Gordon McDonald

Data Science | Statistics | Mathematics | Physics

About ME

"Hi, I'm Gordon. Pleased to meet you."

I am a quantum physicist, data scientist and teacher, currently working as a data scientist at the Centre for Translational Data Science / Sydney Informatics Hub at the University of Sydney.

In 2015 I graduated from my PhD in Experimental Quantum Physics, in which I developed and prototyped new designs of quantum sensors for advanced metrology. I have extensive laboratory technical knowledge, theoretical knowledge, simulation and computational data analysis experience developed during 7 years of cutting-edge physics research and two years of statistical consulting and advanced model building, and a passion for informative data visualization techniques.

I have taught university level physics and data analysis courses in Australia and Indonesia, as well as tutoring students in Statistics, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. My public speaking abilities have been demonstrated while presenting my research at other universities and conferences in Australia, Indonesia, the US, and Europe; and I have co-authored 18 peer-reviewed papers in academic journals, as well as writing my Honours and PhD theses. I am experienced in working in a small team environment using agile management techniques; I have supervised two honours students and assisted in training three other PhD students, and have taken on the role of University Statistician at the University of Sydney.


I studied at the Australian National University, in Canberra. Both my Honours and PhD were completed in the Quantum Sensors and Atom Laser Group.


PhD in Experimental Quantum Physics

During my PhD in the Quantum Sensors and Atom Laser group at the Australian National University, I created several new configurations of quantum sensors, known as atom interferometers. These measure quantities such as inertial acceleration, rotation, tilt, position, as well as gravitational, electric and magnetic fields to very high precision. Uses for such devices include mineral exploration, defence applications and answering questions in fundamental physics. Several innovations which I designed and implemented as proof-of-concept will improve the precision of future atom-interferometer-based devices by orders of magnitude. They will also allow such sensors to take up vastly less space than they currently do. Throughout my PhD I have supervised and trained three other PhD students and two honours students. This work resulted in 15 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and 12 presentations delivered around the world, in addition to my doctoral thesis. You can download a copy of my PhD thesis, titled "Cold Atom Interferometry in Optical Potentials", by clicking on this link.


First class Honours with University Medal in Physics

I made quantitative measurements of a particular quantum-mechanical density fluctuation of cold rubidium-87 atomic clouds, and developed a mathematical model which explained the results. You can download a copy of my Honours thesis, titled "Detecting Atomic Shot Noise On Ultra-cold Atom Clouds", by clicking on this link.


Bachelor of Science

I was in the advanced stream of the Bachelor of Science at ANU known as the PhB program, and supported by a PhB scholarship. Majoring in Physics and Chemistry, minor in Mathematics. High Distinction average of 90% (Grade point average of 6.87 out of 7). I also completed 7 advanced studies courses in which I was involved in research on

  • properties of solar cells,
  • synthesis of new anti-cancer drugs,
  • levitation using lasers,
  • modelling of disease spread through a population,
  • creating new lead-free piezo-electric ceramics,
  • detection of steroid use in greyhound racing, and
  • resonance fluorescence in ultra-cold atomic clouds.


I have a wide range of skills which I will bring to any new role.


Baesian Statistics, Statistical Distributions, Probability, Hypothesis Tests


Advanced Calculus, Geometry, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations


Electromegnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Waves and Optics, Non-linear Physics

Data Analysis

Non-linear Fitting, Principle Component Analysis, Machine Learning

Lab Skills

Familliar with lasers and optics equipment, oscilloscopes, function generators, computer control and vacuum systems.

Workshop Skills

Familliar with saws, drills, tap and dies, routers, soldering irons

Simulations and Coding

Matlab, Mathematica, Python, R, C, NetLogo, HTML, Finite element analysis, Runge-Kutta methods


MS Word and Excel, LaTeX, Powerpoint, Keynote, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator


Data Science Research Engineer, Sydney Informatics Hub, The University of Sydney

I have been working as a data science research engineer at SIH since mid-2016, applying machine learning and bayesian statistical techniques to heath-related projects with the Westmead Institute of Medical Research and the Woolcock Institute, and the Charles Perkins Centre. Since joining SIH I have also worked on projects involving dental health, electoral results, crime levels and demographic data, chemical concentration simulations, and reviews on internet sales websites. I have also taken on the role of university statistician, as well as designing and building the informatics.sydney.edu.au website.

2016 to Present

Certified Instructor, Software Carpentry

Software Carpentry courses teach researchers the introductory computing and data analysis skills they need to speed up their work and make it more reproducible. I have been an instructor for Software Carpentry since 2017.

2017 to Present

Postdoc, Quantum Sensors and Atom Laser Group, ANU

I developed software to analyze interferometry data being collected by another PhD student in the group. The software used Principle Component Analysis to automatically extract the most useful information from the collected images. I also advised and assisted other postdocs and PhD students in the group.


Lab Demonstrator, Foundations of Physics, ANU

I assisted the first-year students to create experimental solutions in this innovative laboratory-based course. In 2013 we received the Vice-Chancellor's award 'ANU Commendation for outstanding Contribution to Student Learning'. I also developed several of the lecture demonstrations, and assisted in marking the assessment pieces for this course.

2013 to 2014

Guest Lecturer, University of Indonesia

I taught electromagnetism to approximately 60 first-year engineering students as part of UI's international guest lecture program. This involved preparing and delivering lectures, demonstrations and assessment of the students' learning.


Dance Teacher

I teach social partner dances including Salsa, Bachata, Cha-cha and Zouk-lambada for classes of 25 students. I also run a bi-weekly social dance event by the lake in Canberra through summer.

2012 to 2015

Physics Tutor, ANU

I set assignment problems, created example solutions, assisted students in understanding the course material and marked student work, for these courses:
Honours Electromagnetism: This fourth-year course covered the first half of the standard graduate textbook "Electrodynamics" by J. D. Jackson. It was taught to 20 locally-based ANU students along with some remote students at the University of Western Australia and Swinburne.
Advanced Theoretical Physics: This third-year course with around 30 students covered classical and quantum mechanics, along with special relativity.


Private Tutor

Students were studying Year 10-12 and first-year university Mathematics, Statistics, Physics and Chemistry at all difficulty levels.


Science Marketing Ambassador, College of Science, ANU

Promoted the science degree programs available at ANU to prospective students both in Canberra and interstate.




Using mechanics and electronics to automate repeditive tasks. Jigs, Arduinos, motors and coffee are the tools of this trade.


There is a certain satisfying feeling you get, having just constructed something out of wood.


I teach and enjoy social partner dancing. I am trained in Salsa, Bachata, Zouk-Lambada, Cha-cha and West Coast Swing.


I enjoy running bicycle riding or going to the gym. An hour's exercise a day keeps my mind focussed on the task at hand.


I enjoy reading about ways to generate happiness, relating well to others and how to lead a fulfilled life.


Further exploring the diversity and wonders of the world we live in is always a pleasure worth experiencing.


I speak Indonesian at an intermediate level, and love learning the basics in other languages such as French, Geman and Japanese.


Soliton-based atom interferometer

We created the first soliton-based atom interferometer and showed that it increased the visibility.
Phys. Rev. Lett. 113 013002 (2014)

Faster Scaling of Acceleration Sensitivity

Europhysics Letters 105 63001 (2014)


A quick data plotting tool written in RShiny

Singular Value Decomposition vs Principal Component Analysis

Lecture given to the Sydney Data Science Meetup group at Amazon Web Services


Contact ME

Please get in touch if you are interested in hiring me, or if you would like to talk about a project you have in mind.