College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Dr Warren Naidoo’s PhD explored how to use future astronomical surveys of the universe to place constraints on its nature.

High Achiever’s PhD Surveys the Universe BY: .

Dr Warren Naidoo’s research in cosmology delved into the profound mysteries of the universe, what it is made of, where it came from, and what will happen to it in the future.

His PhD explored how to use future astronomical surveys of the universe to place constraints on its nature.

‘I believe that understanding the universe we live in is one of the most fundamental questions about the nature of our existence,’ said Naidoo. ‘It has intrigued our species since the dawn of civilisation and our curious nature will always drive us to understand the universe as best we can.’

It was this curiosity and Naidoo’s lifelong dream to study astrophysics that led him to a topic he believes adds to the understanding of the universe, and therefore humanity’s place in it and its own identity.

Delighted to discover that UKZN offered excellent courses in mathematics, physics and astrophysics, the University was an obvious choice for Naidoo, who completed his undergraduate and honours degrees at the Institution, graduating cum laude and summa cum laude respectively, and then enrolled for his master’s degree, which he attained summa cum laude.

During his studies, Naidoo achieved the award for the top Mathematics student in his final year of undergraduate studies, the G I Bateman Memorial Prize, and the Hanno Rund Award for being UKZN’s top honours student in Mathematics.

‘Studying at UKZN has been an absolutely amazing journey,’ he said.

His PhD research revealed that the methods used and specifically future South African radio astronomical surveys including the Hydrogen Intensity and Real-time Analysis eXperiment (HIRAX) radio telescope array, which is being led by UKZN in combination with other surveys of the universe, can provide unprecedented precision in the mathematical model of the universe.

Naidoo was among those who had to adjust to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, including remote work and confinement to a single location for a long period while tackling his research, which was a challenge.

Having achieved his PhD, Naidoo’s next step is to commence with a postdoctoral research fellowship at UKZN funded through the National Research Foundation – the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory research grant.

He expressed his gratitude to his parents, saying that his family experienced financial difficulties arising from unemployment during his childhood and that he could not thank his parents enough for all their sacrifices that enabled him to achieve his dreams. He also thanked his supervisor, Professor Kavilan Moodley for his expertise, guidance and mentorship that enabled him to grow and achieve his dream. He thanked his school teachers at Asoka Secondary School who believed in him and his friends and family who provided support and inspiration.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini