Through partnerships with South Africa’s iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (iThemba LABS) and the School of Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), staff from the Departments of Physics and Astronomy at BIUST have developed a dashboard for visualizing data for the COVID-19 pandemic in Botswana.

The above developments have emerged as a natural extension to existing collaborative links between BIUST, iThemba LABS, and Wits University, through official Memorandums of Understanding, in the areas of nuclear science, particle physics, and materials science. Some highlights of this collaboration include the MSc project of Mr Gaogalalwe Mokgatitswane titled “A systematic study of the properties of radiation induced damage in plastic scintillators for the upgrade of the tile calorimeter of the ATLAS detector” which was carried out under the supervision of Dr Oscar Kureba (BIUST) and Prof. Bruce Mellado (Wits). Indeed, we are proud of the fact that Mr Mokgatitswane was the first Motswana to embark on and complete his MSc research on a project at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, which operates the largest and most advanced particle physics laboratory in the world. Currently, Mr Mokgatitswane is enrolled for a fully funded PhD at Wits (with co-supervision from BIUST). Here, he performs Artificial Intelligence research in the area of the search for new physics at the ATLAS detector of the Large Hadron Collider facility at CERN. Another completed MSc project is that of Mr Adolf Motetshwane, which was in the area of the production of radioisotopes for medical applications and supervised by Prof. Hillhouse (BIUST), Dr. Batlokwa (BIUST) and Dr. Steyn (iThemba LABS).

In terms of collaboration with iThemba LABS, academic staff at BIUST are currently involved in the joint supervision of the following postgraduate projects: PhD project of Mr Adolf Motetshwane in the area of the production of radioisotopes for medical applications [Supervisors: Prof. Hillhouse (BIUST), Dr. Steyn (iThemba LABS)]; PhD project of Ms Kebadiretse Lefatshe on the modification of ZnO for selective catalysis and hydrogen gas production [Supervisors: Dr. Muiva (BIUST), Dr Madhuku (iThemba LABS)] ; MSc project of Mr. Otsile Tikologo focusing on biological shielding Monte-Carlo simulations for an electron accelerator [Supervisors: Prof. Hillhouse (BIUST), Dr. Nemulodi (iThemba LABS)]; MSc project of Ms Refilwe Setso focusing on the assessment of indoor radon concentration levels in Serule, Botswana [Supervisors: Dr. Kureba (BIUST), Dr. Maleka (iThemba LABS)]. The above linkages in the areas of data analysis naturally form the backdrop for extending our collaborations with Wits University and iThemba LABS on visualizing and monitoring the progression of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in Africa, which led to the creation of a dashboard for the Republic of Botswana.

These data, in conjunction with global inputs and local parameters, are being used to provide predictions for the spread and impact of the coronavirus in the country. Data analysis is performed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), South African Wits University, iThemba LABS of the National Research Foundation (NRF), and DataConvergence. (providing Data Science services specializing in analytics, machine learning and Cloud Services by a team trained at the European Laboratory, CERN).