XI Tastes of Nuclear PhysicsAttendees of XI Tastes of Nuclear Physics at the University of the Western Cape

The Western Cape in South Africa is home to Koeberg, Africa’s only nuclear power station, as well as iThemba LABS, Africa’s leading research facility for accelerator-based science. It is fitting then that the 11th edition of the Tastes of Nuclear Physics was back at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in a hybrid format from 22 to 24 March 2023.

This year, Tastes celebrated the commissioning of the Modern African Nuclear DEtector LAboratories (MANDELAB) at UWC and the University of Zululand (UZ). This project is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the UK and NITheCS, and led by the University of York, UZ and UWC.  The project aims to secure state-of-the-art nuclear training for a new generation of students at two historically disadvantaged institutions with modern research capabilities and technology-transfer exchange programmes. The research is carried out at MANDELAB and laboratories elsewhere, including CERN, TRIUMF, ILL and iThemba LABS, and requires high-demanding calculations and big-data analysis. Many years of support from the University of York and STFC in the UK has enabled over 20 students and young staff from UWC and UZ to participate in intense training with particle detectors and computer simulations in state-of-the-art facilities at the University of York.

The 11th edition programme was more multidisciplinary than ever, encompassing astronomy, biology, medicine and nuclear physics, as one of the goals was to bring together the machine learning community. Nuclear applications were also a big part of the programme, in particular the advent of cheap and reliable detector technologies for cancer imaging. High-resolution imaging technology may allow the precise and early localisation of cancer. This new approach is based on quantum entanglement and uses inexpensive plastic scintillators, which substantially reduces the cost of cancer imaging stations compared to current technologies.

Keynote speakers at this year’s event included world leaders in Quantum Computers, Francesco Petruccione (NITheCS); in Nuclear Applications, David Jenkins (York) and Magdalena Kowalska (CERN); and experts in Machine Learning, Morten Hjorth-Jensen (Oslo/MSU), Japie Greeff (NWU) and Michelle Lochner (UWC). This year, Tastes was sponsored by STFC, York, UWC, UZ and NITheCS.

This was the first hybrid Tastes, bringing exciting new physics to attendees in South Africa and across the globe. Nuclear physicist and UWC Professor Nico Orce said: “Our objectives are always the same: enthusing our students towards their highest education and Physics achievements by attracting world-class speakers to instruct them on timely topics in Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics and enlightening them on new research possibilities and state-of-the-art facilities. Students and staff from South Africa and elsewhere enjoyed this event again with expert speakers and an excellent atmosphere. It has raised motivation and energy levels to achieve our next goals which, as always, seem impossible… until they’re done!”