As part of a broader Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) Collateral Benefits Plan, the Stobie-SALT Scholarship initiative (2003-2013) aimed at training the next generation of astronomers to make use of SALT and other optical astronomy facilities in SA and beyond. In partnership with SALT consortium institutions, South African students could undertake doctoral studies in astronomy at Rutgers University, Dartmouth College and Wisconsin University in the USA, and Southampton University and the University of Central Lancashire in the UK.
The programme has resulted in significant benefits for both South Africa and the participating institutions: 10 students were trained, the majority are now in senior leadership positions in astronomy (many on a national and international level), teaching students in their groups and continuing to work with astronomers in their doctoral institutions. In addition, the programme has forged stronger ties and highly productive collaborations with astronomers in South Africa for international partners.
To ensure maximum benefit from our continued investment in SALT for astronomy and its broader impact on areas such as technology, engineering, data science, the National Research Foundation (NRF) has provided R1 Million (USD 66,160) to re-launch the SALT scholarships programme, extending it also to include research visits for students, postdoctoral fellows and early career researchers (hereafter referred to as “participants”) from SA to spend time at SALT partner institutes.
The envisioned scheme aims to
- Support/build scientific collaborations and networks for participants and their hosts;
- Give participants international exposure and opportunities for specialized training and research;
- Allow SALT partners to work with exceptional students and postdocs;
- Further strengthen the SALT partnership (a “whole that is greater than the sum of its parts”).
The focus will be on SALT and SALT-related projects, including instrumentation, activities linked to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, optical-radio synergies, theory/computation and/or data science.
- Available funding, costs, and partner contributions will determine the number and duration of participant visits/doctoral positions that the scholarship can support;
- Partners will contribute to local costs, such as accommodation, visa costs etc., either directly or by leveraging existing funding instruments;
- The selection of participants will be in line with NRF employment equity considerations;
- A strong proposal will involve exceptional participants, clear and compelling scientific goals, evidence of thorough preparation for visits, excellent host support and infrastructure, and specific, measurable outcomes, e.g., MSc/doctoral degree, publications, skills transfer, collaborations etc.
The telescope is funded and operated by the SALT Foundation, a collection of academic and government institutions throughout the world and while the telescope itself is in the Northern Cape province, the permanent headquarters of the SALT Foundation is based at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Observatory, a suburb of Cape Town.
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