Andrew Ridden-Harper

'UC graduates in Physics and Astronomy do PhDs in some of the best universities in the world...'

  • Andrew Ridden-Harper

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Astronomy

PhD student, Leiden University, Netherlands

Andrew's studies in Astronomy gave him a number of exciting job and research opportunities while at UC. Through a UC Summer Scholarship, Andrew was able to utilise data from the Southern African Large Telescope and make observations at the Mt. John University Observatory, where he also worked as an Astronomy Tour Guide for Earth and Sky Ltd.

'During this research project, I gained extremely valuable research experience and got to have a trip to the Mt. John Observatory to experience how real astronomical observations are made,' he says.

He also took part in the 2013 Starlight Festival at Lake Tekapo marking the anniversary of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve.

'It was a very rewarding experience to be involved in such a great event which communicated the importance of astronomy, space and the environment to the general public.'

Due to his studies, Andrew was one of the select few students and academics that got to visit the SOFIA airborne observatory while it was in Christchurch.

'This was certainly an extremely memorable and awesome experience, since it was amazing to see such advanced technology in person and get a first-hand impression of the scale of such a large mission dedicated to astronomical research,' he says.

From all of his experiences, Andrew is very thankful for the Physics and Astronomy Department at UC.

'I have enjoyed many aspects about studying at UC. I made great friends and had some exceptional mentors from the Department of Physics and Astronomy which really became like an extended family to me over the course of my studies.'

Needless to say, choosing to study Physics and Astronomy was not a difficult choice.

'I have always had a fascination with science and particularly Physics and Astronomy because these subjects allow us to learn about the nature of the Universe itself so it was a natural choice for me to pursue my interests into higher education so that I might one day be able to turn my fascination and interest into a career.'

Currently Andrew is working towards a PhD in Astronomy at Leiden University in the Netherlands, carrying out research and assisting with teaching.

'I get to spend my time doing really interesting research on the very contemporary topic of exoplanet characterisation which is currently a very fast moving field so it's very dynamic. I also get to go to interesting conferences and schools in amazing places like La Palma in the Canary Islands, where I went for a school on exoplanets with other PhD students from all over the world.'

Even outside of study Andrew's hobbies focus on all things Astronomy. With a keen interest in photography, Andrew likes doing astrophotography in the South Island and around Lake Tekapo. He has also been a member of the Canterbury Astronomical Society and assists with public openings of their observatory near Christchurch.

With plans for a career as a professional astronomer in an observatory or at a university, Andrew highly recommends others consider UC as the place to pursue their studies.

'UC graduates in Physics and Astronomy do PhDs in some of the best universities in the world. What you learn in a Physics and Astronomy degree at UC is at a level to prepare you very well for many career paths and be competitive on a global scale, and this is of course especially true for continuing in academia and pursuing a PhD.'

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