SKAO appoints its telescope directors in Australia and South Africa


SKA Observatory (SKAO) is pleased to announce the appointment of two widely recognized figures in the field as its telescope directors in Australia and South Africa. These positions are the highest representatives of the SKAO operations in the telescope host countries.

Dr. Sarah Pearce, currently acting chief scientist at the Australian national science agency CSIRO, will be the director of the SKAO’s low frequency telescope in Australia. Sarah said, “This is a unique and exciting opportunity to create the SKA Observatory team in Australia and help deliver the next generation of radio telescopes around the world. I am honored to continue my work on the SKA project in this new role and I look forward to building a long-term partnership between the SKA Observatory and CSIRO. “

Dr. Lindsay Magnus, currently operations manager at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), becomes director of the SKAO medium-frequency telescope in South Africa. Lindsay commented, “As a South African, I am proud to have been selected to play a key role in bringing this iconic international scientific instrument to life. I am humble to take on this task to change as many lives as possible in South Africa and the rest of the world. “

Dr. Pearce and Dr. Magnus will set up and direct the activities of SKAO in each country and oversee the personnel and all elements of the respective telescope systems, which are spread over several locations. Sarah and Lindsay have a wealth of experience, including in the management and operation of SKA predecessor systems, and both officers have been closely involved in the SKA project for many years.

“I am very pleased, Dr. Pearce and Dr. We would like to welcome Magnus as our SKAO Telescope Directors, both of whom are highly regarded experts in our field, ”says SKAO General Director Prof. Phil Diamond. “Thanks to their specialist knowledge of the SKA project, their extensive knowledge of the telescope locations and the associated infrastructure, and their good relationships with our partner organizations in the individual countries, they can take the first steps at the start of the construction phase this year. ”

During the construction phase, which is currently scheduled to last until 2028, each telescope director will work closely with the responsible site manager to coordinate all SKAO activities on site. You will also lead the operational activities of all SKA project staff in each country, including staff from SKAO itself and the relevant partner organization (CSIRO in Australia and SARAO in South Africa) who are working together towards the delivery of the SKA telescopes.

The telescope directors will be members of the SKAO Senior Leadership Team and the SKA Director of Operations, Dr. Lewis Ball, report back. He said: “I am excited about the prospect of working closely with Lindsay and Sarah, who will bring a wealth of talent and knowledge to the SKAO. These appointments herald the start of the observatory’s activities in the telescope’s two host countries. “

More employees will be hired for both locations in the coming months as the team from SKAO Global HQ in the UK expands to prepare for this exciting new phase.

Biography: Dr. Sarah Pearce

Dr. Sarah Pearce will join SKAO from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, where she currently holds the position of acting chief scientist.

Dr. Pearce has been with CSIRO for 10 years, previously serving as the deputy director of CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science (CASS). In this role she led CSIRO’s involvement in the international SKA project and was Australia’s scientific representative on the negotiating team for the SKA Observatory Convention. She also founded the CSIRO space exploration program and the inter-agency center for earth observation.

Her career in physics began with a world-class bachelor’s degree from the University of Oxford and a PhD from the University of Leicester. Previously, she was a consultant at the UK Parliamentary Science and Technology Bureau, where she briefed MPs on policy issues in the fields of physics and IT, and project manager of GridPP, the UK’s program to provide computers to the Large Hadron Collider.

Dr. Pearce received numerous awards in 2020 and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. He was named New South Wales Businesswoman of the Year and Executive of the Year at the 2020 Australian Space Awards. She has also been inducted into Science and Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM program, advocating for women in science and technology.

Biography: Dr. Lindsay Magnus

Dr. Lindsay Magnus will move to SKAO from the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), where he has been Operations Manager since 2017. During this time he worked closely with SKAO and others to plan and prepare SKAO’s operation and maintenance of medium-frequency telescope systems. Dr. Magnus joined SARAO (then known as SKA South Africa) in 2011 as Manager of Commissioning & Science Processing, a position he held for five years.

He graduated from Rhodes University with a major in physics with electronics and math and completed his honors year in telecommunications before earning a master’s degree in physics. After a lecture at the Department of Electrical Engineering at Border Technikon (now Walter Sisulu University) in East London, he accepted a position as research physicist at the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO), which is now part of the South African National Space Agency.

At the HMO, Dr. Magnus took over the operation of the SuperDARN HF radar project at the South African research station in Antarctica and gave it a unique perspective for the operation of scientific research equipment in remote locations. During his time at HMO he supervised students, directed the Antarctic program, did research and did his PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Then Dr. Magnus joined the SKA South Africa Project and became manager of the commissioning team. In the transition from a project to an operational facility and the merger with HartRAO to form the South African radio astronomy observatory, Dr. Magnus formed the Operations Division. Merging of the Site Operations, Telescope Maintenance and Telescope Operator teams to support, operate and maintain the SARAO radio astronomy and the associated infrastructure.

Originally published:

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