Shane Carelse

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Inaugural Ion Beam Analysis Programme Advisory Committee Meeting (IBA PAC)

MRD hosted a very successful inaugural Ion Beam Analysis Programme Advisory Committee meeting (IBA PAC) on 7-8 March 2019 at iThemba LABS. A total of 17 proposals were submitted and presented during the first day of the meeting. Amongst the PAC committee members who attended included Prof Istvan Rajta from MTA Atomki, Prof Martin Ntwaeaborwa from Wits, Prof Chris Arendse from UWC, Dr Tiberiu Bogdan Sava from Romania and Dr Sotirios Harissopulos from the IAEA in Austria.

Faculty of Science Hosts High Energy Particle Physics Workshop

The High Energy Particle Physics Workshop (HEPP), convened by the Faculty of Science of Nelson Mandela University from 30th of January to the 1st of February 2019, aimed to promote Nelson Mandela’s statement that “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”. Representatives from various universities in the country were invited to engage with one another around high energy particle physics. The workshop was facilitated by Prof Alan Cornell (WITS) and Prof Bruce Mellado (iThemba LABS/WITS).

The workshop envisioned to provide a space for meaningful science engagement for Honours and undergraduate students with poster presentations. The topics covered in the workshop included high-energy theory and phenomenology, ATLAS physics and ALICE physics. The workshop also provided an opportunity for all MSc and PhD students to present to their peers and senior physicists. About 68 representatives from various universities in the country attended the workshop.

Gallium Target Quality Control

The irradiation of gallium targets is part of a production process that is used to manufacture 68Ge/68Ga generators for detection of neuroendocrine tumours. The generators account for 30% of the annual radioisotopes sales. In 2018, multiple problems were experienced which related to gallium target ruptures during irradiation. A thorough investigation began to fully understand the cause of the target ruptures. X-ray Computed Tomography scanning of the gallium targets with resolution of 30 mm, revealed inner defects that are the most likely cause of the occasional ruptures. These interventions were completed in March 2019 and together with the systematic scanning of the gallium targets, have enabled the drastic reduction in the gallium target failure rate. The slice presented in the photo, obtained from micro CT scanning, is used to evaluate the cleanliness of the weld. This critical evaluation process now forms part of the quality control assessment of the gallium target before irradiation.

iThemba LABS/SAAO Workshop

A workshop on technical aspects of research facilities was held at iThemba LABS on 10 May and SAAO on 16 May. Close to 50 SAAO and iTL staff attended the workshop and 22 presentations were given on the four main technical streams: Software, Electronics, Mechanical and IT. Talks were followed by parallel sessions for discussions within individual divisions. The main goal of the workshop was to identify how knowledge and expertise can be shared between the two laboratories. A number of projects were identified where resources can be used jointly in both laboratories.

AGATA Workshop

The “AGATA for stable beams” international workshop was organised on 25-26 March at the LNL nuclear physics facility at Legnaro, Italy. The workshop was dedicated to discussing future experiments with the AGATA gamma-ray tracking array.  The AGATA array is planned as a 4p ball of Ge detectors. It does not need suppression shields (as for example the iThemba LABS AFRODITE array) because it suppresses the Compton background using gamma-ray tracking. This allows unprecedented efficiency and resolving power. At present the array is only partially built (see the figure below) and is operated in Ganil, France. Ideas for future experiments aiming to use the AGATA array with the stable beams at Legnaro were discussed. Two experiments were proposed by two iThemba LABS staff members, one on astrophysics and one on nuclear structure studies.

ANSTT2 Workshop

The Advanced Nuclear Science and Technology Techniques (ANSTT2) Workshop was a 3-day workshop held from 18-20 March at iThemba LABS. The main themes focused on metrology and applications; environmental measurements and nuclear structure studies; and follows on from the ANSTT meeting held in 2018.  Collaborations, both UK-Africa and inter-Africa, were again at the forefront of the workshop, including Memoranda of Understanding.  Over 70 scientists (including 23 students) attended from universities and institutes including Eswatini, Nigeria, Dar es Salaam, Cameroon, Oslo, UK and South Africa.  Two round-table discussions on Metrology and Environmental Measurements were held to pave the way for future networking and collaborative experiments.

The workshop was funded by the UK Science and Technology Facility Council and organised under the auspices of the University of Brighton in collaboration with iThemba LABS.  The IAEA sponsored selected delegates from Africa.

iThemba LABS Senior Scientist Malik Maaza Receives National Order of Mapungubwe

iThemba LABS celebrates the national recognition of one of its outstanding senior research scientists, Professor Malik Maaza, who received the South African National Award of the Order of Mapungubwe  in the Silver category. Maaza proudly received his Order of Mapungubwe Silver award from the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Awards Ceremony held on 25 April 2019 at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.

South Africa annually bestows National orders on South African Citizens and selected distinguished foreign nationals in recognition of their contributions in various spheres that impact positively on South African societal advancement.

Honoured for his outstanding contribution to his specialist field of Nanosciences, Maaza is one amongst the 30 recipients to whom the 2019 South African National Orders were conferred in various categories by President Ramaphosa.  Maaza’s citation for the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver read…”For your outstanding contribution to the field of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. You are a pioneer on the African continent. Your work has improved our knowledge and made headway in the development of cutting edge modern technology.”

A naturalized South African, originally from Algeria, who studied in France when asked for a comment after accepting the Award, Professor Maaza said: “There are no words in the Harraps or the Larousse to express appropriately my full gratitudes to iThemba LABS and the NRF for the profound support I have been offered over the years to research and publish in my field without a hint of hindrance. I feel deeply honoured and privileged to receive a national award from the highest office of the land”.

Maaza’s work has received both continental and global recognition in the form of prestigious awards from organizations such as the African Union, UNESCO and the World Cultural Council.  Maaza received the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Award in Scientific Excellence (AUKNASE) on 28 January 2018 for his Nanotechnology work on the African Continent, and was honoured the same year (4 June 2018) by the World Cultural Council with the prestigious Jose Vasconcelos World Award on Education which he received at the City University of Hong Kong.

Maaza remarked, “all these awards are very special to me, to the students I co-supervise and to the post-doctoral researchers I work with; but the National Order of Mapungubwe is the most special of them all”.

See also: The article on

Well done Professor Maaza: iThemba LABS and the NRF family at large are proud of your achievements.

The BaGeL array in action

The second K600+BaGeL campaign took place in November and December 2018.

Three experiments were performed during this beamtime, aiming at the investigation of the role of the nuclear deformation in the excitation of the Pygmy Dipole Resonance. The BaGeL array was upgraded from its previous configuration to a total of 12 HPGe clover and 5 LaBr3:Ce detectors. In addition a digital DAQ system was used for the gamma-ray detection, running in parallel with the K600 VME DAQ. The local scientists were joined by collaborators from the University of the Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University (South Africa), IFIN-HH (Romania), GSI and University of Cologne (Germany). Despite several challenges due to the complexity of the experimental setup, the campaign was successfully concluded.

Nanosmat-Africa Conference

The Materials Research Department (MRD) and the University of South Africa (UNISA), under the framework of the UNISA-UNESCO chair, hosted the Inaugural NANOSMAT-AFRICA conference at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West during 19 – 23 November 2018. Amongst those who presented plenary talks are the Nobel Laureate Prof J M Lehn, Prof CNR Rao, Prof Hanns-Ulrich Habermeier, Prof David Cahen, Prof Uzi Landman, Prof Alfred Msezane, Prof Pablo Esquinazi, Prof Norbert Kucerka, Prof Ron Naama, Prof AK Tyagi, Prof Suprakas Sinha Ray, Prof Federico Rosei, Prof Roberta Ramponi, Prof Mohamed Chaker and Prof Jean-Pierre Massue. The conference was attended by 247 participants from around the globe. There was 1 Nobel Laureate contribution by Prof J M Lehn, 10 plenary oral contributions, 26 invited oral contributions, 64 standard contributions, including junior and postdoctoral oral contributions and 103 poster contributions. There were 9 awards presented during the gala dinner. Five of the awards were from Springer Nature for Women in Science and four from the Nanosmat Society in the UK. Miss Siphokazi Panya Panya, a DST-NRF Innovation Scholarship PhD student based at the MRD, was awarded the “Springer-Nature Award” for outstanding research work presented at the conference. This was the first time a prize of this nature was presented at a conference and it included a trophy, a certificate of recognition and also an access to Nanoscience prestigious database for a period of one year. The full title of Miss Panya Panya’s presentation is: Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) on Geological Samples: Hardness Differentiation. Mrs Touria Khamliche won the prize of the best poster in the PhD category. The title of her poster presentation is: Thermal Conductivity Enhancement in Laser Liquid Solid Interaction Fabricated Cu Nanoparticles Ethylene Glycol Based Nanofluids.

L’Oréal Foundation awards Fellowships

On 7 December 2018, the award ceremony for the L’Oréal Foundation for Women in Science in Sub-Saharan Africa took place in Nairobi, Kenya. This program aims to support and reward talented young African female scientists in the field of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences. Harshna Jivan a Wits PhD student working in the K600 group, was honoured among 14 talented African women for the quality of her research. She studies the influence of nuclear deformation on the Pygmy Dipole Resonance in Samarium Isotopes, for which an experiment was performed at iThemba LABS using the K600+BaGeL setup in October 2016.

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