Retired oil executive Dr Jim Buckee, who gained a BSc Honours at the University of Western Australia in 1967 and a PhD in Astrophysics at Britain's Oxford University in 1970, has made a $2 million donation to fund a new UWA post-doctoral research position for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).


In May last year an international consortium decided that the radio telescope, which will consist of thousands of antennas, will be built in both Australia and Southern Africa.  Construction will begin in 2016.


The Jim Buckee Fellowship in Astrophysics will provide ongoing annual funding for a researcher to join the growing ranks of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at UWA.


Launched in 2009, ICRAR is a joint venture between UWA and Curtin University.


"The inaugural UWA Jim Buckee Fellowship will be awarded to one of the world's top astrophysicists," ICRAR's Deputy Director of Science, Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, said.  "This person will be given the challenge of developing new techniques involving the modelling and observation of shock waves, cosmic rays and magnetic fields in the distant Universe that will ultimately help the SKA directly detect the cosmic web for the first time."


UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said Dr Buckee's extraordinary generosity to his former university could help solve one of the biggest puzzles of the Universe and forge a major new scientific understanding in the field of cosmology.


"The Jim Buckee Fellowship in Astrophysics at UWA highlights and underscores the importance of philanthropy for advancing human knowledge," Professor Johnson said.  "Dr Buckee's gift is a significant contribution to society's historic quest to understand the great mysteries of the Universe."


Dr Buckee was born in the UK, studied at UWA and Oxford and held various posts in petroleum engineering and exploration on Western Australia's North-West Shelf and in Qatar, Britain, Norway, Canada and Alaska before retiring in 2007 after 16 years as head of Talisman Energy (formerly BP Canada).  Dr Buckee now lives in England.