Annie Bekker’s engineering career has been a unique fusion of three seemingly disparate passions: music, mathematics and mystery- solving. She joined Optimal Energy in 2008 to analyse vibration and sound properties in its prototype electric car, the Joule, having done her master’s thesis in a similar area of research. From data recorded with the vehicle at full throttle, she could not only identify “disturbing noises and their source”, but also “compose the vibrations into something not unlike a symphony” to achieve a sound matching the vehicle’s branding. Bekker’s PhD at the University of Cape Town was less acoustically delicate, but stayed on theme. She studied blast-resistant vehicles to determine the level of protection required to prevent injury — specifically fractured bones — to occupants in case of a landmine detonation. Now a teacher and researcher at Stellenbosch University, Bekker is testing South Africa’s polar research vessel, the Agulhas II, for vibrations during ice-breaking operations.
— Ian Macleod