The challenges of developing computational physics : the case of South Africa

04 Feb 2014

Most modern scientific research problems are complex and interdisciplinary in nature. It is impossible to study such problems in detail without the use of computation in addition to theory and experiment. Although it is widely agreed that students should be introduced to computational methods at the undergraduate level, it remains a challenge to do this in a full traditional undergraduate curriculum. In this paper, we report on a survey that we conducted of undergraduate physics curricula in South Africa to determine the content and the approach taken in the teaching of computational physics. We also considered the pedagogy of computational physics at the postgraduate and research levels at various South African universities, research facilities and institutions. We conclude that the state of computational physics training in South Africa, especially at the undergraduate teaching level, is generally weak and needs to be given more attention at all universities. Failure to do so will impact negatively on the country's capacity to grow its endeavours generally in the field of computational sciences, with negative impacts on research, and in commerce and industry.