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Wits lecturer wins the Silver Jubilee Medal from the South African Institute of Physics

- Wits University

The award is made for outstanding achievements by a young physicist that contributes to the research, education or technology development in physics.

Wits physics lecturer Dr Isaac Nape has won the Silver Jubilee Medal from the South African Institute of Physics for 2023.

Dr Isaac Nape receives the Silver Jubilee Medal from the South African Institute of Physics.

Nape, who graduated with his PhD from Wits in 2021 and joined Wits as a lecturer in 2022 won the award for his outstanding contributions in the field of quantum and classical structured light, with a focus on communication and computation, and his early-career national and international leadership in the photonics community.

The SAIP Silver Jubilee Medal Award is made for outstanding achievements by a young physicist in any of the following facets of any branch of Physics: research, education, technology and industrial development. Awards are made to persons who are less than 35 years old and commemorates the Silver Jubilee Year of the Institute.

The 29-year-old’s research career started at the Wits Structural Light Laboratory under Professor Andrew Forbes, with contributions in the field of quantum information processing in high dimensions. He then progressed to studies of multi-dimensional entanglement transport down optical fibres and more recently featured a fast measure of entanglement and a highly significant contribution on invariant vectorial states of light.

His work has garnered more than 1100 citations in the past five years and he has published several first author and corresponding author papers in top ranked journals such as Nature Photonics, Nature Communications, Science Advances, Journal of Optics and Optica. Several of his papers have featured in national and international science news publications with a wide readership.

Nape has also undertaken three international research visits to different institutions, the most recent at the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, leading to the Nature Communications paper. In this work that Nape conceived of, and led the theory development and experimental execution, and showed that a quick probe of a quantum state by a Bell-like measurement could yield very fast and very accurate predictions as to how many dimensions are entangled and to what extent. Prior to this work, many time-consuming measurements would be needed, or only witnesses could be deduced. His host at Heriot-Watt University regards him as a rising young talent in the international community with an outstanding publication record for an early-career scientist.

Nape was also recently named in the 2023 Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, which recognises and rewards South African youth who have created resilient, entrepreneurial and robust solutions. He also received an Emerging Leader Award grant from the South African Quantum Initiative (SA-QuTi), a competitive grant from the DSI and was selected to attend the Global Young Scientists Summit 2023 in Singapore.

“An award such as this means a lot to me, as it says that your work is being recognised by the professional institutions in your field, and therefore fuels my drive for doing good work” says Nape, who would like to dedicate his future into growing and contributing towards the South African quantum tech community.

The South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) is a not-for-profit voluntary learned society for physicists, established in 1955. It is also the professional body registered with SAQA for recognising merit by assigning professional designations (Certified Physicist, CPhys, and Certified Industrial and Physical Science Technologist, CPhysTech).

As part of its mission to be the Voice of Physics in South Africa, the Institute has several awards that recognises achievements of South African physicists. The Silver Jubilee Medal Award is one such award.

With such a bright future ahead of him, and the likelihood of receiving many offers from international institutions, Nape says he will stick to his South African roots.

“The South African government has started investing a lot into quantum research recently. I feel I would contribute more here than going overseas.”