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UWC Nanoscience student hangs out with Nobel Prize winners

Author: Institutional Advancement: (021) 959 2625

Last year, UWC Materials Nanoscience PhD student Zebib Yunus Nuru was one of the elite young scientists who was invited to attend the 62nd annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Last year, UWC Materials Nanoscience PhD student Zebib Yunus Nuru was one of the elite young scientists who was invited to attend the 62nd annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, a week of lectures, discussions and social activities that took place in the small town of Lindau in southern Germany.

Each year, the conference allows budding young researchers to meet Nobel laureates in a particular field of research. In 2012 the meeting focused on Physics, and was attended by 27 recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physics and 592 junior physical scientists from 69 countries. Topics discussed at the meeting included cosmology and particle physics, dark matter and supersymmetry, the future of physics, climate change and alternate energy sources.

Zebib’s research, undertaken under the supervision of Professor Chris Arendse and iThemba Labs, focuses on multilayer solar absorber materials for high temperature applications - Zebib synthesises and tests materials that are combined so as to absorb solar energy more efficiently. “I’m interested in working in the field of nanotechnology, particularly as it is applied to solar energy solutions, because of the global energy crisis that we now face,” she explains. “I deal with solar energy because it’s available everywhere, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s free of charge. South Africa enjoys more than 2500 hours of sunshine a year, so it is worthwhile to work on nanomaterials for solar energy applications.”

Not only did she get to attend lectures (not all of which she could understand fully, naturally) by such renowned laureates as James Watson Cronin, Robert Laughlin, who received the 1998 Nobel Prize and William Daniel Philips, she even got to talk shop with them. “I had a few conversations with James Cronin, and I was so inspired by his personality. He was keen to find out about my background and my current research interests and projects. He happily shared a number of wise words with me that will help me to carry on my research and to achieve further success in my career.”

Zebib is continuing her work at iThemba Labs, and is still excited that she gets to fabricate or synthesise material in the lab and to study its physical, chemical, optical and other properties at the nanoscale. “I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years,” she says. “Hopefully I’ll be leading a research group somewhere, still working on materials science. I’m very comfortable with experimental work, now that I know I have a talent for that. I’d also like to teach at a university level, to advise and supervise and offer my knowledge to others.”

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