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Grid school empowers students in Africa's developing countries

Quick found his students' enthusiasm and dedication to science inspiring. Image courtesy Rob Quick, Indiana University.

The 2014 African Grid School took place in August in Dakar, Senegal. Part of the larger African School of Fundamental Physics and its Application, the biennial event attracts nearly 60 physics graduate and postdoctoral students who want to learn new skills in theoretical, experimental, and applied physics.

Rob Quick, Open Science Grid operations area coordinator, and his colleague Kyle Gross, computing operations support lead, traveled to Senegal. Both have years of experience supporting researchers in physics, nanoscience, and biology.

“There’s a sense of sharing in the Open Science Grid community,” says Quick, whose trip was funded by the Distributed Organization for Scientific and Academic Research. “Not only do we want to share our computing resources, but we also want to partner with international science communities and share our knowledge, tools, and skills with people who can use them.”

The Grid School participants were eager to learn. Quick recalls a student from Cameroon, who sought him out after class to talk through the details of installing the grid technology at his own university.

“To me, that means he’s ready to move to that next step and provide unharnessed local computing resources to researchers at his university. He recognizes and realizes he can use this,” Quick says. “When you see the students really absorbing what you have to say, and considering the resources for their local research, you feel like you’re contributing something.”

Quick and Gross put in some long days in Senegal, meeting with students well into the evening to answer questions and give technical advice. Not that Quick minded, though; he found the students’ enthusiasm and dedication to science inspiring.

“Our students saw the Grid School as an exceptional opportunity to learn, and even improve research techniques in their own communities,” he adds. “In the developing countries of Africa, research and technology can lead to economic opportunities and I’m proud to be part of their future.”

Quick dedicated his teaching to Papa Aly Diop, a Senegalese student who died in a car accident on the school’s final day. In his honor, a scholarship program is being created.


- Ceci Schrock

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