Elf Eldridge

Emerging NZ Scientists – David Winter, Sciblogger at ‘The Atavisim’ - Just So Science

Apr 15, 2012

My next ‘victim’ is fellow Sciblogger, David Winter, who blogs excellently about all manner of invertebrates and other science issues over at The Atavism. As well as being an active science communicator, David has just handed in his PhD thesis and is in the process of migrating from PhD student to active researcher. Below he shares his insights into the NZ science conundrum… 1. NZAS has picked emerging scientists as the topic of their yearly conference. What does that say about the current climate for emerging scientists in NZ? I suspect it shows there is widespread concern about the career path from PhD to Postdoc and on academic or industry positions. I’m glad NZAS is going to talk about it, it’s certainly a discussion that comes up when early-career researchers are talking . 2. Do … Read More

The importance of NZYPT - Just So Science

Apr 08, 2012

Over the last  fortnight I have had the honour of acting as a judge in both the regional and the national leagues of the New Zealand Young Physicist’s tournament, NZYPT. For those unfamiliar to the competition, it brings together teams of 3 secondary school students from around the country to present and debate a list of physics problems set by an international panel. These problems are about as far from ‘typical’ high school physics problems as it’s possible to get, for example here’s one of my favourites from this years list: “Cutting the air: When a piece of thread (e.g., nylon) is whirled around with a small mass attached to its free end, a distinct noise is emitted. Study the origin of this noise and the relevant parameters.” I must admit – when I first encountered this problem I made … Read More

Emerging NZ Scientists – Jayne Ihaka, Chair of VUW’s Science Society - Just So Science

Apr 07, 2012

There’s also a huge population of undergraduate science students in NZ with a vested interest in seeing the country grow and appreciate science. Here we ask Jayne Ihaka and other members of the Victoria University Science Society their views on the conference from the perspective of NZ’s future researchers. 1. NZAS has picked emerging scientists as the topic of their yearly conference. What does that say about the current climate for emerging scientists in NZ? This shows that scientific innovation is coming into greater focus as a significant part of New Zealand’s future. It demonstrates that both business people and laypersons outside of the ‘science sphere’ are realising the value in supporting emerging scientists. 2. Do emerging scientists want a future in NZ? Why would they choose NZ instead of overseas? New Zealand provides an ideal lifestyle for … Read More

Emerging NZ Scientists – Dr. Justin Hodgkiss, NZAS conference organiser - Just So Science

Apr 06, 2012

Of course it wouldn’t be fair to the conference to only showcase opinions of the attendees to the NZAS conference! With this in mind I tracked down one of the conference organisers, Dr. Justin Hodgkiss, to get his feedback on the event. Originally from Rotorua and an Otago graduate, Justin left New Zealand to do his PhD at MIT. After a postdoc in Cambridge, Justin returned to a chemistry lectureship at VUW in 2009. Justin’s research uses lasers to study plastic solar cells. He is currently a Rutherford Discovery fellow, a MacDiarmid Institute PI, and a co-organizer of the NZAS conference with Prof. Kate McGrath. 1. What IS an emerging scientist exactly? I would regard an emerging scientist as anyone from graduate student level up … Read More

Chiasma WGTN – the backstory - Just So Science

Apr 03, 2012

There’s a cool wee story behind the development of Chiasma WGTN that deserves telling – if nothing else but to showcase the effect of motivated, talented science communicators such as the late Sir Paul Callaghan. It begins in June 2011 with myself and fellow MacDiarmid PhD student, Ben Mallet, attending a typical university careers fair. We followed the accepted technique for students* and chatted to many of the stall-holders (all from large science employers, the likes of MAF, NIWA etc) asking about potential future employment for physics graduates. Receiving mostly blank looks (along with our fellow chemistry graduates) we began to wonder what opportunities there were for us at the completion of our studies. Being the second class honours student of the group, I remember an uncomfortable sensation settling in my … Read More

Emerging NZ Scientists – Dr Natalie Plank, Postdoctoral Fellow with the MacDiarmid Institute - Just So Science

Apr 02, 2012

The second of my ‘Emerging Scientists interviews‘* features Dr Natalie Plank, currently a Post-Doc with the MacDiamid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and a previous MESA Chairperson. As Natalie completed her PhD at Edinburgh University and a Post-Doc at Cambridge, her experience is not only in leading emerging scientists but, as an ‘import’ to NZ shores, also in shining some light into some of the idiosyncrasies of the New Zealand emerging science system. — 1. NZAS has picked emerging scientists as the topic of their yearly conference. What does that say about the current climate for emerging scientists in NZ? I think the role of emerging scientists is gaining more ground/publicity in New Zealand largely due to the fact that we are in a dangerous climate for postdocs.  There are almost no … Read More

Emerging NZ Scientists – Cosmin Laslau, MESA Chairperson - Just So Science

Mar 31, 2012

For those that aren’t aware the NZ Association of Scientists (NZAS) has decided to make the topic of its annual conference “Do Emerging* Scientists have a Future in New Zealand?”. The conference is being held at Rutherford House in Wellington on the 16th April and has the usual collection of suspects from business, academia and government speaking about the fate of scientists in NZ. As a person who loves experimenting (I’ve always been appalling at theory!), I thought this seemed a little backward and decided to get some views from thoughts from ACTUAL** emerging scientists from across NZ. I’ll be presenting these as text interviews over my next few blog posts before the conference – comments and criticisms are welcomed! — I’ve started off with the Cosmin Laslau, a PhD student at Auckland University and … Read More

Chiasma WGTN - Just So Science

Mar 22, 2012

Over recent months I’ve been lucky enough to become involved with a group of post-graduate students who are trying to stem the flow of graduates out of NZ. The story (well the Wellington chapter of it at least!) goes back to about June last year and (hopefully!) comes to fruition on Thursday evening next week with the launch of Chiasma WGTN at Te Papa. Simply – Chiasma connects students with local high-tech industry. Here in Wellington we’re lucky enough to have some seriously cool science companies, yet students (and locals) often don’t hear about them as much of their publicity focus is off-shore and as a student your focus tends to be particularly ‘academic’. Ultimately, when students finish their studies, this leads to them having no idea where to seek employment (unless of course they’re one of … Read More

Innovation in Wellington - Just So Science

Mar 21, 2012

Here in the the capital there are a whole bunch of really interesting initiatives coming to light in the area of commercialising science. The idea here is in part to prepare students for non-academic careers (where most of them end up), and to also encourage scientists at all levels to consider the commercial aspects of their research, which will hopefully lead to Paul Callaghan’s vision of a high-tech future NZ. One of the most exciting of these is from the MacDiarmid Institute* where post-graduate students are being given the opportunity to work with CreativeHQ in Wellington to research the commercial potential of research performed by the Institute’s investigators. The program is split into two ‘phases’: the first focussed on market research, and the second a more in-depth market and business evaluation. The complete details are still … Read More

Just So Science Reboot! - Just So Science

Mar 20, 2012

After a far-to-long hiatus Just So Science (along with TOSP!) is getting a bit of a reboot for 2012. I’m expanding the topic to include issues concerning emerging scientists (like the upcoming NZAS conference), I’ll be closely covering the KiwiMars expedition during April 2012, and documenting my experiences as COO of Chiasma WGTN getting on touch with local high-tech companies! First up the GrowWGTN Innovating for Health Challenge… … Read More