Zac Isaac

Zac started his PhD in early 2021 after completing a Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences with Honors in 2019, a Graduate Diploma in Finance in 2019 and a Master of Science in Mathematics in 2021.

For Zac, the approachable and knowledgeable staff and the flexibility and variety with the study programme have been highlights of his study so far at the University of Waikato.

“While I was working on my MSc dissertation in computational astrophysics, my supervisor, Jacob Heerikhuisen, mentioned there was an opportunity to work towards a PhD in an entirely different field: computational biomedical optics. I looked at the proposed project and who I’d be working alongside and leapt at the opportunity - I knew that this degree would be a strong addition to my C.V. and help me grow as a researcher.

“No matter the subject I was studying, my lecturers have always been friendly, helpful, and experts in their fields.

“I enjoy the variability and flexibility involved with my PhD: in a single day, I might go from using Monte Carlo methods to simulate photon propagation through skin tissue to running an economics tutorial for first year business students to organising a games night for students in the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences. Every day is different, and that helps keep my brain fresh,” Zac said.

Choosing the University of Waikato felt like the right option to Zac, who didn’t want to be “just another student” lost in the masses at some of the other universities.

“Originally, I had settled on Waikato due to its proximity to where I grew up in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and the East Cape. When it came time to consider postgraduate studies, I found that the fields I was interested in were strongly represented at Waikato. I knew I would be able to work under hugely respected experts in those fields, as well as experiencing the benefits I’d recognised in previous years.”

Zac’s advice to others thinking about where to study is to consider where they will most be able to thrive as a person and student.

“Waikato benefits from being a smaller university with smaller class numbers – it’s so easy to get to know your peers, tutors, and lecturers. Beyond this, it’s hard to argue against the university’s location being the best in the country for proximity to pursuits and activities, and the campus is also exponentially more beautiful than those seen in the larger cities.

And his advice for those considering a PhD?

“Look through the research profiles of the academics in your ideal field and don’t be afraid to just flick them an email. In my experience, they are more than happy to have a chat with interested students, and you might be surprised by what opportunities (projects, pathways, funding, or otherwise) they might have floating about which you could explore. Beyond this, the PhD process is straightforward at Waikato. The journey is always going to be hard, but there are so many support networks and guiding frameworks in place to help.”

Zac Isaac

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