Auckland, May 1, 2017
When Alex Anderson was a teenager growing up in Waiuku, he read a lot of science fiction and dreamt of one day of “building futuristic things like robots.”
Today, Alex has arguably done even better than that.
The 30-year-old Mt Eden resident who graduates from the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, is now building rockets for a living.
“It is a dream job,” he said, of his role with Rocket Lab.
Rocket Lab is a US company with a base of operations in New Zealand.
“They are developing launch vehicles to put small satellites into space. These satellites traditionally have to compromise on orbit to ride share with larger satellites,” he said.
Rocket Lab’s Electron will lower the barrier to commercial space by offering frequent and cheap launches direct to orbit from the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island’s East Coast.
Alex is a vehicle test engineer with Rocket Lab.
He said that his role “involves testing all the various components and systems which make up a launch vehicle and feeding the results of those tests back to the designers.”
He has drawn on his general engineering background in instrumentation and electronics, as well as the training he’s received in scientific method (for example striving for rigorous tests) to do his job.
A good example
“Alex is a good example of how transferrable Bioengineering skills can be to a broad range of industries and applications,” his PhD supervisor Associate Professor Andrew Taberner said.
For his PhD, Alex developed a new scientific instrument for studying tissue extracted from a living heart. In this device, a pulse of electricity causes calcium ions to be released into living muscle cells. This stimulates the cells to shorten, change shape, release heat and perform work.
“Alex’s instrument is the first to allow all these events to be observed together. It will enable a deeper study of the relationships between the systems driving the heart, in health and disease,” Associate Professor Taberner said.