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Ratu Mataira

Nuclear physicist and founder, OpenStar Technologies

Dr Ratu Mataira is on a mission to harness clean energy for the planet 

— By Ratu Mataira

As a kid, I always wanted to understand the world around me and when I looked around for role models of what that might look like, it seemed mostly like people in white coats in labs doing science, which didn’t really feel like me. I’d later find out that chemists wear white coats and what I really wanted to be was a physicist.

My grandmother, the late Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira, was pivotal to the revival of te reo Māori, and her legacy has been an inspiration to me.  If she could do that, what is the measure of what you can do in a single life? For our generation – for my life – that big challenge is climate change.

Two years ago, when I set about trying to tackle a seemingly impossible problem in fusion energy, I used her legacy as a blueprint on what can be achieved. Saving Te Reo Māori wasn’t done via an app, AI, or government intervention – it was done by people coming together with a sense of responsibility, courage, and hope, to protect what was most important to them. And we’re trying to do the same with OpenStar: make fusion energy a reality by building our first fusion reactor prototype.

There is no valid claim that the wisdom held in the sciences belongs to any one group of people. Once you learn that, then the knowledge is your knowledge. Never feel like someone else owns these ideas once they are yours. It’s all there for you.

Ratu’s pathway to becoming a nuclear physicist

  • Bachelor of Science with Honours in Physics – Victoria University of Wellington
  • Intern with Superconductor Technologies in Texas
  • Graduate and then PhD Student with Robinson Research, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Physical Sciences Committee Member with Return on Science
  • Founder/CEO of OpenStar Technologies

A version of this profile also appears in our upcoming issue of Careers with STEM: Indigenous. Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on its launch date.

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