Industrial Research Ltd
Area/discipline of science
Theoretical Chemistry/Chemical Physics/Nanotechnology
- Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry from Massey University
- Studied Chemistry and Physics for B.Sc. at Auckland University
- Majored in Japanese and French for B.A. (conjoint degrees)
My work revolves around understanding the structures of materials and the way that the structure relates to physical properties, such as the activity of a catalyst, or the melting temperature of a metal.
I’m particularly interested in what you can see at the nanoscale, where the structure of a material changes hugely depending on how many atoms you have.
A typical day at work involves setting up calculations on a supercomputer and talking to members of my group about the work they’re doing. For example, Krista Steenbergen is a Ph.D. student running simulations of the melting of gallium nanoparticles. I also try to keep up with the literature in a few different fields of interest, so I put some time aside for reading papers but every day is quite different.
Chemistry is a science that relates to so many things in our daily lives and is fundamental to understanding the way our world works. I think it is an exciting field, especially at the theoretical end in conjunction with physics, there is so much still that we don’t know but we are making great progress in our ability to simulate real world processes.
The most difficult thing about working in science is keeping a sense of perspective. It’s easy to complain about the level of funding we get, but that is simply because there is so much to do and when you are working in science it is so easy to get excited about all the research that still needs to be done! Really, I think it’s a wonderful job to be in and it’s a privilege to get to spend time working on projects that are fun, exciting, and very rewarding – and you get to work with teams of really great people, both in NZ and overseas. It feels like you’re part of something very special!