Melanie Johnston-Hollitt discusses a radio telescope project that will produce data on a scale that dwarfs most big data efforts.
Melanie Johnston-Hollitt is an internationally prominent radio astronomer working in the space between astrophysics, computer science and big data. She is Director of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Victoria University of Wellington and CEO of Peripety Scientific Ltd., an astrophysics and data analytics research company based in Wellington, New Zealand. In addition she is currently Chair of the Board of the 60 million dollar Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope and a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation Ltd., which is tasked with building the world’s largest radio telescope. In her nearly 20 year career, Prof. Johnston-Hollitt has been involved in design, construction and operation of several major radio telescopes including the Low Frequency Array in the Netherlands, the MWA in Australia and the SKA which will be hosted in both Australia and South Africa. These instruments produce massive quantities of data, requiring new and disruptive technologies to allow value to be extracted from the data deluge. As a result Prof. Johnston-Hollitt’s recent interests span the intersection between radio astronomy, signal processing and big data analytics and she leads a multi-disciplinary team in Wellington, NZ investigating how best to meet the science challenges of these next generation instruments in the big data era.