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Cunnama solves galactic puzzles using supercomputer simulations

Pietermaritzburg born Daniel Cunnama recently graduated with a PhD from the University of the Western Cape under the supervision of Prof Catherine Cress. His research uses state-of-the-art supercomputer simulations run at the Centre for High Performance Computing to study galaxies and their environments. Simulations of this kind have become an essential tool for interpreting observations from telescopes and for planning future projects. Many of the results deal with observations that will be carried out by the SKA, particularly those involving neutral hydrogen and synchrotron radiation.

Cunnama completed his undergraduate studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a BSc in computational physics, a pioneering course at the time and one which he feels set him up well for his future career. “Using computers to solve complex problems is a vital skill for any astronomer,” he believes.

He then participated in the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme honours programme before returning to UKZN to complete an MSc in computational solid state physics. He has been a pioneer of simulation work in South Africa and has made major contributions to a flagship project at the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town. He has recently taken up an SKA SA postdoctoral fellowship at the University of the Western Cape and continues to work on questions in galaxy evolution and cosmology using supercomputers in collaboration with Prof Chris Power at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, Western Australia.

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