University of Otago, New Zealand

Chemistry

Te Tari Hua-Ruanuku

BSc Graduate Profiles

Jerram Robinson

BSc in Chemistry and Geology
Researcher, NIWA

Right through school, I always enjoyed the physical sciences and learning about the natural world, but I took a somewhat roundabout route to earning my BSc.

I started off by studying towards a NZ Certificate in Science at Otago Polytechnic, then cross-credited some of my points to the University of Otago and ended up graduating with a double major in Chemistry and Geology.

The good thing about studying chemistry is that it links to just about every other area of science.  And by the time I had finished all this study, I had a huge range of both theoretical and practical skills to draw upon. It was this wide range of knowledge that helped me clinch my job at NIWA.

Now I work for the Tropospheric Atmospheric Chemistry Group (TROPAC). Don’t let the name put you off — we actually do really fascinating work!  We investigate what’s going on in the oceans and the atmosphere, go to places as far away as Antarctica and the Equator, and research cutting edge issues like greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  The best part of this job for me is developing tools and equipment for our research — my latest invention is a device for measuring trace amounts of greenhouse gases emitted from the agricultural sector.  It’s innovative, challenging work, and very satisfying when your creations are successful!

Ruth Hovell

BSc in Chemistry
Student of forensic science

After completing a BSc in Chemistry, I decided to do a Masters Degree in Forensic Science and I have now completed my first year.  It has been very challenging covering such areas as biochem including DNA profiling, law and statistics.  Having done Chemistry, meant that the Chemistry in this course was second nature to me and I had a head start over other students because most of the class had predominantly biochemistry background.  I have kept up a large chemistry component in my course as jobs in forensic science are very limited.  I feel that the value of my chemistry degree lies not only in the actual chemistry that I learned, but other areas such as leaning to "learn" and to stick at something and developing efficient methods of doing things.  These have been invaluable in my part time and summer jobs.

Gregory Stanton

BSc in Chemistry
Groundwater Chemistry Technical Officer, ESR

In 1998 I completed a BSc in Chemistry and Geography and was appointed as a Groundwater Chemistry Technical Officer at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), a Crown Research Institute.  Having gained the job I asked my boss, "Why me?"  His reply was that it was a combination of the particularly relevant Geography and Chemistry subjects, and also my rural background.

The job consists of many varied and interesting tasks in relation to Groundwater Research in New Zealand.  I spend about quarter of my time out in the field sampling our various experimental sites around the country.  The remainder of the time is spent analysing the samples in the laboratory and researching and writing up scientific investigations.

The Chemistry degree I gained has helped me in three main ways in my current employment:

I firmly believe that a Chemistry Degree is the broadest most applicable degree available at any University.  Initially the thought is that because Chemistry is not a set "profession" degree like Medicine or Engineering that it doesn’t have good job prospects.  But it turns out that Chemistry is extremely relevant to any employment.

Chemistry is also an extremely powerful subject to combine with others.  Initially I came to University wanting to study geography (my primary interest) but quickly realized this would not offer me good job prospects, so I decided to major in Chemistry as well — and now I have a job where I practise both disciplines.  I think that I am a little bit fortunate.

Paul Merriman

BSc in Chemistry, BCom in Finance and Accounting
Treasury accountant/dealer, Trans Alta New Zealand

I work as a Treasury Accountant for Trans Alta New Zealand, which is the largest electricity retailer in New Zealand.  I deal on the money markets for all Trans Alta’s debit and investments.  I am also the Accountant for the Treasury Division.

My job entails managing Trans Alta’s financial risk.  This is protecting the company from any adverse movements of interest rates and foreign exchange.  To do this, I use derivatives.  My chemistry degree has helped me understand the complex calculations used to price these products.  Chemistry and finance may seem distant but the theories and models in both disciplines are very much the same.  I believe chemistry combines well with commerce.