The first African School of Physics

The first African School of Physics (ASP2010), a new physics school that will combine scientific learning and technology transfer, is to be organized in South Africa with the support of various institutes and laboratories from Europe and the US. Christine Darve, the head organizer and an accelerator engineer from Fermilab currently working in CERN's Technology Department, provides some insight into the programme's mission.


Christine Darve was previously the secretary of a ‘Physics Without Borders’ meeting in Sarajevo, an experience that fuelled her passion to help the less fortunate to benefit from developments in science. After meeting Steve Muanza, a physicist of Congolese descent who visited Fermilab in 2004, she initiated steps to organize a physics school that would bring scientific learning and technology transfer from European and American institutes to Africa. A physicist at IN2P3, the Centre de Physique des Particules in Marseilles, Muanza is the director of this first African Physics School, which will take place from 1 to 21 August at the National Institute for Theoretical Physics (NITheP) in Stellenbosch near Cape Town.

“Physics at CERN is a global venture, but not many African scientists are involved,” explains Christine Darve. “There are not a lot of teachers and professors in Africa who teach physics, so many African students study in places such as Europe and the US.” Currently, there are 51 researchers from Africa at CERN, 18 of whom are from African institutes. “Sub-Saharan African countries are under-represented in CERN’s collaborations”, confirms John Ellis, CERN’s advisor for non-Member States. “Among other objectives, this new type of school will help to consolidate existing and emerging collaborations, and may start new ones”.

Out of 150 applications received, 59 students have been selected to take part in the programme. “Of these students, 40 are from 17 different African countries, nine others are from Stellenbosch University, and another 10 are from outside Africa, including the Netherlands, Canada and Spain”, explains Christine. All of the African students will have their entire trip expenses covered by the school, which is supported by various institutes in Europe and the US. “In addition to its generous support, CERN will cover the travel fees for several talented lecturers and Fermilab will offer two International Fellowships,” says Christine.

The school programme focusses on three main topics: theoretical subatomic physics, experimental subatomic physics, and accelerators and technology. During the final week two days will be spent at South Africa’s iThemba Lab. “iThemba Lab is a place where you have cyclotrons and R&D based in South Africa. They also study medical and other applications,” says Christine. A practice lab will allow students to learn about detector instrumentation, and an open forum day will provide information about technology transfer, including lectures and video links to CERN.

“It is important to link the end of the school, which is focused on applications and accelerators, with the real world,” says Christine Darve. “We would like to be able to motivate people locally, because physics is a wonderful field, but also because this is a chance to transfer our knowledge and help everyone in society to benefit.”

For full information about the programme of the school and a full list of the sponsors, speakers and logistics, please visit:


by Carolyn Lee