Maria Grazia Labate

For our first interview we sat down with one of our very own engineers, Dr. Maria Grazia Labate from Italy, and asked her to tell us more about herself and her job.

Close-up of SKA1 LOW, the SKA’s low frequency antennas in Australia.

“I’m a System Engineer on the low frequency antennas for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). I’m based at the Headquarters of the SKA project, in the United Kingdom. In short, my work is to make sure the antennas we’ll build match the specifications needed to do great science.”

I love the fact that the result of our work will be used to study the Universe. It is fascinating to follow the process of translating scientific requirements into technical requirements and then this into a complex design.”

Maria Grazia has always been guided by her beliefs and fascination with the stars and how things work, starting from childhood.

“As a little girl I was amazed by the sky and told myself that once I grew up I would have discovered what God had put up there. One of my passions was also to disassemble and reassemble the electronic devices I found in my house to understand how they worked. I have to admit that my mother was not always happy with this, especially when I was disassembling precious old clocks!”

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Maria Grazia posing with our giant inflatable SKA telescope

We asked her how she became an engineer, and whether she’d ever wanted to be an astronomer instead.

“I’ve always loved technology and science, trying to understand how things really worked. When the time came to apply for university I couldn’t choose between Engineering and Astrophysics. So just a few hours before the deadline, during a train journey, I decided to ask God what I should do…. Moments later I met someone on the train who was a few years older and who had experienced the same dilemma. And so after chatting with him I knew the path I had to follow: Engineering! This is how I brought together my passion for the Universe and for building things.”

And what about the SKA?

“At my first lecture the professor told us that antennas are useful to build lots of things, including the largest radio telescope ever constructed, the SKA… and I knew that was truly the job of my dreams! I took a Masters Degree in Telecommunication and Engineering at the University of Reggio Calabria, a PhD in Electronic Engineering at the Second University of Naples and I worked in Rome, Milan, Naples and Stevenage before arriving at the SKA in 2013.”


Maria Grazia’s outgoing personality and passion about the SKA make her a great speaker. In 2014, she gave this talk on the SKA at TEDx Manchester – in front of 800 university students!


Have a question? Contact Maria Grazia here!

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