Data Scientist at NIWA

Neelesh Rampal’s experience studying in the Department of Physics gave him all the skills necessary for a career as a data scientist.

Neeslesh Rampal, physics graduate
Photographer: Stuart Mackay

Programmes: Bachelor of Science in Geophysics & Applied Mathematics, Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geophysics, Master of Science in Physics 

“At school I found mathematics so interesting that I’d often skip my geography class to study for calculus instead. I never was particularly interested in physics, and it was only whilst taking a physics course at the University of Auckland that I realised how amazing the subject area truly is.

“I have been working as a Data Scientist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) since 2020. My work is mostly research focused. I am involved in developing state-of-the-art techniques in artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the spatial resolution of long-range weather forecasts. I also use AI to generate high-resolution climate projections for New Zealand, which will provide insight as to how rainfall patterns and extreme rainfall may change in the future.

“My undergraduate degree with the Department of Physics gave me exceptional scientific programming and report writing skills, which I use every day in my job.

The physics programme teaches you to become rigorous with your science, so that you deeply understand your results, their limitations and implications – which is invaluable in a career as a data scientist.

Neelesh Rampal NIWA

“People often have the false perception that it is challenging to find a job with a physics degree. I think it’s the complete opposite. The analytical skills and scientific rigour you develop while studying physics can make you standout in industries such as IT and Data Science.

“The postgraduate research environment in the Department of Physics is fantastic. I made some great friends during my time at university, and I’m still in touch with some of my supervisors. My supervisor, Professor Roger Davies, encouraged me to think outside the box, and identify gaps and opportunities in my research. He was supportive and wanted me to be the best version of myself possible. This has helped me to be innovative in my current role. Both Professor Roger Davies and Dr Gilles Bellon provided me with support and mentorship throughout both my degrees. Roger also helped me create networks, which ultimately helped land me a job at NIWA.”

Note: Geophysics has now been replaced with Environmental Physics