MechChem Africa

MechChem Africa profiles new SAIChE IChemE President Craig Sherida, who was elected to take over from Dawie van Vuuren at the Institute’s Annual General meeting on April 20, 2017.

Craig Sheridan Water harvesting“I attended seven schools while growing up. My step-father was a consulting mechanical engineer so we tended to move around a lot. I finished off at Springs High School for boys, which was very strong in maths and science. My matric class of 1994 produced some 10 graduate engineers, which is a lot for any single school,” Sheridan begins.

Having won a Goldfields bursary to do chemical engineering, Sheridan was required to complete a pre-university year. “As part of that process we were required to work for six months, so I became a learner official for extractive metallurgy at Leeudoorn, a division of the Kloof mine in Westonaria.

“I worked at an operator level, which involved real hands on training – how the crusher section worked; the stacker-reclaimers; the milling; the leaching; and how the carbon in pulp processes worked – and this gave me a thorough understanding of plant-wide processes,” he tells MechChem Africa.

“So by the time I joined Wits for my first year in 1995 and we started to hear about ion-exchange and solvent extraction processes, I actually knew how these plants worked in practice and the difference between them,” Sheridan recalls.

What made his Wits experience most notable, however, was that Sheridan failed his thermodynamics exam in his third year, which meant having to repeat the year. “I never viewed this as failure, though. Instead, I learned that I wasn’t ready to proceed. This year gave me the opportunity to reflect and discover what I really enjoyed doing,” he says.

It was during this year that Sheridan developed his love of academic research. “Because I had so much extra time on my hands, I did research for professors Diane Hildebrandt and David Glasser, where I developed a love for the practical side of academic research,” he reveals.

The research? “I created a small lavender oil distillation plant. I built a steam stripper from a pressure cooker with a packed bed, a glass column, a condenser and decanters for separation. It was a really nice rig. In the process, I was able to fully understand and describe the mechanisms for extracting oil from the plant material,” he responds.

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