JEMS-23 results: forming basis for new round of JINR-RSA cooperation development

News, 02 October 2023

On 15 September, a regular round table with the JINR Directorate summed up the results of the 23rd JINR International Training Programme (JEMS-23). JEMS was specially organized for representatives of universities and research centres of the Republic of South Africa for the first time. The internship was the result of an agreement between JINR and the National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) as part of the work of the Joint South Africa-JINR Coordination Committee. Growing mutual interest in developing cooperation, in particular regarding matters of personnel training, impelled an RSA-only JEMS programme.

Opening the JEMS-23 round table, Vice-Director of the Joint Institute Vladimir Kekelidze noted the more than 30-year history of cooperation between JINR and South African scientists. “During this time, hundreds of students have completed internships in our laboratories, and academic exchange programmes have been implemented between South Africa and JINR. We hope that in the future even more projects of mutual interest will be implemented, and the community that is engaged in the development of applied and fundamental research in nuclear physics, particle physics, and energy will only expand,” Vladimir Kekelidze emphasised, welcoming representatives of 11 universities and two scientific centres of South Africa.

In his welcoming speech, JINR Scientific Leader and Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Victor Matveev said that conducting the JEMS practice for South African specialists has become an important and valuable experience for the Institute. “We are very pleased to exchange views and ideas on ways to develop and strengthen further cooperation,” he noted, wishing the participants new successes in their scientific organizations after completing the JEMS internship. On behalf of the JINR Directorate, the Chief Scientific Secretary Sergey Nedelko also took part in the round table.

The South African delegation was headed by Rudolph Nchodu, Deputy Director of the National Accelerator Centre, iThemba LABS, and Coordinator of the South African Council for Cooperation with JINR. He noted that the opportunity to participate in JEMS allowed all participants to become closely acquainted with the activities of the Institute and identify a number of areas of mutual interest. Among these, he singled out nuclear physics, particle physics, materials science, radiobiology, radiochemistry, nuclear medicine, and energy.

During the round table, representatives of South Africa shared their impressions of the training programme, and spoke about their activities, identifying the main areas of research in their institutions. Many JEMS-23 participants noted the useful experience gained and new knowledge and ideas for improving educational and research activities.

“The JEMS internship programme was very intense, but it helped us get an idea of where we could start working together. I believe that one of the most important steps towards a successful and sustainable interaction is building human resources and developing programmes to improve the skills of South African employees to work at the Joint Institute facilities,” Pradish Rampersadh, Research and Innovation Group Executive of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), said.

An employee of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Lumkile Msebi, noted that the JEMS internship is an excellent platform for establishing scientific contacts with JINR scientists, in particular, from the Laboratory of Neutron Physics. “In the future, we would like not only to expand the range of research conducted at our university, but to work in the field of personnel training, in particular on the basis of joint exchange programmes. Often, UWC students do not have the opportunity to conduct research with the necessary equipment. Close cooperation with JINR will help them gain the necessary knowledge and skills,” Lumkile Msebi added.

Lecturer of the Department of Physics at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) Ndanduleni Lethole also spoke about the importance of the participation of South African scientific youth in JINR educational programmes. “I was very interested in the START training programme for our students, since it will allow them to be involved in research in nuclear physics, neutron physics, spintronics, and magnetic materials, which our university would like to develop,” he pointed out.

An important addition to JEMS-23 was the participation of representatives of technological institutes of South Africa – the Central University of Technology (CUT) and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) – who had not previously had joint projects with JINR. Head of the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Gerhard Beukes from CUT University, drew attention to the difficulties in the education system of South Africa in his speech. He thanked JINR for the opportunity to learn new things and return home with ideas about the development of scientific initiatives in the country and ways to improve the skills of specialists.

Many of the JEMS-23 participants noted the special atmosphere of the internship. “I have visited many countries of the world and it is the first time that I see such professionalism, openness and willingness to help and answer all questions,” Professor Elisha Markus from the Central University of Technology highlighted in his commentary.

The round table was concluded with a momentous ceremony of presenting participants with completion certificates of the JEMS-23 internship.