The Rhodes Centre for Radio Astronomy Techniques & Technologies (RATT) was established in 2012 around the new SKA Research Chair in RATT awarded to Rhodes. RATT's mission is to conduct world-class research into novel radio astronomy calibration, imaging, data analysis algorithms, software and techniques that are urgently required by the next generation of radio telescopes such as MeerKAT and the SKA, and by the science that they are designed to deliver.
With the decision of the SKA Organization to build a large part of the SKA in South Africa, South African radio astronomy is entering a new era. Techniques and technologies are becoming more important then ever -- the current thinking is that for the SKA to be feasible at all from a computational standpoint, we must rely not only on Moore's Law holding out, but also on more or less annual algorithmic breakthroughs. It is up to groups like RATT to deliver such breakthroughs.
As in many other sciences, the balance between theoretical and instrumental radio astronomy has tended to evolve in cycles. The previous great instrumental revolution, prompted by the invention of the selfcal algorithm in the early 1980s, led to a blossoming of techniques, and the emergence of popular data reduction packages such as AIPS and Miriad. These have proven to be so capable that radio astronomy has lived off that success for the next two decades, with further practical advances being incremental rather than revolutionary.
Over the past several years, the demand for radical new techniques has grown sharply, with a "glut" of new-generation radio telescopes (ALMA, LOFAR, MeerKAT, PAPER, MWA, ASKAP) being built with a few years of one another, coupled with significant upgrades to older observatories (EVLA, e-MERLIN, Apertif), and with the SKA itself looming large on the horizon. Novel telescopes present new instrumental problems, which the techniques of the 80s can no longer address. Fortunately, developments such as the Measurement Equation have given us a rigorous mathematical framework for tackling such problems, with new software (e.g. MeqTrees) being developed to take advantage of this. The wheel has turned, and we have quietly entered another instrumental revolution.
Thanks to this, there's no shortage of new, interesting and extremely challenging problems to work on at RATT.
An astronomy background is not a requirement to get involved at RATT. We're also looking to attract graduate students, post-docs and collaborators with a background in mathematics and/or physics and/or signal processing and/or computing science, or even just exceptional software skills. If you think you check off one or more of the items on this list, and you'd like to get involved with giant radio telescopes and work on some of the most interesting problems in instrumental astronomy, then do look us up.
We are currently offering the following positions & scolarships, very generously funded at SKA South Africa bursary levels:
- Three post-graduate scholarships (one Honours, one Masters, one Doctoral) beginning January 2013.
Closing date for applications: Aug 31 2012.
- Four post-doctoral fellowships beginning October 2012.
Closing date for applications: Aug 1 2012.
Prof Justin Jonas is a life-long Rhodes man, having been involved with Rhodes continuously from his student days in the 1970s. In addition to his research in radio astronomy, electronic instrumentation, digital signal processing and high-performance computing, he has served a spell as the Head of Department, has been the Managing Director of HartRAO, and since 2003 has been seconded to the SKA South Africa project, initially as Project Scientist, and now as the Associate Director for Science & Engineering. In the SKA SA roles, his primary job has been to make MeerKAT happen, and to bring the SKA to South Africa -- and now that this has been successful, the new (and considerably harder) job is to get the SKA built and working.
Prof Oleg Smirnov joined Rhodes in April 2012 to take up new SKA Research Chair in RATT. Prior to joining Rhodes, he spent over 12 years as a researcher and software developer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). His research interests span many areas including the development of new radio interferometric techniques and calibration methods, development of the MeqTrees system for simulation and calibration of radio interferometers, as well as ionospheric modelling and flagging tools. He was also involved in the early days of the LOFAR telescope, and with the last days of the AIPS++ project (which was later revived as the CASA system).
For any further details, please contact Oleg Smirnov (e-mail: email@example.com).