Kiri McComb’s start in Chemistry was interesting to say the least. It was not until halfway through his final year of High School, after much coaxing from his Science teacher that he decided to give Chemistry a go. With just one half year of High School Chemistry and bare 52% pass in the subject he decided to take on Chemistry at University. Something in that half year of Chemistry had inspired him to study the subject more.
Kiri’s undergraduate degree at Otago is one of his most treasured experiences. Kiri met some of his best friends while studying Chemistry at Otago. The Department of Chemistry provided a great learning environment with a supportive atmosphere and dedicated academic staff that was always willing to provide insight and advice to aid his learning experience. After Kiri graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2005, he felt it just made sense to stay on and study further. Kiri undertook his MSc with Prof. A. James McQuillan investigating solid-liquid interface phenomena, including cation adsorption and exchange onto metal oxide and polymer films.
Kiri’s time learning in the Department of Chemistry did nothing if not whet his thirst for knowledge and he continued on still. After graduating with his MSc in 2007 he undertook a PhD with Prof. Russell D. Frew developing chemical methods for food authentication. This was not only an amazing challenge but led to some of the greatest opportunities of his life. The project he undertook was to investigate chemical metrics like Trace Elemental concentrations and Isotope ratios in New Zealand honey and develop chemical profiling tools to determine where in the country the honey was produced. It was a great chance to develop skills in not only Analytical Chemistry but Statistics as well.
Kiri now works for a Dunedin based company called Oritain, who have taken the science he helped to develop and are working to commercialise it for the benefit of New Zealand food producers. Not only that but he has had the opportunity to also work in Malaysia, China and Sri Lanka passing on the knowledge gained from his PhD to other Scientists from the Middle East and Asia for Oritain and as an IAEA Technical Expert.
The best thing for him is he now get to take the knowledge and skills he gained while studying Chemistry at Otago and pass them on as a guest lecturer of Forensic Analytical Chemistry. Kiri never expected when he made that snap decision to study Chemistry at Otago that it would take him around the world to some of the most spectacular places.