Professor Fernando Quevedo, Mathematics Fellow at Caius and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP), has been awarded the American Physical Society’s 2021 John Wheatley Award in recognition of ‘sustained commitment and achievement in the advancement of physics and science in developing countries’.
Fernando, a Guatemalan physicist, developed his passion for advancing physics and science in developing countries from a very young age. He said, “I come from a region in the world that has almost no science tradition.
“After finishing my undergraduate degree I was given an opportunity for a PhD in the US, something which was very rare at that time. This was because a former professor from the University of Texas had been in Guatemala and decided to help the local students. Since I benefitted from being given an opportunity to develop my scientific career, it is important for me to give back and support other young scientists from developing countries to develop their careers.”
In 2009, Fernando was offered the directorship of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), a United Nations institution based in Trieste, Italy, which is run under UNESCO, IAEA and Italy to support scientists from developing countries. Its founder, Abdus Salam, was a Nobel Prize physicist from Pakistan educated in Cambridge. For 10 years as the Director of ICTP, Fernando led the institution in its work with countries around the world to develop their science, and more specifically, physics programmes. During this time, ICTP expanded with the creation of 4 partner centres in Brazil, Rwanda, China and Mexico, and launched new research areas in quantitative life sciences, renewable energies and data sciences. The institution also started the 'International Master in Medical Physics' and new outreach programmes such as 'Physics without frontiers' in which young scientists go to the least developed countries, such as Palestine, Afghanistan, and sub-Saharan and central American countries to train local students.
Fernando’s recent John Wheatley Award, shared with his colleague Nathan Berkovits from the ICTP’s Sao Paulo centre, recognises this great contribution to the advancement of physics. Commenting on the award, Fernando said, “I am very honoured to have received this award.
“The support of DAMTP and Caius for long-term leave as a service to the scientific community, as well as my roles as professor in theoretical physics at DAMTP and a Fellow of Caius has contributed to me receiving this award, and for that I am very grateful.”