University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) associate professor Natasha Sacks last month received the 2015 Louw Alberts Award from the South African Institute of Tribology (SAIT) for her outstanding contribution to tribology .
Sacks, currently with the Wits School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, notes that her interest in tribology and materials sciences piqued during her matric year when she read a brochure on materials engineering from the University of Cape Town (UCT).
She was awarded a master’s degree at UCT and a doctorate from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, before joining Wits as a lecturer in 2004. Her doctoral thesis was titled ‘The wear and corrosive-wear response of tungsten carbide-cobalt hard metals under woodcutting and three body abrasion conditions’.
The award was given in recognition of Sacks’ contribution to advancing the field of tribology, which includes establishing a wear laboratory at Wits, her relentless efforts in promoting the SAIT and South African tribology among international wear bodies, and ensuring strengthened links in the wear and tribology industry.
The Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation (DST-NRF) Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials has funded most of her research in tribology.
Sacks is the coordinator of the carbides and cermets research group at the DST-NRF centre and serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Refractory Metals and Hard Materials. She also serves on the Technical Program Committee for the International Conference on Tungsten, Refractory and Hard Materials, hosted in the US every three years.
The most rewarding aspect of her job is making a difference in South African-owned businesses, Sacks says.
One such business is Pilot Tools, a producer of tungsten carbide cutting inserts and tools for the mining and manufacturing industries. Sacks collaborates closely with the company and conducts training for those employees enrolled for master’s degrees or PhDs on how to improve manufacturing processes and the production of different types of materials so that better tools can be produced.