Position: Team leader Field: Electrical metrology Organisation: Measurement Standards Laboratory
As a child, Laurie remembers being curious to know what was inside the appliances in his home, and his efforts to dismantle these weren’t always matched by the ability to put them back together.
His secondary school years were spent at Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin, and it was an inspirational maths teacher who set him on the pathway to study physics at Otago University. After acquiring a PhD in experimental physics, designing and building lasers, he took up a position as a measurement scientist with the New Zealand government research organisation DSIR, which is now Industrial Research Limited (IRL).
The work involved developing a new New Zealand dc voltage standard based on a quantum electrical property known as the Josephson effect. Unlike his earlier childhood experiences of dismantling appliances, Laurie had now progressed to designing and building equipment.
Laurie’s 30-plus year career as a physicist working in an essentially electrical engineering area has been a journey of continuous learning that has taken him around the world. One of his career highlights was working at a US laboratory located in Boulder, Colorado. Here, he worked with some world leaders in Josephson technology, in particular, the scientists and engineers who developed the ac voltage standards needed for developing MSL’s Planck constant apparatus.
One of the things he likes about working as a metrologist is that it is a very collaborative field. Successful trading of products requires both the buyer and seller to agree on what exactly is being bought and sold, and this requires agreement on the measurements that define such things as how much, how pure, whether it fits and so on, so metrologists from different nations need to work together. Laurie serves on the Consultative Committee for Electricity and Magnetism that meets in Paris every 2 years to discuss how to improve the electrical side of the SI system.
In his spare time, Laurie dabbles with the uncertainties of golf and enjoys spending time with his family (he now has two grand-daughters) and his local church community.
I remember the day, a long time ago now, in a form 7 maths class taught by an inspirational teacher, when the 'lights went on' in terms of appreciation of maths and its application to physics.
This article is based on information current in 2011.