For the ninth year running, the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) is offering bursaries valued at R100 000 a year for two years’ of full-time study towards a Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree at participating universities.

The bursary is eligible to Bachelor of Science engineering students who wish to pursue a Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree focusing on biotechnology within the pulp, paper, tissue and paper packaging sectors. Applications must be completed online by Monday 29 April 2019.

Pulp and paper sector part of the bio-economy

Beyond the chemistry of paper, board or tissue making and paper recycling, opportunities abound for chemical and process engineers interested in the wonder of wood fibre derived chemicals, sugars, packaging innovations and applications for nanocellulose.

“Apart from printer paper, toilet tissue and cardboard boxes, a host of everyday products have a link back to sustainably farmed wood or components thereof,” explains Jane Molony, PAMSA executive director.

South Africa grows 840 million trees over 693 000 hectares for pulp and paper making with only a small portion harvested annually then replanted in the same year. Wood pulp can be spun into viscose fabric while xylitol, the non-nutritive sweetener, can extracted from wood as a sugar alcohol during the pulping process. Powdered microcrystalline cellulose can be used as a binding, abrasive or bulking agent in toothpaste, vitamins and detergents.

“As a forerunner in the bio-economy, the forestry and forest products sector is investing considerably in research and development into the uses of wood – a renewable and sustainably farmed resource – especially as the world looks to it for low-carbon alternatives to fossil-fuel based materials and processes,” Molony says.

“South African pulp and paper mills can use their raw material (wood and paper fibre, chemicals and water), their equipment and processes as well as waste streams to extract ingredients for biochemicals, bioplastics and biofuels,” notes Molony, adding that not only does this have an environmental and economic benefit but it also opens up a whole new world for youngsters with an affinity for science, chemistry and innovation.

Application criteria

PAMSA requires that the students have a good academic record with a minimum 60% average in the final year of study. Applicants must also have completed their studies in five years or less. Interviews will be held with selected candidates.

PAMSA has partnered with several universities to support the programme, which include:

  • Gauteng: Universities of Witwatersrand and Pretoria
  • KwaZulu-Natal: University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • North West Province: North West University
  • Western Cape: Universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town