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Wits Dean of Sciences Leads Incorporation of Ukraine into International Physics Union


Dean also supports two Wits academics and Ukrainian nationals in attempts to get their family to safety.

The Dean of Science at Wits University, Professor Nithaya Chetty, has led the incorporation of Ukraine as the newest member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). The Letter of incorporation was signed by the President of the IUPAP, Prof Michel Spiro who is based at CERN in Geneva, and was dated 01 April 2022.

Chetty serves as the Vice President of the IUPAP responsible for Membership and Development, and it is in this capacity that he reached out to the Ukrainian National Academy of Science. The local Ukrainian Embassy in Pretoria was instrumental in putting Chetty in touch with the President of the Academy, Prof Anatoly Zagorodny, based in Kyiv.

Chetty has been in touch with Zagorodny frequently over these past weeks to negotiate the terms of incorporation, and he said that it was ‘surreal’ to be connected to him whilst in the middle of the battleground. Zagorodny is bunkered in Kyiv with limited internet connectivity.

“We are very concerned about his safety,” says Chetty.

“The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine is very grateful to International Union of Pure and Applied Physics for such support and solidarity and for joining IUPAP,” says Zagorodny. “At this difficult time for Ukraine and the entire Ukrainian people we are deeply touched by your strong support and condemnation of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine. I hope that the Memorandum of Understanding between the IUPAP and the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine will allow us to unite efforts in the field of pure and applied physics and will promote peace and progress.”

The President of the IUPAP, Dr Michel Spiro, says “The role of Prof. Nithaya Chetty as IUPAP Vice President Membership and Development has been transformative for IUPAP, by strengthening our relations with our members and by attracting new members. Prof. Chetty, recently facilitated the incorporation of Ukraine as the newest member of IUPAP. This event has a very strong resonance.” Chetty says Ukraine is one of the most physics productive nations in the world that has never been a member of the IUPAP.

“I am most delighted that we have now admitted Ukraine as the newest member of the Union in this 100th year of the organisation, albeit under extremely difficult circumstances in this time of war.”

Chetty is also supporting two Wits academics, Ukrainian nationals, Professors Yevhen Zelenyuk and Yuliya Zelenyuk in their plight to get their parents to safety in the Ukrain. Yuliya’s father is a Doctor in technical science (engineering) and has fled to Bulgaria.

“He and my mother are staying in a church in Bulgaria and he is trying to integrate into the science community in Bulgaria,” says Yulia.

Yevhen Zelenyuk’s, one of two A-rated scientists in Wits School of Mathematics, family is still in the Ukraine.

“My family is disclocated, with my son in Ludsk, being bombed every day and my brother in Kharkiv. There is no safe place in the Ukraine,” he says.

“I would like to thank Prof Nithaya Chetty, Dean of Science at Wits University and who, in his role as Vice President of the IUPAP, has principally helped facilitate Ukrainian membership of the Union,” says Ambassador Liubov Abravitova, who is based in Pretoria.

“This is of historic importance at this time and will create an important platform to address the needs of the physics community in Ukraine during these difficult times. We are especially concerned about the scientists and students who are forced to flee from their laboratories. They need to be given the opportunity to continue with their scientific work, because our academic community is going to be essential for our re-building effort. We long for when we will be able to return to sovereign rule in our country. Our international linkages are going to be important for the future of our Ukraine.”

Abravitova continues: “I am also very glad to hear that the President of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Prof Anatoly Zagorodny, has been invited to address the IUPAP Centenary Symposium in Trieste, Italy in July this year, and once again I am grateful to Prof Chetty for his assistance in this regard. This will give the Academy an opportunity to articulate a message on behalf of the Ukrainian physicists at this difficult time, to a world-wide audience.”