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Building Foundations: School on Nonlinear Physics in Cameroon

International School on Nonlinear Dynamics in Complex Systems attracts 115 participants

09/12/2011 - Trieste

The University of Yaoundé I in Cameroon can boast of is over 1000 students pursuing degrees in Physics, around 100 PhD candidates in physics, and a very strong group working on non-linear dynamics in complex systems. And, from 31 October to 11 November, the University along with ICTP organized a two-week advanced International School on Nonlinear Dynamics in Complex Systems.

Markus Müller and Matteo Marsili, scientists in ICTP's Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics section and directors of school, said they were impressed by the interest in the field and the number of participants that the activity attracted.

"This level of interest in pursuing theoretical physics is quite exceptional for Africa," says Marsili. "And that is why ICTP involvement is important because it helps the researchers acquire an international dimension and see where their research fits in the larger scheme."

"Activities such as these will help foster international collaborations and result in joint projects and papers," adds Müller.

Both Müller and Marsili said organizing the school helped them better understand the needs of researchers working in developing countries such as Cameroon. ICTP's role in helping researchers who are doing science in difficult conditions was very apparent, they said.

"This activity made it clear that promoting basic science in the region is a much needed cause. Because the number of physicists in Africa is low, many of the Cameroonian physicists are easily absorbed into universities not just in Cameroon but all over Africa," says Müller.

Marsili agrees, "One got the sense that doing basic science in the developing parts of the world is really meaningful. We could see that basic science fills the immediate need for a strong teaching foundation, but more importantly, it is definitely making a long-term impact by building up a scientific community capable of world-class research."

"Teaching basic science has a broad impact much beyond the very science itself; it shapes critical thinking among people, and this will help in understanding of complex problems and devising solutions, which are crucial to tackle issues in developing countries," adds Müller.