The OAD Team


kg_officialKevin Govender: Director
Kevin began work at the OAD on 1st March 2011 as its first Director. He has extensive experience in using astronomy for development during his previous position as the Manager of the SALT Collateral Benefits Programme at the South African Astronomical Observatory. He also chaired the Developing Astronomy Globally Cornerstone Project of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) and was involved in the development of the IAU Strategic Plan. Kevin is the first South African to be awarded the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for Science, jointly with the International Astronomical Union.
Email: kg at (replace at with @)
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 460 9350
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 487 8466
Skype: kevindran | Twitter: @govender

Nuhaah SolomonNuhaah Solomon: Administration Officer

Nuhaah joined the OAD on 6th June 2011 to coordinate the administrative aspects of the office. She brings vast experience of working in administrative and events management roles in some of the most fast paced environments in the corporate world. Her previous roles include project management, stakeholder relations and coordinating international meetings and events.
Email: ns at (replace at with @)
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 460 6297

Vanessa McBrideVanessa McBride: Astronomer

Vanessa joined the OAD in January 2017. At the OAD she acts a link between the professional astronomer community and the development community. Vanessa has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Southampton. She has spent the last ten years in astrophysics research and teaching, most recently in a joint position between the University of Cape Town and the South African Astronomical Observatory. Her research interests include X-ray binaries, the Magellanic Clouds and early-type stars.

Email: vanessa at (replace at with @)


Past Staff

Eli GrantEli Grant: Development Research and Project Co-Ordinator

Eli joined the OAD in Febraury 2015, bringing an interdisciplinary background in statistics, behavioural sciences and social policy. Eli supports project management, design, implementation and evaluation processes at the OAD. Eli has a PhD in evaluation methodology from the Centre of Evidence-Based Intervention and Nuffield College, University of Oxford (UK). Her doctoral research assessed applications of network analysis to policy impact evaluation and prediction. She has over ten years of experience working in government, academia and the non-profit sector on issues concerning health, international development, criminal justice, education and gender equality.
Email: eg at (replace at with @)

Post Doctoral Researchers

IMG_7967Wanda Diaz-Merced

Wanda is an astrophysicist from Puerto Rico. She obtained her PhD from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She also spent time doing research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. A long time collaborator with the OAD, Wanda has worked on projects such as AstroSense and run workshops at the school for the blind in Cape Town. She is currently expanding on her work in improving Accessibility and encouraging greater inclusion in Science through her work in Astronomy. She is on a 3 year post doctoral research position funded by the South African National Research Foundation
Email:wdm at (replace at with @)

IMG_7967Pierre-Yves Lablanche

Pierre is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences working on machine learning techniques for astronomy and astrophysics. He used to be a scientific educator for an astronomy club in France for several years and has always been involved in public engagement activities for science everywhere Pierre has been, from France and Germany to Tanzania and South Africa. Lately he has been focusing on how to make astronomy available to people with any kind of disability.
Email: plablanche at (replace at with @) 

Current Interns/Fellows

Ramasamy Venugopal_large formatRamasamy Venugopal

Ram is a visiting fellow from India who is working on various projects. He recently completed his MSc in space studies at the International Space University. An engineer by training, he has worked in software development at Verizon and telecom services configuration at Ericsson in India. At the OAD, he is developing, amongst other things, a project that will provide university and school students access to remotely operable telescopes.

Email: rv at (replace at with @)
Telephone: +27 82 059 3121
Twitter: @ram_cosmo

Past Interns/Fellows

The OAD Internship Program aims to provide an opportunity for inspired motivated individuals to contribute meaningfully to the OAD objectives, providing them with unique international experience in using astronomy for development. Contact if you are interested.

Paul WilsonPaul A. Wilson

Paul is a visiting fellow who is leading the development of the OAD Data Science Toolkit aimed at teaching data science with astronomy. He is a professional astronomer by training, having obtained his PhD in astronomy from the University of Exeter. Paul has done research in several fields including exoplanet atmospheres, brown dwarfs, debris disks and exocomets. At the OAD Paul is developing ways to help astronomers identify and learn skills within astronomy that also comprise important data science skills. Paul is also working on providing people outside of astronomy with teaching materials which use astronomy applications to introduce data science skills.

Email: paul (followed by
Twitter: @Paul_A_Wilson

AnnikaAnnika Müller

Annika is a student of Media Design at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany. She was a graphic design intern at the OAD for a month. During this time, she designed templates for an OAD brochure, Yearbook, postcards besides advising on various design matters. After her internship, Annika is continuing to contribute as a volunteer, creating materials for OAD events. 
 August-September 2017


KaraboKarabo Makola

Karabo joined the IAU-OAD team on the 3rd of May 2016 as an intern. She is an aspiring Communications officer/ Journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Limpopo with a B.A. Honours in Media Studies. In her undergraduate studies, she majored in Communication Studies and Media Studies with modules in public relations, marketing communications, corporate communications, strategic organisational communications, and journalism. Karabo is an avid reader and a lover of life. She is very passionate about journalism and aspires to be a world renowned journalist or communications officer using mass media for social development and social inclusion.

Email: karabom at (replace at with @)
Twitter: @karabsm

JackJack Harvey

Jack is a intern from the United States working with OAD for three months. He is starting at Harvard University in September and is interested in studying Astronomy. Jack has previously interned at The Space Telescope Science Institute working on flight guiding on the Hubble Telescope. He has also helped with scheduling on the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope at one of NASA’s facilities. With an affection of new experiences and challenges, Jack will be collecting data on funded projects as well as other tasks.

Email: jtharvey6 at (replace at with @)
January – April 2017


Alex Gagliano

Alex is an intern from the United States.  He is an undergraduate from Virginia Tech studying computational modeling & data analytics, with minors in physics and international studies. Alex has worked in the past as a researcher at the Cerro-Tololo Observatory in Chile and an Astronomy Ambassador with the American Astronomical Society. Most recently, he conducted interviews in Gabon to study the influence of astronomy on traditional culture. With the OAD, Alex is working to develop a series of outreach activities and curricula combining astronomy and data science.
Email: galex95 at (replace at with @)
July – August 2016


Jamie Ferguson

Jamie is a research fellow from Scotland. He is a graduate student at the University of Glasgow, studying multimodal technologies that will be used to allow astronomical data to be perceived through sound – with the goal of opening up astronomy to those with sensory disabilities. Jamie has previously worked with Saccade Diagnostics in Aberdeen, developing data visualisation tools to be used by mental-health patients. Most recently, he worked with Pulsion Technology in Glasgow on the research and development of machine learning tools. With the OAD, Jamie is working to develop multimodal software that will allow astronomy to be accessible to anyone, regardless of disability.
Email: 2079576F at (replace at with @)
July – August 2016

Silvia Verdolini OAD Visiting Fellow

Silvia Verdolini

Silvia is an astronomer from Italy. In February 2014 she completed her PhD in Astrophysics at Leiden University (The Netherlands). She is an experienced programmer and numerical modeler. Over the years, she has contributed and collaborated on a number of outreach events and children activities. At the OAD she will be involved in several of the international projects and activities of the OAD, with a focus on helping to develop an impact evaluation cycle for OAD-funded projects.
May – December 2015



Tibisay Sankatsing Nava

Tibisay is a science communicator from Aruba who works in astro-education and communication. She has a masters in Arts & Culture and in Science Communication from Leiden University. For the OAD, she spearheaded the development of a new communications strategy, among other things. Tibisay is also project manager at Universe Awareness, a global astronomy education programme for young children coordinated from Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands.
E-mail: sankatsing at (replace at with @)
Twitter: @tibisaysn
May – September 2015


Laure Catala

Laure was a PhD student from France, working on optical instrumentation for the Southern African Large Telescope, affiliated to both the University of Cape Town and the South African Astronomical Observatory. She lead two projects at the OAD, the first one evaluating the impact of different outreach and education programs in collaboration with social scientists and education researchers and the second one aimed at developing an undergraduate astronomy course for historically black universities.
Email: lcc at (replace at with @)

Rajin Ramphul

Rajin is a Mauritian student doing his PhD in Astrophysics at the South African Astronomical Observatory and with the University of Cape Town. He is working in the field of Galaxy formation and evolution. Rajin is enthusiastic about anything that deals with teaching science as well as for topics related to computing. He worked on a project to apply the skills of astronomical programming to other research domains and undergraduate students in Africa.
Email: rajin250 at (replace at with @)


Eli Kasai

Eli was a PhD student in Astrophysics at University of Cape Town, affiliated to the South African Astronomical Observatory and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. From Namibia, Eli has a strong passion helping develop the study of Astronomy in places that lack knowledge in this field, especially in the Square Kilometer Array Africa partner countries where Human Capacity Development programs are a high priority         Email: kunwijik at (replace at with @)

kodai_fukushimaKodai Fukushima

Kodai is pursuing his masters at Hosei University in Japan. He has been involved in research examining the impacts on society of astronomy. Two of the largest activities were held in Fukushima Prefecture, which was affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and in Cambodia. He visited the OAD office in Cape Town to run trials for a service evaluation. The project, ‘One World Experiment’, is designed to evaluate the impact of Astronomy Outreach on ingroup bias and resource allocation.
Read his 2013 blog for the OAD ‘The Meaning of Astronomy for me‘.
Email: kodai.fukushima417 at (replace at with @)

RajeevRajeev Manick

Rajeev just completed his Masters in Astrophysics at the University of Cape Town, joint with the South African Astronomical Observatory. His area of research is mainly focused on stellar evolution and particularly Post-AGB stars; his upcoming PhD research interest. As part of his contribution to the OAD, he is working on a project aiming to enhance communication between young astronomers around the world and consultant astronomers who are willing to assist young scientists in their research.
Email: rajeevmnck at (replace at with @)



Maya Barlev

Maya has been collaborating with the OAD since early January 2013, specializing in astronomy education resource development. Currently, Maya is traveling the world engaging with how children learn about the Universe both in academic and non-academic contexts, as supported by the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Originally from the U.S., Maya hopes to apply what she learns at the OAD to solving problems of education inequality in her own country and worldwide. She holds a BSc in astrophysics from Haverford College, where she began her work in astronomy education and outreach. Email: maya.barlev at (replace at with @)
Read Maya Barlev’s open letter to the OAD, relating her experience at the office.