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Adam Norrie

Commerce Building from Clyde Street

Adam Norrie. Adam Norrie
Graduate
Physics

Adam Norrie might be a specialist in the finer points of quantum mechanics, but on any given day he could be writing reports on subjects ranging from Antarctica to aerospace.

Since graduating from Otago with his PhD, Adam has taken up a role as a physical sciences analyst in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, helping to inform policy-makers on science-related matters.

But while some of Adam's work might look at the warming of the planet, it's when explaining what goes on at very cool conditions that he really knows his stuff.

At Otago, Adam became part of one of the first groups in the southern hemisphere to explore the behaviour of certain kinds of atoms at very low temperatures, "as in millionths of a degree above absolute zero". At these temperatures some atoms can come together in their millions to coalesce into a kind of super-atom known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. Adam's research explored what happens when two of these collide.

It was meticulous work. "To get a single data set, you'd need tens of computers running for months at a time." But in the future, the knowledge could potentially be used in quantum computing, or for very precise measurements of time or gravity, Adam explains.

And although there's not a lot of low-temperature collisions going on in his office now, Adam says he uses skills gained during his postgraduate study daily.

"My job is to communicate complicated concepts to people who often have a minimal scientific background." Years of explaining a PhD to friends and family makes you an expert in that.