When Cara Schwarz kicked off her studies in 1996 as a first-year Maties Chemical Engineering student, she had no idea that one day she would become the first female full professor in Engineering at Stellenbosch University.
“I have always been fascinated by how things come together and how they work technically,” she says. “I also liked Chemistry at school and therefore I opted for Chemical Engineering at Stellenbosch University as I felt this degree programme was ideal to include both my interests.”
Prof Schwarz is a full-blooded Matie. She obtained all her degrees from Stellenbosch University: BEng (Chemical) in 1999, MScEng in Chemical Engineering cum laude in 2001 and PhD in 2005. Thereafter she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at her alma mater for five years. She progressed through the ranks as senior researcher and associate professor until her appointment on 1 October 2018 as full professor.
Even in her capacity as a senior researcher, she lectured classes. She says: “Although my interest inclines slightly towards research and its technical aspects, I thoroughly enjoy to lecture to students and to see how they develop and mature. I try to maintain a balance between research and lecturing, because I have to cultivate an interest for my field amongst students on an undergraduate level already.”
Prof Schwarz’s field of expertise is thermodynamics and its impact on separation processes with particular focus on high pressure/supercritical and advanced distillation processes. “During my postgraduate studies I really enjoyed doing research and could picture myself in a research-oriented career.”
Prof Schwarz has already made her mark in her field. In July this year she was recognised by the international Journal of Chemical Engineering as one of 25 researchers who will be defining the field over the coming years (in an edition that focuses on ’emerging investigators’ in chemical thermodynamics). See more detail here. Prof Schwarz also serves on the editorial advisory board of this publication.
She is respected by her peers. The Chair of the Department of Process Engineering, Prof André Burger, speaks highly of her as he notes: “Cara has established herself as a highly respected and competent academic at the Department of Process Engineering and we are proud to have her as a colleague. She does not shy away from hard work or responsibilities and her excellent research record is proof of her intelligent dedication.”
Prof Cara Schwarz with her postgraduate students.