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The journey of a LAAAMP grantee at the ESRF


Zimbabwean Gideon Chinamatira,  grantee of the Lightsources for Africa, the Americas, Asia, Middle East and Pacific (LAAAMP) project, has spent two months on beamline BM05 learning all the ins and outs of working on a beamline. And all that, with a croc in tow.

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“Wow, I am really going to the ESRF now”, thought Gideon Chinamatira when he finally got his visa to fly from South Africa. It had been a complicated process due to COVID-19 and all the variants that kept locking the world down in the last months. But finally, he was on his way. And with him, a unique crocodile specimen from the Early Jurassic, protected inside a box. “You walk around airports with this case and every time you get stopped you need to explain that you are carrying a precious fossil and that you are going to scan it at the ESRF. It makes you feel special”, says Chinamatira. 

Chinamatira is a post-graduate student at Wits University (South Africa) and a LAAAMP grantee. LAAAMP aims to train scientists from countries where synchrotron sources are not available in the use and applications of synchrotrons. The ultimate goal is that whenever there will be a light source available in their area, they will be key to its construction and development.

The LAAAMP FA-ST grant was requested by Kudakwashe Jakata, post-doctoral researcher in tomography at beamline BM05 and originally from Wits University. He supervised Chinamatira during his stay at the ESRF. “The LAAAMP project is great for allowing students to discover what a synchrotron is and how it differs from a lab-based computed-tomography apparatus”, explains Jakata.

“When you get here, you realise this is the next step of tomography”, adds Chinamatira, who, is in charge of the CT-lab at Wits University in an acting capacity. “When I go back, I’ll be able to better guide the scientists that come to the lab on proposal applications to take their samples to the ESRF’s tomography beamlines”.

The aim of LAAAMP is to open exciting research and training opportunities in crystallography and utilization of synchrotron light sources in developing regions of the world. Sekazi K. Mtingwa, member of the LAAAMP executive committee, explains: "Since 2017, LAAAMP has awarded 102 researchers with the opportunity to train for two months at many of the world's leading synchrotron light source facilities.  This will prove particularly impactful for Africa, which is currently experiencing a movement to construct a synchrotron light source somewhere on the continent as a Pan-African facility, using the models of the ESRF and SESAME in the Middle East". 

South Africa is an Associate Member of the ESRF and contributes to the budget in 1%. This enables the scientific community to apply for beamtime and do experiments at the facility.

Text by Montserrat Capellas Espuny