From the Director’s Office

The year 2020 has presented us with MANY disruptions. We had to find new ways of doing, BUT we had to ensure that we KEEP doing the RIGHT things!

We started the year fueled by our desire to use science and research to transform the lives of all South Africans. Our belief that a society that is able to participate in robust debate and skilled in the art of critical thinking and problem-solving will not only flourish, but will be able to adapt to any challenge was tested in 2020!

We had to ensure that we make visible progress in positioning the facility in Johannesburg, TAMS, as a versatile research tool capable of impacting across scientific disciplines. I am excited about the work being done on climate change, river pollution, authentication of artifacts, dating of groundwater and the erosion of coastal shorelines, to name but a few. In addition, we are establishing a joint platform with WITS (and will hopefully incorporate others soon) on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Back in Cape Town we are putting the final touches on our gamma-array, GAMKA, and the refurbishment of the Neutron Vault for applications in Neutron Metrology and Radiation Protection.

Looking to the future, we are more determined than ever to give expression to our resolve to become the HUB on the African Continent for Research, Training and Expertise in Accelerator-Based Science and Technologies. We are making excellent progress in coordinating our human capital development through the Southern African Institute for Nuclear Technology and Sciences (SAINTS). I am happy to report that the International Atomic Energy Agency declared us an ‘IAEA Collaborating Centre’ in 2020. Collaborating Centers provide a vehicle to the IAEA to promote the practical use of nuclear techniques through research, training and development. This accolade will help to position iThemba LABS as the Gateway to International Research Infrastructure (G-IRI) into the future. Our plans to develop a Technology and Innovation Platform (TIP) are progressing well and we have already seen the quality of outputs generated by our Instrumentation and Information Technology team (InIT) who delivered an in-house data-acquisition system, called Dolosse. The COVID-pandemic has made us all acutely aware of the need for a country to be able to provide its OWN essential services. I am happy to report that we are making good progress in establishing the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) at iThemba LABS. The dedicated cyclotron, a C70 procured from IBA, is currently being assembled in Belgium for mapping of the magnetic field which should be done by the end of December. We hope to have the cyclotron shipped to iThemba LABS towards the end of 2021 as we were awarded a license to install in November 2020! This addition will not only increase our ability to produce sought-after radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications, but it will also advance our research agenda as we will have the Separated Sector Cyclotron (SSC) dedicated to fundamental and applied research.

We are looking forward to your continued support, encouragement and partnership as we advance the pursuit of knowledge that is excellent, impactful and transformational in 2021.
Wishing you all a meaningful time with family and friends,

Faïҫal Azaïez