Peter Murmu talks about his experience with the MacDiarmid Institute
Dr Peter Murmu was an MSc student at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay when he was offered a PhD scholarship from GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington.
He says he was drawn to New Zealand in part because it was the birthplace of Ernest Rutherford.
“I had heard about New Zealand before through movies and because I follow cricket so I knew New Zealand was a good country with nice people. But in particular I knew Lord Rutherford was a New Zealander, and we’d studied him and what a great scientist he was. So I had a real curiosity about his country and what it would be like.”
Peter says there was a natural progression from the work he had been doing at IIT through to his PhD thesis in New Zealand.
“Being offered a PhD scholarship was a great opportunity to continue my study and explore a new country. I had done my MSc in Physics with Professor M. Senthil Kumar – studying the preparation and characterisation of Fe/Ag thin films. And here in New Zealand I worked with Professor Ben Ruck at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and with Dr John Kennedy at GNS Science, studying spintronic aspects of rare-earth doped zinc oxide. I introduced magnetic elements (rare-earth ions) into zinc oxide using an ion implantation technique at GNS science and did photoluminescence studies with Professor Roger Reeves at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Canterbury. I also worked with Dr Grant Williams at what is now the Robinson Research Institute, using New Zealand’s only magnetic property measurement system (MPMS) and physical property measurement system (PPMS) facilities.”
He says he was fortunate that both his PhD supervisors were Investigators with the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.
“Because both my supervisors were part of the MacDiarmid Institute, I was able to connect, through the Institute, with all the leading researchers in my field – something that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. As a MacDiarmid student I also had access through the Institute to equipment at materials science research facilities throughout New Zealand.
The MacDiarmid Institute is a ‘virtual’ institute of the best materials and nanotechnology scientists in New Zealand. Investigators are spread between different universities around New Zealand – Auckland, Massey, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago, as well as two Crown Research Institutes.
Peter says that being part of the MacDiarmid meant he could be part of something bigger than just a single university.
“The MacDiarmid Institute is a great place for networking. The Institute holds many conferences and symposia and pays for students to attend. As a student with the MacDiarmid Institute I got to network with all of the other senior researchers as well as students throughout New Zealand.”
He says the MacDiarmid Institute also has annual student symposiums where students get the chance to talk with all of the Investigators and gives talks and present posters.
“The best part of the student symposiums was being given the opportunity to present a talk to all the Investigators in my first year, and to give poster presentations in the following years. It was great experience and a real chance to get feedback from all of these excellent researchers.”
And for Peter, staying in New Zealand post PhD was a good option.
“I was awarded my PhD in Physics in 2012 and then joined GNS Science as a postdoctoral material scientist. I’m now working on thermo electric materials that can be used for waste heat recovery and energy harvesting. These materials have real potential in reducing the impact of climate change.”
Peter says he would recommend New Zealand as a great place to study and work.
“New Zealanders are very welcoming and the research in the MacDiarmid Institute is of the best quality. The supervisors are all very helpful and encouraging, as well as stimulating and challenging. I’m expected to take initiative. I highly recommend the MacDiarmid Institute and New Zealand for students. Moreover, beautiful landscapes and friendly people make living here a wonderful experience.”