Max Fisser joined the Institute as a PhD candidate designing fibre optic hydrogen sensors for monitoring transformer health.
During my Master’s thesis at a Munich based turbine manufacturer I decided to continue my academic career and pursue a PhD in engineering. Initially, I was looking for positions in Germany and focused on industry based PhD positions. By coincidence I came across a position advertised by my future supervisor, Dr Arvid Hunze, at Robinson Research Institute in New Zealand. Being adventurous, I decided to give it a shot and sent my first email.
I was quite impressed by the responsiveness of everyone at Robinson. Not only did I get an answer to my email immediately, but I had my first telephone interview the next day. In the following weeks I had more correspondence with several people at Robinson, touching base and clarifying the topic. It took less than six months from my first email until I had my first day at the institute.
When I found out that my research was integrated in an industry project I was pleased. I have always preferred my research to be applied and I like to see my work turned into a product. Our industry partner ETEL, an Auckland based transformer manufacturer, planned to develop a smart distribution transformer. My job was to design and evaluate a fibre optic hydrogen sensor for monitoring the health of transformers. Before starting my PhD, I had never worked with or studied fibre optics, but I received a great introduction to the topic from Dr Rod Badcock which made my first steps in the area easy.
Another advantage of being integrated into an industry project was the project management and coordination of the greater programme which enabled me to progress quickly and to finish my thesis in under three years. During my thesis, I was also able to write five journal articles and attend three international conferences, all of which will be highly beneficial for my future career.
I also have to mention the lifestyle I had at Robinson. Our work site is based at the bottom of a reserve with a mountain bike park and plenty of walking tracks. I immersed myself in mountain biking and went on many lunch and after work rides with colleagues. My friends back in Germany envied me a lot.
Finding the PhD position at Robinson and coming to New Zealand has been a great adventure. At Robinson I found a research environment that enabled fast and steady learning. Robinson has many excellent researchers from different fields, and they always listened, were interested and happy to help. They have formed the researcher I am today and I doubt that I would have found a more beneficial environment elsewhere.