Media release

Former Columbia University academic joins SKA South Africa as Chief Scientist

26 February 2016

Dr Fernando Camilo, former senior research scientist at Columbia University in New York, joins the Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA) as Chief Scientist on 1 April 2016.

Dr Camilo has more than 20 years’ experience in astrophysics. Starting as a lecturer in physics in 1995, his most recent appointments were as Director of Astronomy at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University.

He received a B.S. degree in Physics and Mathematics from Stony Brook University in New York and a Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University.

While a post-doctoral fellow at Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK, he developed data acquisition software that was subsequently used at the Parkes Observatory in Australia to discover nearly half of all known radio pulsars.

At Arecibo, while directing the radio astronomy group at the world’s largest single dish telescope, he also had management oversight of the radar astronomy, electronics, and IT departments.

He is an author in more than 250 refereed articles, with notable contributions to the study of radio magnetars, young neutron stars in supernova remnants, old pulsars in globular clusters, and most recently joint radio/gamma-ray emission from pulsars.

As Chief Scientist at SKA SA he will direct the SKA SA science program and the scientific program of MeerKAT as a world-leading facility in the pre-SKA era, and work with the user community to ensure the maximum scientific productivity of the MeerKAT large survey projects and open time.

He will also provide strategic advice to the SKA SA Director on science and on technical decisions that impact scientific outcomes, lead the development of scientific partnerships with African countries toward an African VLBI network and hosting of the SKA, and work with the SKA SA project to maximise the human capital development impact of South African radio astronomy.

In addition he will promote and represent MeerKAT and SKA SA within the framework of planning and coordination with other major South African astronomy projects, work with the South African community to advance scientific participation and leadership in the SKA project and the integration of MeerKAT into SKA phase I, and contribute to the development and execution of the Big Data Africa programme.

“Within the coming year MeerKAT will join the ranks of world-class astronomical facilities,” said Dr Camilo. “It’s extraordinary how much has been accomplished in South African radio astronomy over the past decade, through the hard work and dedication of numerous engineers, managers, scientists, and SKA South Africa partners, all supported by the South African government and people. MeerKAT and the related SKA activities provide outstanding scientific opportunities, as well as uniquely important channels for the development of human capital at various levels within the country. Much remains to be done, but the future looks very promising, these are exciting times. I’m happy to have the opportunity to join my colleagues in South Africa and help make this promise a reality.”

Dr Camilo, originally from Portugal, expects to see more of his brother who lives in Angola. A keen hiker and aviation enthusiast, he also looks forward to exploring South Africa from the ground as well as the air.

Dr Fernando Camilo in the Arecibo Observatory telescope control room with US Senator, Tom Harkin.


Lorenzo Raynard
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