The ASP goes live!
Engaging with African students to contribute to African development is one of the purposes of the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications (ASP). At a time when the drastically foreboding pandemic weakens educational systems, the ASP has kept its promises and gone live! The 6th edition of the ASP, expected in Marrakech in July 2020, took place on-line from July 19 to 30, 2021. More than a summer school, the ASP has grown to a collection of activities, offering African students an exclusive education.
The ASP program has been tuned from the typical 3-week face-to-face courses to two intense on-line weeks. As announced by Mohamed Chabab and Farida Fassi, Chairs of the Local Organizing Committee: “Only the conference feature, ACP2021 (December 12-18) is scheduled in person in Marrakech”.
The creative edition of ASP2021 was fired up by the students’, lecturers’ and organizers’ commitment. The selected 70 African students have evolved to bright prospective scientists. Internationally renowned scientists – including 40% from Africa and 24% from the diaspora - taught topics as diverse as astrophysics, nuclear physics, particle physics, accelerator, materials physics, or biophysics. The unconventionally broad span of fields aimed at bringing a perspective to how African students can direct their career: they heard about graphene, quantum computing and cryptography to whet their appetite for becoming actors of the African transformation, whilst interacting with vivacious lecturers and science ambassadors, such as Sylvester Jim Gates, current President of the American Physical Society and former ASP2010 lecturer.
Students’ internet connections were enhanced by ASP sponsors and free accounts to DataCamp Interactive Learning for hands-on coding were provided. The recorded lectures remain available. The coffee breaks were transformed into a virtual arena, where we metamorphosed into Avatars to exchange questions and common interests. The breaks were also the stage for African fictions, “Science in the City”. This TV series, popularizing sciences, has been produced by Stéphane Kenmoe, a Cameroon physicist who has been selected as a finalist for the Falling Walls Breakthroughs 2021.
Several participants were empowered and could share their work during a poster session, whilst networking sessions invited ASP students to contribute to the African strategy, proposing solutions to African pressing challenges (e.g. hands-on experiments hardware access, energy production).
It is worth noticing that in preparation of the ASP2021, some alumni studied one year of COVID-19 for 10 African countries. Results are under review for publication. Furthermore, since May 2020, more than 80 lectures were conducted, covering topical expert lectures and alumni students presenting their research.
If more than 70% of the raising African community is below 30 years old, then the ASP has become a hub for young scientists to learn together and engage in the future of their continent. These initiatives are in line with the newly created African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics (ASFAP) community, aiming at creating African centers of excellence to limit the diaspora. In the framework of the ASFAP, the African Young Students Forum (YPF) and the African Women in Physics, are opening new avenues, inspired by the Ubuntu spirit: “I am because we are".
Christine Darve – Engineering scientist at the European Spallation Source, Sweden, she obtained her PhD from Northwestern University and worked at CERN and Fermilab. She is Vice-Chair of the Forum on International Physics (FIP) of the American Physical Society (APS), co-founder of the Nordic Particle Accelerator Program and the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications. She received an APS Fellowship in 2016.