Why Not South Africa?

Sometimes my job takes me to unexpected places. A few weeks ago, I flew to South Africa to attend the South African Conference for Chemical Engineers, give a talk on chemical engineering education in the US, and meet with the World Chemical Engineering Council. About three hundred students and South Africans attended, with a few folks from the US and Europe.

The most interesting part of the conference was not the sessions, though they were excellent. It was not the facility, though I have never stayed in a hotel room with a thatched roof. It was not the food, though I found ostrich to be delicious. It was the diversity. One of the most interesting facts I learned is that communities typically will pool resources together to send their brightest student to study engineering. Once that student graduates and gets a job, they help the community send other students. It is so inspiring!

The conference was held about five hours southwest of Johannesburg, or Jo-burg as the South Africans say. I had a lot of time to do nothing but enjoy the scenery. While I saw little of Jo-burg, I saw many buttes, cattle and sheep. I also saw a few ostrich, gazelles, and one wildebeest. I did not see any tigers, rhinos or giraffes. I will definitely have to return to see more.

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Has travel or seeing new ways of doing things recently inspired your work?

Images: Gazelle, Ross Hong Kong; others, June Wispelwey

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