Researcher and PhD Candidate

Caleb Todd's passion for studying physics and explaining it to others made a career in academia as a physicist an easy choice.

Student Caleb Todd

Career: Research assistant in Department of Physics, PhD Candidate at University of Cambridge.

Programme: BSc in Physics and Mathematics, BSc (Hons) in Physics.

“The fundamental laws that govern our universe have interested me since I was young. I enjoy seeing how we can take a small number of essential principles and use them to understand a multitude of diverse phenomena. Physics cuts right to the heart of the laws of nature, and so I was always captivated by it as a subject. My passion for studying physics and explaining it to others made a career in academia as a physicist my dream job, so I came to the University of Auckland to make that dream a reality.

“Since my graduation, I have been working as a tutor for a first-year physics course and as a research assistant in the Department of Physics here at the University of Auckland. The research position is a short-term contract to do some follow-up work on my Honours project. In October, I will be starting a PhD at the University of Cambridge, funded by the Gates Scholarship.

“As a researcher and soon-to-be PhD candidate, there is a clear connection between my studies at UoA and my career path. My BSc and BSc(Hons) degrees laid the foundations of understanding on which all my future work will be built, and my current research project derives directly from my Honours degree. The connections I have made during my time at the University of Auckland also enabled me to pursue the Gates scholarship, and other research positions. Degree-related opportunities like summer research projects, or the Science Scholars programme, were likewise essential to my progress as an academic.

“There are three main reasons I fell in love with an academic career. Firstly, it is a challenge that constantly pushes me to improve; I never feel stagnant. Secondly, my work really feels like my own. I get to be independent and self-directed, and I control how and when I work. The responsibility attached to that freedom is also satisfying. Finally, I love to teach and help others understand get excited by the same ideas that excite me. Academia combines research and teaching in a way that suits me perfectly. 

“I appreciate the passion for physics I have been surrounded by during my studies. The lecturers are genuinely excited by the subject they teach, which goes a long way toward producing a positive classroom environment. The students are all brought together by this shared interest, and there’s a natural feeling of community, especially in later years.“I received the Department of Physics Scholarship, and the University of Auckland Postgraduate Honours Scholarship. I was incredibly fortunate to receive these scholarships, as they meant I didn’t have to work as many hours to stay afloat financially and could focus more of my time on study and extracurriculars. 

“Overall, the best parts of my time at university were all the opportunities I had to grow outside of my coursework. Optional academic programmes like summer research and Science Scholars developed me as a researcher in ways assignments and exams couldn’t. These programmes also involved mentorship from established academics who gave me insights into my career path. Joining different clubs also helped me develop skills beyond those directly related to Physics—through clubs I have been able to do consultancy for charities at ThinkPod, creative academic writing at UoA Scientific magazine, and helped build the student community in the Science Students’ Association. All these experiences have been enriching for me and made my time studying Physics at the University of Auckland an absolute joy.”