Optical fibres light Martijn’s road to success

Published 09 July 2010

martijnbAfter graduating from the University of New England as a Doctor of Philosophy earlier this year, Dutch physicist Martijn Boerkamp has returned home to work in the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).

Dr Boerkamp (pictured here on his graduation day) began work at the beginning of May as a Physics Development Engineer in TNO’s laboratories on the campus of Delft University of Technology. His work at TNO involves developing optical sensors – mainly incorporating optical-fibre technology. “TNO develops such sensor systems for the space, nuclear fusion, and gas and oil industries,” he said, “and for defence/security and medicine. I’m lucky enough to be involved in the majority of these areas.”

While conducting research for his doctoral thesis on optical-fibre sensing, Martijn Boerkamp immersed himself in the life of the UNE campus and the NSW Northern Tablelands city of Armidale. In Armidale, he said, he found a University and a local community prepared to welcome and sustain their overseas students.

In return, he contributed so significantly to his host communities that he was presented on his graduation with a New England Award – the University’s recognition of a student’s record of involvement in extra-curricular activities of benefit to the UNE  and broader communities.

His deepest involvement was with the UNE and Northern Tablelands Astronomical Society, where his passion for astronomy led to his becoming a very active President of the Society for a year and a half. He held that position throughout 2009 – the International Year of Astronomy – and organised most of the Society’s significant contribution to that year’s special events.

Martijn spent five months at UNE in 2004-05 working on a research project for Hanze University Groningen, and enjoyed the experience so much that he applied to return as a postgraduate student. “It was a very good experience,” he said. “I liked the culture: the social interaction – particularly within the Chemistry and Physics departments, but also with the other Australian and international students – and the friendly and relaxed atmosphere. And I enjoyed visiting the surrounding National Parks.”

Awarded a UNE Postgraduate Research Scholarship and an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, he returned to UNE to begin his PhD research – working with Professor David Lamb and Dr Peter Lye – in July 2006.

One highlight of his postgraduate student experience was travelling to Europe in 2008 under a Keith and Dorothy Mackay Postgraduate Travelling Scholarship to present conference papers in Scotland and Italy.

Now back in The Netherlands as a professional physicist, Dr Boerkamp plans to pursue his interest in astronomy as well as his scientific career.