Research Opportunities

Postgraduate Student Research Positions

The Space Physics Research Group at the University of Otago, New Zealand, has openings in their PhD and MSc programmes for talented students in physics. Positions are available in both experimental and theoretical physics. The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university with a rich tradition in both education and research. The University of Otago is ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world, and has the highest-possible rating of 5 Stars Plus in the QS global university performance ratings. Successful applicants to the Space Physics group will join a productive team, which currently consists of three academic staff, 3 PostDocs, an Honorary Fellow, and a range of research students.

The Space Physics Research Group at Otago studies the nature of the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space. We are interested in the coupling between regions of the atmosphere and the energy inputs from the Sun, lightning, and radiation belt particles to name a few examples. The group has a long-standing international reputation, having been involved in many international collaborative projects. The group was founded by Professor Richard L. Dowden in the mid-60’s, and as such is one of the long standing research groups in the Department. The group consists of academic members Assoc. Prof. Neil Thomson and Prof. Craig Rodger. Inside the group, Prof. Rodger is more involved with the theoretical side, while Assoc. Prof. Thomson concentrates more on experimental studies. All members are involved in data analysis and interpretation.

The group runs a number of different pieces of experimental equipment. We records low-noise experimental data using a field station in the hills of Dunedin, have instruments on the Physics Department roof, and also have an instrument near Scott Base, Antarctica. In the last few years the group has increased its participation and leadership in international collaborations. Along with the British Antarctic Survey we are leading members of AARDDVARK (Antarctic-Arctic Radiation-belt (Dynamic) Deposition – VLF Atmospheric Research Konsortium), which also includes researchers from Hungary, Finland, Australia, South Africa, and the UK. The group is part of the management committee of the WWLLN (World Wide Lightning Location Network), which consists of ~40 internet connected radio receivers distributed worldwide, passing their observations back to Seattle and Dunedin. We also host an instrument as part of developing AWDAnet (Automatic Whistler Detector and Analyzer network), lead by our Hungarian colleagues.

We are active in research which relects the current scientific goals of the international community. In particular, we are strong activity linked to the Earth’s radiation belts, and particularly losses from the belts as particle precipitation into the Earth’s atmosphere. We are also working with our international collaborators on the significance of Sun-Earth coupling to climate, which has proved a fruitful scientific route. In late 2015 we started a new project to investigate the importance of Geomagnetic Induced Currents in the New Zealand electrical network, which has contined with our current Solar Tsunamis space weather research programme (2020-2026).

Interested students should examine the information at the University of Otago’s Postgraduate Studentwebpage to learn more about undertaking post-graduate research at New Zealand’s top-ranked university for research quality. Early in the process students should contact one of academic staff (Craig, Annika, or Jono) to informally discuss available projects.

For candidates with an appropriate academic background, PhD scholarships valued at up to $28,600 per annum plus tuition fees are available from the University of Otago for a period of up to three years.

More information on scholarships can be found on the University of Otago Scholarships & Awards website.