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  • Linke Potgieter

What's in a name? Influence...

"If I'm gonna tell a real story, I'm gonna start with my name..."


It's been quite a journey since I started my work life, learning and defining what I want to become and inspire in others in a competitive individualistic world that in so many cases are all about climbing the corporate ladder. Choosing a name and logo for our research group is part of the continuing process, and a process that I hope will not only continue to mold and change the way I think, but also of every member of Surgor and those we work with.

Because of my lifelong search for meaning, purpose in everything I do, I wanted a name and logo with meaning that I could associate with. The meaning of names has always been very important to me. "Your name can influence the assumptions that other people make about your character and background, and thus the chances you are given in life," says Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. "It can also be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. If your name sounds intelligent, successful and attractive, you are more likely to act those things."

So what influence and self-fulfilling prophecy might Surgor have in store for us then?

The word 'surgor' is a derived form of the latin word surgo, which means rise, get up, arise, raise, lift up and grow. We are rising, we are gotten up, we are arisen, we are lifting up, we are growing. We rise by lifting others. Our aim is to create a nurturing, supportive, collaborative and community focussed approach to research that will empower young minds to reach their potential, become creative problem solvers, strive for excellence and give back with purpose to society. It worked out that the name surgor is also an acronym for Stellenbosch University Research Group in Operations Research, which captures our affiliation and mathematical skillset. We are passionate about making a difference in society with our skills - finding and promoting efficient and sustainable ways of improvement by doing the science of better, as operations research is sometimes referred to.

As for the visual name/logo - what does birds flying, triangles and spirals have to do with all of this?

Birds have always captured my imagination. The flying together, the teamwork, community, lifting each other to successful flight; but also a symbol of freedom, individuality, perspective, vision, spreading your wings to new possibilities and potential, to fly high.

The spiral is one of the oldest geometric shapes found throughout the ancient world, a powerful symbol of creation, growth and expansion. It captures the ideas of progress, direction, awareness, spiritual connection, evolving journey of life, development. The golden ratio (or logarithmic) spiral is strongly linked to nature - think of nautilus shells, and spiral galaxies. Think of sunflowers and pine cones.

The triangle is one of the simplest geometric shapes, but also one of the strongest. Triangles are the building blocks of many strong structures such as bridges mainly because of their ability to bear large loads without deformation. The triangle can also symbolise the holy trinity.

So how to connect this all together? Both the golden ratio spiral and triangle strongly captures and intertwine two things - the scientific and mathematical nature of our research, and the spiritual purpose and meaning connected to what we do. The golden ratio footprint can be found everywhere in nature, God is everywhere, he is also the God who created science. It is not God versus science. Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, to know our place in it, and to marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by.

So we are flying with Him.

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