NWU post-doctoral student receives research scholarship from NASA
POTCHEFSTROOM - A world-wide honour has befallen a post-doctoral student of the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University when he received a research scholarship from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States of America (USA).
Dr Christo Venter of the subject group Physics is one of only 60 scientists in the world who receive these scholarships awarded in different subject areas. He also received the highly sought-after Fermi GLAST research scholarship. GLAST is the Gamma Ray Large-Area Space Telescope that was launched earlier this year.
The NASA post-doctoral programme provides unique research opportunities to highly talented people to be able to share in research programmes at NASA and to mould pioneers for the future. The three-year scholarship is designed to contribute to NASA’s space science, astrobiology, aviation skills and space operations and explorations.
Dr Venter obtained his doctorate from the NWU in September 2008. According to his external examiner, Dr Alice Harding of the Goddard Space Flight Centre at NASA, he unlatched new knowledge and for the first time developed a complete three dimensional model for fast rotating neutron stars.
According to the promoter of his thesis, Prof Okkie de Jager (a prominent researcher in space physics himself), they were attending a congress in Poland when the news of his scholarship award reached them. A considerable number of top scientists who were attending the same congress immediately wanted to know how it was possible for someone from Africa to reach this top position. “They also wanted to know where Potchefstroom is, because the NWU is not even on the world radar screen. I just wonder when last a recently graduated NWU student has received such a prestigious award which is envied by the best of America’s universities,” writes Prof De Jager from Poland.
Dr Venter matriculated from Potchefstroom Gimnasium with eight distinctions, and had the highest average for matric in North-West. He passed his BSc and MSc degrees at the NWU with distinction and has since attended several international conferences as a lecturer in the School of Physics. He also was co-author of 56 international publications, of which 46 are in co-operation with the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) trans-national group. This group was rewarded with the European Union’s Descartes science prize.
Dr Christo Venter will soon be on his way to NASA.