2018 Lawrence Bragg Medal and Prize

Professor Bobby Acharya is awarded the 2018 Lawrence Bragg Medal and Prize in particular for his teaching and training in Palestine, more precisely at Birzeit University.

2018 Lawrence Bragg Medal and Prize

Professor Bobby Acharya of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and King’s College London for his contributions as the driver of several projects to teach and promote physics in the developing world, with the ultimate aim of developing sustainable physics research in those countries.

Professor Bobby Acharya from the developing world, his family of Indian origin, expelled from Uganda. A leading researcher in string theory and in the phenomenology of models derived from M-theory, he creates educational opportunities in the developing world, developing local sustainability with a high ratio of women involved in the various activities:

ATLAS at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP):

Acharya realised that CERN could place students from the developing world into international teams. In 2006, he set up an ICTP group, in close collaboration with the INFN and the University of Udine, which is still actively working on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. More than half of Acharya’s PhD students and postdocs emerged from this route, with most still working in the field.

Teaching and Training in Palestine:

In 2013, Acharya started an annual course at Birzeit University in the West Bank. This 45-hour particle-physics course is taught to master’s students, assisted by postdoc volunteers. The course is extremely successful, with grades significantly higher than those of equivalent UK students.

Most of the students are female, several now undertaking PhDs in well-recognised European groups.

Some work on the SESAME Synchrotron in Jordan:

As a direct result of this work, the number of Palestinian CERN users increased from one in 2010 to seven in 2016. There is now a dozen-strong particle physics network in Palestine.

Physics Without Frontiers:

The Palestinian model is portable – with postdoc volunteers based in the country, lectures are delivered live via internet video. Acharya, with Dr Kate Shaw, organises and offers similar courses throughout the developing world. Successful courses in Tunisia, Venezuela and Nepal are being followed by many more under ICTP’s ‘Physics without Frontiers’ programme, coordinated by Acharya and Shaw. Programmes include masterclasses for budding scientists, and these have taken place in Algeria, Colombia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Nepal, Venezuela and Vietnam – using postdocs from the host countries.

The African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications:

This is a one-month graduate summer school, held biannually in a different African country. The idea was conceived in 2008 by Acharya and Ketevi Assamagan at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US, and provides courses in fundamental physics and applications to the brightest young African physicists – with the students 100% sponsored. Schools have been held in South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, and Rwanda, with Namibia set for 2018. Around 65 students from all over Africa attend these schools, with more than 30% of participants female.