnacle of his career, he said that he is still young and his career will give definition to this in time to come. — Ilse Ferreira