James McKay

'UC has brilliant staff members that inspire students with their passion for teaching and leading research...'

  • James McKay

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Mathematical Physics

Master of Science in Physics

PhD student, Imperial College, London, UK

When it came to looking at tertiary study, there was no doubt in James’ mind that Mathematics and Physics would be the most stimulating and beneficial subjects to pursue.

‘I enjoy understanding science from the ground up, from the most fundamental mathematical concepts, and this is what motivated me to pursue Mathematics along with Physics at university. In these subjects I was able to repeat logical derivations to answer some of the most interesting questions about the physical world, from the atomic to the cosmological scale.’

James started at UC as a STAR student, completing a Mathematics course while in high school.

‘As a STAR course student it was an easy transition from high school into second year courses at UC, so coming here was an obvious choice. The STAR Mathematics course was a highlight for me at UC and a key factor behind me pursuing the subject right through into honours.’

His experience led him to become a student mentor, helping other students get the most from the university studies. He also tutored 100-level Mathematics courses to share his passion for the subject.

‘Studying Mathematics has given me problem solving skills that have applications across many areas. In Physics I have been able to apply these skills to fascinating physical situations, such as the current theories of gravity and the evolution of the universe itself.’

James says that, at research level in particular, he has enjoyed exploring the theoretical problems that are at the very limit of human understanding of the universe.

‘There are still many open questions in physics and attempting to contribute to answering these has been an inspiring part of my studies at university.’

Having completed his master’s last year, James is now working towards a PhD in physics at Imperial College London, through the support of an all-expenses-paid scholarship. His research involves the development of software to test new theories of particles and their interactions at the most fundamental level. He hopes that this will be the beginning of a career in research that will see him eventually return to work as an academic back in New Zealand.

During his time at UC, James received an impressive number of scholarships, including a number of Mathematics and Physics scholarships for academic results and scholarships for his honours and master’s study. He also received the Peter Windle Prize for having one of the best overall results in his first year and a Freemasons New Zealand University Scholarship, awarded for leadership, community involvement and academic excellence.

However, James was determined to make the most of university life outside of study as well.

‘My experience at UC was not just about studying hard all the time. The fantastic club scene at UC enabled me to follow my sporting interests and meet many friends along the way. In particular I enjoyed white-water kayaking on the beautiful rivers around the South Island.’

With all of his accomplishments so far, James highly endorses studying at UC.

‘UC has brilliant staff members that inspire students with their passion for teaching and leading research. The ability to work alongside and learn from these people has been an incredibly valuable part of my university education.’

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