Numerous promising research collaborations in astronomy
and physics have so far been discussed. The collaborative projects listed
below have already established concrete plans for moving forward quickly.
Astronomy: Search for exo-planets
The time-domain astronomy collaboration will center on a new small telescope
to be built at the Sutherland Station of the South African Astronomical
Observatory, also the site of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).
The new telescope will monitor nearly 1 million stars, spread over 25
percent of the southern hemisphere sky, with a time cadence of about 15
minutes. A primary motivation is to search for the faint 'shadows' cast
by Earth-like planets as they orbit their suns. In addition to searching
for these so-called exoplanets, the new venture will study a host of transient
phenomena, such as binary stars and supernova explosions, that may then
be studied in more careful detail with SALT. Finally, it is hoped that
the stream of approximately 10 Gb of data obtained every night will help
to form the backbone of an archival repository of high quality data--a
South African Virtual Observatory--that researchers and students across
Southern Africa will be able to use for ongoing research and training. The photo at right shows the South African Minister of Science visiting Vanderbilt's KELT South telescope in South Africa, which is being used to search for exoplanets, with participation of UCT graduate student Rudi Kuhn.
Astronomy: Spectra of supernovae
student, Jedidah Isler, will use the 1.9m telescope at the South African
Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) to get multi-epoch spectra of low redshift
supernovae that will be followed up as part of the QUEST
survey. The aim of this is to help anchor the low redshift end of
the Hubble diagram which is crucial to maximize constraints on dark energy.
The research is in collaboration with Lou Strolger (Western Kentucky University)
and Kurt van der Heyden (postdoc at UCT/SAAO).
The nano-physics collaboration identified three pilot feasibility projects,
involving researchers in physics, materials science, chemistry, and engineering.
These projects take advantage of the expertise, research facilities, and
materials synthesis capabilities in nanoscience and materials science
that are found among the partnering universities. These projects currently
are being pursued, involving materials transfers, joint development of
research trajectories, and short-term faculty/student visits for knowledge
transfer. It is anticipated that these feasibility studies may help leverage
significant (~ R600000) funding from the South African National Research
Foundation, from the National Science Foundation in the United States,
and from industrial and commercial partners.
Cosmology: Dark Energy
Dark energy is known through its effect of causing an accelerated expansion
of the universe, but little else is known about this mysterious quantity.
Collaborative work between Cape Town University and Vanderbilt University
on creating models for the dark energy, and developing tests that can
probe its nature is starting. A proposal is being submitted to support
a visit this fall to Vanderbilt by several Cape Town scientists.
In addition to the above two new projects, an ongoing collaboration between
UCT, Wayne State University, and the Vanderbilt Institute for Imaging
Science is studying the effects of pre-natal alcohol exposure amongst
the Cape Malays using functional MRI. Vanderbilt researchers helped to
train the faculty at UCT on how to do imaging (one of them has spent several
weeks at Vanderbilt) and Chris Gatenby went to UCT for a month to help
set up the experiments. Vanderbilt researchers helped design the studies
and are analysing them at Vanderbilt. Two epidemiologists at Wayne State
have followed this cohort behaviorally and are the PI's on a Fogarty award
to support this. Vanderbilt also has an NIH grant pending with UCT.
This page will be updated as these and other research collaborations
continue to take shape.