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22 June 2022
Nuclear Physics Students Attend Prestigious Conference in France
Sinegugu Mthembu and Ignasio Wakundyanaye, two nuclear physics students from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), got the “opportunity of a lifetime” to participate in the Shapes and Symmetries in Nuclei (SSNET) conference in France.

There they came up with a very simple plan – soak up as much knowledge as possible from the top scientific minds in attendance and make their peers sit up and take note. They did both superbly and flew the UWC flag high at this prestigious event.
The SSNET conference brings together the very best in the business of nuclear structure. Ordinarily, they gather every two years, but COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works. So there was a lot of anticipation and excitement around this year’s event.
More than 200 delegates participated, both online and in-person, in the conference at the iJCLab in Orsay in the southwestern suburb of Paris.
As everyone knows, France is famous for its fashion, film, and food. But on this occasion, it was the meeting point for insightful discussions around the various shapes and geometrical symmetries of the nucleus as well as other symmetries and symmetry breaking.

For Mthembu and Wakundyayane, this was a dream come true.

“Over the years, we've had collaborations with scientists from China and France and this presented a good opportunity to meet in person and discuss ongoing projects,” explained Mthembu, who is in her fourth year of a PhD in nuclear physics at UWC.

“This was very relevant to my topic of interest. I am looking at the rotation of excited nuclei with triaxial shape.”

SSNET 2022 had 209 participants; 73 of them made the trip to Orsay.
Wakundyanaye said the main attraction at the conference was the session on triaxial nuclei. “That is the subject of my research for my PhD thesis. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting and learning from the leaders of this sub-field of nuclear physics research. And I had the privilege of being exposed to the recent developments in nuclear physics in a much broader sense.”

The in-person attendees were required to create a poster presentation on a nuclear topic. “We basically had to stand in front of our posters and tell others about our work and then answer any questions they had,” said Mthembu.

The judges were so impressed that they crowned her second place winner.

“Winning the award was a highlight and was such an unexpected win for me simply because it was my first time presenting my work to the scientific community and experts in this field.”