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Gold Nano particles to improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy

A transmission electron micrograph of a breast cancer cell that has taken up gold Nano particles.

Gold Nano particles (AuNP’s) are used by postgraduates from the University of the Western Cape in radiation biology studies performed at iThemba LABS. These small particles enhance the radiation dose absorbed by cancer cells. To date the interaction with AuNP’s and X-rays has been noted that result in more radiation damage compared to cells irradiated without AuNP’s. Currently studies are conducted to test the influence of AuNP’s in cells treated with protons and neutrons.


RCNP tracking Germanium detector

iThemba LABS was represented at the “Physics Opportunities using CAGRA and RCNP tracking Germanium detector workshop” held at Osaka University, Japan from 10-12 October. Similar to the AFRODITE array, the CAGRA project consists of a gamma-ray array of 16 detectors on loan from Japan, US, and China. The CAGRA campaign experiments were performed by combining the CAGRA array with the low-energy radioactive ion beam line, the muon detector MuSiC, and the high-resolution spectrometer Grand Raiden at the Research Center for Nuclear Physics, Osaka) which is similar to the K600 spectrometer. The latest developments on ALBA and AFRODITE as well as the SAIF project was presented.

The Xxiv Nuclear Physics Workshop in Kazimierz Dolny, Poland

The XXIV Nuclear Physics Workshop was organized by the Department of Theoretical Physics, Maria Curie-
Skłodowska University in Lublin in collaboration with Heavy Ion Laboratory, University of Warsaw. The general subject of the Workshop was: „Spontaneous symmetry breaking in nuclear physics”. Research on chiral symmetry carried out at iThemba LABS was presented.

South Africa at NUSTAR

A delegation from South Africa attended the NUSTAR meeting in Slovenia in the last week of September to investigate and discuss possible contributions iThemba
LABS can make to this large collaboration. The NUSTAR collaboration consists of more than 700 scientists from more than 170 institutions, devoted to the study of Nuclear Astrophysics, Reactions and Structure through the development of instrumentation and methods for future experiments at the FAIR facility. With the construction of FAIR only started recently, the NUSTAR collaboration is currently busy preparing for Phase 0 experiments that will use the existing GSI accelerator infrastructure.  These experiments, which will commence in 2018, have the dual purpose of testing numerous new detector systems as well as provide opportunities for new physics measurements.  Projects within NUSTAR are at the cutting edge of science and technology.  With a suitable model defining the collaboration iThemba LABS and South Africa could benefit enormously from potential technology and knowledge transfer.

First PhD in ALICE-related physics at IThemba LABS

In December 2017 Kgotlaesele Johnson Senosi will be the first student from iThemba LABS to be awarded a PhD degree in High Energy Nuclear and Particle Physics at the University of Cape Town. Johnson hails from Gopane village, North West Province. He came to the Mother City in 2011 as an MSc student, seeking new adventures and an aspiration to be a particle and/or heavy-ion Physicist.

His PhD project titled “Vector boson production with the ALICE detector at LHC energies”, entails a study of the production of heavy W and Z particles which are important benchmarks (“standard candles”) of the Standard Model.  The highlight of his PhD results culminated in a paper published in February 2017 in the Journal of High Energy Physics, also featuring work done in collaboration with scientists at Subatech and Orsay (France) and Wuhan (China).

As we say in ZULU: “Halala Johnson, wasebenza!”

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Professor M A Harith, HoD of the Applied Laser Spectroscopy (ALS) group, visited the MRD on 25 – 29 September 2017 to discuss potential collaborative projects with the nanoscience and nanotechnology group. During his visit to MRD Prof Harith met with Dr Faiçal Azaiez and also gave a presentation entitled “Elemental analysis of ancient Egyptian Ushabtis using LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy)”.

Armscor spring coding week

60 High school Learners from 10 different local schools participated in the Celebration of Africa Coding week 2017 on 5 to 6 October. This took place at The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC). The learners were introduced to computer coding through workshops over the two days.

Primary school science camp: 2 – 4 October 2017

The Siyophumelela annual Primary School Science Camp for local neighbouring schools took place from the 2nd to the 4th of October. 53 grade 7 learners and 10 teachers from 12 selected primary schools boarded a bus and a few cars to a BOOT CAMP in Buffalo Drift, a game lodge based on the banks of the Berg River. The purpose was to expose the young learners to outdoor environmental education which also integrates elements of life skills in the programmes.

Undergraduate research week: 3-5 October 2017

About 20 undergraduate science students from the University of the Western Cape and Cape Peninsula University of Technology attended an iThemba LABS coordinated spring school tour. The institutions that were visited included iThemba LABS, SAAO and SANSA in Hermanus.

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