SKA SA-supported PhD and MSc students, postdoctoral fellows and senior local and international researchers met in Stellenbosch for the ninth SKA SA postgraduate bursary conference, from 4 to 8 December.
At the first postgraduate bursary conference, which took place in 2006, there were less than 50 delegates in attendance, of who only about 15 were students. In 2014, more than 90 postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows gave talks on their research, and 30 more presented their research on posters.
Dr Rick Perley, from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the US, said he had never been to a conference at which more than 100 talks and posters were presented by students. Dr Perley, a radio astronomer of more than 30 years, was inspired by the enthusiasm and energy of the MeerKAT / SKA community in South Africa, and the significant growth in radio astronomy on the African continent, in such a short time.
At the prize-giving event, which acknowledges the best students’ presentations and posters, Dr. Matt Jarvis, from Oxford University, said that he wished his students in the UK could present talks at the same high standard he had seen at the 2014 postgraduate bursary conference. This is a comment repeated every year by the international guests who attend the conference
The number of young scientists and engineers supported by the project’s capacity development programme is testament to the significant investment by the Department of Science and Technology into astronomy, and their recognition that astronomy can contribute to driving the creation of SET capacity and skills required to enhance any knowledge-based economy.