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AnnMarie Oien


BSc (Hons), PhD (Otago)

I am: Physicist; Root Cause Analyst, Space Systems Division, Lockheed Martin

I did: Physics

Solving problems with everything from plumbing to lasers during her PhD in physics at the University of Otago has become a day-job for AnnMarie Oien, improvement projects lead and root cause analysis investigator for Lockheed Martin.

“Part of what I do now is root cause analysis on adverse incidents that happen on billion dollar programmes” at the American aerospace, defence, security and advanced technology company. It’s not that far from the methodical analysis she conducted on her way to creating the Southern Hemisphere’s first atomic cooling facility using magneto-optic trapping.

“Analysis and persistence and thinking it through – coming up with a way to solve a problem and just tackling it step by step has been vital, absolutely vital, for what I do now.”

Beyond root cause analysis, AnnMarie leads improvement projects such as Agile for big programmes or connecting data across multiple management systems for better project oversight – in fact she is a Master Black Belt in lean six sigma – and credits her position to the latitude she had to create her own research programme at Otago.

“If I had gone to Stanford or Oxford I would be joining an existing programme. At Otago I had the opportunity to create one. What an opportunity. And from there I was doing non-linear optics lasers and the post-doctoral work I was doing was what led me directly to the job in America.”

AnnMarie had selected the University of Otago over other choices because, in part, she wanted to “fly the nest”.

It was the lifestyle at Otago that attracted her. “For me what was huge was we were a little bit north of the city but we were still part of the town. It was integrated and yet it was a dedicated campus experience.”

“One of my favourite things to do would be to walk down Dunedin’s George St and just go to the little bakery, the French patisserie, and you get French bread, and then to the supermarket and get some pate and some cheese, and then I’d get on my bike and I’d head up to the Botanic Garden. I had this little spot up by the azaleas and I’d just lay out there, lovely sunny afternoon, and just you know, bike tossed to one side...” Today she is the Vice-President of the Alumni of University of Otago in America, Inc. and proud to promote Otago to her adopted country.

“For me, Only Otago is a combination of academic excellence and just this fabulous outdoor adventure. It’s the quality of life that you can live at Otago and the quality of the education you get.”

Find out more about studying Physics at Otago

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