Our People

Professor Sergei Gulyaev - Director

Prof Sergei Gulyaev is the Foundation Director of the Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research (IRASR). He graduated from Moscow State University with an MSc and then completed a PhD (1982) and DSc (1991). He went on to work at the Ural State University (Russia) where he was elected Head of Department of Astronomy and Geodesy. In 2000, Sergei moved to New Zealand to take up the position of Deputy Director of the Earth and Oceanic Sciences Research Centre (EOS), which he occupied until 2004.
Prof Gulyaev's main research interests are in the areas of astrophysics and radio astronomy. He has over 100 scientific publications, including the textbook "Basics of Natural Science: History of the Earth", the third edition of which was published in 2000.

Phone: +64 9 921 9541
Email: sergei.gulyaev@aut.ac.nz

Tim Natusch - Deputy Director Operations, Senior Lecturer

Tim graduated from Auckland University with an MSc (Physics) in 1982. He spent 10 years working in the Telecommunications industry as an RD engineer in a Radio Development Lab. He joined AUT in the early 1990s taking up a position as Lecturer in the School of Engineering. In 2009 he shifted to the School of Computer and Mathematical Sciences where he teaches Physics, Astronomy, Computer Architecture and Calculus to students of the Bachelor of Mathematical Science degree. His research interests encompass practical and theoretical astrophysics, including development of VLBI and eVLBI techniques, observations of galactic and extragalactic radio sources and search of extraterrestrial planets using gravitational microlensing effect. Tim is a co-author of over 150 research publications.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x8689

Dr Willem van Straten - Associate Professor

Willem completed a PhD (Swinburne) on high-precision pulsar timing and then undertook post-doctoral and academic staff appointments at the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (ASTRON), The Centre for Gravitational Wave Astronomy (The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), and the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing (Swinburne University of Technology) before joining AUT in 2016.  Willem has co-authored over 100 refereed journal articles, primarily related to the study of pulsars and fast radio bursts, including 4 in Science and 2 in Nature.  His primary research interests include testing our understanding of gravity and detecting low-frequency gravitational waves through high-precision pulsar timing; radio polarimetry and instrumental calibration; statistical methods of studying the pulsar emission mechanism; and the application of high-performance computing, machine learning and autonomous systems to all aspects of the search for new pulsars and fast transients.  To pursue these goals, Willem works closely with international collaborators on large, long-term projects such as the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA), the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA), and the Survey for Pulsars and Extragalactic Radio Bursts (SUPERB).  He is the primary architect of three scientific data analysis packages used by the international community of pulsar astronomers (psrdada, dspsr, and psrchive) and is currently leading the design of the pulsar timing instrumentation for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) as a member of the SKA Central Signal Processor consortium.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x6810
Email: willem.vanstraten@aut.ac.nz

Patricia Sallis - Administrator

Patricia’s background is in secondary teaching on the arts side.  The move to administration that is science focused offers endless fascination and respect.  She is responsible to the Director for developing and maintaining processes and systems for the smooth running of all administrative tasks, including organisation of conferences and workshops.

Phone: +64 9 921 9520
Email: patricia.sallis@aut.ac.nz

Lewis Woodburn - Manager, Radio Telescope Maintenance

Lewis has an extensive background in television satellite communication from working for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service which became TVNZ. He has set up telecommunication systems on antennae (dishes) ranging from 3m to 13m at various sites around the world. Since working for our Institute he has been involved in the purchase, installation, commissioning and maintenance of the AUT 12m radio telescope at Warkworth. He then managed the conversion of a Telecom 30m satellite dish to a radio telescope and is responsible for maintenance and development.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x8689
Email: lewis.woodburn@aut.ac.nz

Dr Stuart Weston - Software Engineer

Stuart obtained his BSc (Hons) degree in physics from Manchester University, UK. He completed an MPhil at AUT in 2009 under the supervision of Prof Gulyaev and Tim Natusch. He assists with the maintenance and development of the 12m and 30m radio telescope HPC systems and is very involved with operations especially our observation work with our IVS and VLBI partners. He is also the Observatory's Health and Safety officer.
Stuart was awarded his PhD in 2020 on the topic of "Development of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Techniques in New Zealand: Array Simulation, Image Synthesis and Analysis", under the supervision of Prof Gulyaev and Dr Nick Seymour (Curtin University).
In July 2020 Stuart was appointed as the Network Coordinator to the directing board of the International VLBI (Very-Long-Baseline-Interferometry) Service (IVS), a global network of radio telescopes which provides essential information about Earth rotation, tectonic plate motion, universal time, and supports the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), including GPS.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x8689

Dr Nicolas Pradel - Lecturer

Nicolas was appointed as a lecturer in early 2015. He shares his time between the High Performance Computing Research Lab and IRASR. His PhD (France) is on a subject that links high angular resolution imaging and very accurate sky source position measurements.
His expertise is in Very Long Baseline Interferometry technology and extra-galactic compact radio sources. He has worked on various research projects and instrumentation developments for several facilities in the world, including VERA in Japan, LOFAR in Europe, ALMA in Chile, as well as worldwide observation using VLBI arrays. He is now involved in SKA imaging research and teaches Physics. At the beginning of 2018 Nicolas returned to Europe.

Dr Jordan Alexander - Lecturer

Jordan received his PhD in Astrophysics from AUT in 2017 on the topic of “Theory & Observation of High-Order Radio Recombination Lines”. Earlier, he received his MSc degree in Physics from the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, NM, USA. Jordan teaches Astronomy and Physics papers at degree and pre-degree levels. His research interests include the interstellar medium, H II regions, radio recombination lines, spectral line broadening, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, radiative transfer in multi-component plasma, Rydberg atoms, and quantum computing.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x5509
Email: jordan.alexander@aut.ac.nz

Dr Peter Thomasson - Senior Research Fellow

Dr Peter Thomasson from Jodrell Bank Observatory (UK) is a world renowned expert in Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) and its modern real-time version, eVLBI. He was at the beginning of development of British and European VLBI network, managing the work of MERLIN array of radio telescopes in the UK and its development towards eMERLIN.  He has published more than 100 research papers in radio astronomy and astrophysics. Peter continues to provide exceptional support to the Institute’s radio astronomy research work after his SRF role with us from 2011 to 2014.

Dr Hiroshi Takiguchi - Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Hiroshi Takiguchi joined us on a three year contract (2011 to 2014) from Kashima Space Research Centre of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) where he was an expert researcher. He has many years of experience in the research and development of VLBI technology and skills in scheduling, antenna operating, correlation processing and baseline analysis. His area of research is connected with practical radio astronomy and VLBI (eVLBI) with the emphasis on both astronomical and Earth science applications. One of his areas of interest is development of precise time and frequency transfer for VLBI technique – the area of significant importance for the remote stations of the long-baseline part of future SKA. Although he has returned to Japan his link remains strong through collaborative research projects.

Mahmoud Mahmoud - PhD Student and Research Assistant

Mahmoud has completed a Bachelor (Honours) of Mathematical Sciences in Applied Mathematics & Computer Science. He combines study for his PhD with teaching and research assistant responsibilities. The focus of his research is adaptive real-time stream centric high performance computing applications in radio astronomy. His work is progressing well thanks to awards along the way: an IBM Grant, TEC's Build IT PhD scholarship and a VC Scholarship.

Ben Hart – Technician

Ben has completed a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Astronomy and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics (Honours), both at AUT. He works as our technician and assists with maintenance and radio astronomy observations, including the set-up, monitoring and managing of data, using both 12m and 30m antennas. Ben is planning to study for a Masters and PhD in Radio Astronomy.

Email: bhart@aut.ac.nz

Vicky Liu – Postgraduate Student and Teaching Assistant

Vicky has completed a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences in Applied Mathematics and Astronomy and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics (Hons), both at AUT. Her Bachelor of Science (Hons) dissertation dealt with simulation of VLBI data and the role of model factors on VLBI data processing. Vicky went on to complete a Master of Science on the topic of "Results from the AUSTRAL Geodetic VLBI Network". She intends to continue on to a PhD.

Asif R Rasha – Postgraduate Student and Teaching Assistant

Asif completed a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences in Analytics and Astronomy and a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at AUT. His Masters research focuses on improving the pointing accuracy of AUT’s 30-metre radio telescope, using mathematically formulated pointing model. Part of his research involved investigating gravitational deformation of the 30-metre main reflector surface using a laser scanning method. Asif also works as a teaching assistant on the Applied Statistics and Quantitative Methods for Business papers. His research interests include Astronomical Surveys, Instrumental Astronomy and Statistical Inferences.

Kordia SKA Scholarship Recipient 2012

Boris Féron – Masters Student

Boris completed his undergraduate studies for a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) after attending three universities: the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), the University of Auckland and AUT. His focus has been on combining the strong practical emphasis of AUT with the more mathematically oriented traditions of the other two universities. His Bachelor of Science research dissertation was on the topic of lattice based cryptography.
Boris is interested in the challenges posed by collecting and processing the enormous volumes of data that will be generated by the SKA project.  His Master of Science thesis deals with the computation of departure coefficients of statistical local thermodynamic equilibrium in galactic nebulae.

Kordia SKA Scholarship Recipient 2010 - 2011

Johannes Buchner - Masters Student and Teaching Assistant

Johannes studied Software Engineering as well as Astronomy in Vienna, Austria. His research interests are the intersection of astronomy, computer science and statistics. His Bachelor of Science thesis dealt with fault-tolerant distributed database systems (2007) and the evaluation of evidence in stellar-type pulsating stars (2009).
He is the inaugural recipient of the Kordia SKA Scholarship, 2010 for his Master of Science research. It deals with the complex problems of control, scheduling and operating large telescope arrays, an issue of great importance for modern observatories and for the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA-telescope).

Key Associates

Dr Andrew Ensor - Senior Lecturer - Director of the HPC Research Lab and Director of the NZ SKA Alliance

Andrew graduated from the University of Auckland with a BSc(Hons) and then completed a PhD at the University of California at Berkeley in 1995. He went on to work at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and spent three years at the Universita di Siena in Tuscany before returning to New Zealand. In 2001 he joined AUT as a Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Sciences where he has been responsible for the undergraduate and postgraduate Computer Science major and helped develop the Applied Mathematics major, along with supervising various computer science and mathematics PhD students. His research interests include mobile and distributed systems, computer graphics, and related computing technologies.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x8485

Associate Professor David Wilson - Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

David obtained his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland, Australia in 1990. Since then he has worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich and as a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Karlstad University, Sweden. Currently he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at AUT and co-director of the Industrial Information and Control Centre which is a joint collaboration between AUT and the University of Auckland. He is also a corporate member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (UK) and an Associate editor for the Journal of Process Control. His main research interests are modelling, simulation and control of industrial processes. This includes designing controllers, the development of embedded model predictive control algorithms, and control performance analysis techniques. His team is also involved in developing software for industrial optimisation including steam utility systems and better utilisation of the smart grid.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x8732

Dr Kevin Byard - Senior Lecturer

Kevin graduated from the University of Southampton, UK with a BSc(Hons) in Physics and then completed a PhD in Astronomy at the University of Southampton in 1990. He went on to research in gamma-ray astronomy at Southampton, spending three years on the INTEGRAL satellite telescope project. Following some time teaching in the UK and during a spell teaching in New Zealand he completed a PhD in Mathematics in 2009 at Massey University. He joined AUT as a Lecturer in Business Statistics and Astronomy where he has been responsible for writing and developing the unit in Computational Spherical Astronomy. He has also written articles in pedagogical research. His research interests include gamma-ray imaging systems, qualified difference sets, combinatorial configurations relevant to astronomy, and education.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x5075

Dr Grant Christie

Grant graduated with a BSc (Physics; Applied Maths) from the University of Auckland, completed a Postgrad Dip Sci in astrophysics at Otago University, before returning to Auckland to complete an MPhil and then PhD (Engineering Science) in 1982.  For 25 years he was a consultant scientist to international biomedical corporations and published over 30 scientific papers in soft tissue bioengineering and cardiothoracic surgery.  From 1992 he has led a programme of observational astrophysics at Auckland Stardome Observatory.  His research interests include CCD photometry and astrometry, variable stars and the detection of extra-solar planets.  Grant has contributed to the discovery over 15 extra-solar planets and has 35 research publications in astrophysics.  He is currently President of Auckland Astronomical Society, Vice President of Royal Astronomical Society of NZ and the astronomical correspondent on Radio Live with Graeme Hill (Saturdays 1215).

Dr Quan Bai - Senior Lecturer

Quan graduated with double bachelor’s degree from Tianjin University, China and then completed a MSc and a PhD at the University of Wollongong, Australia.  Quan worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) before joining AUT as a Lecturer in the School of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.  Quan’s research interests are mainly focused on Intelligent Systems, Knowledge Discovery, Data Provenance and Service-Oriented Computing.

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 x8435

Ben Yeldon - System Support Consultant

Since graduating from AUT with the National Diploma in Business Computing, Ben has held a number of positions within the university, including Lecturer - Business Computing, Software Desktop Standards Administrator and for the past 5 years, System Support Consultant (VoIP/Telecommunications).  Ben's technical interests outside VoIP include networking, high performance TCP, IPv6, Audio/Video distribution over IP, Multicast, FreeBSD and related areas. He has been assisting the staff at IRASR for the past 3 years in areas such as maintaining and configuring the project's IBM Blade Centre and storage, networking support and advice.  Ben continues to provide ongoing support and consultancy to the Institute on behalf of AUT ICT Services.

Phone: +64 9 921 9013