18 September 2020 to 31 December 2021
Zoom Meetings
Africa/Johannesburg timezone
Seminar 05 February 2021: Time: 13:00HRS SA <b>Topic:</b> The African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics (ASFAP)

Upcoming Topics - Programme

Date: 25 June 2021

Title: New Eyes on the sun

Speaker: Dr. Martin Snow


We are entering a new and exciting era of solar observations.  From ground-based telescopes like the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) to spacecraft like Solar Orbiter that touches the edge of the Sun, we have unprecedented views of solar activity.  Our fleet of operational solar observatories has also grown in recent years to include the Solar UltraViolet Imager (SUVI) on the GOES-R series of satellites.  I will give an overview of recent spectrographs and imagers, and what we hope to learn from each.  This is an exciting time for both solar physics, and for understanding the Sun-Earth connection and Space Weather.

CV of the speaker:

Dr. Martin Snow is the newly appointed SANSA SARCHI Research Chair in Space Weather. He has a Ph.D. in Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Science from the University of Colorado in the USA. His expertise lies in the area of Solar Physics, with a specialized skillset in solar irradiance measurements. During his career, he has been the lead instrument scientist on a number of satellite missions gathering solar measurements. His valuable experience in South Africa lies in his knowledge of Solar Physics, and related space instruments and data.

Dr. Snow is currently actively involved with research related to ultra-violet Solar Spectral Irradiance (SSI) observation and data production. He is also an instrumentalist, working with calibration on satellite observatories. He has obtained leadership experience across a range of institutions. He has published extensively and given many keynote and plenary addresses. Dr. Snow has mentored numerous students in the USA and is looking forward to working with students, researchers and universities in South Africa to grow their expertise and capability here. He comes to SANSA from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder in the USA.

Date: 11 June 2021

Title: From Thermoluminescence to Time Travel

Speaker: Dr Sheron Ann Holgate


Join award-winning science writer and broadcaster Dr. Sharon Ann Holgate as she talks about her journey from a physics research lab to appearing on the BBC and writing for the national press. In this light-hearted presentation, Sharon Ann will reveal some of the things she has learned along the way, and give tips on how to improve your own science communication. You’ll hear some do’s and don’ts for successful writing, suggestions for making video calls and presentations that look professional, and advice on tailoring physics to different audiences and finding your own voice. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session where you can swap ideas with colleagues and ask Sharon Ann questions.

CV of speaker:

Sharon Ann Holgate has a doctorate in experimental physics from the University of Sussex in the UK, where she was a Visiting Fellow in Physics and Astronomy for nine years and is a Chartered Scientist and Chartered Physicist. She has worked for twenty-two years as a freelance science writer and broadcaster based in the UK, with broadcast credits including presenting on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4, presenting video podcasts for medical research charity the Myrovlytis Trust, and appearing on a ‘Boffins Special’ of The Weakest Link. Her articles have appeared in Science, Science Careers, New Scientist, The Times Higher Education Supplement, E&T, Flipside, Focus, Physics World, Interactions, Materials World, Modern Astronomer, and Astronomy Now, while her first book The Way Science Works (a children’s popular science book co-authored with Robin Kerrod) was shortlisted for the Aventis Prizes for Science Books Junior Prize.

She was a contributor to the popular science books 30-Second Quantum Theory and 30-Second  Energy, and her undergraduate textbook Understanding Solid State Physics is currently in use as a core text in universities around the world. Sharon Ann has written three books for her Outside the Research Lab series; Volume 1: Physics in the arts, architecture, and design, Volume 2: Physics in Vintage and Modern Transport, and Volume 3: Physics in Sport. She has also written careers material, case studies, and press releases for the Institute of Physics and careers material and brochures for The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, and given talks at venues including the Science Museum in London.

Dr Holgate was the Institute of Physics Young Professional Physicist of the Year for 2006, won a Merit Award in 1994 Daily Telegraph Young Science Writer of the Year competition, and was shortlisted for the radio programme category of the Association of British Science Writers’ Awards in 2005. Outside of work she collects contemporary ceramics, is a regular visitor to art galleries and museums, and enjoys learning about fashion history and steam locomotives.       www.sharonannholgate.com

Date: 07 May 2021

Fast Neutron Beams at the NRF-iThemba LABS Facility

Speaker: Dr Peane Maleka - NRF-iThemba LABS, South Africa


iThemba LABS is a national facility of the National Research Foundation, South Africa. Activities at the facility are based around a number of subatomic particle accelerators. The largest, a K-200 separated sector cyclotron, accelerates protons to a maximum energy of 200 MeV and heavier particles to much higher energies. The iThemba LABS neutron beam experimental vault is one of the few facilities available to provide quasi-monoenergetic neutron beams in the energy range, 30 MeV to 200 MeV. Quasi-monoenergetic neutron beams in this range are produced in the neutron experimental vault via the 7 Li(p,xn) or 10 Be(p,xn) reactions for varying thicknesses of Li and Be targets. Collimated fan beams are possible at neutron emission angles amongst others of 0˚ and 16˚. The neutron beam facility is designated by the National Metrology Institute of South Africa as an entity responsible for providing traceability for the medium and high-energy neutron measurements in South Africa. Thus, the facility is intended to support neutron metrology community and neutron science research. For this contribution, we highlight some of the previous activities of the facility, ongoing developments and future plans.

CV of speaker:

Peane Maleka is a research scientist based at the National Research Foundation (NRF) facility, iThemba LABS in Cape Town. His main activities are currently centred on the development of accelerator-based neutron sources and their prospect for the future of neutron science. He is coordinating the development of neutron beam vault at iThemba LABS in collaboration with National Metrology Institute of South Africa, Physics Departmentof the University of Cape Town, PTB (in Germany), IRSN (in France) and NPL (UK). In addition, iThemba LABS and Necsa participate within the BrightnESS² consortium, an integrated program in support of long-term sustainability of the European Spallation Source, its community and the network of neutron sources in Europe and beyond. His research interests are still in the field of applied nuclear science. Peane has (co)supervised a number of postgraduate students from various universities in South Africa and other African countries on projects related to applied nuclear science.

Date: 09 April 2021

Giant Resonance Studies with the K600 Magnetic Spectrometer

Speaker: Dr. Lindsay Donaldson - iThemba Labs


The Giant Resonances (GRs) are collective motions of nucleons in a nucleus. The first indication of the existence of GRs was the dominant GR structure observed in photoabsorption measurements, which is now known as the IsoVector Giant Dipole Resonance (IVGDR). Although photoabsorption is the tool used most extensively to study the IVGDR, direct nuclear reactions like inelastic scattering have proven to be just as effective, avoiding some of the experimental complications of direct photoabsorption measurements, provided that the appropriate kinematics are selected.

The inelastic scattering of protons or alpha particles with beam energies of a few hundred MeV at scattering angles close to 0 degrees has been used extensively at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (iThemba LABS) to study both the broad and fine structure of various GRs. A general overview of giant resonances and their measurement will be provided. In addition, some specific experimental results will be discussed with a particular focus on the IVGDR in the rare-earth region. The results from iThemba LABS will be compared and contrasted with those from photoabsorption studies and the implications of these comparisons will be addressed.

CV of speaker:

Lindsay Donaldson is a Research Scientist in the Department of Subatomic Physics at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences in Cape Town. She completed her doctorate in Nuclear Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2016. Her research focuses on the study of the broad and fine structure of giant resonances using relativistic Coulomb excitation, and her current projects include investigations into resolving discrepancies between (p,p’) and photoabsorption measurements.

Date: 19 February 2021

Title:  How the blue skies research created billions of Rands worth of impact in South Africa.

Speaker: Prof. Mike Kosh - South African National Space Agency (SANSA)


We are fascinated by the polar auroras, optical displays of great beauty which have been studied for many decades. The advent of digital technologies has allowed digital image processing to be applied to the study of elusive phenomena such as the black auroras and the artificial auroras. Wildfires are a huge socio-economic problem in Africa. Advanced image processing techniques learned from studying the auroras has been applied to rapid remote detection of wildfire smoke plumes. Hundreds of night-vision cameras have been deployed. A satellite burn scar analysis shows the reduction of wildfires has saved South Africa billions of Rands in economic and environmental damage.

CV of speaker:

Prof Mike Kosch was born and raised in Durban where he also achieved his BSc Electronic Engineering in 1984 and PhD in Space Physics in 1991 following a life-changing experience over-wintering at the SANAE Antarctic research station 1984-1986. He was based for over 2 decades in Europe, first as a postdoc and scientist at the Max-Planck Institute in Germany during the 1990s and then as a lecturer, professor of Experimental Space Science and faculty research Dean at Lancaster University in the UK during the 2000s. He has held research fellowships in Australia, twice Japan and twice USA as well as many research visits to Norway. Since 2014, he is the chief scientist at the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in Hermanus, managing the Space Research and Applications group including the Space Weather Unit.

He also co-directs EnviroVision Solutions, a spin-out company specialising in rapid wildfire smoke detection. His research has focussed mainly on auroral physics and the electrodynamics of the polar upper-atmosphere, primarily using night-vision optics and radars, as well as experimental plasma physics using high-power radio waves beamed into the ionosphere as a natural laboratory. He has led many experiments at major international facilities (e.g. EISCAT in Scandinavia, HAARP in Alaska and Sura in Russia). To support the research, he operates 2 optical observatories in Norway, 1 in Sutherland and assembles bespoke optical instruments. He has published over 150 papers in international peer-reviewed journals and graduated 50 postgraduate students.

Date: 05 February 2021

Title:  The African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics (ASFAP)

Speaker: Dr. Farida Fassi - Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco


The African strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics (ASFAP) would be an
excellent roadmap for enhancing Sciences and researcher development in Africa. The ASFAP initiative insofar as a physics culture is crucial for the successful development of social transformation and economic competitiveness, through human capital development and innovation. Africa having the capacity to use science for the benefit of its people. It is therefore vital for Africans to contribute to long-term sustainable training in Africa that can only be ensured through committed investments in research and development (R&D) through African-led local and international partnerships. International cooperation is a large common denominator of the culture of scientific activities. However, in many scientific disciplines and especially in the field of Fundamental and Applied Physics, the
cooperation among African countries and between them and western countries is not sufficiently developed.

In addition to lacking of skilled curriculum developers, insufficient resources for effective implementation, persistent shortages of trained science researchers, and ineffective planning. Hence, the related scientific disciplines should be gathered through a coherent programme by establishing a strong connection between the
network academic institution and the associated partners from the private sectors as well. In pursuing this vision, the African scientific communities emphasize the importance of building a synergy between experiment and practical applications which is crucial for a solid education in Africa. Africa should take its equal place as a co-leader in the global scientific process, along with all the social-economic benefits thereto. Therefore, ASFAP has become essential for Africa.

CV of Speaker:

Dr. Farida Fassi is a Professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat and a Linked Doctor at Spanish Research Council (CSIC) and a Visiting Scientist at Instituto de Física Corpuscular (IFIC). She received a B.Sc. degree in Physics from Abdelmalek Essaâdi University in Morocco in 1994. She obtained her Master’s in Nuclear and Particle Physics in 1999 and her Ph.D. in Physics in 2002 at University of Valencia in Spain. She was awarded with the European Ph.D. in experimental particle physics in recognition of her contribution in the ATLAS experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. After earning her Ph.D., she did Post-doctoral and Research positions at CSIC, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Spanish Center for Particle, Astroparticle and Nuclear Physics (CPAN) for more than ten years. Since January 1998, she is a member of the ATLAS and CMS (for CMS during this period: 2007-2011) collaborations, where the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 was announced by both experiments at LHC. She is a co-authors of numerous scientific publications. Prof Fassi is genuinely excited about her research topics that are centred around connecting theoretical particle physics with experimental results. This includes search for new physics phenomena, motivated by the presence of dark matter in our universe. She is responsible for leadership of several international research teams at ATLAS and CMS collaborations. In terms of teaching effectiveness to promote research science physics in Africa, and in particular in Morocco through numerous collaborative International Scientific Programs, she plays a leadership role in developing a network of researchers. She is convinced that particle physicists share the excitement of discovery, inspiring young minds. Prof Farida has established herself as an inspiration to young women and scientists everywhere, where girls have few educational opportunities and women are expected to stay at home. Her spirit contributes to global efforts in strengthening cultural awareness that helps to develop the next generation of scientific
researchers in Africa and in the Islamic world. She is the co-founder of the “African Strategy for Fundamental Applied Physics” (ASFAP) and the co-coordinator of “the 6th Biennial African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications” in Morocco. ASFAP´s aspirations reflect the desire for shared prosperity, entire Africa transformation by encouraging development of a science and technology culture that will promote science-led development on a sustainable basis, where the full potential of women and youth, boys and girls are realized as an inter-generational compact, to develop human capital.

Scientific production 
- Scopus Author ID:6506648426: h-index: 106.▪ Documents: 1054
- Web of Science Researcher ID F-3571-2016

Date: 20 November 2020

The African Light Source: Towards a brighter future

Speaker: Prof Simon Connell – University of Johannesburg / Chairperson - African Light Source Foundation


The Advanced Light Source (ALS) is one of the most transformative large-scale infrastructures for knowledge and innovation based sustainable socioeconomic development of the African Continent. An ALS has a broad footprint in many disciplines that include physics, chemistry, bioscience, materials science, nanoscience, geoscience, heritage science, environmental science, medical science, all fields of engineering and industrial manufacturing.  A few examples are highlighted: The current SARS-Cov-2 pandemic has emphasised the crucial role of ALS’s for the elucidation of viral structure and identification of drug and vaccine targets and the subsequent development of medical interventions. This was also true for HIV-Aids. An ALS is also seen as a most crucial contribution for African scientists to provide solutions for the disease burden specific to the African continent. The ALS has revolutionised the field of Heritage Sciences. Here Africa is the cradle of both humankind and human culture. It is crucial that Africa can play a leading role in Heritage Research.

The ALS has a crucial role in the beneficiation of the mineral wealth of Africa, and development of new energy materials, which then also deserves special attention by African geologists and materials scientists. This presentation will highlight the 4th Generation ALS and the African Light Source Foundation, with its mandated Roadmap to realise this goal for Africa.

CV of Speaker:

Prof Connell is professor of physics at the University of Johannesburg.  He has research interests in Particle Physics, Nuclear Physics, Nuclear Energy, Materials Science, Quantum Physics, High Performance Computing and Applied (innovation) Physics. His rating by the SA Research Funding Agency (NRF) cites him as having “considerable international recognition”. He is a past president of the South African Institute of Physics. He is the founding member of the South African participation in High Energy Physics at the ATLAS Experiment at CERN, where with his group he participates in a Beyond Standard Model search as well as engineering and technical activities. He has published over 150 papers in International Journals and is also an ATLAS author. He has worked for many years at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF). He is interested in technology for competitive industry and in innovation and has a project on the intelligent sensor based sorting of diamond in kimberlite, which is now being commercialized. A current major activity in the service of the discipline is the development of the South African user base for Light Sources, (these are premier international multi-disciplinary research tools) and the implementation of the roadmap towards the African Light Source. 



Date: 27 November 2020



Title:  New Insights in Time-Doain Astronomy with MeerKAT

Speaker: Prof Patrick Woudt (University of Cape Town)


In July 2018, MeerKAT started its science mission. One of the 5-year programs on MeerKAT is the ThunderKAT large survey project. ThunderKAT is a global collaborative research project involving nearly 100 researchers, including many postgraduate students from South Africa and African SKA partner countries. This legacy project on MeerKAT aims to revolutionize our understanding of the astrophysical processes in stellar explosions, accretion processes in compact stellar binaries, accretion-induced outflows, and other energetic events in the sky. This talk will include a brief background on the MeerKAT radio telescope array and its role within the Square Kilometre Array project, and will touch upon the impact that the MeerKAT project has already made in transforming the astronomical landscape in South Africa and the African continent. In this talk, I will present the main science drivers for the study of astrophysical transients and highlight the need for a comprehensive multi-wavelength approach. In this regard, the optical MeerLICHT telescope at the Sutherland station of the South African Astronomical Observatory provides an important link between the optical and radio astronomy facilities in South Africa. The MeerLICHT telescope is permanently tied to the observing schedule of MeerKAT, providing a simultaneous optical view of the transient radio sky. Given the vast size and complexity of MeerKAT data, and the globally distributed network of researchers, new ways of bringing researchers to the data have been developed through federated regional data centres. I will give some examples of our experience over the last two years in the rapid analysis and astrophysical interpretation of large MeerKAT data sets on the Ilifu research cloud, and present some of the new insights in the study of astrophysical transients with MeerKAT.

CV of Speaker:

Patrick Woudt is a professor of astronomy and the Head of the Astronomy Department at the University of Cape Town, the immediate past President of the South African Institute of Physics, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Venda. He obtained his PhD in 1998 from the University of Cape Town, and following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the European Southern Observatory (Germany) he returned to UCT in 2000. His research focuses on the study of accretion processes and accretion-induced outflows in (ultra)compact stellar binaries using optical and radio telescopes. He has co-authored over 120 peer-reviewed papers, supervised 18 MSc and 10 PhD students, and is B1 rated by the National Research Foundation. He is the co-principal investigator of the ThunderKAT large survey project on MeerKAT and the co-principal investigator of the MeerLICHT telescope.


Date: 04 December 2020

Title:  A study of COVID-19 data from African countries

Speaker: Ann Njeri : University of Manchester – United Kingdom


COVID-19 is a new pandemic disease that is affecting almost every country with a negative impact on social life and economic activities. The number of infected and deceased patients continues to increase globally. Mathematical models can help in developing better strategies to contain a pandemic. Considering multiple measures taken by African governments and challenging socio-economic factors, simple models cannot fit the data. We studied the dynamical evolution of COVID-19 in selected African countries. We derived a time-dependent reproduction number for each country studied to offer further insights into the spread of COVID-19 in Africa. In this talk, we present analysis of COVID-19 data of Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo and Zambia.

CV of Speaker:


I am an African School of Physics alumna (ASP 2016) and I am participating in the African School of Physics (ASP) Study of COVID-19 data from African countries, personally contributing by analysing the COVID-19 data from Kenya. I am currently a 3rd year PhD (Astrophysics) student at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester, UK. Employing the radio interferometric and the very long baseline interferometry techniques to explore the faint high redshifted radio source (extragalactic) population using the enhanced Multi Element Remotely Linked Interferometer Network (e-MERLIN, UK), the European VLBI Network (EVN) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA, USA). This work is contributing towards better understanding of the Star Formation History (SFH). Besides research work, I am also involved in STEM outreach and mentorship of young schoolgirls in rural Kenya under the programme "Elimisha Msichana Elimisha Jamii", (Swahili for 'Educate a Girl, Educate the entire Community'). The mentorship programme aims to ensure a 100% primary-secondary education transition for these schoolgirls.