TUT student one of only twenty to attend nuclear science summer school

2 October 2019

Mashaba Dakalo Rollet, a 23-year old Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) postgraduate student enrolled for a Master of Applied Science (Industrial Physics) at the Department of Physics, was one of twenty South African students selected to attend the acclaimed annual Junior Institute of Nuclear Research (JINR) summer school practice in Moscow earlier this year. 

He shared his experiences of the three-week summer school, funded by the DST (through the NRF iThemba LABS), which aims to expose South African students to international research opportunities in nuclear science and technology.

Rollet said he was stationed at the Dzhelepov Laboratory of Nuclear Problems (DLNP), with two participants from other South African universities. “We worked on a mini research project entitled, Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy of Material Structure Studies to study defects in materials such as super alloys.”

According to Rollet they attended different lectures, such as Accelerator Physics & Engineering, Nuclear Physics and Theoretical Physics. “These lectures were in preparation for the international student practice hosted by the JINR of Russia. Researchers from the JINR also presented their work during the summer school,” he explained.

Expressing his feelings after he was selected he said, “ I was extremely excited. This was an opportunity for me to experience hands-on practical training on equipment that is unavailable in South African laboratories. I never thought I would be selected but I believe my love for, persistence and willingness to learn more about nuclear science got me selected to explore beyond our borders.”

Making the most of the opportunity, he also visited the foremost Moscow tourist attractions such as the Kremlin, Red Square, the multi-colored domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, the University of Moscow and the Moscow Museum. 

Rollet said the trip was an eye-opener and an opportunity for him to explore the globe from a different perspective. He learned about the Russian culture and language, interacted with scientists from different backgrounds and nationalities and had a taste of different Russian foods.

“The knowledge I acquired will play a major role in my research, which is aimed at optimising an ion beam materials analysis technique, known as Elastic Recoil Detection Analysis (ERDA). This technique is used in various fields of science and nanotechnology including development of solar cell materials. My research project focuses on developing the technique to extend its range of applications to include analysis of ‘soft’ materials such as polymers, for what is known as organic electronics,” he explained.

Rollet is based at the Gauteng branch of the iThemba LABS, located at Wits. He currently works on ERDA technique optimisation for the analysis of polyaniline-for the development of solar and nuclear radiation sensors. This work is done under the supervision of Prof M Msimanga, from TUT’s Department of Physics and DR TP Sechogela, from iThemba LABS, TAMS Department.

His future plans include developing his research skills and working with different scientists and engineers to solve various scientific problems, especially in applied nuclear science. “I would like to increase awareness in the community about the benefits of nuclear technology applications in various fields of science. Nuclear science is not only about atomic bombs and apocalyptic nuclear radiation disasters, as popular culture would have us believe. On the contrary, nuclear radiation is so much part of modern technology-with applications in nuclear medicine (X-ray diagnosis, therapy), materials research, pest control in agricultural produce, research and development as well as power production,” he elaborated.

He concluded with a massage to students, “Believe in yourself, set goals and work towards achieving those goals. There are many opportunities locally and internationally aimed at attracting talented young people to scientific and technological research activities, explore them to your advantage,” he said.

23-year old Mashaba Dakalo Rollet, a postgraduate student enrolled for a Master of Applied Science (Industrial Physics) at the Department of Physics on a sightseeing visit of the city of Moscow during the Junior Institute of Nuclear Research (JINR) summer school practice.

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Willa de Ruyter, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 5352   Email: deruyterw@tut.ac.za