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Student story

Wills Dobson

20 July 2023

"UC has great connections with Antarctica..."


Bachelor of Science in Physics

Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies

Atmospheric Technician, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Lauder

Wills worked as an Outdoor Instructor before studying at UC, taking school students on outdoor activities and giving motivational presentations.

“This was a fun and fulfilling job but I wanted to know more about how the world works,” he says. “I also have always had a fascination with space and wanted to know more about our solar system and beyond.”

Wills decided that a Science degree in Physics at UC was the way to get a qualification in his area of interest. He also had his eye on study in Antarctica in the future.

“UC was the only university offering Astronomy. It also has great connections with Antarctica so if you want to go down there, going through UC is one of the best ways.

“The Physics department itself is fantastic and provides great support to anyone regardless of if they are struggling in their studies, or just have a great idea they would like some backing for.”

Studying Physics has its benefits, according to Wills, for developing critical skills that can be applied in many areas.

“I have gained many skills from my degree. Physics teaches you how to solve many problems, and the approach you take to your university assignments is very relevant to any issues you may encounter in life. Also I learned a lot of things about how the universe works and it always makes for good party conversation.”

Wills also took advantage of UC’s Summer Courses and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies, which involved an exciting two week trip in Antarctica.

“This is one of the best experiences of my life. Many issues and aspects of the deep south are covered, ranging from hard science such as geology and ice dynamics, to Antarctic law and tourism. The pinnacle of this course is the trip to Antarctica, of which one week is spent camping out on the Ross Ice Shelf.

“Gateway Antarctica who run the certificate are fantastic to work with and I would highly recommend this course to anyone with even a small desire to experience and understand the great frozen continent.”

Wills currently works for NIWA in Lauder, Otago as an Atmospheric Technician.

“I am heavily involved in the ozone and climate research programs at Lauder. Chiefly my job is to launch weekly balloon-borne ozonesondes, operate the high-powered ozone LIDAR, and work on the grandfather of ozone instruments, the Dobson spectrophotometer (no relation). I also provide support to several other instruments including some based in Arrival Heights, Antarctica.

“My job has taken me back down to Antarctica twice in order to perform upgrades and maintenance to the instruments down there. This year I will also be visiting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Boulder research facility, located in Boulder, Colorado, as well as NASA Goddard space centre in Washington DC for some training.”

With such exciting opportunities in his sights, Wills highly recommends studying at UC.

“UC is a great place to study. The clubs really help bring the campus alive. You may not agree with all of them, but there is always something interesting happening! With the earthquake in the past, a new science precinct under construction, and the Christchurch rebuild in full swing, UC will continue to be a pretty choice place to be.”

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