Degrees-funded scientists building North-South connections at the ICTP

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Two Degrees-funded researchers, Romaric C. Odoulami and Michelle Simões Reboita, recently worked at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy as part of their fellowships with the ICTP Associates Programme. The ICTP is a research, capacity building and science advocacy organisation that facilitates active engagement with scientists in developing countries.

The fellowships bring scientists from and working in developing countries to the ICTP to develop their research, build their networks and access high-quality modelling and lab facilities. The associates join the programme for a six-year appointment, during which they conduct three visits to the centre in Trieste for up to 60 days at a time.

Michelle, the principal investigator for the Degrees-funded team in Brazil, is a long-standing fellow with the programme. She first encountered the ICTP during her PhD research, attending conferences with her supervisor. She then successfully applied as a junior associate in 2012 and has continued with the programme ever since. 

Romaric, on the other hand, is entirely new to the ICTP programme. He is an experienced solar radiation modification (SRM) researcher from Benin and is a co-principal investigator on a number of Degrees-funded projects, including the South Africa (2018) team, the South Africa (2023) team and Michelle’s team in Brazil.

Our Communications Officer, Nick Zúñiga, sat down for a chat with them to get their thoughts on the programme:

Why did you decide to apply for the ICTP fellowship?

Michelle – During my PhD, I used one of the models provided by the ICTP, so my adviser used to visit the centre, and I would attend conferences with her. That’s how I heard about it. I then applied as a junior associate in 2012, and now I am a regular associate.

Romaric – I also worked with the ICTP climate model during my PhD. I heard about it at the end, when I finished the PhD and, to be honest, I forgot about it! Recently, I saw the call and the opportunity to work with this interesting climate model and do some interesting work with it, so I decided to apply for the program.

What are you working on at the ICTP?

Michelle – I work together with people from the ICTP on the models. To be honest, I mainly sit in front of the computer and try to discover the bugs in the model! But my aim is to improve the model and its ability to accurately simulate the climate in my region, South America.

Romaric – I am trying to make connections with new people, as well as with those that I already know. I am currently trying to use the ICTP regional climate model (RegCM5) to dynamically downscale solar radiation modification (SRM) simulations to assess SRM impacts at a regional scale in Africa. I am also trying to collaborate with teams using similar models, for example, with Simone Tilmes’ team[1]. I have been working with members of the RegCM model development team to achieve my goal.

Why is the fellowship useful for your research?

Michelle – It is great for building connections with people from all across the globe! If I am in Brazil, I cannot have the same interaction with other scientists in my field that I have here. It’s really an incredible place because you get the opportunity to work with one of the founders of the idea of climate modelling, Filippo Giorgi, who will retire next year. It’s amazing to work with one of my heroes in the modelling community. He is one of the most cited in the field!

Romaric – This fellowship provides associates with excellent infrastructure and resources as well as worldwide networking and collaboration opportunities. For me, it’s an opportunity to broaden my collaboration network, while taking advantage of the available resources at ICTP to further develop my research interest. From that perspective, the ICPT is a nice place to visit for research purposes and — apart from the weather — everything else is fine.

Speaking of the weather, how do you find Italy?

Michelle – I love to stay here. Since 2010, I have come every year. Although it’s a bit cold, it’s much better than Brazil because you have heating inside the rooms!

Romaric – The work environment is good, and people are friendly. I find Italians quite friendly! I wish I could speak some Italian or learn some Italian, and the transport system is a bit confusing at the moment. So, it’s pretty hard finding my way around at the beginning, but I am getting used to it now!

Michelle – I think the transport system is great. I pay about 36 euros for a bus card, and I can get on all the transport. I love it!

What are your overall thoughts on the ICTP Associates Programme?

Michelle – It’s an excellent opportunity and a great community to be a part of. There is the chance to build connections with people from all parts of the globe.

Romaric – Most researchers based at the ICTP are from the Global North, mostly Europe. But the point is to support researchers from the Global South. Also, the ICTP organises more than 100 workshops every year, and researchers from the South are encouraged to apply, participate and are supported to attend. It’s a good opportunity for scientists from the North and South to get together and share their knowledge and build collaborations.

[1] Simone Tilmes a Project Scientist III at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and volunteers her time as a Degrees research collaborator.

The ICTP associates programme is a standout opportunity for North-South collaboration in climate modelling, and it’s great to see Degrees researchers building international connections and community. We encourage scientists from the Global South who might be interested to look into the programme. You can find out more about the programme and how to apply here.

"The ICTP associates programme is great for building connections with people from all across the globe! If I am in Brazil, I cannot have the same interaction with other scientists in my field that I have here. "

Michelle Simões Reboita

Universidade Federal de Itajubá, Brazil

"It’s a good opportunity for scientists from the North and South to get together and share their knowledge and build collaborations." 

Romaric C. Odoulami

University of Cape Town, South Africa

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