SARAO Chief Technologist honoured by Rhodes University

Professor Justin Jonas, Chief Technologist at SARAO and System Scientist at SKAO, delivered an inaugural lecture at Rhodes University, Makhanda after being bestowed with the inaugural esteemed Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award (2020).

Prof. Jonas, who also holds the position of Professor of Physics and Electronics at the Rhodes University Department of Physics and Electronics, delivered the lecture titled Karoo adventures of Ziggy Stardust, based on his 2003 inaugural lecture on The Hazy Cosmic Jive to highlight the unprecedented growth of radio astronomy in South Africa and over Africa over the past two decades, with Rhodes University playing a significant role.

“Having spent my entire academic career at Rhodes University, I am particularly honoured and gratified to have received this award. I enrolled as an undergraduate at Rhodes in 1976 because I wanted to build radio telescopes, and I have been fortunate to have fulfilled this ambition with the help of an incredible team of colleagues. This award is an acknowledgement of the achievements of this team,” says Prof Jonas.

[L-R] Acting DVC: Research, Innovation and Partnerships Prof. Joanna Dames; Prof. Justin Jonas; DVC: Academic and Student Affairs Prof. Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela; and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Sizwe Mabizela.

Prof. Jonas says that the lecture outlined the genesis of the MeerKAT radio telescope and the Karoo site in the context of the international SKA project. “The narrative included my own personal journey from a schoolboy with an interest in radio telescopes and 1970s music to my current position.”

He continues: “The title of the lecture derives from one of my favourite David Bowie albums from 1973, The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The growth in the community of scientists, engineers and technicians in South Africa who are involved in Radio Astronomy was highlighted, and a common theme of the lecture was the role of collaboration, cooperation and sense of common purpose in the successes that were achieved,” concludes Prof. Jonas.

The lecture was attended by Prof. Jonas’ family and friends, students, academia and the Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Professor Sizwe Mabizela.

Read the Rhodes University article.