Rocket Science was the focus of MSc Engineering
graduate Ms Fiona Leverone’s research.

Many people shy away from rocket science but UKZN graduate Ms Fiona Leverone just loves it!  The focus of Leverone’s research for her Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering  (cum laude) involved modeling the effects various propulsion and aerodynamic parameters have on the performance of a sub-orbital hybrid sounding rocket.  

This trade study led to the preliminary design of a paraffin wax and nitrous oxide propelled hybrid rocket capable of carrying a 5kg scientific payload to a height of 100km. 

Her motivation to learn more about aerospace led her to specialising in Mechanical Engineering.  ‘I have always been fascinated by how things work and integrate, especially with regards to aerospace and what better career choice than mechanical engineering. Being a male-dominated field has also motivated me to succeed,’ said Leverone. 

‘My short term goal is to get my doctorate focusing on orbital propulsion and then hopefully one day work for the European Space Agency or even NASA.’  Leverone says she does not have one role model but prefers to learn from everyone who has influenced her life in some way.  

She describes her degree as a learning experience with ‘ups and downs. The international conferences, research group development, and academic interactions with experienced professionals were definitely incredible opportunities which added to the whole experience.’ 

Leverone says there is a need for female engineers in South Africa. ‘This is because we offer a different and dynamic way of thinking in this male dominated field. Often old favourite solutions which are not always the best can be seen from a different perspective and improved.’