Ocean Optics and its partners are bold, passionate innovators who believe in the power of spectroscopy to protect and improve the quality of life for people worldwide. This philosophy is reflected in a commitment to providing educators, researchers and developers with simple, affordable and flexible tools to introduce students to spectroscopy, to advance scientific exploration and to help people solve problems.
Our colleague and South African distributor Richard Majewski and his team have similar convictions. Majewski, longtime managing director of Narich (Pty) Ltd in Cape Town, South Africa, recently shared with us Narich’s experience in helping to establish a teaching laboratory that will introduce a new generation of students to the power of spectroscopy. Some of the comments in his first-person account have been edited for length and clarity.
While South Africa sits at the bottom of the world, it has a reputation for punching well above its weight scientifically. Examples include our trendsetting gas-from-coal technologies, photovoltaic efficiency research, and agricultural monitoring using aerial drones. Narich (Pty) Ltd and Ocean Optics have helped customers with applications in each of these areas.
However, nothing can be more exciting than the groundbreaking establishment of a brand-new teaching facility like the one at iThemba LABS in Cape Town. The facility is used by more than 200 scientists and students from South Africa and overseas representing various disciplines, with a focus on the use of sub-atomic particle accelerators for work in cancer treatments and other applications.
About three years ago, with the endorsement of South Africa’s National Research Foundation, iThemba decided to create a new teaching laboratory to provide the country, and indeed the continent, with suitable manpower in the field of nanophotonics. That’s when our involvement began.
We have spent the last several years jumping through all of the many hoops the National Research Foundation requires to pass its requirements of product performance and training, service and support, and social investment commitments. [Editor’s note: The NRF is a government entity that “promotes and supports research through funding, human resource development and the provision of National Research Facilities in all fields of natural and social sciences, humanities and technology.”]
Public tenders for instruments were placed in the media, and we began the process of compliance. First, we had to have all of the equipment required. Then, we had to meet stringent fiscal and social requirements, resulting in many meetings over the next two years. Finally, two companies — both had to be local — were chosen as bidders, and we were one of them.
After that came a thorough vetting process involving the NRF, European donors and esteemed scientists. Eventually, our bid was successful. We then proceeded to supply more than €160K of Ocean Optics and other supplier’s instruments and accessories, including QE Pro spectrometers for Raman and fluorescence; Maya2000 Pro spectrometers in various configurations; thin film metrology systems and accessories; and optical fibers, light sources and more.
With the help Roland Kuijvenhoven from Ocean Optics, we were able to install and configure all the equipment in a remarkably short time, initiating the instruments and familiarizing students and users from nearby Stellenbosh University, who were additional collaborators on the project.
Despite the long journey, the path to outfitting the new lab was incredibly rewarding.
Among the participants joining Richard Majewski and Roland Kuijvenhoven at the grand opening of the new lab at iThemba were faculty members and students. Faculty participants included Professor Carlos Pineda-Vargas, department head; Professor Malik Maaza, UNESCO-UNISA Africa Chair in Nanosciences & Nanotechnology; and Professor Manikandan Elayaperumal.
The doctorate and post-doctorate students included Abdoulaye Diallo; Agnes Mbonyiryivuze; Dr. Aline Simo; Dr. Bertrand Sone; Dr. Chester (Lebogang) Kotsedi, student and Senior Lab Supervisor; Dr. Godfrey Fuku; Dr. Kaviyarasu Kasinathan; Lauren Louw; Lesley-Ann Cornelius; Dr. Nolubabalo Matinise; Dr. Ntevhe Thovhogi; Sidiki Zongo; and Dr. Zebib Nuru.