David was appointed SALT Project Scientist in December 1998 and was acting Project Scientist prior to that since the project's inception. He is currently on secondment from the SAAO, where he was a Senior Astronomer. Before his appointment at the SAAO in 1991, David was a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the Astronomy Department of the University of Cape Town.
His current research interests concentrate on accretion in compact binaries, particularly magnetically confined accretion in magnetic cataclysmic variable stars (mCVs). He has extensive observational experience spanning ground-based photometry, spectroscopy and polarimetry as well as Principal Investigator involvement on X-ray observations conducted by the ROSAT satellite. He led the southern hemisphere identification effort for the ROSAT Wide Field Camera, which conducted the first ever all-sky survey of extreme ultraviolet sources. He also has an interest in SAAO instrumentation, being Instrument Scientist for the fibre-fed high resolution echelle spectrograph, GIRAFFE, and the Two Channel Photo-Polarimeter. He is currently also involved as instrument PI for the SALT Fibre Instrument Feed.
David was born and raised in New Zealand where he completed his undergraduate and masters studies at the University of Canterbury, under the supervision of Prof John Hearnshaw (SALT HRS PI). He then moved to Australia and completed a PhD at the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. His dissertation was on studies of HEAO-1 X-ray sources, supervised by Dr Ian Tuohy. This satellite conducted the deepest hard X-ray survey of the sky at the time and David's work centred around a modulation collimator experiment (A3) built at MIT, where he spent several months working with collaborators. His thesis work concentrated on a sub-class of mCVs called Intermediate Polars, which continued once he moved to South Africa in 1988.
To date he has authored or coauthored 154 publications, including 106 in refereed journal with 26 as lead author. He organized an international mCV workshop in Cape Town in 1995 and co-edited the proceedings. David continues his research to the extent possible and has on-going collaborations, mainly with SAAO Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Stephen Potter, and PhD student Nceba Mhlahlo. He has also supervised two other postgraduate students, including Nicholas Sessions, who completed a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering with a dissertation on the fibre optical feed for SALT. Kurt van der Heyden completed his Master degree on mCVs and has since taken up a PhD studentship at the Space Research Organization of the Netherlands (SRON) where he is working on XMM-Newton observations of supernova remnants.