NRF Awards Guest Speaker to Deliver a Special Lecture on the SKA

NRF Awards Guest Speaker to Deliver a Special Lecture on the SKA

The National Research Foundation (NRF) is delighted to announce that the 2023 NRF Awards guest speaker will be Dr Kenda Knowles. The guest speaker delivers a science lecture at the prestigious awards ceremony held each year to celebrate South Africa’s academic research excellence. The NRF invites a guest speaker on the basis of their expertise in the discipline relating to the theme of the Awards, which this year is Celebrating 20 years of the SKA Project in South Africa. As per an invitation already extended to the media, the 2023 NRF Awards will take place on 31 August 2023 at The Capital Zimbali Resort in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr Kenda Knowles is a Senior Research Fellow at Rhodes University and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRF-SARAO). She is an astrophysicist, and focuses on the physics of galaxy clusters, with the aim of understanding the constituent galaxies, plasma, and magnetic fields, the physical processes that affect them, and how these processes may evolve over cosmic time or with cluster properties. She boasts extensive knowledge and expertise on the Square Kilometre Array, a pioneering project through which her PhD, which she received from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2016, was funded. Her PhD studied observational astrophysics and cosmology and produced evidence for a new radio halo in a low-mass galaxy cluster. 

Dr Knowles has grown through the ranks in local astrophysics, having started as a student in the NRF-SARAO Human Capital Development programme. She uses NRF-SARAO’s MeerKAT telescope, located in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape, for part of her research. Dr Knowles led team of South African and international experts whose research in 2021 released a huge trove of data critical for astronomers to better understand the many different components of the universe. The team’s seminal research paper, entitled The MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey I Survey Overview and Highlights, was published in the globally acclaimed Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.

She is currently the Primary Investigator of the MeerKAT Exploration of Relics, Giant Halos, and Extragalactic Radio Sources (MERGHERS), a project studying a large statistical sample of galaxy clusters with the MeerKAT observatory. A winner of a 2015 South African DSI Women in Science Awards Doctoral Fellowship and a prestigious 2017 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa Postdoctoral Fellowship, she recently led the first data release of the MeerKAT Galaxy Cluster Legacy Survey, a rich dataset of 115 cluster targets, for the global community.

Dr Knowles is passionate about student training and the development of South African talent by using her research programmes and local and international networks. Her strong local research connections, as well as those with Italy, Germany, the USA, the UK, and her recent NRF/Swiss National Science Foundation bilateral project, help to foster international mentorship of South African students, better preparing South Africans to contribute to and to lead international astronomy research. 

As NRF Awards guest speaker, Dr Knowles joins the cohort of fellow esteemed academics previously invited to deliver the science lecture which includes Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, a leading infectious diseases epidemiologist, delivered the Science Lecture at the 2022 NRF Awards. Entitled Basic Science for Sustainable Development: HIV, TB and Covid-19, her lecture highlighted findings by South African research in HIV, TB and Covid-19.

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