UKZN/National Astronomical Observatory China MOA Enhances Collaboration

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The Director General of the National Astronomical Observatory China (NAOC) Professor Jun Yan visited UKZN during which he signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Albert van Jaarsveld.

The agreement, which will enhance collaboration between China and South Africa, includes bilateral visits and a joint postdoctoral fellowship programme.

At the meeting, UKZN executives and the NAOC visitors clarified their support for bilateral visits between scientists from the two countries and the sharing of resources including computation and big data.

Science Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy Mr Li-Hong Hou accompanied Yan to witness the signing, together with the Director of Astronomy at the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Mr Takalani Nemaungani.

Hou and Nemaungani discussed potential government funding for bilateral collaborations and visits.

UKZN’s Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning Professor Bala Pillay met with Yan and Hou to discuss future research and public science co-operation as well as the educational programme.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Deresh Ramjugernath introduced UKZN’s new strategic planduring the meeting.

Yan also visited the NAOC/UKZN Computational Astrophysics Centre (NUCAC) and attended presentations from NAOC and UKZN scientists.

Dr Yan-Chun Liang of the NAOC gave an overview of the observatory’s research and international cooperation.

Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman spoke on the UKZN National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme, while PhD candidate Mr Mthokozisi Mdlalose gave a presentation on his redundant baseline calibration method and application to the HERA telescope, and postdoctoral researcher Dr Yi-Chao Li  spoke on the recent measurement of kinetic Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect from Planck data.

Yan’s visit cemented the co-operation between NAOC and UKZN in research, education and public science and was a positive event for the NUCAC.

Professor Ross Robinson, Professor Francesco Petruccione, and Professor Werner Van Zyl of the School of Chemistry and Physics attended, with Professor Kavilan Moodley and Dr Matt Hilton of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Also in attendance were Mr Zhong-Yang Wang and Miss Yu Pang of the Chinese Embassy, and DST’s Mrs Gaboile Mabeba.  UKZN’s Physics cluster hosted the lunchtime function.

The NAOC is the largest astronomy research institute in the Chinese Academy of Sciences and has 600 affiliated staff and postgraduate students.

The signing of the MOA follows the first South Africa-China Bilateral Astronomy Conference on Cosmology and Large Surveys, held in Durban last year when the NUCAC was launched. As BRICSmembers, China and South Africa are part of the large international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

The NUCAC joint centre features Principal Investigators Dr Yin-Zhe Ma of UKZN and Professor Xuelei Chen of the NAOC.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Albert Hirasen