After 44 years working at major radio telescopes such as JVLA, VLBA, ASKAP, and SKA, I am working as a freelance interferometry and imaging consultant based in the United Kingdom. I’m probably best known for my work on data processing for radio synthesis telescopes, on which I’ve been working since 1976. The techniques that I developed or contributed to include closure phase, self-calibration, maximum entropy deconvolution, array design, mosaicing, wide-field imaging, multi-scale deconvolution, and multi-frequency synthesis. As these techniques have advanced, I have worked with others on fore-front astronomical imaging. In addition, I have a wide range of experience and interests in non-interferometric imaging.

I have a long history of innovation in various areas related to imaging, combined with a wide range of technical skills. My broad knowledge of imaging means I can come up to speed quickly, and be making contributions quickly. As well as my main stream radio astronomical work, I have consulted on topics as diverse as correcting the Hubble focus error by deconvolution, performing near-field imaging from a radio interferometric array in low Earth orbit, and interferometric imaging of the solar disk from the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle (never built, sadly).

I have experience of many projects in astronomy, including both successes and death marches, both as a participant and an on-looker. I am a system thinker, capable of contributing at many levels of abstraction.

I studied physics from 1973 to 1976 at the University of Manchester in England, and subsequently studied radio astronomy at Jodrell Bank. I received my PhD in 1980 for work on the applications of Bayesian methods to radio astronomical imaging. Immediately following my PhD, Peter Wilkinson and I developed the self-calibration algorithm widely used in radio astronomy. In 1980, I moved to Socorro, New Mexico to work on the newly completed Very Large Array telescope run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Over the 25 years at the NRAO, I was fortunate to work with excellent colleagues on the best radio telescope in the world. In that stimulating environment I was able to make a number of contributions to radio astronomical techniques, including the key algorithms needed for wide fields of view. I also contributed in the areas of telescope design (for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array), telescope commissioning (the Very Long Baseline Array), observatory management, and software development.

During my time at the NRAO, I was involved in a number of particularly interesting external projects. Some examples:

  • In 1990, I was a member of the Image Processing advisory panel appointed by NASA following the discovery of the focus error in the Hubble Telescope.
  • Starting in the mid-nineties, I consulted for the Naval Research Laboratory on a number of projects. One outcome was a memo on interferometric imaging of extended objects in the near field.
  • Between 2001 and 2004, I participated in the NSF/Intelligence Community program Approaches to Combat Terrorism, first as lead of the Image Processing panel, and subsequently as a reviewer of grant proposals.

In 2004, I joined the Square Kilometre Array International Engineering Working Group, primarily to contribute towards computing and algorithms needed for the SKA. In 2005, I moved to Australia to take the lead role in computing for the
Australia SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP). From 2005 to 2012 I led the development of ASKAP computing, most particularly in the development of synthesis software and algorithms adapted to Phased Array Feeds, and the provision of high performance computing for the telescope. Working in ASKAP was one of the highlights of my career. The entire team was honoured with the CSIRO Chairman's Medal.

In November 2012, I left CSIRO to become the Head of Computing for the Square Kilometre Array, based at Jodrell Bank in the UK. From January 2014 to June 2015, I was the SKA Architect with overall responsibility for the design of SKA. I (together with colleagues) worked on many topics - a cost model for SKA computing hardware and software, the L1 Technical Specification for the SKA, the re-baselining (a systematic reconciliation of the SKA budget and goals), a study of connection between the SKA1-Low configuration and the feasibility of calibration of the ionosphere affecting all observations with SKA1-Low, and SYSML models of the Baseline Design.

In June 2015, I started Tim Cornwell Consulting and I now work solely as a freelance interferometry and imaging consultant.

I have a wide range of interests but my main areas of competence are:

  • The design, operation, and use of radio synthesis telescopes
  • Image processing algorithms
  • Scientific software development
  • Parallel and distributed processing