Alistair McDougall

'Physics equips you with the tools required to explore the universe...'

  • Alistair McDougall

Studying towards a PhD in Physics

Alistair’s PhD research in gravitational microlensing has him creating a programme that can quickly analyse astronomical objects no matter how far away or faint they appear.

‘I discover new planets, there isn’t much cooler than that!’ He says. ‘I am developing a system to automatically collect and analyse data, then publish results to a website, all with the aim of discovering new planets. ’

Studying Physics was Alistair’s first choice from the get-go.

‘Physics equips you with the tools required to explore the universe. There is so much out there that we still don’t know and physics can help you make new discoveries. A background in physics gives you the broad skills to tackle almost any problem, from the very small in particle physics to the very large in astrophysics.’

Coming down from the UK after completing his master’s, Alistair chose UC to make the most of its international reputation for research resources.

‘It’s located in a beautiful country, where exciting research is undertaken with spectacular research equipment at the Mt. John Observatory,’ he says.

Alistair has had the opportunity to visit the Mt. John Observatory through the Aurora Astronomy School, a UC programme aimed at year 13 students that includes a field trip to the observatory in Tekapo.

‘It was one of the best parts of my time at UC,’ he says, ‘seeing such interest in astronomy from young, very talented students, and feeling like I have played a part in helping teach and guide them for their future careers in whatever they do. I highly recommend all to get involved, as a school student to attend and as a postgrad to help out.’

He has also received the Dennis William Moore Scholarship for his research using the observatory and the B G Wybourne Scholarship in Physics to support his PhD.

‘UC has a friendly environment, and a commitment to success clearly shown by all staff and students,’ he says.

As for his future success, Alistair intends to continue research in the future on ‘something new and exciting that benefits society’.

‘Learning a wide range of computing skills in an environment where I am problem solving on a daily basis has taught me key skills which enable me to explore a wide range of careers. I want to learn more about the universe and probe the unknown, make new discoveries, and learn the skills and techniques required to perform research in new, exciting areas.’

Chrissy Emeny

Chrissy Emeny

'The best thing about my research is being able to create something original...'

Alex Chapman

Alex Chapman

'The sheer potential for discovery and advancement that is available has never been higher...'