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Bachelor of Science in Energy Studies and Physics

Test Engineer, Segula Technologies

Jack Williamson_280px

Growing up in a rural town in Northland I wanted to experience life as far away from home as possible. The student feel of North Dunedin was also appealing. These two points combined with the fact the University of Otago has a great reputation made the decision easy for me to study at Otago.

Initially I was drawn to physics because I liked the idea of understanding the underlying concepts that all other sciences are built upon. After the first year I discovered Energy Management to be a great fit for me - still learning a lot of the underlying physical concepts but with a much more practical light to it. I enjoyed the meeting of science, engineering, and social constraints. It's fair to say that as a student, the more practical concepts came to me a lot easier than some of the higher level theory stuff we were learning in our physics courses, so if I were to continue my studies in the future it would definitely be within the energy side of things.

Particularly into the 2nd and 3rd years, I really enjoyed the small class sizes and how that led to closer friendships. This of course meant a more social feel to classes and study times which helped me to feel less self-conscious when asking questions in class or for help from classmates. Everyone seemed to help each other and be genuinely invested in each other's success, and I really appreciated that dynamic.

I got to spend four years living with some of my best friends, and those I wasn't flatting with were all within 20-minutes walk. I also made a lot of great friends from around the world through the exchange/kiwihosting program which was really cool.

In hindsight, my expectations of Otago were largely accurate, I think. Maybe I slightly underestimated just how tough I would find physics to be, but I don't regret choosing it for a second, and I'm very proud to write 'The University of Otago' anytime I fill out a job application!

Perhaps one thing I didn't expect would be the sheer amount of amazing friends I made - I knew I would make friends at university, but looking back at the sheer number of incredible people I was lucky enough to spend those years with is something I will always be grateful for.

Two particularly memorable moments for me during my time in Dunedin would be the Cricket and Rugby World Cups of 2015. The roar that went up from seemingly every flat in the student area after we beat South Africa in the semi-final gave me chills. I bought a bottle of champagne before the final but never opened it because we didn't win that one, so I saved it all year for the Rugby World Cup - the final of which was conveniently about 4 am the morning after our last physics exam for the year. We arranged every piece of furniture available into a grandstand and had about 20 people over in the morning to watch the game. Cracking the champagne open as the All Blacks won the match is a pretty special memory for me.

Since graduating, I have been working overseas. Initially I just wanted to do something a bit different after four years of studying, so I went to Canada and spent a year working on a ski field. Then in Sweden, I was employed as a test engineer until the Coronavirus caused me to lose my job. So, I went back to Canada and worked another winter on a ski field, but luckily, during this time I secured a position back in Sweden with Volvo Cars as a test engineer in their battery lab, which I really enjoy. Admittedly, I haven't really done any pure science since graduating, my technical jobs have all been within the automotive industry, but I think the physics degree shows an employer that you are able to think rationally and work out problems in a calculated manner.

If I were to give someone advice about where to study, I would say it's hard to go wrong with Otago. Pick a field that interests you and give it a go, there are plenty of opportunities to switch courses if you find it doesn't suit you, or you come across something you like better. Take the time to get to know your classmates well, because helping each other is the best way to learn – part of my success is down to the support of my friends and classmates.

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