SAINT’s H. Rohloff Trophy for Best Research Project 2016 was awarded to Frikkie de Beer, science guru at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Limited (Necsa). This humble award winner says that the Award came as a surprise, and that it was extremely rewarding to know that hard work is recognised. “A person cannot work hard expecting rewards, because that may lead to disappointments,” says Frikkie. “However, doing something because you love it is a reward in itself”.

Frikkie has been a part of the Necsa family since July 1988 (28.5 years). As a Chief Scientist, he also holds the position of Section Leader in Radiography/Tomography. Prior to this, Frikkie was a Science and Mathematics teacher at Linden High School in Randburg. The Johannesburg Technical College has also had the privilege of Frikkie’s services as their senior Maths and Science lecturer.

This specialist in digital neutron and X-ray radiographic testing (RT) says his role in Non-destructive Testing (NDT) is also to introduce South Africa to Computed Tomography (CT) as a recognised NDT tool. Frikkie adds that this tool has demonstrated its use as research probe but has also great potential in a commercial capacity.

Frikkie holds both a Bachelor of Science in Education (BSc(ed)) and Honours (B.ED) qualifications obtained through former RAU, known now as the University of Johannesburg. He is currently enrolled at NWU (Potchefstroom Campus) for a PhD by Publication.

In 2003 Frikkie introduced South Africa’s research community to neutron tomography and his initiative to upgrade the neutron tomography facility at Necsa saw him travel to the United States of America to conduct neutron radiography experiments. “For the first time for researchers in South Africa, sophisticated in-situ neutron radiography experiments, in collaboration with Hydrogen South Africa (HySA), were conducted on a working fuel cell to evaluate the effectiveness of the process of electrolysis (production of hydrogen),” explains Frikkie.

When he is not in his white coat living his dream in the CT laboratories at Necsa or overseas, Frikkie can be found taking it easy with family at home, or on the green for a relaxed game of golf. It’s hardly as easy as that, the scientist explains, because much of his work is done after hours. However, when he feels he need a break, he is sure to take one!