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Southampton astrophysicists to inspire future research ‘stars’ in Asia through Global Challenges Research Fund

Published: 19 February 2018
Dr Poshak Gandhi will engage hundreds of students in India with physics and astronomy through the SITAIRE project

Researchers from the University of Southampton will seed the growth of the next generation of scientists in India and Nepal through a new foundation award selected by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Associate Professor Dr Poshak Gandhi, from Southampton’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, will led the one-year SITARE project alongside India’s Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) as he engages several hundreds of students with scientific workshops, training camps and study groups.

SITARE, which means ‘stars’ in Hindi and is short for the Southampton-IUCAA Training for Astronomical Research and Education, will start this spring and target students from all four corners of India and one university in Nepal. The project will tap into Science & Technology Facilities Council GCRF funding to address the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goal for Quality Education.

“India is constructing and operating massive infrastructure projects that are world leading in this field; however, in order to fully harness these opportunities, more advanced scientific and technical skills are required,” Poshak explains. “A lack of resources, plus the fact that many students are spread out across the country, means they don’t always have exposure to the latest research. Nepal sits in the lap of the Himalayas with some of the clearest observing sites in the world, making it a wonderful location for astrophysics research.

“The UK has expertise at the forefront of this field and the University of Southampton is a leader in time-domain astrophysics and is also involved in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project. Through SITARE, I hope that we can generate some inspirational knowledge transfer, create interactions with leading role models and support potential future research ‘stars’ in astrophysics and other STEM subjects.”

In this initial pilot project, researchers from Southampton will hold a series of workshops in India and Nepal, leading an astrophysics and data science lecture series for up to 80 Bachelors and Masters-level students at each of several universities across the sub-continent.

Selected enthusiastic and talented students will be rewarded with longer training camps at the IUCAA and in Southampton, constituting a short research project, outreach activities and interactions with international peers.

The programme will then be sustained by asking international students to form study groups within their universities. The career paths of individuals under the project will also be tracked and evaluated so SITARE can be refined and expanded in future years.

The GCRF is a five-year £1.5 billion fund that tackles global challenges in the national interest. You can find out more about the fund and its awarded projects through the Research Councils UK website.

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