2021 IOP Technician Award - Further Education and Higher Education

Joseph McCauley, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin

For his outstanding technical leadership associated with the planning, construction and operation of the Irish Low Frequency Array radio telescope at Birr Castle.


Joseph McCauley 2021 IOP Technician Award winner

Joseph McCauley is a senior experimental officer at Trinity College Dublin and technical lead for the Irish Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR) at Birr Castle in Ireland. He has shown exemplary technical leadership in all aspects of the I-LOFAR project.

McCauley was instrumental in the planning and construction of I-LOFAR. These were challenging technical tasks that involved preparation of planning applications, extensive civil ground works, management of contractors, and ultimately the delivery and installation of the telescope in the summer of 2017. McCauley was the technical lead on all aspects of these tasks, and was key to the project being delivered on time and within budget.

McCauley led the setting up of the REALtime Transient Acquisition (REALTA) cluster to process near-real-time data from I-LOFAR. His technical insight and leadership of a small group of graduate students and researchers were without doubt critical to the data-processing cluster operating as effectively as it now does.

Following switch-on of I-LOFAR, McCauley took the lead role in the development of Python scripts to control I-LOFAR and archive data from the telescope. The control software is now used extensively by a pool of I-LOFAR chief observers and by numerous guest observers, ranging from undergraduate students through to senior researchers.

McCauley has also taken the lead role in identifying and monitoring sources of radio frequency interference at I-LOFAR. His technical expertise and understanding of how to operate and evaluate data from I-LOFAR have enabled him to identify and monitor changes in the I-LOFAR radio environment. Indeed, he was primarily responsible for preparing a submission to the regional development plan on radio frequency interference from wind turbines and their impacts on I-LOFAR.

As a result of his expertise in this area, he was recently appointed secretary of the Committee for Radio Astronomy Frequencies (CRAF), an expert committee of the European Science Foundation.

McCauley is extremely generous with his time and is always willing to help, from undergraduate students taking their first steps in radio astronomy to research fellows and staff.

As a result of his critical contributions to the radio astronomy projects at Birr Castle, McCauley has been co-author on seven refereed papers in leading international journals, including the first-light observations from I-LOFAR in Nature Astronomy.