Rob Adam

1st March 2019

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Full Name: Robert Martin Adam

Positions: MD of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) and chairperson of the board of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa)

Main Activity of the Companies: SARAO operates the MeerKAT radio telescope and is building the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, while Necsa is involved in nuclear research and development

Date and Place of Birth: Springs, South Africa

Education: PhD (nuclear physics), University of South Africa; postdoctoral fellowship, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

First Job: Research assistant, Royal Aircraft Establishment and Surrey University

Career History Prior to Current Position: My most recent three positions are as follows: director-general, Department of Science and Technology; CEO of Necsa and group executive: nuclear at Aveng Group

Size of First Pay Packet: £4 000 a year, in 1979

First Job with Present Group: Current position

Value of Assets under Your Control: I am not sure; hopefully, they exceed liabilities

Number of People under Your Leadership: 400 at SARAO and 1 900 at Necsa

Management Style: Inclusive

Personal Best Achievement: Making it out of Pretoria Central Prison more or less sane, after spending eight years there as a political prisoner

Professional Best Achievement: Successfully delivering MeerKAT, the world’s most powerful radio telescope

Person Who Has Had the Biggest Influence on Your Life: My father, James Adam

Person Who Has Had the Biggest Influence on Your Career: Canadian, Jim Mullin, former chairperson of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Science and Technology Policy Committee

Person You Would Most Like to Meet: Nathan Myhrvold, principal author of Modernist Cuisine, former Microsoft chief technology officer and particle physicist

Businessperson Who Has Impressed You Most: Jim Clarke, founder of Netscape, Silicon Graphics and other companies

Philosophy of Life: Understand the other side

Biggest Ever Opportunity: Bidding for the SKA project

Biggest Ever Disappointment: State capture

Hope for the Future: That we become the competitive nation we should be

Favourite Reading: John le Carré

Favourite TV Programme: Breaking Bad

Favourite Food/Drink: French food and wine

Favourite Music: Various types of rock music: Indie, punk, Southern

Favourite Sport: Rugby Union

Favourite Website: – physics preprints

Hobbies: Hiking, cooking

Car: Landrover Discovery

Pets: I am in a post-pet phase

Miscellaneous Dislikes: People who play loud music while hiking, drivers who expend nervous energy by continuously changing lanes in heavy traffic, leopard-skin patterns on clothing (they look great on leopards!) and overdone grilled meat or fish

Favourite Other South African Company: EMSS, a world-leading Stellenbosch electromagnetics company

Favourite Foreign Company: Aspect, a small dynamic Russian nuclear instrumentation company

Married: I was married but not currently. My partner is Karin – we met in our youth but rediscovered each other more recently

Children: Sarah, 25; James, 22

Clubs: Callaway X-14s

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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