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SA and German physicists host a workshop on nuclear spectroscopy

Three representatives
Prof John Carter of University of the Witwatersrand, Derek Hanekom, Minister of Science and Technology, and Prof Dr Peter von Neumann-Cosel of the Institute of Nuclear Physics, Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany)

South African and German physicists hosted a workshop from 19 to 22 November as part of the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013.

Held at Stellenbosch University, the International Workshop on Nuclear Spectroscopy Frontiers at Magnetic Spectrometers focused on the physics vision for high energy resolution nuclear spectroscopy. South Africa's Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, and the German Consul General, Roland Herrmann, addressed delegates on the second day of the workshop, which celebrated a collaboration of nearly two decades between iThemba LABS, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Technical University Darmstadt in this field.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Minister Hanekom told the scientists and researchers that nuclear astrophysics was of increasing international interest and tied in well with South Africa's established strength in nuclear research. Reflecting on the German-South African collaboration on science and technology, the Minister said it was a fine example of how nations of the world could work together, despite differences in strengths and levels of development. "To take our collaboration to the envisaged heights, we need to explore increased training of students and university staff, including for PhDs and postdoctoral programmes, together with mentorship and exchange programmes," he said.

Consul General Hermann told the scientists and researchers that international science collaboration was about bringing people together to share and exchange ideas and experiences. "In this sense, this particular partnership demonstrates how it can be done and how important the human interaction between scientists is to sustain long-term collaboration," said Hermann. He said the Year of Science aimed to strengthen and deepen the existing cooperation between the two countries in research areas of strategic importance. "Furthermore, we aim to expand existing research networks and build new ones, particularly among emerging young scientists. Another important objective is the intensification of science communication and outreach with the help of various media and communication platforms."

The highly specialised workshop was a good example of the fruits of the long and successful collaboration of physicists in South Africa and Germany, led by Prof. John Carter of Wits, Prof. Roger Fearick of the University of Cape Town, Prof. Dr Achim Richter and Prof. Dr Peter von Neumann-Cosel of the Institut für Kernphysik, Technische Hochschule, Darmstadt, Germany.

The collaboration started in the early 1990s around the K600 magnetic spectrometer at iThemba LABS in Cape Town, a facility of the Department of Science and Technology. It now includes scientists from the Research Centre for Nuclear Physics (RCNP) in Osaka, Japan (Professors Yoshi Fujita, Atsushi Tamii and Kichiji Hatanaka) and has become a very strong collaboration between the three groups.

So far, funds have been secured to purchase equipment with which to improve the spectrometer. Recently €70 000 was committed by the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, which was matched by over R700 000 from South Africa's National Research Foundation. The spectrometer was commissioned towards the end of 2010, making it and the Grand Raiden Magnetic Spectrometer at RCNP the only facilities of their kind in the world.
Student work done in this regard has since led to 12 articles published in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters. In addition, six students have completed their PhDs, and another three PhDs are in progress. Two masters' studies have been completed and one is under way.