The rainbow school of physics

Students from 17 African countries took part in the first African School of Fundamental Physics and its Applications (ASP2010), which took place this month in South Africa. The school, organized by several physics laboratories including CERN, not only met but in some cases far exceeded the students’ expectations. Their enthusiasm made the organizers’ efforts worthwhile.


The participants to the first African School of Fundamental Physics and its Applications photographed with some of the school's organizers.

The first ASP received a great deal of interest in the African community and the organizers had a hard time selecting between the very motivated applicants. “The participating students were selected to come from various backgrounds and education levels”, says the head organizer, Christine Darve. “At the school the students, lecturers and organizers shared the same dynamism and this allowed everybody to build durable networks in a physics world without borders,” she continues enthustiastically.

The students were informed by their local universities about the possibility of participating in ASP2010. “Mr Mwiinga, a lecturer in the department of physics of my university, asked interested students around the department and he instructed them how to go about the application process”, confirms Gift l Sichone, a graduate student from the University of Zambia. “He also helped me in writing up the motivation letters.”

The experience was extremely valuable for all the participants, with some of them going as far as saying that it changed their life. “The school has far exceeded my expectations”, enthuses Ekua Mensimah, the only participant from Ghana. “Not only was I exposed to the beauty of physics, but I also had the opportunity to meet great lecturers, make friends from different countries, and have a fun time visiting various sites here in South Africa. The school gave me the wings to fly to a higher ground in my academic career. This has definitely had an impact in my life, one that I will always be grateful for.”

The praise to the organizers comes not only from the African participants but also from the others, such as Jörn Lange, a PhD student from the University of Hamburg, in Germany: “I am privileged because my university regularly gives me the opportunity to participate in physics schools. However, the ASP opened my mind as to how important it is to give such an opportunity also to people who otherwise could not have the chance to participate in international high-energy physics and gave me the motivation to get involved in supporting this kind of initiative.”

The school was also a great opportunity for participants to establish new networks and professional links. “Some of them are already thinking about how to establish new links and scientific collaborations”, confirms Christine Darve. Naima Zahar from the University Hassan II in Morocco concludes: “I will never forget the organizing committee, Christine Darve and Steve Muanza. They were very nice and helpful”. The next ASP will be in two years; the venue will be decided in October.

Further reading:
The ASP2010 in Bulletin.
The ASP2010 website with programme, sponsors and contacts.

BOX - Facts and figures

Out of the 150 applications received by the organizers, 60 of the students selected came from Africa, representig Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. One student each came from Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland and the US.

The programme lasted three weeks, from 1st to 21st August, and it included lectures on physics, acceleration and detection techniques, as well as related technologies.

The school was held in Stellenbosch in the "Rainbow Nation" of South Africa, and was sponsored by 14 Labs and institutes around the world and four governmental institutions.




by CERN Bulletin