I grew up in Hamilton, in the Waikato region of New Zealand, where I attended Hillcrest High School. I subsequently enrolled at the University of Waikato, where I initially studied Biology and Chemistry (BSc 1992), before changing to Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (BA 1994). I then started an MSc in Physics (conferred 1996), part of which I spent at the Institut für Theoretische Physik of the Leopold-Franzens Universität Innsbruck, Austria. I continued to study in Innsbruck, and completed my Dr rer nat (Doctor of Natural Sciences) in 2000, working with Peter Zoller and Ignacio Cirac and producing the Dissertation Quantum Measurement, Quantum Chaos, and Bose-Einstein Condensates.
I then did postdoctoral work at a number of institutions, concentrating on the theoretical study of quantum-chaotic and quantum-nonlinear dynamics of atom-optical systems, and the dynamics of atomic Bose-Einstein condensates. I spent 2000-2001 as a Humboldt Fellow, jointly at the Institut für Physik of the Universität Potsdam with Martin Wilkens, and the Institut für Theoretische Physik of the Universität Hannover with Maciek Lewenstein; 2002-2003 at the Clarendon Laboratory of the University of Oxford with Keith Burnett; and 2004 at JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with Murray Holland. In 2005 I began working within the Durham University Department of Physics.