SAAO Research Fellowship 2020/1

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) invites applications for a two year (with 1 year possible extension contingent on funding and performance) postdoctoral position to start before 1 March 2021. We seek outstanding candidates with research interests in any area of observational astrophysics, instrumentation or modelling.

SAAO is the National Facility for optical and infrared Astronomy of the National Research Foundation, and is headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. SAAO hosts and/or operates a suite of sub 2-m class telescopes, as well as the 10-m class Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) at its site near Sutherland (a 4 hour drive from Cape Town). South Africa is the leading partner in SALT and astronomers based here have access to time on the SAAO telescopes, SALT, and the MeerKAT radio interferometer. In addition, we have access to either time on, or data from, a number of hosted facilities, including the 1.4-m Infrared Survey Facility, LCO, KMTNet, ATLAS, MeerLICHT, MASTER, and the upcoming 1.8-m near-IR telescope PRIME. SAAO also has a very active outreach and education department, and hosts the Office of Astronomy for Development, which focuses on how the tools, skills and methodologies of astronomy can be applied across other fields in service of sustainable development.

The SAAO hosts researchers who are active in areas that span transients and time-domain astrophysics, the studies of evolved stars, various binaries, galaxy evolution, exoplanets and small bodies in the solar system (see also this link). SAAO is also host to significant competency in computational astrophysics and instrumentation development.

The research fellowship is intended to offer an opportunity for excellent early career researchers to establish a track record of independent research. You are encouraged to contact any staff astronomers you may collaborate with, to discuss your research plans. While the primary duty of the fellow is the completion of research, you will be expected to make active contributions to the SAAO environment through, for example, student mentorship, service observing, contributions to science engagement or astronomy for development.

The minimum requirement for this position is a PhD in astronomy or related discipline.

An excellent publication record, commensurate with career stage, is desirable.

Informal enquiries may be directed to A/Prof. Vanessa McBride

To apply for the SAAO Research Fellowship:

Applicants should send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statement outlining their research and broader interests and the contact details of 3 references to Mrs Linda Tobin , by 20 September 2020.

The filling of this position will be in line with the NRF’s Employment Equity Policy.

Download a PDF version of the advert.

PDP Postdoctoral Opportunities 2021

These are postdoctoral positions open funded by the National Research Foundation and open to South African citizens and permanent residents. Nominations for the 2021 academic year will be in line with the ministerial guidelines on equity and redress.

The following staff members would like to host PDP postdoctoral fellows in 2021:

  • Dr David Buckley:
    Multi-wavelength studies of astrophysical transients, particularly accretion driven events in compact systems, like X-ray binaries and Cataclysmic Variables. PI Affiliate for the Rubin Observatory LSST (Legacy Survey of Space and Time), with emphasis on transient followup.  Download this list of research topics
  • Dr Retha Pretorius: 
    Interested in radio and optical observations of  CVs and other interacting binaries; interacting binary evolution; transients at all wavelengths; development of instrumentation.
  • Dr Ros Skelton:
    Galaxy formation and evolution, particularly how environment and galaxy mergers affect the properties of galaxies over time.
  • Prof. Petri Vaisanen:
    Extra-galactic astronomy. Possible topics include galaxy evolution, star-forming galaxies, young massive stellar clusters, interacting galaxies, or observational work related to galaxies or stellar clusters (whether galactic or extra-galactic) in any way
  • A/Prof. Shazrene Mohamed:
    Stellar astrophysics: Theory and numerical simulations (multi-dimensional hydrodynamics and radiative transfer) on topics related to binary interactions, stellar outflows and explosions.
  • Dr Moses Mogotsi:
    I am interested in multi-wavelength studies of baryon cycle and star formation in nearby galaxies.  This is done through studies of the ISM, properties and dynamics of molecular, atomic and ionized gas done using radio interferometric, optical and near-infrared IFU and longslit data.  This includes resolved multi-wavelength spectroscopic and photometric studies of star formation, stellar properties and metallicities within galaxies.  I am also involved in the MHONGOOSE and MIGHTEE surveys on MeerKAT, including their optical longslit and IFU follow-ups; and other multi-wavelength programs on various telescopes.
  • A/Prof. Vanessa McBride:
    Optical, radio and X-ray observations of massive X-ray binaries; populations of X-ray binaries, especially in the Magellanic Clouds, evolution of massive stars through X-ray binaries towards gravitational wave sources.
  • Prof. Paul Groot:
    ultracompact binaries, transient sources and gravitational wave emitters
  • Prof. Bruce Bassett:
    Machine learning and AI in optical and radio astronomy; including multiwavelength transient classification (for example for LSST and SKA), RFI excision (for MeerKAT/HIRAX/SKA) and automated optimal target selection and telescope control.
  • Dr Encarni Romero-Colmenero:
    Works on the field of Reverberation Mapping to determine the masses of supermassive black holes in the cores of active galaxies (AGN). She is a member of the LCO Reverberation Mapping of AGN Key Projects.

To apply for a PDP nomination:

  1. Work with an SAAO staff astronomer (see list above, or here) to formulate a research project.
  2. Submit your CV, cover letter and research statement (2 x A4 pages) by email to by 20 September 2020.
  3. Arrange for 3 letters of reference to be sent to by 20 September 2020.