Wits 100 Years Applied Physics Talks

Wits 100 Years Applied Physics Talks: A series of presentations by physics alumni sharing their experiences working in Industry and Commerce. The presentations are intended to inform students of challenges in the workplace and re-invigorate contact between Physicists working in industry and academia.

Title:  Making Things and influencing People

Speaker: Martin Müller (Electrical Conformance Board) 

Organization: Electrical conformance board


I will talk about how a Physicist can solve problems that make a real difference in people’s lives. I have worked in Optimising Cell Phone networks, Geoscientific databases, Blasting, manufacturing, energy efficiency and now work helping reinvent the ECB to make it suited to the future needs of the electrical sector. Taking various examples I will talk about algorithms and how algorithms change lives.  I then talk through how the Internet of Things is changing the way we work, and talk through my experience in bringing a new idea to market, from patent to choosing a suitable buyer and some of the compromises one needs to make. Finally I talk about the work we are doing at the ECB and how academics and students could really help us.

Link:  Making Things and influencing People-20220317_180541-Meeting Recording.mp4

Title: From Physics in Africa to PeopleOps in America – A Wits Alum’s Story 

Within the context of the “Wits 100 years” celebration, the Wits School of Physics has organised a series of presentation given by Physics Alumni sharing their experiences working in Industry and Commerce. The presentations are intended to inform students of challenges in the workplace and re-invigorate contact between Physicists working in industry and academia.

A presentation in this series takes place, Tuesday, 22nd March, in which Ivan Stegic talks about his experiences starting a company.

Please join us for the following presentation:

Speaker: Ivan Stegic

Organization: Electrical conformance board

Active at: TEN7, a technology studio whose mission is to Make Things That Matter

Abstract: Does a degree in Physics from an institution in Africa prepare you for a career in R&D at large, corporate multi-nationals, a software start-up in America’s Midwest and running your own technology company? Yes. After all, Physics is the study of the Universe and everything in it!

In this talk, we’ll review one graduate’s journey from the Department of Physics at Wits, to R&D responsibilities with Honeywell and Imation, to a software start-up company, to owning and running their own company, while still being firmly grounded in the analytical and data driven decision making that was learned at University.


Passcode: #*Jha5$2


A talk given by Dr. David Fine, on the occasion of his generous $3Mio donation to the development of innovation at Wits University. Foreword by Wits VC, Prof. Zeb Vilakazi.

Speaker: Dr. David Fine

Abstract: As Wits University celebrates its Centenary, innovation has been identified as one of its major strategic thrusts. Wits alumnus, Dr David Fine, has dedicated his life to weaving strands of knowledge from varied fields of knowledge and expertise to find solutions to real-life challenges. Through his work, he has demonstrated an ability to think practically, use accessible and inexpensive methods and materials, and has built innovative products that have significantly impacted society. He has shown that Problem Solvers think on their feet, and outside the box. Problem solvers are mavericks. Problem solvers are innovators.


Passcode for recording: #*Jha5$2

Title: Protecting your Ideas: from Physics to Patent Law

In this presentation, Peer Watterson talks about his experiences in Patent Law, after his Physics degree.

Speaker: Peer Watterson

Active at: Pizzeys Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys (Brisbane, Australia)

Abstract: How did a study of physics lead to a career in patents? How does a love of understanding how we can explain and understand the universe fit in with a job where you are paid for your advice? I will talk about how my Physics background led me to a career in patent law in the UK, Europe and Australia.



Title: Physics in the Financial Markets

Speaker: Dr. Antonie Kotzé

Active at: Financial Chaos Theory and ETFSA Investment Services

Abstract: What can a physicist do in the financial and investment markets? I will show you there are plenty of opportunities to practise physics, mathematics and statistics and that one can survive and thrive. Traders who trade for banks and broking houses named physicists and mathematicians quants (quantitative analysts), rocket scientists and financial engineers. An applied mathematician and two economists reshaped the financial markets in 1973. Two received the Nobel prize for economics in 1997. I will discuss the Black-Scholes-Merton equation and why it is so significant and necessary in our modern age of trading and hedging foreign exchange, equities and interest rates. These instruments are traded every day at most banks and stock exchanges like the JSE.


Title: How Wits Physics has shaped my career in geosciences

Speaker: Dr. David Khoza

Active at: Council for Geoscience

Abstract: Geoscientific research has evolved over time to incorporate other subject matters in the unravelling the evolution of rocks. The combination of Physics and Geology gave birth to Geophysics as scientific discipline and this has allowed geoscientists to use physics techniques such as electromagnetic (EM), potential fields (e.g., gravity and magnetics), resistivity, ground penetrating radar, spectral physics, wave reflection/refraction, etc., to map and identify the rocks. Using all these “Physics techniques” has allowed geoscientists to map the Earth structure at all scales (from surface to centre of the core).

In this talk I will detail how the teachings gained from WITS Physics have shaped my career as a geoscientist and enabled me to gain valuable experience and expertise including the application of physics for geological mapping, minerals exploration, tectonic mapping, groundwater mapping and energy security studies.


Title: On the benefits of interdisciplinary thinking in the generation of knowledge

Speaker: Prof. Kieran O’Doherty

Active at: Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Canada

Abstract: Training in a scientific discipline comes not only with specific content knowledge and skills; it also develops a certain style of thinking and fosters intuitions about the kinds of problems the discipline typically tackles. In this presentation, I examine the value my undergraduate training in physics provided me over 25 years of academic research in psychology, applied ethics, and interdisciplinary social science. I focus on three examples: 1) research on the meaning of probability in risk communication in genetic counselling about cancer; 2) considering the role of human consciousness and agency in the world of science; and 3) the nature of measurement of human phenomena in contrast to material phenomena. I conclude by emphasising the importance of considering the ethical implications of science, the value of contemplating the place of science in society, and some thoughts about possible collaborations between physicists and social scientists.


Title: Carpe diem – Seize the Day

Speaker: Phil Anagnostaras


Think of the two strands of a DNA molecule: one strand is what I’ve done with my life and the other is my career.  Like the DNA spiral I cannot separate these strands – my work cannot be separated from my life, neither my life from my work.  Where does the one begin and the other end? I will tell you about my 26 years of research at Element Six –  I will talk a bit about imagination and creativity and how important these are for any endeavour.  As part of the DNA of my life I will also talk about my struggle with Bipolar I – and how it is only in recent years that it has been managed well.  I think my best years are still to come!


Talk by Prof. Saul Teukolsky, recipient of the prestigious Dirac Medal 2021. Foreword by Wits VC, Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi (Vice Chancellor and Principle of Wits University)

Title: Black Holes and Gravitational Waves: Was Einstein Right?

Speaker: Prof Saul Teukolsky

Active at: Cornell University and Caltech


The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the detection of gravitational waves from a pair of orbiting black holes. This is one of the most exciting scientific discoveries of the past fifty years. What are gravitational waves and how were they detected? How have researchers used supercomputers to establish that the waves did in fact come from black holes? How does this experiment confirm that space and time are distorted by strong gravity, just as Einstein predicted? And what exciting discoveries might be just around the corner?



Title: A personal Journey into the heart of the atomic nucleus

Speaker: Prof Zeblon Vilakazi

Active at: Wits University


Presentation by Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi, VC and Principle of Wits University, talking about his Physics research and personal development.


Title: Applied Physics in the Nuclear Power Industry

Speaker: Alwin Wiederhold

Active at: EDF Energy, United Kingdom


Soon after physicists Meitner and Frisch discovered nuclear fission, humanity harnessed the energy within large nuclei to produce electricity.Having worked in the Nuclear Power Industry for thirty years, I will discuss the variety of work which physicists can do to ensure safe, reliable nuclear power continues to be produced. I will reflect on my own experience and that of colleagues while also looking at new reactor types and what the future may hold.


Title: Conversations: A Chemist’s Journey to the World of Physics

Speaker: Prof. Mary Boadu

Active at: Ghana Atomic Energy Commission


I will talk about how my education, experiences and PhD at Wits has prepared me for the job market. I discuss how the Physics training can be applied to various technologies in everyday life, as a way of encouraging students to pursue their programme with all seriousness and enthusiasm knowing that there is so much they could do after school, with their certificates. The concluding part is envisaged to give some advice for Physics students entering the workplace.


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