On 26 June 2015, Rhodes University from South Africa became an associate member of the ALICE Collaboration. Dino Giovannoni and Anthony Sullivan, both lecturers at Rhodes University, initiated the collaboration and are currently working on a long term strategic plan to consolidate it. This was their first time at CERN and they were very enthusiastic about contributing to this collective scientific effort.
Dino is an electronics engineer who worked in industry for fifteen years, both in South Africa and around the world. He then decided to redirect his career and obtained an undergraduate degree in physics, followed by a master's degree in applied mathematics and is currently doing a PhD in theoretical physics. Anthony studied electronics and computer science at Rhodes University and received a master's degree in electronics. His love of teaching led him to become a lecturer, as he enjoys getting students to use their imagination and creativity.
Dino and Anthony decided to pursue a collaboration with ALICE after realising that the experiment was in need of electronics experts, a need that their Department could help cover. They both teach at the Department of Physics and Electronics, which has a hybrid programme, consisting of about 75% physics and 25% electronics courses. Thanks to this unique combination, students acquire both theoretical physics knowledge and practical capabilities. Dino's and Anthony's initiative for a collaboration between Rhodes University and ALICE will also create opportunities for their students, some of whom will work at the experiment. At the same time, they try to attract students from the local community to their Department. As they put it: “We want to spark the interest of young pupils by doing outreach activities in schools. It is fun and easy for a child to build a little thing with a flashing light and this experience may motivate him or her to learn more about electronics.”
Rhodes University will initially contribute to the Transition Radiation Detector and, more specifically, to the replacement of the Global Tracking Unit. The TRD has to achieve a readout rate of 40 kHz at the next upgrade and, to reach this goal, a new readout scheme that will be based on the newly developed Common Readout Unit and that will take into account particle identification and event reconstruction has to be implemented.
Dino and Anthony are very enthusiastic about the associate membership of their university: “It is still early days and we have a lot of work to do, but there are some exciting projects ahead of us. Although I am terrified by the challenges that we have to face, it is an empowering kind of fear,” says Dino.
Meanwhile, they are exploring how Rhodes University and the ALICE group at the University of Cape Town can cooperate. “Many interesting plans will be proposed in the next few months,” they promise. They also wish to use the ideas and technologies that will be developed for ALICE to support other research activities in South Africa, such as the South African National Space Agency and the Square Kilometre Array, one of the biggest scientific projects of the next twenty years.