Tag Archives: Academic Staff

New Zealand Geotechnical Society Geomechanics Award

Congratulations to Chris McGann for recently being awarded the New Zealand Geotechnical Society Geomechanics Award. He led a paper “Development of an empirical correlation for predicting shear wave velocity of Christchurch soils from cone penetration test data,” (published in Soil Dynamics & Earthquake Engineering, 75, 66-75, 2015) . The paper was authored with Brendon A. Bradley (University of Canterbury); Merrick L. Taylor (Arup); Liam M. Wotherspoon (University of Auckland); and Misko Cubrinovski (University of Canterbury).

We decided to dig deeper and while we felt we had experienced a fair amount of soil looseness since 2011, decided  to start with a more scientific understanding the importance of ‘soil stiffness’. 

Why is understanding ‘soil stiffness’ important when it comes to understanding how the earth shakes and moves.

The magnitude and distribution of stiffness in the soil profile below a site plays a critical role in how earthquake ground motions coming from the underlying bedrock are amplified or de-amplified at the ground surface. In terms of magnitude, softer soils will tend to amplify lower frequency parts of the motion, while stiffer soils will amplify higher frequencies. In terms of distribution, the presence of large abrupt changes in stiffness between layers will also strongly influence the site effects. The shear wave velocity profile of a site provides the information necessary to account for these site specific effects in engineering analysis as shear wave velocity is directly proportional to small strain shear stiffness.

There’s an unprecedented dataset in the Christchurch region and this is a low-cost experimental method – in what way is this important globally? Who would be interested in this, and in what parts of the world?

The correlation between cone penetration test (CPT) data and shear wave velocity developed in this work combined with the unprecedentedly large and spatially dense CPT data set made available through the New Zealand Geotechnical Database project enables an assessment of the spatial variability of shear wave velocity across the region that hasn’t ever been possible before at this scale and resolution anywhere in the world. Establishing a sensible way to account for the inherent variability of soils in engineering analysis is an important topic of research, and researchers all over the world are interested in the insights that the Christchurch dataset can provide.

Can you describe a place/context out in the field in the Christchurch region which demonstrates your work in a practical way?

The two strong motion stations in Lyttelton provide a textbook example of the importance of local site effects. One station is sited on rock, while the other is sited on soft soils. The ground motions from the February 2011 earthquake recorded at these sites are dramatically different, with the softer site showing a large amplification at lower frequencies relative to the rock site. Because the position and distance of these stations relative to the earthquake source are essentially identical, any differences in the recorded ground motions can be attributed to site effects and the dramatic differences observed for the February event highlight the importance of the soil stiffness in the surficial ground motions.

More Erskine Programme Arrivals

The Erskine Programme would like to welcome four more visitors to UC who have arrived in recent days:

  • Professor Emeritus Michael Brandemuehl from the University of Colorado, USA arrived on  7 September and will be teaching in the Department of Mechanical Engineering,
  • Professor Kathleen Wermke from the University of Würzburg, Germany also arrived on 7 September and will be teaching in the School of Health Sciences,
  • Associate Professor Enrico Marchi from the University of Firenze, Italy arrived on 8 September and will be teaching in the School of Forestry, and
  • Professor Jonathan Morris from the University of New South Wales, Australia arrived on the 9 September and will be teaching in the Department of Physical and Chemical Sciences.

We would like to wish our new arrivals and their families all the best for their stay.

Ekant Veer awarded Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching award

Associate Professor Ekant Veer of the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship  received a Sustained Excellence award from Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence in a ceremony at Parliament this week.

Presented by Hon Chris Hipkins, the Minister of Tertiary Education, 10 Sustained Excellence awards were presented, including two under the Kaupapa Māori category.  All Sustained Excellence winners receive $20,000 and a certificate.

This follows his being awarded the UC Teaching medal last year>
earlier this year he was named among the world’s top 40 business professors under 40>

More about the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards>

Motherhood Missed: Stories From Women Who Are Childless by Circumstance

What happens when you grow up imagining you will have a child at some point, but find yourself running out of time, and it hasn’t happened? Not because you are (as far as you know) infertile, but because life didn’t work out that way for you? 

Circumstantial childlessness is a growing demographic trend, especially amongst academic and professional women. In the new book Motherhood Missed: Stories From Women Who Are Childless by Circumstance, UC lecturer Dr Lois Tonkin edits a collection of 32 first person narrative essays that explores this experience.

Tonkin’s book was published in both the UK and US on 10 September, timed to be launched for World Childless Week 2018.

As both a researcher and a counsellor, Tonkin, who specializes in infertility and grief, collected and edited the stories, which are arranged in a way that explores the complexities of this experience.

The stories explore women’s experience of sometimes conflicted feelings around issues such as grief, feminism, abortion, and the sense of isolation they often feel in a world that valorises motherhood and centres on families and children.  

“There are stories from young women in the early thirties, and older women now in their fifties, single women and those in partnerships, gay and straight women, and one trans woman – women living in NZ, Australia, US, India, Spain, and the UK.”

 “They discuss their responses to not being mothers when they thought they would, and the ways they are coming to terms with this and creating lives they value and enjoy, alongside grieving at times for the children they have not had, and the lives as mothers that they have not lived.”

The book has been endorsed by three high profile women in this field internationally: Jessica Hepburn, author of ‘21 miles: Swimming in search of the meaning of motherhood’, and ‘The Pursuit of Motherhood’; Stephanie Phillips, Founder of World Childless Week; and Kathleen Guthrie Woods, San Francisco based ‘Life Without Baby’ columnist and author of ‘The Mother of All Dilemmas’. Its Foreword is written by Jody day, founder of the award winning website Gateway-Women.

For more information about the book, go to: Jessica Kingsley Publishers: www.jkp.com. The book is available both as a paperback and an ebook, and can be ordered from the publisher, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads, or  bookshops.

Techniques for Building on Participants’ Prior Knowledge

Techniques for Building on Participants’ Prior Knowledge
Elizabeth Lochhead and Jessica Ritchie, UC Academic Skills Centre
Wednesday 22 August, 2.00pm-3.30pm
Room 210, Puaka James Hight Building, Ilam Campus

Have you ever wished you could use what your participants already know to help them learn more effectively?

Prior knowledge is important for learning new skills. This workshop covers techniques for building on prior knowledge in learning sessions. As a participant you will explore how prior knowledge is relevant to your learning contexts and practise applying these techniques.

Elizabeth Lochhead and Jessica Ritchie are Learning Advisors at the University of Canterbury Academic Skills Centre. They have run tutor training sessions for the Pacific Development and Student Care teams, in addition to training advisors in their own team.


You will find more professional development offerings  at Learning and Development.