Department of Science & Technology CERN Centre for High Performance Computing IThemba LABS ALICE ATLAS ISOLDE Theoretical Physics


Heavy-Ion Physics with ALICE

ALICE is the acronym for A Large Ion Collider Experiment, one of the largest experiments in the world devoted to research in the physics of matter at an infinitely small scale. Hosted at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, this project involves an international collaboration of more than 1900 physicists, engineers and technicians, including almost 550 graduate students, from 175 physics institutes in 39 countries across the world. The ALICE Experiment is searching for answers to fundamental questions, using the extraordinary tools provided by the LHC:

  • What happens to matter when it is heated to 100,000 times the temperature at the centre of the Sun ?
  • Why do protons and neutrons weigh 100 times more than the quarks they are made of ?
  • Can the quarks inside the protons and neutrons be freed ?

South Africa has been a member of the ALICE Collaboration since 2003. With groups at iThemba LABS and the Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand and about 20 academics, research scientists and students, we are a small and active community. We are trying to understand the Quark-Gluon Plasma, a hot and dense soup of quasi-free quarks and gluons, and our main research areas are how heavy charm and beauty quarks behave inside the QGP, and to measure the temperature of the QGP with thermal photons. We are also involved in the upgrade of the muon spectrometer and the transition radiation detector.


The principal investigators are

  • A/Prof. Zinhle Buthelezi (iThemba LABS & Wits)
  • Em/Prof. Jean Cleymans (UCT)
  • Thomas Dietel (UCT)
  • Siegfried Förtsch (iThemba LABS)
  • Zeblon Vilakazi (Wits)



In the following documents, we outline what possible projects could be. Please get in touch with the mentioned hosts to review and refine the project proposal for your submission.



IThemba LABS University of Cape Town University of the Witwatersrand