Shane Carelse


Many of the gamma-radiation detectors at iThemba LABS need to be kept cold using liquid nitrogen to achieve operating conditions. A new filling system has been developed over the last few months to replace the aging system that has been running for over a decade. On Wednesday 21 June the new liquid nitrogen filling setup was commissioned and has since reliably filled the AFRODITE detectors in the array. Over the next few weeks it will be closely monitored and improved if the need arises.

This new system has been optimized and is expected to lead to approximately 30% saving in our liquid nitrogen consumption. Looking into the future, this new infrastructure will be able to accommodate up to 40 detectors and will allow for easy implementation of the first batch of new detectors which will arrive later this year.


Dr Sidiki Zongo, a UNESCO-UNISA Africa Chair in Nanosciences & Nanotechnology Fellow, received his PhD in physics on 14 June 2017. He conducted his PhD project under the supervision of Prof Maaza at iThemba LABS & UNISA. “Whatever the challenge, each student can overcome.  If you want to win, then there is absolutely no way around hard work”, he said.

In his thesis titled Graphene/Oxide based Nano Composites by Hybrid radiolysis/green processing synthesis: Physical and Chemical properties, Dr Force Tefo Thema demonstrated the feasibility of the Reduced Graphene oxide (RGO) by nuclear radiation in general and Radiolysis specifically. Likewise, he has engineered for the first time within the global nano community, several functional nanoscaled oxides via an original biosynthesis process.


A set of silicon (Si (Li)) detectors were donated to iThemba LABS by the University of Oslo in a gesture of goodwill to further work being undertaken on the electron spectrometer.  Due to their extended thickness (5-6mm) these will be an invaluable asset to study energetic electrons in nuclear structure studies.  This extends the ongoing collaboration with the Department of Physics in Oslo.

SAIP 2017

iThemba LABS stand at SAIP2017

iThemba LABS exhibited at the SAIP 2017 Conference that was held at the University of Stellenbosch from 3-7 July.


Seen at SAIP2017:
Prof Karlheinz Langanke and Dr Faïҫal Azaiez

Prof Erich Rohwer, Dr Faïҫal Azaiez, Prof Louise Warnich at the SAIP Gala Dinner


iThemba LABS’ postgraduate students Sbaliso Mhlanga and Khanyisa Sowazi were amongst the award winners at the 2017 SAIP Gala dinner event. Ms Mhlanga (third from left) received the award for the best PhD poster in particle physics. Mr Sowazi (fourth from the left) received the award for the best Oral MSc in Nuclear and Radiation.

Mandela Legacy Education Week

A Mandela legacy initiative with a focus on education will be held at iThemba LABS from 18-21 July as part of Mandela Day celebrations.  All staff are invited and encouraged to participate.

The week will start with a ”take a girl child to work” initiative on the 18th July 2017 as we endeavour to grow the number of females in the science research space. In a bid to link iThemba LABS to one of the pillars of Mandela’s legacy, a passion for education, 20 learners would be hosted for a three day job shadow programme. All participants will receive official iThemba LABS branded items upon completion of their job-shadow assignment.  Lunch will be included every day.

The “take a girl child to work programme” aligns with the NRF 2020 strategy to encourage more females to follow a career in science, and more specifically in the accelerator based sciences. This initiative also provides an opportunity for female learners to be mentored and informed of challenges and reward milestones on the journey of women in science.

Job shadow week will seek to bring learners to the iThemba LABS research site to highlight the varying career paths and research areas available. The programme will introduce the facility with a broad overview, and then have groups of learners job shadow individuals in the different departments.

Local schools and CIT partner schools will receive invitations to take part in the initiative. iThemba LABS
staff members are also invited to nominate learners to take part in the programme.

Donations Drive

As part of the 67 minutes for Mandela campaign, iThemba LABS will be hosting a donation drive from the beginning of July.  Staff are encouraged make donations.

These items will be donated to The Ark City of refuge (Youth boys Home (Facebook @ ‘The Ark City of Refuge’) on 18 July, Mandela Day.

For more information contact Hilton Tobias at or Siphokazi Dunge at

Science Communication Workshop

Participants at the Science Communication Workshop

Participants at the Science Communication Workshop

A very successful SAASTA/NPEP Science Writing workshop was held on 29 – 30 May at iThemba LABS.  It was attended by 65 participants, including students from MRD, Subatomic Physics and some communication representatives.  The purpose of the workshop was to introduce participants to writing and presenting their scientific research to non-scientific audiences, i.e. to promote research to a wider audience, such as the general public, corporates and policy makers.  They were presented with some tips and techniques for presenting on radio and video.  All participants had the opportunity to rewrite their own research for general publication and to make a presentation on video.

Students and postdocs from MRD and Subatomic Physics were invited as well as communication representatives from all departments.

2017 SA-JINR Student Practice

The Subatomic Physics Department (DSP) is coordinating the annual South Africa-Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (SA-JINR) Student Practice held at the JINR laboratories in Dubna, Russia from 29 May to 16 June 2017. In total, 16 students were selected from 8 SA Universities through a panel review meeting. In preparation for the Student Practice, iThemba LABS hosted a two-day workshop on 25 and 26 May. During the workshop, students were given an overview of the research projects undertaken at iThemba LABS, as well as a tour of the research facilities.

JINR Student Practice Group 2017

The students were accompanied by Zina Ndlovu (the student practice coordinator), and will be joined by Dr Nchodu (the DSP manager).  Avuyile Bulala, a UCT registered student based at iThemba LABS, supervised by Dr Maleka of the Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory (ERL), is one of the participants. Two HR officials, Anthea Groenewald and Siphokazi Dunge, are also visiting the JINR University Centre. The purpose of their visit is to benchmark the iThemba LABS learning and development initiatives against the well-established training structures at the JINR.

Mr SA visits iThemba LABS

Dr Habib Noorbhai, current Mr South Africa visited iThemba LABS on 30 May.

Dr Noorbhai is a Lecturer and Researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He is also a Registered Biokineticist, Humanitarian and Motivational Speaker. In 2013, he was voted in South Africa’s top 100 brightest young minds and in 2015, he was nominated among Mail and Guardians top 200 young South Africans. He is Director of the Humanitarians NPO ( that works in the areas of Health, Education, Innovative Living and Research.

His visit to iThemba LABS was to discuss possible collaborations with iThemba LABS in the areas of community outreach, education and research.

Biomimetic and bioactive polymers – the next phase of health care?

On the 28th of June, iThemba LABS will be hosting a public lecture entitled: “Biomimetic and bioactive polymers – the next phase of health care?”

The lecture will be presented by Prof Bert Klumperman (Stellenbosch University).

In order to design and synthesize complex materials with advanced functionalities, scientists very often take inspiration from Nature. In this lecture, a few examples will be shown of such developments. One example is the use of self-assembly to create a synthetic mimic of the tobacco mosaic virus. This example just serves to demonstrate how we can make use of simple principles to manipulate the organization of molecules. Other examples will show how we can use hybrids of natural and synthetic systems to make functional assemblies that are responsive to their environment. Such hybrid systems show great promise for the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents to specific sites in the body. The lecture will end with an outlook on new developments in the field of nanomedicine, i.e. the application of nanotechnology in health care.

International Workshop on Level Density and Gamma Strength

Participants at the International Workshop on Level Density and Gamma Strength in Oslo

Participants at the International Workshop on Level Density and Gamma Strength in Oslo

The Department of Physics at the University of Oslo hosted an International Workshop on Level Density and Gamma Strength in Oslo, May 8-12, 2017. The workshop was the sixth in a series of biannual meetings in Oslo devoted to the subject, and enjoyed its 10th anniversary. The scientific program included invited talks, selected oral contributions from submitted abstracts, and poster presentations, covering the following topics: Nuclear level density, Gamma-strength function, Phase transitions in mesoscopic systems, Applications in astrophysics and Reactor physics and other related topics. iThemba LABS was represented by Dr P Jones, Dr L Pellegri, Dr M Wiedeking, Mr C Brits, and Mr K Malatji.

PhD students Kgashane Malatji and Christiaan Brits both presented their work.  The results were very well received by the audience and lively discussions took place which have already led to new experimental ideas that will be presented to the next iThemba LABS PAC.