The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics


Bon giorno! After a hectic last couple of weeks finishing up thesis writing and overseas shipping, I’m spending a bit of time at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste.

The view of the Adriatic Sea outside my window, complete with an engraved UN logo. It’s only slightly different from looking out of my window in Durham.

The ICTP is another unique gem of an institute, operating under UNESCO and the IAEA. It was set up by Abdus Salam (of SU(2)xU(1) fame) in 1964 to promote scientific interaction across the Iron Curtain. It has since taken on the noble cause of promoting research in theoretical physics and mathematics in developing countries, where resources for such work may be limited.

One of the main manifestations of this goal is a one year diploma course for students from developing countries with HEP courses similar to those in Durham and Cambridge. There are currently 10 full scholarships available for students from developing countries. The course is meant to bridge the gap in educational opportunities between these countries and the research institutes of the developed world. It also provides a framework to improve English skills and apply to American and European PhD programmes.

What makes the ICTP rather special, however, is that its strict adherence to the mantra that it cannot promote state-of-the-art scientific research in the developing world without itself being an institution that does state-of-the-art research. Through an extensive visitor programme and numerous conferences/workshops/schools over the year, the ICTP brings together many bright researchers from around the world.

Also in Trieste (and at the same site) is a branch of the INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare) and SISSA (La Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati).


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