Academic Profiles of Lecturers


Prof Andries Engelbrecht

Andries

Prof Andries Engelbrecht is an A-rated researcher as rated by the National Research Foundation. This rating acknowledges that he is a leading international researcher in his field. His fields of expertise are computational intelligence, swarm intelligence, evolutionary computation, neural networks, optimisation, machine learning, and data analytics. Prof Engelbrecht is the first incumbent of the new Voigt Chair in Data Science in the Department of Industrial Engineering.

As a first-year Matie student in 1988 he opted for BSc with Computer Science and Mathematics. He obtained his honours cum laude in 1992, followed by a master's cum laude (1994) and a PhD in 1999. During his postgraduate studies he taught Computer Studies and Mathematics on a temporary basis at a few schools. His introduction to academia came with his appointment as a lecturer in Computer Science at UNISA in 1996 where he stayed for two years.

His academic career gained momentum in 1998 when he joined the University of Pretoria as a lecturer in Computer Science. Over the two decades that followed, he rapidly progressed through the ranks, his last two positions being Head of Department (2009 to 2017) and Director: Institute for Big Data and Data Science (2017 to 2018). After 21 years at the University of Pretoria, the opportunity arose to return to his alma mater. His appointment at Stellenbosch University comprises two aspects: 50% is allocated to his role as Chair in Data Science in the Faculty of Engineering and 50% as an academic in the Computer Science Division in the Faculty of Science.

He presents the Data Analytics third year module in the Department of Industrial Engineering, as well as the Applied Machine Learning and Data Analytics modules of the Data Science postgraduate programmes. In the Computer Science Division, he presents two honours modules, Computational Intelligence and Machine Learning. He has a research group of 8 fourth year project students, 15 masters students, and 12 PhD students. In addition, he also supervises 8 external masters students and 2 external PhD students. He has graduated 52 masters students, 18 doctoral students, and 96 fourth year project students.

Prof Engelbrecht is currently the most cited Computer Scientist in South Africa, with a current Google Scholar h-index of 58. He has published over 370 research papers, and has written two books:

Prof Jan van Vuuren

Jan

The research interests of Prof Jan H van Vuuren are combinatorial optimisation and decision support within the wider area of operations research. He heads the Stellenbosch Unit for Operations Research in Engineering (SUnORE) within the Department of Industrial Engineering.

He obtained his bachelor's degree in science cum laude from Stellenbosch University in 1989, majoring in mathematics and applied mathematics. He followed this up with an honours degree cum laude in 1990 and a master's degree cum laude in 1992, both in applied mathematics and both from Stellenbosch University. He obtained his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom in 1995. He has been a member of staff at Stellenbosch University since 1996, first in the Department of Applied Mathematics (until 2007) and then at the Department of Logistics (until 2013). He is currently professor of operations research within the Department of Industrial Engineering, a position he has held since 2014. In all of these departments he has taught subjects related to optimisation, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His academic passions are research and postgraduate students. He is the author of close to a hundred journal publications and has supervised (or co-supervised) more than 30 doctoral students to the successful completion of their studies.

Prof Jacomine Grobler

Jacomine

Prof Jacomine Grobler joined the Department of Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch in February 2019 as Associate Professor. Her areas of expertise are the development of optimisation algorithms and the application of data science within the field of industrial engineering. With this background she joined the newly-established Data Science research group.

Prof Grobler was born and raised in Pretoria. She decided to study engineering as the work is creative and requires good problem-solving skills. Furthermore, she opted for Industrial Engineering in particular, because it is people oriented and there are vast opportunities in industry for industrial engineers. She obtained all her industrial engineering degrees at the University of Pretoria: BEng 2006, HonsBEng 2007, MEng 2009 and PhD 2015.

During her study career, she received 12 awards. These include the Department of Industrial and System Engineering prize for the best final-year project; Medal from the South African Institute of Industrial Engineering for the best final-year Industrial Engineering student; Winner of the SAS Operations Research National Student Competition best honours project; South African Association for the Advancement of Science Bronze medal for the best dissertation at master’s level at the University of Pretoria; and the 2017 South African Institute for Industrial Engineering Award for Outstanding Young Industrial Engineering Researcher. From August 2008 to March 2014 she was employed by Denel Dynamics Pty Ltd. Thereafter she joined the CSIR as research group leader: Transport and Freight Logistics. In October 2015 she returned to academia, this time as lecturer in supply chain management at UP.

Dr Thorsten Schmidt-Dumont

Thorsten

Dr Thorsten Schmidt-Dumont is the first recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship with a focus on machine learning applications within the Department of Industrial Engineering. His areas of expertise include the application of reinforcement learning algorithms to complex problems. Additionally, he has a background in approximate optimisation techniques, particularly metaheuristics, and computer simulation. Dr Schmidt-Dumont was born and raised in Namibia, before moving to Stellenbosch to start his tertiary education, opting for a degree in Industrial Engineering based on the wide applicability of the taught skillset in various industry sectors. He obtained his degrees from Stellenbosch University (SU): BEng cum laude 2015, PhD 2018.

Highlights throughout his under- and postgraduate studies include being awarded the prize for the best final-year project in Industrial Engineering in 2015, a project for which he was also awarded the prestigious Gerhard Geldenhuys medal by the Operations Research Society of South Africa for the best 4th year project countrywide in Operations Research completed in 2015. Buoyed by this success at undergraduate level he started his postgraduate journey, completing a master’s degree, which was designated as the runner-up for the prestigious Theodor Stewart medal, awarded by the Operations Research Society of South Africa, for the best master’s project countrywide in 2018, which he was able to upgrade to a PhD in 2018.

During the final year of completing his PhD he was appointed as a part-time junior lecturer in Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University, teaching industrial programming at second year level.

Dr Christa de Kock

Christa

The research interests of Dr Christa de Kock include optimisation, simulation modelling, forced migration and urban dynamics, as well as data mining and knowledge discovery. She has been appointed as lecturer at the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Industrial Engineering and forms part of the Stellenbosch Unit for Operations Research in Engineering (SUnORE) with Prof Jan van Vuuren and Mr Stephan Nel.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Stellenbosch University in 2015, where after she proceeded with a master’s degree which was upgraded to a PhD in 2018. She obtained her doctorate in Industrial Engineering from Stellenbosch University in 2019.

In 2018, she received the prestigious Theodor Stewart medal by the Operations Research Society of South Africa for the best master’s thesis in the field of operations research. She furthermore competed in a Data for Refugees Challenge with an international group of researchers where they won in the category of Safety and Security based on research characterising the mobile phone usage of refugee hosting provinces in Turkey. She will be presenting the Data Analytics module to third-year industrial engineering students with Prof Andries Engelbrecht, while supervising research students and, finally, coordinating the postgraduate data science programmes.

Dr Jacques du Toit

Jacques

Dr Jacques du Toit obtained his bachelor's degree in physical and mathematical analysis (PMA) from Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2003, majoring in mathematics and computer science. He went on to complete his Honours degree in PMA, and received his master's degree cum laude in Applied Mathematics in 2009, also from SU. He then followed master’s courses in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Amsterdam (UVA) and received his PhD in Operations Research in 2014 from SU.

He is currently working at a big data analytics company where his responsibilities include industry training in big data methodologies and realising value from data using the latest technologies. He has worked on various data science, machine learning and big data problems in industry, as well as big data science projects like the SKA.

Dr Franco van Wyk

Franco

The research interests of Dr Franco van Wyk include optimal sequential decision-making under uncertainty and anomaly detection. He has conducted research in connected and automated vehicle systems and the health care sector within the wider research area of deep learning. He currently works as a software developer in industry using various forms of deep learning and natural language processing techniques to improve human communication with machines.

He obtained his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stellenbosch University in 2014. He followed this up with a master’s degree cum laude from Stellenbosch University in 2016, majoring in Engineering Management. He obtained his doctorate in Industrial Engineering from the University of Tennessee, United States, in 2019. During his doctorate, his research in health care focused on the development of algorithms to aid the early detection of sepsis, an illness caused by the body's dysregulated response to an infection. His research in transportation focused on improving the safety of connected and automated vehicles. His research papers in both domains have been published in international journals. He has also supervised undergraduate and graduate students.

Mr Stephan Nel

Stephan

Stephan Nel was born and raised in Johannesburg before moving to Stellenbosch to start his tertiary education. He obtained a BEng cum laude in Industrial Engineering from Stellenbosch University in 2016. He is currently busy with his PhD (upgraded from a master’s degree) on a topic related to the training of feedforward neural networks using an evolutionary-based hyperheuristic. His master’s thesis was designated as runner-up for the prestigious Theodor Stewart medal, awarded by the Operations Research Society of South Africa, for the best master’s project countrywide in 2019.

He has been a member of staff at Stellenbosch University since the start of 2019, in its Department of Industrial Engineering. He is currently lecturer of operations research at third and fourth year level and co-coordinator of the Stellenbosch Unit for Operations Research in Engineering (SUnORE) within the Department of Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University. He is also supervising undergraduate and postgraduate students to the completion of their studies in areas of operations research, machine learning, mathematical optimisation, and evolutionary optimisation. He is an executive committee member of the Operations Research Society of South Africa.