Meet the Masters

22 Jun 2021

They arrived three years ago at ICTP's partner institute in Rwanda, the ICTP-East African Institute for Fundamental Research (EAIFR), eager to further their studies in physics by enrolling in the Institute's new masters programme. Nine students from Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda will soon receive their degrees from the programme, which is run jointly with the University of Rwanda. Who are they, what did they study, and what are their plans for the future? Read on to meet this group of African scholars poised to become the next generation of highly educated African scientists.


Name: Abraham Ayirwanda

Country: Rwanda

Thesis title: Pressure Effects on Methane-Water Mixtures

Postgraduate plans: Teaching assistant, University of Rwanda Physics Department

Before the start of my master's degree at EAIFR, I expected to construct a good team for research. Now I can work independently on my task.

At EAIFR, I did condensed matter physics. I am interested in research on tools for renewable energy extraction. Now I'm a teaching assistant at the University of Rwanda and I'm planning to go for a PhD but I'm still looking for a position.

The EAIFR programme is very strong in mentoring, developing future researchers, and teaching the basic knowledge necessary for research.


Name: Alaa Bakhit

Country: Sudan

Thesis title: Diamond under extreme strains

Postgraduate plans: PhD student, University of the Basque Country, Spain

The EAIFR masters programme met all of my expectations and beyond. It provides a high-quality education with an exciting environment of international interaction with professors, lecturers and students from all over the world.

I was in the high energy field, I came with a dream to be an astronomer. But when I attended the solid-state class I discovered how amazing and complicated materials around us are. And condensed matter physicist is trying to understand these materials, their behaviour under certain circumstances and their structure, to solve current problems and improve life quality. By the end of the first year of this master, I made my mind to change my field to condensed matter physics with ambitions and passion to understand matter around me as well as solving daily-life problems. I believe this will be a step forward in understanding what is happening outside in the universe by understanding materials around me.

As an African lady, I am confident that as a condensed matter physicist I can contribute much better in developing solutions for problems in Africa such as power supply and pure water.

I think that one of the most important strengthens of EAIFR is that it is based in Africa, so I feel like I am at home and near to my family. My mother was able to visit me. Plus there are many other strengths, from the international environment to the great scientists whom we had the chance to meet and interact with.


Name: Micheal Kahangirwe

Country: Uganda

Thesis title: Exploration of Thermal Field Theory

Postgraduate plans: PhD student, University of Houston, USA

I developed a love for astrophysics when I used to see the beauty of the sky and its celestial bodies every evening. Following this, I joined EAIFR to meet my ambitions, however, my experience at EAIFR was a dream changer after attending few conferences in cosmology and high energy physics, were I met great scientists from ICTP who enlightened me on a lot of what I didn’t know. My dream became bigger than I expected, trying to think about the big structures of the universe and the available theories.

I had almost no idea what high energy physics was but I chose it because it had a relation with what I like, which is astrophysics.

EAIFR has a well-structured masters programme and excellent professors who care about students understanding of the course.


Name: Firas Mohammed

Country: Sudan

Thesis title: Superconducting Critical Temperatures of Metals from

Machine Learning Techniques

Postgraduate plans: PhD student, University of Limoges, France

EAIFR's masters programme presented me with unique learning opportunities. I was able to participate in numerous seminars and workshops. This bolstered my undergraduate knowledge with computational techniques using several software implementations – including DFT and machine learning. Also, I was able to work with the greatest minds around the world; this raised my hunger to learn more.

I studied condensed matter physics, because this can give me a lot of insight on how to create or discover new materials that can be fundamental in changing the lives of many people in many aspects.

I hope to continue with a PhD in the same field and embedding it with machine learning since it emerged as one of the innovative ways to solve physics problems.


Name: Valentine Nyirahafashimana

Country: Rwanda

Thesis title: Multi-Wavelength Studies of Strong Gravitational Lensing Phenomena

Postgraduate plans: Teaching at a secondary school in Rwanda

When I earned a master's degree, I accomplished big steps, I gained knowledge, skills in communicating with international people, in science, social, problem-solving, and achieving goals of being a scientist, an experience that helped me in my career and life in general. I also increased my confidence as a woman in science.

I studied high energy physics aiming to be a specialist in astroparticles and astronomy, as I like to study the theoretical with observational physics.

Also through the EAIFR master programme, I will be taking on additional roles like becoming a mentor for women who want to study science, especially physics.


Name: Mubarak Suliman

Country: Sudan

Thesis title: The Inflationary Universe

Postgraduate plans: PhD student, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

I see EAIFR as a golden opportunity especially for young African scientists. It is a perfect place to fill the gaps and to build your skills. I am really happy to be part of such a great place and I hope it changes Africa for the better.

At EAIFR I studied high energy physics and cosmology. During my undergraduate years I learned that physics can give answers to the big questions like: What are the fundamental building blocks of our universe? How did we get all the matter around us? But to my surprise I also knew that it can provide answers to even bigger questions like: How did the universe begin? And, how will it end?

I learned that in order to know how physics could answer these questions, I have to study high energy physics and cosmology. That is the reason why I ended up choosing this field, and I feel so lucky that I have the chance to continue studying the origin of our universe in my PhD.

One of the main strengths of EAIFR is the high quality of the masters programme. I really enjoyed attending the courses that were constructed in a very profound and illuminating manner. Moreover, the professors who taught us are reputable scholars, and very good teachers. My presence at EAIFR gave me the benefit of attending a number of workshops and training programmes that are held at the institute. With the tremendous support the institute gets from ICTP, I believe it will take a prominent place in the physics community in the near future.


Name: Fidele Twagirayezu

Country: Rwanda

Thesis title: New Light Neutral Particles in Meson Decays

Postgraduate plans: Teaching assistant, University of Rwanda Physics Department

When you start any academic programme, you are expecting knowledge, skills, experience, solutions to your questions, social interaction.... So we have gained much from the ICTP-EAIFR programme. It has strong lecturers and researchers coming from all over the world, plus good leadership, seminars and workshops. I studied high energy physics, because I wanted to satisfy my curiosity and to become a good theoretical physicist researcher with the purpose of contributing to the scientific community.

Since I am an assistant lecturer at the University of Rwanda's College of Sciences and Technology, I will continue my career of teaching and doing research. I am planning to pursue a PhD wherever I can get a position, preferably in a European country.


Name: Vincent Uzabakiriho

Country: Rwanda

Thesis title: The Higgs Boson within the Standard Model and Beyond

Postgraduate plans: Teaching at a secondary school in Rwanda

EAIFR has paved my first step to do theoretical physics, as it was my dream. I studied high energy physics. I have so many curiosities about how nature is governed which need to be satisfied, and that is why I push myself so that one day I can do research in this field.

After getting my master's degree, I will start to apply for a PhD scholarship. I can apply for it in different countries.


Name: David Waligo

Country: Uganda

Thesis title: Strain Induced Band Engineering and Charge Doping of Monolayer PtSe2 and PdSe2

Postgraduate plans: PhD student, University of Houston, USA

The EAIFR masters programme gave me access to some of the brightest minds in physics who pushed me to always do good science. The ability of the programme to bring all students from different backgrounds during the first year to the same level is a really great strength of EAIFR, as it enables the students to be able to communicate easily in terms of physics.

At ICTP-EAIFR, I studied condensed matter physics, a field that I have fallen deeply in love with, thanks to my professors. It has enabled me to get a step closer to my dream of being able to design materials that can be used to revolutionize and solve problems in Africa regarding food, water and medicine. This is through learning simple theoretical tools in Quantum espresso, molecular dynamics, which I believe are fields that can have great potential for African problems.

For example there are so many problems in regards to energy storage, and discoveries of novel materials like graphene have been witnessed to stand the occasion. I wish that with condensed matter physics, I can put a brick on one of these major discoveries.

After my masters I will pursue a PhD at University of Houston. I hope to continue in the same line of condensed matter physics and acquire more knowledge that I can bring back home after some time. I believe that in this way, I can be part of a wave that can transform.