Tshilidzi Marwala

Order of Mapungubwe in Bronze

For outstanding contributions to, and inspirational achievements in, the field of engineering science.

Tshilidzi Marwala was born at Duthuni Village in the Tshivhase region of the Limpopo Province on 28 July 1971. He attended the Dimani Agricultural High School and matriculated from the Mbilwi Secondary School in 1989. In his matriculation year, Marwala entered and won the National Youth Science Olympiad and was sent to the United Kingdom to attend the London International Youth Science Fortnight.

The youthful Marwala used the opportunity to visit the University College of London and Oxford University where he gained an appreciation of the importance of engineering and science for the development of modern society.

Determined to make a difference in his own country, he made up his mind to follow a career in engineering, but having missed the deadline for university study, he wasted no time in enrolling in a post-matric programme at St.John's College in Johannesburg. The following year, Marwala was awarded a scholarship by the Educational Opportunities Council to study Mechanical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in the USA where he graduated Magna Cum Laude (higher distinction).

In 1995 he was employed at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as a project engineer. Marwala studied at the University of Pretoria and obtained his Masters in Mechanical Engineering in 1996. Between 1997 and 2000, Marwala went to the University of Cambridge to do a PhD in Computational Intelligence, after which he became a post-doctoral research associate at the University of London's Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine where he worked on intelligence software.

On his return to South Africa in 2001, he took up a position at the South African Breweries to work on projects to develop artificial tasters and the electronic nose, before taking up his current position as Associate Professor and Head of Control and Systems Group at the School of Electrical and Information Engineering of the University of the Witwatersrand. As a measure of his achievement and professional regard, Marwala has also been appointed as Extraordinary Professor of the University of Pretoria.

In his relatively short career, Marwala has published more than 50 papers and articles in international journals, conference proceedings and books and has received more than 30 academic awards for his work, including the National Research Foundation's President Award. He has presented papers in 14 international conferences in South Africa, Europe, Asia and North America. His work has been cited by many organizations including the International Standards Organizations (ISO) and NASA. Marwala collaborates with researchers in South Africa, the United States of America, England, France, Sweden and India. He regularly acts as a reviewer for international journals.

Thirty-three year-old Professor Tshilidzi Marwala's accomplishments are nothing short of astounding. Through hard work and personal application, this young South African from deep rural South Africa, has excelled in his chosen field of study, transporting himself to the cutting edge of his profession. By realizing his childhood dream of contributing to the development of his country and continent, he has become a living example of what liberation means for personal and national development. He is an inspiration to all South Africans.

Marwala currently serves as a councillor for the National Advisory Council on Innovation, is an executive member of the South African Council for Automation and Computation, and a fellow of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.