Former PhD student Tino Nyawelo receives Salam award for refugee work

23 February 2023

Former PhD student Tino Nyawelo at Nikhef will receive the prestigious Spirit of Salam Prize 2023 for his work to involve refugees in science. Nyawelo himself fled Sudan, received his PhD at the VU in Amsterdam, and currently works in Salt Lake City.

The prize was established in memory of Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, who championed opportunities in science for talent from disadvantaged areas. Salam was the first Pakistani and Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize.

Tino Nyawelo

Tino Nyawelo studied physics in Khartoum, but a doctorate was not possible there. In 1997, he fled Sudan and went to study at Salam’s International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. He received his PhD in 2004 from Jan-Willem van Holten of Nikhef. After a post-doc appointment in Trieste, he moved to Salt Lake City, USA, where he teaches at the university.

Nyawelo founded the REFUGEE program in Utah, which works to support talented refugees in a science education. He sees the award as completing a circular movement from his own flight to helping other refugees and their children.

Nyawelo still maintains contacts with Nikhef. He is closely involved in setting up a program for schoolchildren to measure cosmic rays with self-built detectors on the roof of the school.

This is a continuation of the HiSPARC project at Dutch schools. Some equipment for this project has been shipped from Nikhef to the USA.

The Spirit of Salam prize has been awarded to three scientists this year and will be presented in Trieste in the fall.