NITheCS sponsored one of the tracks at this year’s SAIP Conference, held 1-8 July 2022. We then asked the winners of the NITheCS-sponsored prizes to talk about their work, and their impressions of the SAIP conference and its value for young scientists.

Blessed NgwenyaBlessed Arthur Ngwenya won the prize for the best PhD oral presentation. This is his third SAIP conference prize for presentations. His area of research is ‘quantum chromodynamics, in particular, the phenomenology of heavy-ion collisions using AdS/CFT and Lattice QCD techniques. This area of research seeks to improve our understanding of the early universe (i.e. a few microseconds after the Big Bang), as well as one of the fundamental forces (the strong force) governing the laws and interactions in nature.’

He adds: ‘SAIP is great, as one can engage with the broader physics community and many young, upcoming researchers. I’ve gained exposure to the physics research being conducted by colleagues in other tracks covered at the SAIP conferences. In addition, SAIP conferences provide an opportunity to present abstract research concepts to a broad audience. This opens room for one to build invaluable skills for science communication.’

What were his impressions on the award? ‘Winning the NITheCS-sponsored prize was very exciting. I’ve now won this prize three times during my postgraduate studies (Honours 2018, Masters 2019 and now PhD 2022). It is reassuring for me as a young researcher in my field and builds confidence in the work I do.

‘I hope this feat inspires other aspiring young researchers, especially those from socio-economically disadvantaged communities like myself. A special thanks goes to my supervisors, Prof W. A. Horowitz (UCT) and Prof A. K. Rothkopf (University of Stavanger). These professors play a huge role in my growth and career development.’

The NITheCS prize for the best MSc oral presentation at the SAIP Conference went to Akshay Durgapersadh.Akshay Durgapersadh

About his work he says: ‘I am currently doing my Masters thesis on Wigner functionals in quantum optics. I focus on using this new formalism in ghost imaging, which has not been done before. This could lead to more accurate measurements over conventional means.’

Aksay adds: ‘I am proud to have participated in the SAIP conference. I have been able to showcase my work to others and am honoured to receive the NITheCS-sponsored prize. This motivates me to work harder and shows me that there is an interest in my work. I also thank my supervisor and co-supervisor for their effort in supervising me for this project.’

Jean du PlessisThe NITheCS award for best poster presentation during the SAIP Conference 2022 went to Jean du Plessis. He comments: While working on the poster for which I won the prize, Prof Will Horowitz and I realised that a mathematical (integral regularisation) tool he thought of to simplify a calculation, might have more general value. So, we are currently exploring the generality and applicability of the method in several parts of Quantum Field Theory.’

About his prize, Jean says: ‘I was pleasantly surprised and happy to win. While the cash part of the prize helps financially, my hope is that this gets more eyes on my work. Feedback, criticism and collaboration are all extremely useful for doing good research.’

He adds: ‘SAIP 2022 was my first conference, so it was naturally eye-opening with regard to the wider academic world.’

NITheCS is proud to be associated with these winners. We wish them great success in their future careers and for the research they are doing and will do in future.