Department of Physics

Postgraduate Student Research Positions

The Space Physics Research Group at the University of Otago, New Zealand, has openings in their PhD and MSc programmes for talented students in physics. Positions are available in both experimental and theoretical physics. The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university with a rich tradition in both education and research. In 2006 and 2012  the University of Otago was rated as New Zealand's top-ranked University for research (the next such ranking round is scheduled for 2018). Successful applicants to the Space Physics group will join a productive team, which currently consists of two academic staff, a PostDoc and a part-time PostDoc, three PhD students, and two Honours Student (January 2015).

The Space Physics Research Group at Otago studies the nature of the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space. We are interested in the coupling between regions of the atmosphere and the energy inputs from the Sun, lightning, and radiation belt particles to name a few examples. The group has a long-standing international reputation, having been involved in many international collaborative projects. The group was founded by Professor Richard L. Dowden in the mid-60's, and as such is one of the long standing research groups in the Department. The group consists of academic members Assoc. Prof. Neil Thomson and Prof. Craig Rodger. Inside the group, Prof. Rodger is more involved with the theoretical side, while Assoc. Prof. Thomson concentrates more on experimental studies. All members are involved in data analysis and interpretation.

The group runs a number of different pieces of experimental equipment. We records low-noise experimental data using a field station in the hills of Dunedin, have instruments on the Physics Department roof, and also have an instrument near Scott Base, Antarctica. In the last few years the group has increased its participation and leadership in international collaborations. Along with the British Antarctic Survey we are leading members of AARDDVARK (Antarctic-Arctic Radiation-belt (Dynamic) Deposition - VLF Atmospheric Research Konsortium), which also includes researchers from Hungary, Finland, Australia, South Africa, and the UK. The group is part of the management committee of the WWLLN (World Wide Lightning Location Network), which consists of ~40 internet connected radio receivers distributed worldwide, passing their observations back to Seattle and Dunedin. We also host an instrument as part of developing AWDAnet (Automatic Whistler Detector and Analyzer network), lead by our Hungarian colleagues.

We are moving to increase our international profile by making our measurements and research more relevant to current scientific goals. In particular, we are building links to the upcoming multi-satellite investigate (NASA, CSA, JAXA) into the Earth's radiation belts, and particularly particle precipitation into the Earth's atmosphere. We are also working with our international collaborators on the significance of Sun-Earth coupling to climate, which has proved a fruitful scientific route. In late 2015 we started a new project to investigate the importance of Geomagnetic Induced Currents in the New Zealand electrical network.

Interested students should examine the information at the University of Otago's Postgraduate Student webpage to learn more about undertaking post-graduate research at New Zealand's top-ranked university for research quality. Early in the process students should contact one of the following staff to informally discuss available projects:

Assoc. Prof. Neil Thomson, Prof. Craig Rodger.

For candidates with an appropriate academic background, PhD scholarships valued at up to $25,000 per annum plus tuition fees are available from the University of Otago for a period of up to three years.

More information on scholarships can be found on the University of Otago Scholarships & Awards website.