Prof Irvy (Igle) Gledhill is Visiting Adjunct Professor in Flow Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a BSc (Hons) from Rhodes University and a PhD in plasma physics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her postdoctoral work was done at the University of California, Los Angeles (on thermonuclear fusion) and at Stanford (on Space Shuttle physics).

For 30 years, she specialised in transonic computational fluid dynamics at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). As an applied computational physicist, she also contributed within multidisciplinary collaborations, such as those on rational drug design, ocean engineering and mine safety.

NITheCS is proud to be associated with this extraordinary scientist, who also played a leading role in the development and preparation of the Science Case*, strategy and Roadmap** for the Transitioning from the National Institute for Theoretical Physics (NITheP) to NITheCS.

Prof Gledhill is a Past President of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) and a council member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. She has also been a member of the World Cultural Council Interdisciplinary Committee and served on the executive of the global Gender Gap project initiated by the International Science Council. Within the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), she has chaired Working Group 5 on Women in Physics. She is a Member of Sigma Xi, and has served as an editor and editor-in-chief of African Physics Newsletter.

Prof Gledhill currently serves as a member of the American Physical Society Committee for International Scientific Affairs and as vice-president of International Relations and Scientific Affairs for the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC).

She comments on the value of national science institutes: “I think of an ideal national institute, especially a theoretical and computational one, as jumping with students, as having vigorous whiteboards in the coffee room, and as having a continual stream of think-tank events. ICTP in Italy makes space for families at workshops and that changes the lives of parents making extended visits. Science is, fundamentally, fun. At the heart lies the real ‘Aha!’”

She continues: “A national institute has to be warmly welcoming; the staff have to have the time to understand where the students are coming from, and where they are going to. That is a fundamental thing that can make an institute African in its character: the trouble taken by everyone to engage with the mind, to recognise the humanity in each other, and to embark on a joint journey.”

Prof Gledhill says ‘chairing the group that made the science case for NITheCS was an amazing experience. It was like a room with sixteen Ferraris in it. Each person on that team had an astronomical depth of vision and huge scientific street cred. I cannot thank the people in that team enough for providing their real knowledge of institute dynamics (‘what could possibly go wrong?’), digging into their experience (‘this is how it could work’), and finding the road together. Absolute transparency and complete impartiality in decision-making were among the principles set up for such a broadly themed institute.”

* Building the science case for NITheP reconfiguration
** NITheCS Roadmap