David Ming

Chemical Engineering Lecturer, Wits

A decade ago, if you were to tell David Ming that he’d one day have a degree in chemical engineering, he would have laughed at you.

He was an average student in high school, but a dedicated science teacher changed all that, and his matric results were good enough to get him into engineering.

Ming (28) therefore understands the value of a good education better than anyone else.  It’s for this reason that he thoroughly enjoys his role as a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand’s (Wits) School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering.

“I feel that I can have the same impact on someone else in the same way my teachers impacted me,” he says.

In fact, he’s also writing a textbook on attainable regions theory that is the topic of his doctoral research. But Ming is also a firm believer that education is not where it stops, and that each individual should also attempt to give back to the community. It was this thinking that inspired him to establish a society called Engineers Without Borders Wits (EWB-Wits) at Wits in 2010.

EWB-Wits is a volunteer-based society that seeks to improve underdeveloped communities and education through engineering projects and knowledge. This is achieved by collaborating with communities and organisations on sustainable engineering and education based projects.

Ming is also one of the founding members of Engineers Without Borders South Africa (EWB-SA). EWB-SA encourages student chapters to have an educational component form part of the projects that they do, and some chapters of the organisation also provide maths and science tutoring initiatives for high school students.

“EWB-SA provides a platform for students to apply what they have learnt in a unique context. This is a great learning experience,” he says.

“Many of the experiences gained while participating in EWB-chapter projects are not taught in class. Going into a community is a really eye opening experience that many students and professionals don’t get to experience.”

To Ming, simply having a degree isn’t enough. He lives by the quote “It’s easy to make a buck, it’s harder to make a difference”, and wants to help create socially aware and responsible professionals.

“I tell my students that even if they don’t stay engineers after they graduate, their value to society comes from their education and not from their degree.” ­­— Fatima Asmal