Fernando Quevedo of Cambridge University in the UK has been appointed as the new director of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. He replaces Katepalli Sreenivasan, the India-born physicist who has led the institute since 2003.

Founded in 1964, the ICTP was the inspiration of the Pakistani Nobel-prize-winning theorist Abdus Salam who wanted to establish an international research centre where young scientists from the developing world could gather to encourage their intellectual development.

More than 5000 researchers from over 100 countries now visit the ICTP each year. Although its focus is still on physics and mathematics, the centre has expanded its activities to cover more areas of the physical sciences including Earth systems and multidisciplinary research. The ICTP is jointly funded by the Italian government, UNESCO and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nobel supervision

Born in Costa Rica in 1956, Quevedo is a theoretical physicist best known for his work on superstring theory for which he was awarded the ICTP's annual research prize in 1998. After studying in Guatemala, Quevedo went on to complete his PhD at the University of Texas in 1986 under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg.

In 1998, following in the footsteps of Salam himself, Quevedo joined the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, where he is currently professor of theoretical physics. "I am deeply honoured to have been selected for this highly prestigious position at an institution that is very close to my heart," says Quededo. He added that Salam has always been a role model.

Quevedo will officially begin his new role on 5 November and he told physicsworld.com that he plans to focus on "quality over quantity". He said that he has no short-term plans to further expand the variety of research carried out at ICTP but would like to "maintain the excellent standard" already in place.

People must start talking

Quevedo also wants to strengthen existing links with other international research centres and to encourage more collaboration between developing nations. "The developing world has changed a lot in the past 40 years. Some of the larger countries like Mexico, Brazil, China and India are now offering a significant contribution to international science. But there are smaller countries, particularly in South America and Africa that people still don't like to talk about."

Quevedo believes that countries like Mexico and Brazil have a responsibility to work with their less developed neighbours to stimulate scientific development. He revealed that he will focus on trying to improve the internet connectivity in these less developed nations, which he cites as a key tool in the development of research capacity.