The SAAO currently has 5 funded research positions in Observations and Instrumentation available with Professor Matt Bershady. Professor Bershady is a South African Research Chair (SARChI) located at SAAO, and cross-appointed at the University of Cape Town and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


1. Masters (MSc, 1 year): Exploring extreme star-forming galaxies for SALT in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
2. Masters (MSc,1 year): HI masses of extreme star-forming galaxies in HI deep-fields
3. Ph.D. (3 years): Vertical structure evolution of spiral galaxy disks using optical and near-infrared integral field spectroscopy


4. Masters (1 year) (MSc or MTech): Design and development of fibre-optic test facility
5. Ph.D. (3 years): Design, development and commissioning of a fibre slit-mask integral-field unit for SALT prime-focus spectrograph

Full Details: Bershady_SARChI_positions_2019-3

Inquiries and applications should be sent to
Closing date: 22 February 2019


The SAAO Prize Scholarship is a prestigious annually awarded scholarship offered to a top South African student to work on a PhD project supervised by researchers at the SAAO. The scholarship is for a 3-year PhD registered at a South African university and the student will be required to spend a minimum of 60% of their time at the SAAO. The scholarship will cover tuition and a generous stipend for living expenses. Additional support for conference travel and equipment will be provided.  The advertisement for the scholarship can be found here .

Projects Offered:

  • Probing galaxy evolution through diffuse light in dense environments
    Supervisors: Ros Skelton ( and Sarah Blyth (UCT)/Ilani Loubser (NWU) : Project details
  • Observational studies of Centaurs, interesting and transitional minor planets
    Supervisor: Amanda Sickafoose ( : Project details
  • Discovery and Characterization of Near-Earth Asteroids
    Supervisors: Amanda Sickafoose ( and Nicolas Erasmus ( : Project details
  • Optical and radio transient sources
    Supervisors: Retha Pretorius (, David Buckley (, and Alida Odendaal (UFS; : Project details

Further information about the scholarship application procedure and scholarship rules can be found here .  You are strongly encouraged to contact potential supervisors to discuss the project before applying. Contact if you have further queries.

The scholarship is currently open to South African citizens who hold, or are studying towards, an MSc degree in physics, astrophysics, or a closely related area (ideally with some astronomy background), and must be ready to register for a PhD at the start of the 2019 academic year.

Send your CV, motivation, academic transcript to and arrange for 2 reference letters to be sent to the same address by the closing date.

Degree Funded: 3-year PhD
Funding Amount: R180,000 per year (plus support for tuition, equipment and travel).
Start of Funding: 2019
Applications Open: 18 June 2018
Applications Close: 3 August 2018



Professional Development Programme bursaries are made available annually to a selection of students to do PhDs at the SAAO, contingent on the availability of funding. The list of projects will be listed when applications are open.



The NRF provides many bursaries for Masters and PhD students. Details of which bursaries are currently open for applications can be found on the NRF bursaries webpage: Prospective Masters and PhD students are encouraged to contact potential supervisors at the SAAO and then apply for the various types of funding that are available from the NRF.



There are opportunities available for international students, in particular those from other African countries, including some NRF bursaries. Students should contact prospective supervisors to assist in identifying funding opportunities.