Category Archives: Staff stories

2019 Update Day | Rongo o te Wā Auckland

The Auckland Liaison team were a busy bunch as they hosted 23 international directors and high school careers advisors at the recent Update Day | Rongo o te Wā in Auckland.

The sun was beaming in Tāmaki-makau-rau as MC Tumama Tu’ulua got the day off to a great start with icebreakers and jokes, and Letitia Fickel delivered the university update with enthusiasm and energy.

Attendees were visibly engaged in the presentations and asked questions throughout the day. The student panel was the highlight of the morning however as it provided an avenue for ‘real talk’ – all those sticky questions were answered honestly by real students in real time.

Kate Pattinson presented the liaison update, with her 30 minute presentation wrapping up 1 hour later (!) showing just how eager our attendees were.

A big thanks to Andrea Schoorl from the Acommodation team and Associate Professor Donald Matheson from the College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata, who spoke to the new Bachelor of Communication degree.

Ice creams and sorbets were the lunch highlight as the audience made the most of outdoor seating that overlooked the Eden Park stadium.

Having iPads available saw the team increase their post event response three-fold, and their sticky name badges significantly reduced the waste created by traditional name badge holders.

Our Auckland Update Day | Rongo te Wā helps us engage with the Auckland market and provide updates to local schools both of which, we’re pleased to report, were a success.

Erskine Programme Visitor Profile – Dr Thomas Bennett

Erskine Programme Visitor, Dr Thomas Bennett
Erskine Programme Visitor, Dr Thomas Bennett

Dr Thomas Bennett is visiting UC from Cambridge University and will be teaching in the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences | Te Kura Matū.

Where have you come from, and what do you teach?
I am a Royal Society University Research Fellow, based in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, in the University of Cambridge where I lead a group of around 10 PhD students and Post-Doctoral Researchers.

I am perhaps most well known in the field for my work on glasses, or disordered materials. Prior to 2015, only 3 categories were known:

  • inorganic (window glass)
  • organic (amorphous polymers)
  • metallic (used for surgical instruments and golf clubs).

The group discovered a 4th category, which incorporates elements and molecules from across the periodic table, and much of our research concentrates possible applications in next generation display technologies, protective coatings and communications equipment. A second strand involves looking at the fundamental synthesis, properties and applications of porous materials. These materials can be thought of as tiny ‘sponges’ or ‘sieves’ capable of separating and storing greenhouse gas molecules such as CO2, radioactive substances or drug molecules. They find applications as H2 storage tanks for H2 in cars, as additives in fruit packaging which prevent over-ripening, and as water harvesting devices for desert locations.

 What interested you in the Erskine Programme/why did you want to come to UC?
I am always keen to expand my international experience, and to learn from different institutions in order to transport knowledge on best practice back to the University of Cambridge and to my group there.

I am particularly keen on utilising research skills from across the world to solve truly global problems, and Aotearoa New Zealand in general has a rich history in innovation in fundamental science.

UC has an exchange scheme with Cambridge, hosted by Prof. Paul Kruger, I am really grateful for the opportunity to come here.

 What have you been doing at UC?
I have just started a lecture course on porous materials, and am particularly excited about being able to factor in latest research in the area.

The quality of both undergraduate and graduate students is high, and I am looking forward to working with them to produce an academic review of an unexplored area of the field, which we will aim to publish in an international scientific journal. 

Outside of the 15 hours of the week spent holding face-to-face and group meetings with members of my fantastic team back In the UK, I’ve met numerous students in the broad area of physical sciences here, and discussed some fascinating research taking place. My door is always open and I’m enjoying not only teaching, but also learning from students.

 What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Ōtautahi Christchurch?
Outside of academia, I am an extremely keen tramper – most weekends you will find my partner, Helena and I walking on a mountainside, wading in a river, or in backcountry hut with a packet of squiggles, playing cards and meeting other trampers!

I’ve been to Aotearoa New Zealand several times before, though personal favourites this time around have been the Greenstone Caples track, Salisbury Lodge in the Kahurangi and the Mount Somers circuit. Evidently, working and living in Ōtautahi Christchurch is very different to spending a few weeks in the backcountry, and I am really enjoying learning much more about Kiwi culture whilst here.

New CUP book offers insight into New Zealand’s greatest 20th-century philosopher

Canterbury University Press (CUP) is pleased to announce the publication of a new book by Associate Professor Mike Grimshaw, Arthur Prior – ‘A Young Progressive’: Letters to Ursula Bethell and to Hugh Teague 1936–1941.

Arthur Prior studied theology at Otago, but he lectured in philosophy at Canterbury University College. He invented ‘tense logic’ while he was at Canterbury during the years 1949–54 and is regarded as New Zealand’s greatest 20th-century philosopher.

Author Mike Grimshaw has previously published on unknown Prior notebooks and on Prior’s work on James Joyce. For this volume he took on the considerable challenge of transcribing, annotating and editing Prior’s letters to Ursula Bethell (who called him one of her ‘young progressives’) and to his cousin, Hugh Teague. Along with Mike, CUP would like to acknowledge and thank the staff at Macmillan Brown Library archives, where the letters to Ursula Bethell are held, for all their support and assistance.

Providing context to the annotated letters in this volume, Mike covers Prior’s journey from theology to philosophy, and his marriage with ‘the versatile Clare Hunter’ (an epithet earned through her debating society skills) with whom he travelled to Europe in 1937. Jack Copeland, Distinguished Professor and Head of Philosophy, provides the Introduction in which he concludes:

‘Arthur’s bohemian interlude in Europe and its aftermath in New Zealand … was a critical period in his development, the crucible in which the mature thinker was formed. His letters in this volume … chronicle a substantial part of that fascinating period’.

Copies are available from UBS on campus or from CUP’s online catalogue.

Winner of UC Early and Emerging Career Researcher Award

I am pleased to announce that Dr Mitja Remus-Emsermann from the School of Biological Sciences is the winner of the UC Early and Emerging Career Researcher Award 2018.

Dr Remus-Emsermann’s research is at the interface of microbiology, ecology and plant sciences. His research goals include understanding how bacterial communities assemble on plant leaves and which factors drive the spatial structure of bacterial communities.

This research has important implications for life sciences generally, and the agricultural sector in particular. Understanding how bacterial communities are spatially structured will result in critical information for future approaches to select natural plant leaf colonising bacteria that are able to prevent plant pathogen colonisation and disease outbreaks in agricultural environments.

Dr Remus-Emsermann is already a recognised expert in this field and a regular reviewer for high impact journals. He has an outstanding record of publication, especially so given he obtained his doctorate in early 2012. He was appointed a lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences in May 2016, and an Associate Investigator at UC’s Biomolecular Interaction Centre in January 2017.

Please join me in congratulating Dr Remus-Emsermann on his latest achievement and success. 

Professor Ian Wright
Deputy Vice-Chancellor | Tumu Tuarua


The Jumpstart 2018 winners have been announced

An innovative biological treatment to overcome antibiotic resistance, a pioneering technique to create environmentally friendly, near-zero waste processes in the galvanising industry, and a diagnostic test to save mother and baby from life-threatening pre-eclampsia are among the winners in this year’s University of Canterbury (UC) Innovation Jumpstart competition.

Five prizes of $20,000 were awarded funding from KiwiNet. Additionally, technology incubators WNT Ventures and Astrolab chose two projects to receive $35,000 worth of practical services.

Innovation Jumpstart gives UC researchers from all disciplines, including arts, science, education, engineering, business and law, the opportunity to transform their ideas and research into commercial reality.

The Jumpstart competition is in its ninth year with researchers from across the university encouraged to consider how their ideas and research may hold the potential to transform into a commercial reality.

The competition was judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and industry leaders, including representatives from Callaghan Innovation, technology incubators WNT Ventures and Astrolab, UC alumni and staff.

The judges included award-winning entrepreneur and UC alumnus Dennis Chapman, entrepreneur Paul Davis, Ara Deputy Chair Elizabeth Hopkins, tech investor Greg Sitters who is a Managing Partner of Matū, a venture fund specialising in early stage science and technology startups. 

Innovation Jumpstart winners:

WNT Ventures prize:

Recovery of feedstock chemicals from dilute solution

Dr Matthew Cowan (Chemical and Process Engineering)

A novel technology for recovering unused materials from machine or industrial processes. Dr Matthew Cowan proposes creating a technology which will make producing speciality plastics and chemicals more efficient and create less waste. The recycling of waste products from these chemical reactions will create economic benefits for an international market with potential for engineering and operational jobs.

Astrolab prize:

Enzymes for controlling Gram-negative pathogenic microbes in food, medicine, and veterinary industries

Associate Professor Renwick Dobson (Biomolecular Interactions Centre, School of Biological Sciences), doctoral candidate Michael Love and Dr Craig Billington (ESR)

Innovative resistance-proof bacteria-killing enzymes that are safe to treat both humans and animals. This treatment will save lives, reduce healthcare costs and be an alternative to antibiotics as a safer and cheaper option. The application of this research will have many implications across multiple industries, creating new treatment options for infections in the medical industry, becoming a low-cost solution to untreatable on-farm bacterial disease, and being a biosecurity treatment for cross-contamination for food that is vulnerable to microbial pathogens.

New diagnostic test for life-threatening condition in pregnancy for mother and child

Dr Jennifer Crowther (Biomolecular Interactions Centre, School of Biological Sciences), Professor Mark Hampton (University of Otago), Dr Neil Pattinson (ChristchurchNZ), Associate Professor Renwick Dobson

Pre-eclampsia is a life-threatening condition for both mother and child that occurs in around 5% of all pregnancies. This diagnostic test uses a biomarker of patients presenting with altered levels of a particular protein to diagnose early in order to closely monitor symptoms and prolong the duration of the pregnancy. This illness currently has no consistent predictive testing method to identify the presence of the illness at an early-stage.

Innovative spin coating to create environmentally friendly materials

Associate Professor Mathieu Sellier (Mechanical Engineering), Dr Volker Nock and Associate Professor Shayne Gooch

A pioneering technology using a new multi-axis spin to coat items in the micro-electronics and optic industry. Associate Professor Sellier proposes a reliable and easy to use process to thin coating of curved surfaces with thin filament creating consistent results every time. This unique technology could disrupt multiple industries.

An eco-friendly solution to reuse acid waste from galvanising plants

Dr Aaron Marshall (Chemical and Process Engineering)

This innovative method recycles iron and zinc from the process of galvanising steel to protect it from corrosion, in order to save resources and recycle waste. Developed from an industry problem, this tech promises to save the industry by up to 70% of its pre-galvanising cleaning costs which could save companies hundreds of thousands each year.