Dr. Matthew G. Cowan

Current position:: Postdoc (April 2012 - present) with Professors Rich Noble and Doug Gin (University of Colorado at Boulder)
PhD: at the University of Otago with Professor Sally Brooker (2009-2012)
BSc(Hons): at the University of Otago with Professor Sally Brooker (2008)

Matt Cowan awarded Wiley prize

I began in Sally’s group as an honours student in 2008 and underwent the common transition into PhD study. During my four years in the group, and department in general, I have been lucky to work with a number of great people and made some great friends along the way.

The department is equipped with a wide range of instruments and it is relatively easy to undergo the training required to use most of them yourself, great if you enjoy the freedom of being able to push your research along. There is even a stellar microanalysis laboratory located within the department! The academic staff of the department is also of wonderful disposition and considerable talent. In particular the ‘mechanism meetings’ run by the organic chemists are a great place to discover, discuss and dissect freshly reported reactions.

In terms of research and results, the group is encouraged to write up their results into potential papers. At this point Sally excels and, once embarked on a manuscript, her eye for detail, persistence and great talent for scientific communication come to the fore. I personally have learnt a lot from working with Sally in the preparation of manuscripts.

Sally travels a lot during the year to visit with other academics around the world. From this experience she is often able to identify, and arrange collaborations for, experiments that can add considerable value to ongoing research projects. The collaborations go both ways and during my time in the group we were graced by the presence of top notch academics from around the world. The rest of the department is also active in ‘recruiting’ high profile visitors and I was lucky enough to chat with six Nobel laureates during my time at Otago.

Sally’s academic contacts offer a great chance for collaborative visits during your research. Although funding is often hard to come by Sally has been happy lending her talent to checking over and guiding the preparation of scholarship applications. I was lucky enough to receive both the Claude McCarthy and Elman Poole Fellowships as well as travel assistance from both the Division of Sciences and the Chemistry Department. It should be pointed out that I was very fortunate to receive this assistance and my research trips were relatively cheap, going only as far as Australia.

As a Dunedin local I am somewhat biased towards my home town and the South Island of New Zealand. In this regard my words are completely untrustworthy, so I will not belabour you with a description of the most beautiful place in the world.