Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) student Garth Greubal chats about pursuing his Doctor of Engineering degree and juggling work-life commitments and his plans after his doctorate.

In this interview with South Africa-based EIT Doctorate program student Garth Greubal, he discusses the benefits of studying at EIT, the challenges of pursuing a rigorous Doctor of Engineering Degree, and his future career aspirations.

He also shares wisdom for aspiring engineering students pursuing advanced degrees in multiple disciplines.

Can you tell us about your decision to pursue your Doctor of Engineering through the EIT? What factors influenced your choice of EIT for your doctoral studies?

A few years ago, I did the Professional Certificate of Competency in Smart Grids certificate course. I enjoyed the course and found that the distance-learning format EIT used worked well for me.

Through that course, I met EIT Dean of Engineering, Dr. Steve Mackay, and had several conversations with him. Later, when I thought I had a research idea worth exploring and maybe it was worthy of a doctorate, I reached out to Steve for his view. He counseled and referred me to some of the other professional staff at EIT to explore it further.

Through this process, I became aware of the details of the doctoral program, Particularly the structured nature of the program with the combination of coursework and research, which really appealed to me.

With a graduate certificate in power system analysis and design already under your belt, what motivated you to continue your education and delve deeper into this field with a Doctor of Engineering program?

I am not an engineer by background; therefore, completing the Graduate Certificate in Power System Analysis and Design was a pre-qualification requirement for my acceptance into the doctorate.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the grad certificate and found that it has provided an excellent base for my current studies. I derived so much benefit from the course that I wonder, retrospectively, if it would not have been even more beneficial to have done the graduate diploma instead.

Power system analysis and design is a complex field. Could you share a specific experience or moment that solidified your interest and led you to specialize in this study area?

I used to own an energy trading business, and it was in trying to solve a problem for a customer that I came up with my research idea. To explore this problem, I had to understand power systems better. As I got into the detail, I realized what a fascinating area it is. It has opened a new, exciting world for me, and I am just sorry I did not get into it earlier in my career.

How do you balance doctoral studies, home responsibilities, and potential work commitments? Any effective strategies you’d like to share?

I am in the fortunate position that I can do the doctorate on a full-time basis, so my balancing pressures are slightly different. While I was doing the graduate certificate, I was also running a company I found the workload to be significant.

I wanted to enjoy the doctorate and not have the added pressure of work, so I sold out my business to free myself up. I am enjoying the course, and if left to my own devices, I would probably be entirely consumed by it. So, having other responsibilities creates an element of balance for me.

Although I have seen a new opportunity in the market and have consequently started another business (which is complimentary to my research), this creates additional competition for my time. My partner is currently studying Italian, so there is a mutual understanding of these time commitments, which helps. I find that it is something that I must consciously manage.

Could you share an example of how the knowledge and skills you’ve gained so far have directly benefited your current job or professional projects?

I have identified a new opportunity in the market and have started a new business; the background of the graduate certificate plus the courses in dynamic systems modeling and data acquisition assisted me in seeing and exploring the opportunity. Particularly performance qualification, optimization, and a decent understanding of data acquisition.

Give us a glimpse into the kind of research or projects you’re currently working on and their potential impact.

In South Africa, where I live, we have a systemic problem resulting in constant and significant load shedding. I am exploring using a VPP to balance demand and supply for a discrete selection of loads around the country in a logical virtual smart grid. This would save these entities from load shedding.

What advice would you offer aspiring students considering embarking on a similar educational journey, especially at the doctoral level?

It may sound trite, but I think the essence is that you must find what you are fascinated by and then explore that area.

After completing your Doctor of Engineering, how do you envision your role and contributions to power system analysis and design?

My research will hopefully lead to a proven concept that can be commercialized. It may necessitate some policy adjustments, but at least it will be proven from a technical and economic point of view. It will hopefully make the South African grid more resilient, assist the system operator, and provide a tangible benefit to the customer while promoting a greener future.

Engineering Institute of Technology