Senior students invited to participate at the 2022 edition of the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications (ASP2022) went home inspired and enriched through their encounters with other bright sparks from all over Africa.
From Algeria to Zimbabwe, more than 100 of Africa’s top final year and postgraduate physics, mathematics, engineering and computer science students, including 60 from South Africa, converged on the Faculty of Science at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape.
A further 100 African students throughout the continent participated online from 28 November to 9 December 2022. The ASP is a continental school that started in 2010 to build capacity in physics in Africa and is held in a different African country every two years.
The students were selected from hundreds of applicants and spent two weeks at the Faculty of Science doing intensive hands- on training and participating in lectures from about 40 international experts. A few of them share their experience below.
Ethiopia: Samuel Worku
Samuel Worku, 29, who recently graduated with his MSc in astrophysics, takes a keen interest in dark matter.
“It has been my dream since school to know and understand how our universe works, but it is also important because it can solve so many problems we face in Africa. For example, we lack technology and medical laboratories in Ethiopia. Since I also have a background in computer science, I want to help change many of our manual systems to digital systems. I have big plans to use science to solve complex problems!”
Eswatini: Chisenga Musungaila
Fourth year physics and mathematics student at the University of Eswatini, Chisenga Musungaila, 26, aspires to be a nuclear physicist.
“When I grew up, I wanted to know why the sky was blue and why airplanes looked so small in the sky. I was curious, and physics answered my questions. The basic sciences are important for problem solving, they are the foundation of our entire existence and physics specifically can help to curb some of the issues in the continent. At ASP I’ve seen different perspectives from people who have done so much for Africa and physics. It is really capacitating.”
Kenya: Gloria Katunge
Gloria Katunge, 26, is focusing on materials science for her MSc at the University of Nairobi, driven by her desire to solve societal problems.
“Physics holds a lot of promise for Africa because it is the surest solution to daily challenges such as water shortages and power outages still faced by developing countries. My ultimate career goal is to be a solar specialist and help resolve power issues across the globe.
“This [ASP] has been a life-changing experience as I have learnt a lot of physics concepts and how they apply to real life settings. This will go a long way in shaping my future as a physicist.”
Morocco: Fatima Zahra Bendebba
Fatima Zahra Bendebba, 27, is a doctoral student in high energy physics at Hassan II University of Casablanca.
“The lectures have taught us a lot about accelerators and particle physics, which are two of my favourite fields. I also hope I will have the chance to benefit from the internship at Brookhaven National laboratory in the US, and eventually obtain a postdoc position after my PhD. I hope to take part in ASP2024 in Morocco – but this time as a lecturer to share my experience with new ASP participants!”
South Africa: Dimakatso Maheso
University of Johannesburg MSc student Dimakatso Maheso, 23, is interested in astrophysics.
“I love physics because I am intrigued by nature and why it operates the way it does. Now, I understand it better. Physics has applications in almost all industries and ASP has shown me how we can use our knowledge to solve problems. Using my knowledge is far more powerful than just having it. Also, it showed me that I do not have to solve all of Africa’s problems – I can start with my community and then expand from there.”
South Africa: Amogelang Moeng
Amogelang Moeng, 27, is studying astrophysics for her masters degree at the University of Johannesburg.
“Science shapes our world and tells a story of where we come from, where we are right now, and where we are going. The school has been very intense but so exciting at the same time, and I have learnt new concepts that align with my current project. I have also had the opportunity to make new friends from across Africa and I hope to collaborate with most of them on projects. The future looks exciting!”
Togo: Augustin Sopkor
Augustin Sokpor, 25, who holds an MSc in Physics from Université de Lomé, sees physics as key for developing the continent.
“This has helped me to understand atomic and nuclear physics. It opened my mind on particle accelerations and on the Big Bang theory, and it also showed me what other countries are doing in terms of scientific research.”
Zimbabwe: Arnold Mutubuki
MSc Physics student Arnold Mutubuki, 29, is an international student at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha. He is interested in nanophotonic materials.
“Physics is essential to understanding our modern technological society and it is significant that 2022 was the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainability. Physics has the potential to transform Africa in all sectors of industry.
“This school has exposed me to a larger world of physics, from learning about the smallest known particles to appreciating the existence of dark matter. I have been following closely lectures on particle physics, accelerators, radiation and medical physics, materials physics, and nanoscience. It has been a great platform to network with highly esteemed physicists from different parts of the world. I now have a broader vision of how physics can transform our continent.”