University of Cape Town

Dept. of Astronomy

Dept. of Physics

Dept. of Maths and Applied Maths

South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)

The University of Cape Town, on the slopes of Devil's Peak.



The Vanderbilt—Cape Town Partnership

A research and student exchange program in astronomy, physics, and materials science.

Research Projects | Courses and Training | Faculty and Students
Fisk University | University of the Western Cape



Vanderbilt University

Dept. of Physics & Astronomy

Materials Science Program

SMARTS Telescopes at CTIO

About Vanderbilt

About Nashville

Vanderbilt University is located near downtown Nashville.

Research Projects

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
Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge 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.

Imaging Science
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.