New chairman redefines ‘energy’

At the beginning of this year, Prof Thomas Jones took over the role of departmental chairman at Electrical and Electronic Engineering.  We recently cornered him to congratulate him, and find out more about the man, and his plans for the E&E Department…


Ed: First, tell us a bit more about yourself – where did you grow up?

TJ: Have you ever heard of the little town Cradock, in the Eastern Cape? Born and bred in the heartland of the Karoo!


Ed: And your studies?

TJ: Maties attracted me from a young age, and this is where I came to complete my B and M.  I got my PhD from MIT, in the USA, though. And it was a good thing, too, as I met my future wife (and now the mother of my two beautiful children) in Boston.


Ed: What makes you tick?

TJ: Aerospace autonomous navigation and control systems… I am fortunate enough to work with Armscor, the South African Navy, Airbus, the National Aerospace Centre and the CSIR, amongst others, on these types of systems. I am also a director of S-Plane Automation (


Ed: And when you want to relax completely?

TJ: Angling, of all things… it’s peaceful, and gives me some quality time to reflect on things I don’t normally have time to think about.  In that sense, it can be quite creative.


Ed: I think most people are quite interested in hearing what your plans are for the department… can you share some of your ideas with us?

TJ: The E&E Department – students and staff alike – are like an extended family. That is, amongst others, what makes this such a great place to work and study. To my mind, no other campus in SA can compare.

What I would like to do over the next few years? Phew… where do I start!


First, I want to support the exceptional research activities that are already in place, such as the SKA work, Airbus, Eskom and many others, and to put even more research projects in place.


Another focus area is to grow and develop the E&E Department even further. Our university has been rated tops in Africa, and we already have a large number of staff with doctorates and internationally accredited research ratings… but let’s see how we can develop our best people even further!


I also want to look at how we can grow our international partnerships, especially within Africa, as well as with Europe, USA, China and others.


A focus that students and lecturers alike will probably welcome is our plans to modernise and renew our facilities. Technology develops quickly, and we cannot afford to be left behind. We must always have exceptional and modern classrooms, laboratories, and so on. We’ve already built some new facilities, and new ones are currently under construction. We are expanding rather fast!


Ed: Any last thoughts?

TJ: An E&E degree from Stellenbosch is highly sought-after, as it offers such exceptional job prospects. I think internationally we are known for our high standards and hard work.  We want to continue delivering the best graduates to our local and international industry, by keeping their training relevant and modern. To achieve this, as well as all our plans for the next few years, I think we will have to adopt an extremely energetic approach!


It seems energy has just taken on a new meaning and function at E&E!