SAAO Postdoctoral Fellow

The National Research Foundation (NRF) supports and promotes research and human capital development through funding, the provision of National Research Facilities and science outreach platforms and programmes to the broader community in all fields of science and technology, including natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities.

SAAO is a National Facility of the National Research Foundation and provides research infrastructure for optical and infrared astronomy. Its 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 in the Northern Cape.

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 an 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.

Applicants are encouraged to contact staff astronomers they may collaborate with, to discuss research plans ahead of the application.

The research fellowship is intended to offer an opportunity for excellent early career researchers to establish a track record of independent research.


The primary duty of the fellow is the completion of research, but they will also be expected to make active contributions to the SAAO environment through, for example, student mentorship, service observing, instrument development, contributions to science engagement or astronomy for development.

Key requirements:

  • A PhD in astronomy or related discipline
  • Three or more years of research experience (a PhD counts towards this)
  • An excellent publication record, commensurate with career stage

To apply:

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

Applicants should apply online at

Applications should include a CV, a cover letter and a research plan uploaded as a supporting document. The names and contact details of at least three referees should be provided.

Applications should be submitted no later than 31 July 2022.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship 2022: Vera C. Rubin Observatory LSST

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the Astronomy Department of the University of Cape Town (UCT) invite applications for a 3 year joint postdoctoral position related to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), with a focus on cataclysmic variables, compact binaries or related objects.

We seek an outstanding individual to join the research group led by Professor David Buckley, who is a South African LSST Principal Investigator involved in the optical transient follow-up. The candidate should have observational experience, ideally associated with the discoveries or follow-up studies from survey data of cataclysmic variables, compact binaries or related objects. For more information click here.

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.