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.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

IEEE NPSS International School for Real Time Systems in Particle Physics 2018

On Saturday July 7th we kicked off the IEEE NPSS International School for Real Time Systems in Particle Physics 2018. The school is co-sponsodred by the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society and the South Africa - CERN consortium and it is held at iThemba LABS in the Western Cape 7th-17th 2018. 

Its intention is to give practical experience with developing and controlling mid-range real time experiments. Hands-on experience is very important. The school provides lectures and laboratory exercises, given by experts in radiation measurements with state-of-the-art experience. The lectures introduce firmware, software and web based programming (for remote control), and show how this can be used in different areas of science. In order to minimize the hardware cost Raspberry Pis are used as controllers. This should be an advantage when the students later develop their own systems. The Raspberry Pi operating system is similar to Linux which means that it supports many of the standard Data Acquisition software tools.

The goal of the school is:
  • To train students in the area of radiation detectors and its applications.
  • To enhance the development of real-time system in South Africa.
  • To promote the participation of young scientists in radiation measurements and related fields.


The lectures will cover the following areas:
  • The history of detectors
  • Introduction to radiation instrumentation detectors
  • Programmable logic - FPGAs
  • Introduction to readout, trigger and control architectures
  • From resistor to high energy physics experiments
  • High speed signals, impedances, reflections and grounding
  • Waveform digitizing and signal processing
  • Photo, Geiger and silicon detectors
  • Introduction to networks
  • Unix shell basics
  • Introduction to the RCDAQ data acquisition system 
  • Real-time data visualization and control using modern web technologies
  • Signal levels and bus standards
  • Raspberry Pi
  • HEP detectors – overview and examples
  • Instrumentation for harsh and severe environments
  • Application of fundamental physics in medicine
  • Detectors for astrophysics
  • Writing papers and preparing presentations – some hints

Laboratory Exercises

The exercises are of three types: first the two exercises on Thursday, second the four exercises on Friday and Saturday and last the voluntary FPGA workshop on Sunday July 8th. The two exercises on Thursday will be given parallel with half the students in each group, switching after lunch. Similarly, the four parallel half day exercises on Friday and Saturday will each be given to one quarter of the student group, again switching after lunch. This will allow all of the students to participate in all of the exercises.

Sunday July 8th 08:30-16:30
  • FPGA workshop: Practical exercises in FPGA programming (only about 20 students)

Thursday July 12th half day exercises
  • Raspberry Pi/RCDAQ: Practical exercises with a Raspberry Pi, the operating system Raspbian (Linux derivative) and a complete data acquisition program (RCDAQ).
  • Control using modern Web technologies: Practical exercises developing an experiment control server using a Raspberry Pi that can be accessed via a web browser.

Friday July 13th and Saturday July 14th half day exercises 
  • HVcontrol: Use a Raspberry Pi and a dedicated HV-board to generate the high voltage for a Photo Multiplier Tube connected to a scintillator. This set-up is then used to record gamma radiation from different sources.
  • Waveform capture: Add a waveform capture module to the HV-control set-up to analyze pulse shapes and start time. Use a two PMT/scintillator configuration to extract position information
  • PET demonstrator: Exercises with a demonstration system for detectors and for the principles of Positron Emission Tomography
  • TimePix: Exercises with a silicon detector development board

IEEE NPSS and South African research agencies considers Women In Engineering an important initiative that should be strongly promoted. A special WIE event is scheduled for the afternoon and evening Wednesday July 11th.

The following are the lecturers:
  • Abdallah Lyoussi, CEA Cadarache, France
  • Bruce Mellado, Wits University, iThemba LABS, SA
  • Christian Bohm, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Cinzia Da Via, Manchester University, UK
  • Martin Grossmann, PSI, Switzerland
  • Martin Purschke, BNL, USA
  • Masaharu Nomachi, Osaka University, Japan
  • Michael Holik, IEAP CTU, Czech Republic
  • Patrick Le Du, IPN Lyon, France
  • Stefan Ritt, PSI, Switzerland
  • Vladimir Vicha, IEAP CTU, Czech Republic
  • Zhen-An Liu, HEP, China

After a rigorous selection process 50 students were selected to attend the school. 

More info can be found at:

A site of the School is also available at the Czech Technical University in Prague:

Below some pictures:

This is a picture taken on Saturday July 7th of participants present during the school's opening (courtesy of Dr. S. Ritt).

On Sunday, July 8th we had our first hands on exercises using Field Programable Field Arrays (FPGA). Exercises were led by Masaharu Nomachi and Zhen-An Liu and were preceded by a lecture with a detailed account of what going to be covered during the practical session. 

Below is a picture of the Key module used for the FPGA exercises. 

The Key module comprises a NIM IO module with LEMO connectors, a Space Pi (FPGA) module and a Raspberry Pi. The Key module is connected to a terminal and  an oscilloscope. 

Students went through six exercises. This includes programming FPGAs, comminicating and sending data from an FPGA to a Raspberry Pi, learning to operations with a Raspberry Pi, operating an oscilloscope and measuring time with the available setup.

Great atmosphere where most of the students were able to conclude the program. Some students have shown interest to continue practicing with the setup on Monday and Tuesday after dinner time for which necessary arrangements have been made.

Some enthusiastic students working on the FPGA exercises on Monday after dinner

Raspberry Pis being prepared for the exercises that took place Thursday-Saturday:

The Director of iThemba LABS,  Dr. Faiçal Azaiez came to the lecture venue to greet participants on Monday.

Below are pictures of lecturers in action.  

Below are pictures of the hands-on exercises that took place Thursday-Saturday:

Below is a picture of an EasyPet unit, which is manufactured by CAEN.  For this exercise we used a radioactive source of Na22, a Beta+emitter that provides gamma radiation. These sources were produced by iThemba LABS with an activity of approximately 12 mCi and were sealed in the shape of plastic disks. As an additional precaution keep the sources in plastic zip bags most of the time. Please handle the sources with caution and follow safety rules. 

Four EasyPet units were setup and interfaces with laptop computers. A number of exercises were followed. This included settig up the device, investigating SiPM (silicon photo-multiplier) characteristics with a voltage scan, observing single pulses, identifying the multi-photon spectrum, gamma coincidences and PET imaging. 

Also, having fun (courtesy of Dr. Martin Purschke):