Position: Research scientist, Field: Physics research, Organisation: Industrial Research Limited (IRL), Gracefield, Lower Hutt

A visit to the Ontario Science Centre in Canada as a child was the catalyst that switched Nick onto the marvels of science. While attending high school, Nick developed a passion for physics and realised that working in the sciences could be a realistic career choice for him.

Study at the University of Canterbury followed, and after completing his PhD, he took up a research position at Montana State University in America.

On returning to New Zealand, he eventually found his way into the superconductivity research group at IRL in Wellington.

The major research focus is on improving the performance of superconducting wires.

Nick is primarily an experimental physicist, and he enjoys the variety involved in research, from laboratory benchtop experiments to computer interfacing to analytical modelling to simulations. In addition, there are opportunities to travel widely to attend conferences and collaborate with other research groups.

“I enjoy working on problems that are directly applicable to real-world problems,” says Nick. “In our case, we have a long-standing relationship with American Superconductor Corp, and together we strive to make high-temperature superconducting wires a commercial reality. Seeing the results of your research incorporated into a manufacturing plant is very satisfying.”

Nature of science

Scientific knowledge is often used to solve practical problems. The work being done in superconductivity at IRL in Wellington is a good example of this. Knowledge of the structure and properties of certain ceramic materials obtained through scientific investigations has contributed to the technological innovation of high-temperature superconductor wire.

This article is based on information current in 2010.

    Published 27 April 2010