Bachelor of Science (Physics) student Rhea Barnett has packed her bags ready for the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica.

The Honours student will spend her birthday, Christmas and New Year aboard a ship bound for Casey Base, where she will work helping calibrate magnetometers – devices used to measure microscale changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Ms Barnett will have 20 days at sea and eight days on the base working with the technology. She is incredibly excited for the trip, which will expand her skills working with sophisticated instrumentation and ultimately broaden her knowledge in the field.

“I actually remember seeing photos at an orientation day of a student down in Antarctica, and I was like ‘Wow, that’s really, really cool.’ I never thought I would get the chance to do it, and now it’s happening!” she said.

Ms Barnett is undertaking her Honours project in collaboration with the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Space Physics, which owns and coordinates the magnetometers she will be working on.

The Centre’s Professor Fred Menk said the opportunity is a wonderful one for Rhea, who is more than deserving of the experience.

“Our instruments at the Antarctic bases provide vital information on space weather processes which affect modern technological systems. Many students have contributed to this work, which also provides wonderful life experience,” Professor Menk said.

Ms Barnett’s relationship with science has completely changed since her time at school on the Central Coast, where she wasn’t as focused on her education.

“I actually didn’t do a lot of high school so I don’t even have my school certificate. I left quite young and I came to the University of Newcastle through Open Foundation when I was 24.

“In school I hated science – really didn’t enjoy it. Later in life I did Maths and Chemistry when I was doing Open Foundation and I really enjoyed it… I ended up doing Physics and I was like ‘yeah, this is really cool I’m going to give it a go’.”


Her new found love for Physics is pushing her in a great direction and, although she isn’t currently pursuing a specific goal for the future, hopes to end up continuing her work in physics through academia.

“I feel like whenever you try and plan stuff like this, it doesn’t work out, so I just roll with the punches and see what happens.”

Listen to Rhea on ABC1233.