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Becoming a scientist

How do people decide to become scientists? Dr Peyman Zawar-Reza, from the University of Canterbury, says it was a case of following his interest and passion and making it a career.


My undergraduate degree was actually in biochemistry, so it was totally irrelevant to what I do now, but it did give me a grounding in science. And then, after that, I decided to become a pilot, so I was a commercial pilot for six or seven years in Canada. And sometimes when we were flying in Canada at night over the Rockies, especially in the autumn time, we get these massive thunderstorms that sometimes span for hundreds of miles. They were beautiful and dangerous things to watch, electrical discharges coming in vertically, horizontally, they were just beautiful, and really lethal. And I was kind of interested in where did all this energy come from, why are they so potent? I just wanted to know why they happened. And I started taking a course, a meteorology course at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and things kind of started from there, and before I knew it, I was instrumenting aircraft and flying them all over Vancouver to try to measure ozone for the projects I was running. And then my supervisor in Vancouver was actually from Christchurch and he said, “Why don't you go and visit Andy Sturman?”, who is a professor here in this department at the moment, and I came down here and talked to him, and he said, “Oh, we have this project in the Mackenzie Basin and you can get involved in that if you want”. And I just jumped at the chance and haven't looked back. So it was mostly the love of flying and wanting to know why thunderstorms happened that got me hooked into this field. What I love about my work is that it’s very diverse. I don't have a schedule, I come to work and I try to do what I find most interesting at that time right away. So I kind of guide my own daily life in research, and I really like that. It was much better than being a pilot, which you just did routine things day in and day out. The other aspects I like is having discussions with my graduate students and under-graduate students about things they are interested in, the research projects they are doing, the problems they are trying to solve, and that sort of a thing, and I really like that.

Lloyd Homer, GNS Science


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