Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Visiting South African plant for production of electronics for the European Laboratory CERN

Today a Wits team from the High-throughput electronics laboratory within the Institute for Collider Particle Physics visited Jemstech. This electronics  plant has populated the electronics boards for the first prototype made in South Africa of the Low Voltage Power Supplies (LVPS) for the upgraded Tile Calorimeter of the ATLAS Detector at CERN. The LVPS will power the future on-detector electronics of the Tile Calorimeter that is being designed for the Phase-II upgrade of this detector. South Africa is responsible for the production of over 1000 of these boards, where the PCBs are manufactured in Trax, Cape Town and passed to Jemstech for population.

The Wits team in charge of the South African production is composed of Edward Nkadimeng, Nkhosiphendule Njara, Thabo Lepota, Ryan McKenzie, Charles Sandrock, Roger van Rensburg and Bruce Mellado.

The purpose of the visit is to discuss the production of the second and close-to-final prototype of the LVPS. We discussed quality control issues, details of the bill of materials and other components. Discussed the implementation of Artificial Intelligence in the process of quality control assessment.

Chatted with the Managing Director of Jemstech who was upbeat about his plant. Jemstech delivers commissions for Airbus and will enhance its production capabilities by 600% in July.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Student support for joint Astro-Particle, Radio Astronomy and Collider Particle Physics research

The Wits Centre for Astrophysics and the Institute for Collider Particle Physics are developing joint projects to understand anomalies in Astro-Physics, the Large Hadron Collider and other experiments. Projects revolve around the study of Dark Matter, additional Bosons and other degrees of freedom that can can give a compact explanation to the above mentioned anomalies, while providing predictions for the SKA, CTA and future collider facilities around the world. Projects include the use of computational and Artificial Intelligence techniques. 

The student support comprises a bursary and travel funding. 

Prospective candidates should send an application package comprised of a letter of motivation, CV and transcripts, before February 10th 2020.

Prof. Andrew Chen, Director, Centre for Astrophysics, andrew.chen@wits.ac.za
Prof. Bruce Mellado, Director, Institute for Collider Particle Physics, bruce.mellado@wits.ac.za

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

South African PhD student giving a plenary talk at CERN during the ATLAS Week

We are proud to see Humphry Tlou, one of our South African PhD students, giving a plenary talk at CERN during the ATLAS Week. Humphry, who is currently the Running Coordinator of the Tile Calorimeter of ATLAS, gave a summary of this component of the experiment. Humphry spoke on behalf of the TileCal community. This includes a summary of the maintenance performed on all systems as we are currently in the Long Shutdown 2, work on calibration and performance, and the preparation towards the new software release that will be used during Run 3. Certification of the electronics is performed, where the detector is performing with very low level of masked channels.

Below are some pictures of Humphry presenting at the main auditorium of CERN.

Below are some pictures of some of our South African students performing maintenance work on the Tile Calorimeter.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Population of the Low Voltage Power Supply boards for the upgrade of the Tile Calorimeter of the ATLAS detector

Below are some pictures of the population of the Low Voltage Power Supply boards for the upgrade of the Tile Calorimeter of the ATLAS detector. These boards will be sitting on the detector and will provide power to critical components of the on-detector electronics. The population is taking place at Jemstech


The PCBs were manufactured in Trax


Below is the final installation of the thermal posts on a slab of 8 boards

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Visit of the South African Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation to the ATLAS experiment

Visit of the South African Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation to the ATLAS experiment

Daniel Adams, Chief Director at the DST, Bishen Singh, the CFO of the NRF and Vincent Spannenberg, Head of Financial Management and Business Administration at iThemba LABS, NRF, visited the ATLAS experiment yesterday. 

We want to thank Karl Jakobs, the spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment, for serving as a guide and Max Klein, the Chairperson of the ATLAS Collaboration Board, who took over form Karl during the session with SA-ATLAS students and staff at CERN. 

Special thanks to  Daniel Adams for the inspirational speech, where he highlighted the importance of the mission that South Africans have at CERN.

Below is a picture of SA-ATLAS students at staff currently at CERN. The first picture is at the ATLAS control room. The second is right outside the building. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Meeting with the Presidents of South Africa and China: Dialogue about scientific cooperation

Xifeng and me were thrilled to attend the Sino-South African forum on scientific cooperation that was chaired by HE Minister of Science and Technology Kubayi-Ngubane. The HE President Xi Jinping and HE President Cyril Ramaphosa have addressed the audience. The event took place at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria. 

We are exhilerated that High Energy Particle Physics has been highlighted for an event of this profile. Prof Yifang Wang, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Director: Institute of High Energy Physics gave an overview of Particle Physics and Astro-Particle Physics, including the Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC) project. This mega project is envisaged to collide electrons and positrons at a centre of mass energy of around 250 GeV and it is suited to achieve precision in the measurement of Higgs boson couplings to particles in the Standard Model and beyond. 

Before the gathering Prof. Tawana Kupe and me had a chance to hang out and chat with a couple of Ministers. We exchanged pleasantries with HE. Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor. She was the Minister of Science and Technology when the Higgs boson discovery was announced. She remembered the press release that was issued on July 4th to congratulate the community on the discovery. We also managed to chat with the HE Minister of Science and Technology Kubayi-Ngubane about the organisation of the event. Also, shook hands with the Director General of the Department of Science and Technology Dr. Phil Mjwara.

From left to right, Prof. Ronald Clarke, known for the discovery of “Little Foot”, Prof. Tawana Kupe, Acting Vice Chancellor of Wits University, Prof.  Prof Yifang Wang, and yours trully. 

HE Kubayi-Ngubane took the floor to introduce the two presidents. 

HE President Cyril Ramaphosa Emphasized that South Africa is ready to contribute to technological development and service delivery in that area. Hard choices need to be done as to where and how to invest existing resources. And this is where international cooperation becomes crucial for technology transfer and innovation where the exchange of experience and expertise is necessary. Challenges like climate change can also be met on the basis of international cooperation in science and technology. Large projects like the SKA cannot be undertaken by one nation alone. China’s crucial contribution to the SKA is commended. Joint research centres in critical economic activities like mining and forectry are envisioned. This includes establishing science parks, which will hopefully spur Chinese investment. 

HE President Xi Jinping stated that the relations between China and South Afric are a paradime of relations between China and Africa and other developing countries. The increase of joint laboratories and joint research centres is also highlighted. China supports the flagship project of the continent, the SKA. What Chinese and South African scientists have achieved together is attracting attention. More platforms of innovation are needed in a number of priority areas. 

Prof. Yifang Wang addressed the forum with a review of Particle Physics and Astro-Particle Physics in China. He touched upon the CEPC as well. He showed a slide with the collaboration with South Africa, which included the visit of the Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand last year and a number of collaborative activities in Particle Physics that have intensified since. Prof. Wang also showed some pictures of the recent IEEE-sponsored school on instrumentation that took place at iThemba LABS mid July. One of the distinguished lecturers was Dr. Zhenan Liu from the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing. 

Below is the agenda of the event:

Celebrating Science, Technology and Innovation Partnerships between South Africa and China 
to Advance the Fourth Industrial Revolution for Common Development

Tuesday 24 July 2018
Venue: CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria

Dialogue between South African and Chinese Scientists

High-level Segment

16:30  Introduction to Dialogue by HE Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Science and Technology of the Republic of South Africa

16:35  Keynote Speech by HE President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa

16:45  Keynote Speech by HE President Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China

16:55  Vote of Thanks by Minister Kubayi-Ngubane


17:05  Presentation by South African and Chinese scientists on the science, technology and innovation response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

            South African speakers:
·      Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg
·      Ms Zanele Mbatha, Entrepreneur in Fuel Cell Technology
·      Dr Thulani Dlamini, CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
·      Prof Tebello Nyokong, South African Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology
·      Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, Divisional Manager: Innovation Support and Protection for Companies & Intellectual Property Commission

Chinese speakers:
·      Prof Wu Xianping, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Principal Scientist of SKA (China)
·      Dr Zhai Mingguo, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Geology and Geophysics
·      Prof Wang Yifang, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Director: Institute of High Energy Physics
·      Mr Xia Xiaoou, Chairperson of the Beijing General Research Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (BGRIMM)
·      Mr Chen Zongnian, Chairperson of the Board of Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company 
18:35  Discussion and conclusion on future prospects for South African – Chinese cooperation

19:00  Closing of event

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Women in Science event at the IEEE School at iThemba LABS

A Women in Science event was held at iThemba LABS on Wednesday, July 11th. The event was hosted by an IEEE-sponsored school of instrumentation in Particle Physics. The event was organized and chaired by Profesessor Cinzia Da Via, from the University of Manchester in collaboration with Professor Igle Gledhill from the University of the Witwatersrand and Dr Joyce Mwangama from the UCT who also chairs the IEEE WIE (Women in Engineering) affinity group in Cape Town. Three prominent speakers addressed the audience: Prof. Diane Grayson, from the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr. Zinhle Buthelezi, from iThemba LABS and Dr. Joyce Mwangama from the UCT.

The event, aimed to encourage the discussion amongst men and women on issues related to biases in scientific working environments, was attended by the participants of the school, iThemba LABS staff members and a selected group of motivated learners and teachers from Thandukulu High-School.

Professor Diane Grayson holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Washington and an honorary doctorate in science teacher education from Umeå University in Sweden. She is passionate about helping students succeed through taking a scholarly approach to teaching and curriculum design that promotes effective student learning. She has served on the Council of the South African Institute of Physics, the International Commission on Physics Education and the STEM Committee of the Academy of Science of South Africa. She has worked as an academic and in management at the University of KwaZulu Natal, UNISA, University of Pretoria and the Mathematics, Science and Technology Education College, and also ran her own consultancy, Andromeda Science Education. From 2012-2017 she was a Director at the Council on Higher Education, where she was responsible for the system-wide Quality Enhancement Project, designed to promote student success at all higher education institutions. In 2018 she joined the University of the Witwatersrand as Senior Director: Academic Affairs. 

Dr. Zinhle Buthelezi holds a PhD degree in Experimental Nuclear Physics from the University of Stellenbosch. She is a Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Subatomic Physics, iThemba LABS, South Africa. Her research interest is in Experimental High Energy Particle and Nuclear Physics, and she is the Coordinator of the South Africa-ALICE team at iThemba LABS, and Deputy Team Leader of the SA-ALICE Collaboration. She is also Scientific Secretary of the South Africa – CERN Programme. 

Dr. Joyce Mwangama received her BSc degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and MSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) in 2008 and 2011 respectively. In 2012 she began her study towards a PhD in the Centre for Broadband Networks and joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town as a lecturer in 2015. Joyce received multiple research awards including the Google Anita Borg Scholarship and the L’Oréal-UNESCO Sub-Saharan Women in Science Fellowship. Joyce was a member of the IEEE MGA Women in Engineering Committee (2015-2017). She has previously served as the IEEE Region 8 Women in Engineering Coordinator (2013-2014), IEEE South Africa Section Students Activities Coordinator (2011-2013), IEEE South Africa Section Young Professionals Chairperson (2011-2013) and IEEE Student Branch Chairperson University of Cape Town (2009-2010).

Following presentations, Professor Grayson moderated QA Session and Round Table Discussion with the speakers on the theme of “Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) – Networking, Mentoring and Professional Development in South Africa”. The discussion was lively and involved both females and males. It was a terrific experience where students opened up about their own encounters, expectations and views on the subject. The discussion was frank on issues that too often get hidden under the rug. Attention was drawn to unconscious biases and the need to bring these to the surface in discussns with peers and academic staff.  

More information about the event can be found at:


Below are some pictures from the event.