Professional Development Program Postdoctoral Fellowships for 2024

SAAO wishes to nominate up to 10 candidates for the NRF’s Professional Development Program (PDP) Postdoctoral Fellowships, to start in the 2024 academic year. To be eligible, you must:

  1. be a South African citizen or permanent resident,
  2. have obtained a PhD in astronomy or a related field no more than 5 years before the commencement of the fellowship (this may be waived in the case of a maternity-related career break),
  3. be able to take up the position (PhD thesis accepted) by 30 April 2024

PDP fellowships provide a taxable salary of R400,000 per year, for a 3-year period. SAAO expects to be able to provide additional support for computing equipment and conference or observing travel.

Fellows at SAAO will work under the mentorship of a staff astronomer. If you are interested in being considered for this opportunity, please contact one or more potential mentors from the list below, to discuss your research plans. SAAO will nominate candidates for PDP Fellowships by mutual agreement between the candidate and their proposed mentor. We encourage you to start discussions with potential mentors as soon as possible. SAAO’s deadline for selecting candidates to nominate is 11 December 2023.

For general enquiries, please contact Dr. Ros Skelton

Lee Townsend I am a SALT astronomer and instrument scientist for RSS, SALT’s prime focus spectrograph. My research interests include X-ray binaries, accretion, highly magnetised neutron stars, massive stellar evolution, the Magellanic Clouds and, more broadly, astrophysical transients and multi-wavelength follow-up.

Retha Pretorius My research interests are in interacting binaries, astrophysical transients, accretion and jet physics, as well as binary star evolution and populations.

Encarni Romero Colmenero I am Head of SALT Astronomy Operations at the SAAO. My main research interest is in the field of reverberation mapping of AGN and would love to have a postdoc working with me in this area. I am also a member of the LCO IDRM Key Project and of KAMP.

Sabyasachi Chattopadhyay I lead SAAO’s astro-photonics group, where we are developing state-of-the-art spectroscopic instruments geared towards studies of the ISM and extra-galactic astronomy. Prospective projects involve commissioning and obtaining science validation data for two existing instruments in the field of star-formation, ISM metallicity, dust mapping etc. Other projects involve design, assembly, pipeline development for upcoming instruments.

Nicolas Erasmus I’m an Instrumentation Scientist and Astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), where my research focuses on Solar System Science, specifically main-belt and near-Earth asteroids (NEAs). My research specialty involves automated rapid-follow-up characterisation of newly discovered and potentially hazardous NEAs. I am also involved in astronomical instrumentation development and commissioning for various telescopes and instruments operated by the SAAO in Sutherland.

Paul Groot I work on fast transients, gravitational wave sources and ultracompact binaries using wide-field surveys, among others with the MeerLICHT, BlackGEM, Lesedi and SALT telescopes. I also have a keen interest in astronomical instrumentation.

David Buckley My research interests are focused on accreting compact binaries, involving white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes, which mainly involve optical observations, particularly with SALT. Some of this research also involves multi-wavelength observations (gamma ray, X-ray & radio) through wider collaborations. I am Principal Investigator for the SALT followup programme on transients and am also one of the South African PI Affiliates for the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), focusing on transient detection and followup.

Steve Potter I’m the PI of the intelligent observatory programme. My research interests are in transient and time domain optical astronomy with particular expertise in polarimetry.

Ros Skelton I am a SALT astronomer and head of research at SAAO. My research interests are in galaxy evolution, particularly the effects of environment on the gas content and mass growth of galaxies, which our group explores with multi wavelength data from SALT, MeerKAT and other telescopes. I am part of the 4MOST Hemisphere Survey and would like to offer a postdoc position on 4HS-related projects.

Itumeleng Monageng, My research interests are in multiwavelength studies of X-ray binaries, accretion physics, massive binary stellar evolution, astrophysical transients and time-domain astronomy.


Postdoctoral Research Fellowship: BRICS Astronomy


The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) invites applications for a 2 year postdoctoral position related to BRICS Astronomy STI and Flagship programmes, with a focus on transient and time domain studies of cataclysmic variables (CVs), compact binaries or related objects.


We seek an outstanding individual to join the research group led by Professor David Buckley, who is the South African Lead Investigator for the BRICS flagship astronomy programme, entitled the BRICS Intelligent Telescope and Data Network, and South African Principal Investigator for the BRICS STI programme Constraining the Nature of Multi-messenger Transients with Coordinated Multi-wavelength Observations.

The candidate should have extensive optical observational experience, ideally associated with time domain studies of CVs, compact binaries or fast transients, plus an interest in collaborating with our BRICS partners through multi-site observing campaigns. Experience with polarimetric observations and interpretation would also be an advantage.


There will be ample opportunities to lead research programs using the range of SAAO optical/IR facilities, including the 10-m SALT, and to collaborate on the various transient and survey follow-up projects, potentially involving other multi-wavelength facilities (e.g. MeerKAT). Opportunities for involvement in student supervision, teaching and outreach, are also possible, if desired.


Minimum requirements:

  • A PhD in astronomy with expertise in accreting binaries
  • A good publication record, commensurate with career stage
  • Python coding and/or related software development experience


Desirable experience:

  • Some familiarity or interest in software associated with the automated followup of transient alerts
  • Experience with polarimetric observations and associated modelling


The position will be filled once a viable candidate is identified and the appointment should ideally be taken up before 31 May 2024 (TBC). The salary package is competitive and funding support will be provided for computing resources and travel.


More information concerning the SAAO may be found at


Inquiries may be directed to Professor David Buckley (


Applicants should send a cover letter, including a statement outlining their research and broader interests and experience (no more than 3 pages), their CV plus the contact details of 2 potential references to Ms Linda Tobin (


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