Inspiring kids through curiosity

PhD student Elf Eldridge believes the core of science is curiosity—it keeps the questions and inspiration coming every day.

Finding a calling

The moment when PhD Physics student Elf Eldridge found his calling coincided with a low point in his life.

“It was during my third year of study when I seriously considered dropping out of university because it all got too hard,” says Elf. “I was offered a job teaching undergraduate physics in the lab and I discovered I absolutely loved teaching and demonstrating.”

Postgraduate path

Elf went on to complete a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Cell and Molecular Bioscience before enrolling in PhD study at the Victoria University of Wellington-based MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, one of New Zealand’s premier research institutes.

Ever-burning flame

He says studying science has changed him.

“One of the great things about science is that curiosity, at its core, is like a flame that keeps burning forever. You’ll never look at a supermarket shelf or newspaper article the same way again because you’re always asking, ‘where’s the evidence?’ Part of that is being naturally curious but it’s also about being sceptical and perceiving problems in a different way.”

Children 'get' science

That curiosity drives Elf’s outreach work, in which he works with school students of all ages and their teachers.

“Children get the core of science—they get curiosity. They will ask questions till they’re blue in the face and you’re really irritated. But that’s what’s great about them—they won’t ever stop questioning, and they’re good at asking questions like ‘why is the sky blue?’—the questions we often stop asking as we get older.”

Science in New Zealand

Elf says it gives him a huge amount of motivation to explain to young people that in New Zealand, you can do world-class science that you’re interested in—be it biotechnology or engineering or astrophysics.

“All the resources are here, all you’ve got to do is go for it—challenge yourself, take every opportunity and never let failure stop you.”

Know Your Mind

“Know Your Mind is about being open to questions and having the confidence to ask the really big questions that you might not otherwise ask.

“I’m a different person today because the University saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and cultured it.”

See other students talk about their university experience and what Know Your Mind means to them.