The OAD staff members are complemented by a number of fellows, interns, and volunteers from around the world. Fellowships and internships are currently being carried out remotely. .
The OAD does not conduct astronomy research. For questions on astronomy, please visit the IAU webpages https://iau.org/science/scientific_bodies/divisions/.
For information on other IAU Offices, visit https://www.astro4dev.org/iau-team/
Kevin Govender: Director
Email: kg at astro4dev.org (replace at with @)
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 460 9350
Vanessa McBride: Deputy Director
Email: vanessa at astro4dev.org (replace at with @)
Ramasamy Venugopal: Operations
Email: rv at astro4dev.org (replace at with @)
Nuhaah Solomon: Admin & Logistics
Email: ns at astro4dev.org (replace at with @)
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 460 6297
Dominic Vertue joined the OAD in June 2022. He has a background in Social Work and humanitarian assistance with a master’s in medical social work. Dominic has a passion for people and holds a firm belief that, with support, individuals can overcome their physical, environmental, and mental barriers and positively contribute to their communities. Dominic has several years of experience in public health and involvement with community-based programs to empower vulnerable groups. Within the OAD Dominic forms part of the Astronomy for Mental Health Flagship and he will be exploring the role astronomy can play in mental well-being.
Joyful has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and an alumna of the Black Women in Science (BWIS) where she is currently serving on the steering committee. She also serves as the executive committee’s secretary for the Women in Physics in South Africa (WiPiSA) for the 2022–2024 term. She is passionate about science communication and community outreach through volunteering her time in outreach programmes. She joined the OAD in June 2023 and forms part of the Astronomy for Mental Health Flagship. She believes that life is too short to be anything but joyful, so smile as often as you can.
Thara holds a physics bachelor’s degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Passionate about advocating for physics students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, she has been part of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Physics Students for the past two years. She is interested in astroparticle physics and how science and policy can combine to improve the world. She joined the OAD in June 2023 and forms part of the Astronomy for Mental Health Flagship.
Rena Aerey Lee
Mampho is a final year Psychology and Industrial Sociology student at the University of Cape Town. She is passionate about community development and accessible mental health care. With a background in Psychology, Mampho aims to utilize her knowledge to support the Astronomy for Mental Health Project’s goal of promoting mental health knowledge and care through astronomy. Additionally, she actively engages in community projects, particularly with marginalised groups, and also has experience advocating for inclusivity in the academic environment. Mampho joined the OAD in July 2023, bringing her knowledge of psychology and dedication to community development to further the OAD’s mission of utilizing astronomy for community well-being.
Eli Grant: Development Research and Project Co-Ordinator
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 was on a 3-year post doctoral research position at the OAD, funded by the South African National Research Foundation
Oct 2016 – Mar 2019
Email: tchingozha at gmail.com (replace at with @)
Email: nikhita at saao.ac.za
Tanita Ramburuth-Hurt is a South African astrophysicist, currently working on her PhD at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Her PhD research is on the gas and dust in galaxies, which are essential ingredients for star formation and galaxy evolution. She focusses on investigating the metal variation in the interstellar medium of both distant galaxies and the Milky Way. Tanita believes that science is for people who have an unshakeable desire to discover, understand and communicate how and why the universe works. She is passionate about using astronomy as a tool for development and for giving all people equal access to pursuing their dreams. Tanita is visiting the OAD for two weeks in March 2023.
Armine joined OAD in October 2021 as a mental health project fellow. She has a background in International Relations, Human Rights and Conflict Management with experience in development and humanitarian settings. She has worked with UNDP Armenia on women and youth empowerment, and with KASA Swiss Humanitarian Foundation on integration of asylum seekers and refugees in Armenia. In parallel, she has become an active supporter for the advancement of astronomy, by organizing as well as supporting several outreach and education projects, and currently serves as NAEC Armenia. During her fellowship, Armine is exploring the empowerment potential of astronomy to prevent mental health problems and to enable the fulfillment of human potential.
Sandra Benitez Herrera
Sandra Benitez Herrera studied Physics at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, and obtained her PhD at the Max-Planck for Astrophysics and the Technical University in Munich, Germany. She also has a specialization in Science Communication and Education, which she studied while she was working at the Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences of Rio de Janeiro. Currently, Sandra works at the Outreach Department of the Astrophysical Institute of the Canary Islands in several astronomy outreach projects. She is a member of the GalileoMobile voluntary program since 2011 and has organized educational initiatives in rural schools of India, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Uganda, Bolivia & Algeria. Since 2018 she is the coordinator of the “Amanar: under the same sky” project to support the Sahrawi refugee community. Within the OAD Sandra is part of the Astronomy for Mental Health Flagship, trying to assess the restorative effects of Astronomy and its potential to improve the mental well-being of vulnerable communities, such as refugees.
Tom studied Mathematics and Physics at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Uganda and he is currently a lecturer in the Department of Physics. At MUST, Tom is involved in the training of secondary school science teachers especially those offering Mathematics and Physics combinations. He has played a pivotal role in curriculum development for the Department of Physics as well as teaching basic programming skills using Python computer language. Before joining MUST as a lecturer, Tom obtained his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. At the OAD, Tom is using astronomy skills to explore the changes in land-use and vegetation cover in Uganda and assess how these affect the quality of water and moisture content in the soil. .
Dana joined the OAD Team in October 2021 to work on the impact analysis and communication of OAD projects. She has a background in astronomy- obtained her Bachelors in Astronomy at the University of Nanjing, China, her Masters at the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca and her PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. She also has a masters in Educational Sciences, Curricular Management and experience as a member in the OAD Review panel. In her OAD project, she is studying the impact of funded OAD projects as well as ways to improve the communication of this data base of projects.
Maria Alejandra Diaz
Jane has a degree in Socio-cultural Anthropology from Beloit College, the United States. She currently works at the British Consulate-General in Cape Town as a Trade and Investment Advisor. In her spare time, she volunteers for the OAD. The latest OAD project Jane worked on was the Astronomy for Development online course. This Project Design course aims to provide a helping hand to anyone who intends to submit an application to the OAD Call for Proposals.
Sean is a senior economics and finance dual major at Susquehanna University, based in Selinsgrove Pennsylvania, USA. While at Susquehanna University, Sean has conducted research on both the quantity theory of money and the impact of minimum wage hikes. Currently, Sean is interning at the OAD, where he is examining the economic impact of astro-tourism.
Michael Levine is a student of Finance and Economics at Susquehanna University based in Selinsgrove Pennsylvania, USA. He has done previous research on the effects of COVID-19 on the aesthetic industry (non-invasive surgery) in Europe. And completed an internship and work experience in global settings with people around the world, most recently at a large financial technology-based solutions firm in NYC.
Email: amid.ast at gmail.com (replace at with @)
Email: marie.korsaga07 at gmail.com
Emily Chiedza Tigere
Email: Triggastiger at gmail.com
Thummim is an Ethiopian student finishing up a joint Astrophysics and Philosophy degree at Pomona College, USA. As an intern with the OAD, she is working with Nikhita Madhanpall on collecting data for a machine-learning hackathon, and adding to Marie Korsaga’s research on non-medical scientists who are contributing to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Email: amelia.henkel at uconn.edu (replace at with @)
Estefany San Andres H.
Estefany, from Ecuador, is a Socio-Cultural Anthropologist with studies in Jungian Psychology. Her work experience is based on design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of social projects with government, non-profit sector and United Nations. Specifically, she has coordinated multicultural public health and socio-economic inclusion projects with refugees, indigenous communities and women. As a visitor at the OAD, she is supporting the inclusion of gender and ethnic approach and strengthening the guidelines for social impacts and relation between Astronomy and local community. Her personal interests include writing, theatre, percussion, dream analysis and art-therapy.
September – November 2018
September – October 2018
Nguyen Tan Vu
Tan Vu is a graduate student of the Global Studies Programme, jointly organised by the University of Freiburg, University of Cape Town, and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Coming from Vietnam, Vu has been long engaging with astronomy outreach and education, starting with Ho Chi Minh City Amateur Astronomy Club (HAAC) and VietAstro. His internship at the OAD involves in different tasks of operations and communications. He hopes what he learns at the OAD also helps to address new issues in interdisciplinarity as well as to explore the new horizons of science for development.
Email: tan-vu.nguyen at vietastro.org (replace at with @)
July – September 2018
Email: johanna.casado at um.edu.ar (replace at with @)
July – August 2018
Kathy DeGioia Eastwood is a Professor Emerita of Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University in the United States. She is visiting the OAD as a Fulbright Specialist, and is working with Wanda Diaz-Merced on developing materials to prepare visually impaired students to study physics and astronomy at university. Over her career, Kathy did research on massive stars, taught university courses, worked with K-12 teachers, served as Department Chair, administered grants at the National Science Foundation, and started two successful programs enabling undergraduates to do research.
Email: kathy.eastwood at gmail.com (replace at with @)
July – August 2018
Paul A. Wilson
Email: mkhizesukuma33 at gmail.com (replace at with @)
June – August 2018
Email: jtharvey6 at gmail.com (replace at with @)
January – April 2017
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 vt.edu (replace at with @)
July – August 2016
Email: 2079576F at student.gla.ac.uk (replace at with @)
July – August 2016
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
E-mail: sankatsing at strw.leidenuniv.nl (replace at with @)
May – September 2015
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 saao.ac.za (replace at with @)
Email: rajin250 at yahoo.com (replace at with @)
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 gmail.com (replace at with @)
Read his 2013 blog for the OAD ‘The Meaning of Astronomy for me‘.
Email: kodai.fukushima417 at gmail.com (replace at with @)
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 gmail.com (replace at with @)
Read Maya Barlev’s open letter to the OAD, relating her experience at the office.
Email: maya.barlev at gmail.com (replace at with @)
Melo is a student of Astronomy at the University of Cape Town. In 2017, Melo was an OAD intern during which he performed project management tasks and also worked towards creating a database for managing internal information.
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.
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 astro4dev.org (replace at with @)
JC was the first Project Officer for the IAU OAD, overseeing 40 projects in 30 countries.He obtained his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Paris Observatory, and later worked for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique on the European Space Agency “Gaia” satellite mission and for the California Institute of Technology on the NASA Spitzer satellite mission. He is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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 aims.ac.za (replace at with @)