By Eamonn Ryan
During his career to date, Bradley Bock, mechanical engineer and lecturer at the University of Pretoria, has often had to juggle work and study commitments. He says he’s learned to “[B]e brutally disciplined with [his] time”.
Bock completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at the University of Cape Town on a Sasol bursary, followed by a stint as a mechanical maintenance engineer at Sasol’s boiler plant in Secunda.
He thereafter joined the University of Pretoria in 2014 and has been there ever since, lecturing a number of courses over that time. He’s currently lecturing Thermodynamics and Advanced Heat and Mass Transfer.
“I completed my PhD while at the University of Pretoria on the topic of ‘Surface influences and how they effect pool boiling and falling film boiling of refrigerants’. As part of my PhD I collaborated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Imperial College London to apply nanocoating’s to tubes to investigate their impact on the boiling heat transfer properties.” MIT is a research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that has played a key role in the development of modern technology and science. Imperial College London is similarly a public research university.
“My first challenge was getting through varsity, as I had to pay for it myself. I worked at Spur [restaurant] as a waiter and saved up that money to pay for my first year fees. Eventually my marks from my first year allowed me to get a Sasol bursary for the remainder of the studies. To get through that challenge largely involved some good old fashioned slog, both as a waiter and as a first year student,” says Bock.
“Completing a PhD while lecturing was a real challenge, as managing my commitments was very challenging. I learnt during this time how to be brutally disciplined with my time, and to say no to individuals.
“I’ve always enjoyed the STEM field in general, as it is a way to understand how this universe of ours works. Physics was a firm favourite of mine at school, so mechanical engineering was a way to work within that field, while applying science to the benefit of humanity.”
Bock explains his enthusiasm for academia as stemming from a desire for knowledge: “In particular academia allows me to go to the edge of human knowledge and then try to expand it, which is very satisfying, when you get it right that is. Particularly in South Africa, where we need more innovation to make up the gap between ourselves and the developed nations, I think we need more research and development so that we can be a competitive nation, which academia provides me the opportunity to tackle.
“Since my PhD I have continued research into nanostructures and their influence on refrigerant heat transfer. I’ve expanded into 3D printing of novel heat transfer surfaces in an effort to see its potential to advance the refrigeration sector.”
The evolution of HVAC&R over the next ten years and the role of R&D in this He lists global warming as the main driver behind the innovations needed in HVAC&R, as the industry contributes significantly to humanity’s carbon emissions. “Locally, I hope that South Africa is able to take a technological lead on the African HVAC&R growth, and we are able use our local knowledge to carve our own niche in this field. R&D will be crucial in both cases. New technologies are needed to reduce the global warming impact of HVAC&R equipment, and South African technologies are needed to allow us to carve our own niche in the field,” says Bock.