(Published - 2 October 2018)
Nuclear researchers, senior officials, managers, specialists from state institutions, and educational and scientific organisations of Bulgaria, Egypt, Italy, Vietnam and South Africa came to Dubna, Russia, to participate in the JINR Expertise for Member States and Partner Countries (JEMS-8) in September 2018.
Among them were the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Director of Research, Prof Burtram Fielding, and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Prof Michael Davies-Coleman (who was also representing the South African National Science Dean’s forum, of which he is currently Chairperson).
JEMS is a training programme run by the Dubna-based Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), a multidisciplinary international centre for fundamental research in nuclear physics and related fields of science and technology.
South Africa has been an Associate Member of JINR since 1994. The Department of Science and Technology funds this Associate Member status, and through the NRF provides travel scholarships for staff and students to carry out collaborative research at the JINR (and in the case of postgraduate students, to attend their annual three-week summer school set up for South African learners). Many UWC students are being trained there on nuclear-related techniques during this annual three week Student Practice training programme.
“UWC has always been well-represented at the JINR summer school over the years,” Prof Davies-Coleman notes, “and some UWC Science Faculty staff have really taken advantage of collaborative opportunities at the Institute.”
The UWC reps attended a series of very interesting lectures, were given tours of the particle accelerator and other impressive JINR facilities, and took part in several discussions around collaborative opportunities.
“The purpose of our attendance was to explore the many opportunities for possible collaboration with the JINR,” explains Prof Davies-Coleman. “That extends beyond nuclear physics - although JINR does have primarily a nuclear research focus, it also accommodates a number of associated research areas, like nanoscience and materials science, which are of interest to a broad range of researchers.”
One of those researchers is UWC’s Prof Leslie Petrik, who leads the Environmental Nano Science Research Group in the Department of Chemistry, and serves on the Joint Coordinating Committee for the JINR/SA partnership.
Prof Petrik collaborates in the partnership’s Applied Nuclear programme and has developed strong research ties with JINR over the last 10 years with several of her UWC students utilising the facilities at Dubna quite extensively for their postgraduate research on joint projects.
“These trips give students an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the many diverse aspects of nuclear sciences, and receive practical hands-on training on the fundamental properties of matter and nuclear technologies,” notes Prof Petrik. “But it’s not just of relevance for nuclear physicists. JINR is not about creating the atom bomb but is about creating new elements, as well as understanding and using subatomic particles.”
The Institute was established with the aim of uniting the efforts, and scientific and material potentials of its Member States for investigations of the fundamental properties of matter.
“And of course, the international experience gives students some sense of how big an enterprise science really is, and how it takes many minds to solve a problem.”
Fun Fact: The JINR is perhaps most famous for synthesising new heavy chemical elements like Dubnium, Flerovium and Moscovium, which have extended the known Periodic Table of the Elements which is central to all of chemistry and was originally formulated by the Russian, Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.
Photo credit: Photos by Igor Lapenko, JINR Scientific Information Department