Toby Hendy

'UC caters to many areas of Physics and Mathematics...'

  • Toby Hendy

Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics

PhD student, Australian National University

Toby wanted a career focused on understanding the world and the greater universe, which meant taking on Physics alongside Mathematics for her Science degree.

‘An understanding of science helps you to answer the questions you have about the world around you. I chose to pursue science at tertiary level because I wasn't ready to accept that the physical world was a mystery, I wanted to understand more about it.’

Staying at Bishop Julius Hall and later Ilam Apartments, enrolling at UC was Toby’s first choice to make the most of the opportunities UC offers Physics and Astronomy students.

‘I chose UC because of their strong involvement in Physics and Astronomy, especially with the Mt. John observatory in Tekapo. UC caters to many areas of Physics and Mathematics so if you are also curious and want to explore more of the physical world then studying those subjects is a great place to start.

‘I have visited the Mt. John University Observatory several times (helping with Aurora Astronomy School, volunteering at the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival, and video filming). This is a magnificent field station for UC and the telescopes are the gem of the dark sky reserve.’

Toby later became part of the Christchurch Urban Astronomers group that takes telescopes out into the streets to let the public see the sky as well.

She has also helped create YouTube videos introducing the Physics and Astronomy Department to new UC students, and now runs her own YouTube channel about studying Physics and explaining science concepts.

Toby certainly involved herself in as much as she could at UC. She became the Vice-President of the Physics and Astronomy Society (PhysSoc) in 2014 helping run seminars, competitions and field trips to the Mt. John University Observatory. She was also a part of a UC Science and Arts collaboration promoting science journalism with the help of the Academic Skills Centre.

‘I enjoyed the friendly and supportive environment in my area of study,’ she says. ‘I have a strong relationship with many of my lecturers and peers. There are many opportunities to be involved in extra-curricular learning activities.

‘I was also a part of the Poetry society, Golden Key, Student volunteer army and have gained business experience from being part of Entre's 75K challenge in my first year,’ she adds.

Toby has made the most of her studies as well, receiving a UC Mathematics and Statistics Scholarship for academic results and a number of exciting overseas experiences with the Aurora Scholarship in Astronomy.

‘With this scholarship I had an amazing summer travelling to the USA and Canada where I spent time at sites such as NASA's Jet Propulsions laboratory, SpaceX, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Caltech, Macdonald Observatory, UBC and the telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i. This was an invaluable experience in practical astronomy research.’

The experience helped lead to an internship at the Australian Astronomical Observatory in Sydney over the summer on an astronomical image processing project.

Currently, Toby is carrying out PhD research at the Australia National University (ANU) in biophysics, looking at the mechanical properties of plant cells. Her research involves applying small forces to plant cells and observing how the plants respond. This has applications in understanding how plants protect themselves from diseases.

‘This is a change from the Astronomy focus that I took during my undergraduate studies but I find it fascinating to use the same physical concepts and ideas to understand a very different problem.

‘I want to enter and make an impact in science research, and work at the frontiers of Science,’ she says.

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