A love of plastic moulds professional career

A childhood project working in his father’s injection moulding workshop to earn pocket money, has moulded the Tshwane University of Technology’s fifth honorary doctorate’s professional career, putting him among the top three global experts in Polymer Technology. Prof Joseph Karger-Kocsis this morning received TUT’s highest accolade, a Doctor Technologiae (honoris causa), during the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment’s (FEBE) Spring Graduation Ceremony at TUT’s Pretoria Campus.
​​In a conversation with him after receiving the honorary doctorate, Prof Karger-Kocsis, who was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1950, said his childhood experiences with the injection moulding, making plastic objects and toys in his father’s workshop, just got into his blood. 
Talking about the importance of his chosen field, Polymer Technology, he asked a simple, but pertinent question. “Can you imagine everyday life without plastic? Probably not. Plastic is everywhere, from industrial to construction and household components and items.” 

With his love for polymers and a keen interest in the Engineering discipline from a young age, it came as no surprise when he decided to enroll at the Technical University of Budapest where he excelled and obtained his first qualification, a Diploma in Chemical Engineering, in 1974.

He kicked off his career at the Research Institute for the Plastics Industry in Budapest and continued to study to obtain a PhD degree in Chemical Engineering from the Lomonosow Moscow Institute of Fine Chemicals Technology in 1983. 

Later on, he was employed at the Technical Rubber Goods Factory of the Taurus Hungarian Rubber Works in Budapest as a Chief Engineer.

After a stint of two years, conducting research as an Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) fellow, and a further two years as a scientific co-worker in the Composites Group of the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg (Hamburg, Germany), he joined the Institute for Composite Materials in Kaiserslautern, Germany, as Group Leader of the Materials Science Division (1990 until 2009). 

In 1991, he received the title Doctor of Science (Chemical Engineering) from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 

Currently, he is a Research Professor at the Department of Polymer Engineering at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. 

His expertise in the field of Polymer Technology was also tapped on home soil when he worked as a Research Professor at the TUT’s Polymer Programme on a part-time basis from 2009 until 2013. 

In 2010, he received a B1 rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

His career is marked by several accolades, which include, among others, an Innovation Prize from the Hungarian Plastics Federation (2016); the Dennis Gabor Prize (Novofer Foundation) in 2014; Senior Researcher of the Year at the TUT (2010); Honorary Doctorate from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (2004); and a Scholarship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1994).

In addition, he is the Editor or an Advisory Board Member of the Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology (2013 – 2014), Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites (2011 – 2013), Express Polymer Letters (Editor in Chief, 2007 – ), Nanopages (2006 – ), Progress in Polymers, Plastics and Recycling Technology (2004 – ) and the Journal of Applied Polymer Science (2002 –). 

His research interests cover materials science and characterisation; structure-property relationships of plastics and rubbers; polymer blends; recycling; (nano)composites; fracture, fatigue and failure of plastics and composites; thermoplastic rubbers; toughening and property improvement of thermoplastics and thermosets; processing of polymers and composites; and "greening" of thermoplastics and thermosets.

He is also the co-editor of three books and co-author of more than 500 scientific contributions, including an impressive 33 patents. To top it all, he has more than 10 000 independent citations.

Prof Ben van Wyk, Executive Dean of FEBE said TUT is greatly honoured to have an individual of Prof Karger-Kocsis’s stature as an honorary doctorate of the Faculty. “He has dedicated a large part of his life to the advancement of engineering, science and technology, which is this University’s heartbeat. The University has great appreciation for his selfless dedication to help TUT,” he said.

András László Király, Hungarian Ambassador who also attended the ceremony, commended Prof Karger-Kocsis for his contribution to engineering and science. “The Hungarian Government annually gives bursaries to up to 150 South African students. Prof Karger-Kocsis’s involvement with TUT and the academic project in the country is therefore of great importance to the Embassy and Hungarian Government,” he concluded.