news highlights

Building Science Foundations

ICTP's African master's programme welcomes first students

26/10/2018 - Trieste

At ICTP's new partner institute in Rwanda, the East African Institute for Fundamental Research (EAIFR), a small group of students could be seen chatting politely to each other outside of a freshly renovated classroom. The students, from throughout Africa, are the first to be admitted to EAIFR's new physics masters programme, an ambitious and unique course of study that the centre sees as an important step in building a foundation for Africa's science future.

Student _Group
ICTP-EAIFR faculty member Marcello Musso (far right) with some of EAIFR's new master's students

"We hope that EAIFR will be the most important physics centre in Africa," said ICTP Director Fernando Quevedo. "We want to help create a real culture of science in the region, to train young scientists and to do research in-house."

ICTP has more than 50 years' experience in building sustainable science in disadvantaged countries, hosting more than 140,000 visits by scientists from more than 180 countries since its inception in 1964. More recently, it has expanded its presence in developing countries by opening partner institutes in Brazil, Mexico, and soon China, bringing its brand of quality education, training and research closer to the scientists who need it the most.

According to Quevedo, support for science in Africa is improving. Rwanda, for example, showed a keen interest to support an ICTP branch in its country, one that could serve as a regional hub for science in Africa. "Governments and policymakers have realized that science is a key partner in the whole development of countries in this continent," said Quevedo. He cautions, though, that governments need to take a longer-term perspective to the benefits of science to society. "Scientists know that science is a long-term investment. You have to start by establishing a culture of science in the country, building up that core of basic science and then see how it can be applied," he explained.

ICTP-EAIFR's new students--there are 16 of them in this first intake, from six African countries--are eager to be a part of the continent's science foundation building. "Having ICTP here in Africa will help, because in Africa we have had a shortage of researchers that can help communities to set policies that are based on science; we know science is the basic in all dimensions of life. ICTP, as a theoretical centre, will help researchers advance their research and then bring back their knowledge to their governments for further development," said Jean Claude Uwayezu, a student from Rwanda.

Group _Building
Attendees of ICTP-EAIFR's inauguration pose in front of the institute


EAIFR student Alaa Bakhit, of Sudan, agrees, saying, "The institution will open new doors for Africa, especially in physics. African physics students will be able to follow their interests. It will be good for physics students to stay in Africa to study. If it is available and affordable for them in their home countries I think it would be better for them, to be with their families who can support them."

Some of the new students, like Aloys Rubwiriza, already have clear vision of how they will apply their new knowledge after they complete their studies. "I have been interested in geophysics since I was a child. I come from a northern province in Rwanda where there are volcanos, and in that region, there are some phenomena that happen like earthquakes and other events. I have a dream that through physics I will understand better these phenomena, I will know what is happening in the earth," said Rubwiriza.

ICTP Director Quevedo, himself from a developing country (Guatemala), offered this advice to the new students: "Don't give up on your dreams. Follow your passion. A career in science makes you the best-prepared person for the future. If you are a scientist, you have been trained to solve problems, to do analytical and critical thinking, and then you can adapt to any job."

--Mary Ann Williams