Rwanda is hosting the fourth biennial African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications that is taking place at the University of Rwanda’s College of Sciences and Technology from August 1 and is expected to end on 19th.
The programme brought together 56 students from 29 foreign countries and 20 from Rwanda, most of the students being on masters and PhD programmes.
The same programme has also attracted 40 lecturers, 32 of them international.
The first edition of the programme was held in South Africa in 2010, the second in 2012 in Ghana and the third in 2014 in Senegal.
Prof. Ketevi Assamagan, a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York, and the chair of the international organising committee, said the objective of the programme is to help improve capacity in Africa in fundamental Physics by bringing international lecturers and talented African students together.
“After this school, they build connections amongst themselves. In doing that, we expose these students to all avenues of higher education, international community and this is an important aspect to the development of Africa,” he said.
Dr Jean Uwamahoro, a senior lecturer of Physics at University of Rwanda’s College of Education and member of the local organising committee, said Rwanda was chosen after it successfully hosted the African school of space science and the African workshop on geoPhysics in 2014 and the two events demonstrated the country’s commitment to promote science.
Prof. Manassé Mbonye, the principal of College of Sciences and Technology, said summer schools are a way of expanding a given field.
“People come and meet and this is where discoveries are made. It is a place where the top physicists are gathered. Traditionally, we don’t have those options in Africa. This used to happen in Europe,” he said.
“We believe everything is ultimately Physics. Thus, understanding Physics is understanding our surroundings, our universe. It gives you a good understanding of not only the dynamics but also of why things are what they are.”
Uche Ogbannaya, a student from Nigeria, said the programme is an opportunity to meet students and professors in different research fields and learn from them.
He added that Physics has a major role to play in African development.
“The major problem of Africa is power generation. Physics has a major role to play in electronics, cosmology, nuclear or solar energy. For Africa to develop, African governments need to improve Physics,” he said.
Women students advised their counterparts to overcome fear and undertake sciences.
Alice Ikuzwe, a Rwandan doing PhD in Physics in South Africa, said women should change their mindset and study sciences.
“We have many role models who showed us it’s possible. It’s no longer a reserve for male, even women can do it,” she said.
“Women should not fear sciences. They must know that they equally have the potential and devote themselves to do sciences,” added Adji Yaram Diop, a PhD student in Physics from Senegal.
Commenting on this, Mbonye said there is need to start the programme early in elementary schools.
In line with that, Rwanda academy of sciences will be created soon with the mission to advance science in the region through creating awareness, looking for funds and scholarships, and promoting research, consultations, among others.
Hosting Centre for Theoretical Physics
Meanwhile, Prof. Mbonye revealed that the College of Sciences and Technology will host the fifth branch of International Centre for Theoretical Physics, based in Italy.
The centre will be called “East African Centre for fundamental research” to cater for the entire Africa.
Other centres are in Mexico to cover the Latin America, Turkey for the Middle East, Italy for Europe and China for Asia.
“Everything is already in place; we will be launching it soon, in this year. It is going to be a hub of research that is unparalleled in this area,” he said.
It will also host conferences, workshops and schools. It will help in capacity building, providing a chance to create the best physicists in Africa who can go out and compete with others.
He said that the centre means a lot for Rwanda. “We will be using it to build capacity. It is also bringing us the Masters programme in Physics that will start off with 25 students and later PhD at the international level from the next year.