Student and Graduate Profiles
Our Science and Engineering students come from a range of academic and personal backgrounds, and end up in a diverse range of positions. Read below about the dynamic experiences and opportunities a selection of our current students and graduates are undertaking.
BSc(Tech) in ChemistryCurrent Student
"I have a real interest in food chemistry and hope to work towards a career in this industry."
With an excellent reputation for chemistry research, a relaxed campus, and a handful of scholarships on offer, former Saint John's College student Nicholas Kuan knew the University of Waikato was the right choice for him.
The opportunity to complete a summer research project after his first year of a BSc(Tech) has been a highlight for Nicholas, who says the new challenges he faced during the study meant he learnt a range of different chemistry techniques in a short period of time. Alongside experts in the field, his research project looked into the antibacterial properties of manuka honey.
The research investigated the limitations of a recently-published method for quantifying dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is one of the components involved when determining the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) of a sample of honey.
"I have a real interest in food chemistry and hope to work towards a career in this industry. However, at the moment I'm focused on learning the fundamentals of chemistry, alongside papers in physics, biological sciences and calculus."
MSc; PhD in Earth SciencesEnvironmental and Sustainability Manager
New Port Project, Qatar
"My degrees gave me a sound understanding of the natural sciences and a good amount of scientific 'common sense'."
A University of Waikato science graduate is in the Middle East working to reduce the environmental impacts of a major sea port project.
Peter Longdill is an Environmental and Sustainability Manager as part of a government steering committee for the.
"I'm involved in the establishment and management of processes to ensure that the project adheres to its environmental objectives, commitments and obligations. So this includes ensuring that the project consultants and contractors are implementing effective mitigation measures on site and that the environmental monitoring works are conducted appropriately. This covers everything from air quality, to vibration, noise, soils, groundwater, coastal processes, oceanography and marine ecology," says Peter.
Peter completed a Master of Science (MSc) and a PhD at the University of Waikato, following a two-year stint in Australia as a GIS analyst.
"I knew specifically the subject area I was interested in and selected Waikato University because of the excellent reputation of the Coastal Marine Group's research and staff, great relationships with industry, and a huge selection of field survey equipment and the technicians and capabilities to use it."
He says that one of the major highlights of his current job has been seeing such a huge project all the way through from a green-field site, through to a major construction site with around 8000 persons working on site.
"Another highlight was my involvement in the relocation of a number of hard and soft corals and mangrove trees which could not be avoided during the Port planning."
The relocation programme involved the removal, transport and reattachment of approximately 10,000 healthy hard coral colonies.
Peter's study focus while at Waikato University was coastal physical oceanography with a mixture of water quality and ecology.
"My degrees gave me a sound understanding of the natural sciences and a good amount of scientific 'common sense'. My work at Waikato helped me to be able to 'talk the scientific talk' while the applied nature of the research also helped me to relate to business interests and commercial realities associated with applied science– that combination has helped me a lot."
During his study Peter also made the most of the Coastal Marine Group's connections with industry and local councils to secure joint industry/government scholarships which were aimed at assisting industry via applied research at universities. "Those scholarships allowed me to focus on my research and also provided resources to allow me to travel to and present at international conferences."After finishing his PhD Peter relocated to the Middle East to work for a Danish based engineering and environmental consultancy company. For seven years he worked as a marine and environmental
BE(Hons) in Chemical and Biological EngineeringCurrent Student
"Work experience meant I could apply all the theoretical knowledge I had learnt at uni, to exciting real-life engineering situations."
BSc in Chemistry & Biological SciencesCurrent Student
"The knowledge that the lecturers at Waikato possess is amazing."
Making new discoveries in science is the ultimate goal for student Kirsty Kraakman.
Kirsty completed a BSc majoring in chemistry and biological sciences last year and has just started a Master of Science(Research) focusing on molecular biology.
She says study at the University of Waikato is full of opportunities. "The knowledge that the lecturers at Waikato possess is amazing. Everyone is so willing to share their experiences and encourage students to get into research and make the most of their degree."
She has especially enjoyed learning about genetic modification of bacteria, and found working on the genetic sequencing of her own genome to be a highlight.
The former Sacred Heart Girls' College, Hamilton student aims to move on to research following undergraduate study and hopes that, in time, she can make a real difference in society.
ME in Mechanical EngineeringCurrent Student
Master of Engineering (ME) student Pinwei Jin has designed and built a remote control robotic snake, which he hopes will be used in the future for rescue operations.
Master of Engineering (ME) student Pinwei Jin has designed and built a remote control robotic snake, which he hopes will be used in the future for rescue operations.
"Earthquakes and other natural disasters happen frequently in New Zealand and when it comes to the big ones, many lives could be saved if search and rescue operations were conducted more effectively and efficiently," says Pinwei.
Differing from the existing mobile rescue robot systems currently in the market place, he says his Snake Robot provides the flexibility of movement needed in cluttered and irregular environments created by disasters.
"The Snake Robot features a wireless camera on its head and is controlled by a wireless joystick to move forward, backwards, left and right. It has 16 degrees of freedom from the eight joints, nine segments, 16 motors and nine passive wheels. Essentially it can move along the ground like a snake."
Pinwei attended high school in a small town in central China. After completing a Bachelor of Engineering at Wuhan University of Technology in China, he heard about the University of Waikato from friends and based on the University's reputation, decided to enrol.
View the Snake Robot in action on One News.
BE(Hons); ME in Mechanical EngineeringCurrent Student
"Once I've built the hand I need to programme it to do simple tasks"
For engineering masters student Mahonri Owen, the drive to help others led him to undertake one of the most complex research projects – to design and create a brain-controlled electro-mechanical prosthetic hand.
Having spent his childhood watching his mum care for and serve others in the community, Mahonri knew that helping others was his future – it was just a question of how.
After a suggestion to develop the prosthetic hand was made by his academic supervisor, Dr Chi Kit Au, Mahonri jumped on the idea and first began by researching what was going on around the world in the development of prosthetic limbs.
The next step for Mahonri was to build the hand, but it's easier said than done. "Once I've built the hand I need to programme it to do simple tasks," says Mahonri.
Such tasks include power grip, key grip, ball grip and pinch. He has already built the skeleton using a 3-D printer to produce the components – taking a total of seven hours to print – and mapped out the design using on-screen CAD (computer aided design). With each part assembled by hand, once completed the goal is to use a neural interface which is non-invasive to control the hand.
Following schooling at the Church College of New Zealand, he began a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in 2007, before taking a break for two years to complete a church service mission in South Africa. Along with his engineering achievements, Mahonri is the recipient of a Sir Apirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship.
BSc; MSc in Earth SciencesCurrent Student
"The flexible BSc course structure and passionate lecturers have allowed for more one-on-one time with staff and more feedback on assignments. I believe I wouldn't be where I am today without that additional help."
Some memorable field trips have included a six day excursion to the Hawke's Bay for a sedimentary geology paper and a trip to the GNS Science Wairakei Research Centre for a volcanic geochemistry paper.
A School of Science Masters Research Scholarship in late in 2013 helped kick-start Billy's masters study. Now undertaking research in volcanic geology and gold mineralisation, Billy has been fortunate to work with an international mining corporation and is now trained to use a range of Waikato's excellent laboratory facilities specific to his research.
"Being able to tailor my degree to suit my strengths and interests makes Waikato a top choice for study. Once you come to Waikato, the doors will open for you and the opportunities are endless."
BE(Hons) in Mechanical EngineeringCurrent Student
“Waikato University offered both a cheap place to live, and a well-recognised and respected degree."
Choosing to undertake tertiary study is a big decision, and not one that engineering student Tom Petchell took lightly.
Following his final year at St John’s College in 2010, Tom wasn’t sure which direction he wanted to take, so found work for a year in the hospitality industry. In 2011 he decided his future lay in engineering, and undertook NCEA Level 3 calculus via correspondence, to enable him to meet the entry requirements for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours).
“Waikato University offered both a cheap place to live, and a well-recognised and respected degree. On top of this, Waikato offered smaller classes and therefore more access to lecturers.”
Tom says that the model boat design competition in his first year of study, when the School of Engineering comes together for race day was a definite highlight. He also emphasises the numerous other non-academic activities on campus, including speed-interview nights, O week events, clubs days and more.
He urges others to also think carefully about study following school. “Don’t come to university just for something to do. If you are unsure what path you want to choose, go away, think about it, earn some money, decide, and then come and find out what Waikato can do for you, because the chances are good that they offer an excellent course in it.”
BSc in ChemistryCurrent Student
“It’s great being able to study subjects that I love in such a friendly and intellectually stimulating environment"
Ollie van Woerden
BE(Hons) in Materials and Process EngineeringCurrent Student
“At Waikato the lecturers are excellent and we get to do a lot of practical lab work and challenging group design projects.”
BSc(Tech) in Animal BehaviourCurrent Student
"Now my goal is to improve the welfare of captive animals and conserve endangered species."
Passionate to make a difference after seeing inadequate animal living conditions in Japanese zoos, Ashleigh Weatherall chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc(Tech)) at the University of Waikato.
“In high school I received a scholarship to live in Japan for three weeks. This was a real eye opener, as I saw the poor conditions in which animals live at Japanese zoos. Now my goal is to improve the welfare of captive animals and conserve endangered species.”
Following secondary school at Mahurangi College in Warkworth, Ashleigh chose Waikato for its proximity to her home, and because she could complete a major in Animal Behaviour with supporting papers in physiology.
“Highlights from my study so far would be shaping hens’ behaviour in the Ruakura animal lab and observing capuchin monkeys’ behaviour at the Hamilton Zoo during a class field trip.”
In the future she plans to travel overseas to work in animal sanctuaries or zoos, and perform research in the field of animal welfare.
“Study something you love, because you will never get bored. There will always be something new and interesting for you to learn.”
BSc; MSc in Earth SciencesCurrent Student
“I’m really interested in geology and geochemistry, and I’m hoping that an MSc will help me to gain a top job in a geology company.”
BSc in Biological SciencesCurrent Student
"I love all the practical experience we are given in science papers."
At high school Kiriana Isgrove considered herself an 'average' student. But since beginning her studies at the University of Waikato last year, she has found her niche in the areas of biological and environmental sciences.
"I find university so different, and I excel in most of my papers. I've achieved far better grades here and have been given opportunities I never thought I could have had."
Kiriana attended Hauraki Plains College and is currently in her second year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences. She chose Waikato because class numbers are small and the campus is close to home, while providing an excellent balance between rural and urban life.
"I have won several scholarships while attending Waikato University which I am extremely grateful for. I was also lucky enough to complete a studentship at AgResearch last summer, which was an incredibly valuable experience."
Other highlights for her have been the labs and field trips.
After completing her studies, Kiriana plans to pursue a career in environmental advising for either soil science or hydrology.
"I would recommend Waikato as an excellent university choice because the lecturers and tutors are so friendly and approachable, which makes adjusting to the student lifestyle so much easier."
BE(Hons) in Materials and Process EngineeringGraduate Process Engineer
Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants, Perth
"I think the key principle my degree taught me is how to apply and relate theories taught in class to real life."
For engineering graduate Rene Engelbrecht, her first year out of university has been a busy and exciting one.
Rene was offered a role as a graduate process engineering at Technip Oceania in New Plymouth while finishing up her study of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) majoring in materials and process engineering.
While in the role she spent time on site experiencing well site commissioning and also visited Australia for a three month secondment on one of Australasia's largest liquefied natural gas LNG projects.
"I worked on a project looking at subsea chemical injection and how it influences the onshore production station and was lucky enough to be offered a permanent position here in Australia. I am now working in the process, flow assurance and technical safety areas. These three areas make up the foundations of chemical and process engineering and I love every minute of it," says Rene.
The former Sacred Heart Girls' College (Hamilton) student says the University of Waikato provided the perfect campus to study engineering.
"My study at Waikato gave me a solid foundation in process engineering fundamentals that I can now build on and apply in industry. I think the key principle my degree taught me is how to apply and relate theories taught in class to real life."
Rene showed consistent academic excellence throughout her degree, and her multiple scholarships-wins have commended this.
Her scholarships have ranged from the Bachelor of Engineering Fees Scholarship in her first year of study, through to prizes in mathematics and energy research, plus a special scholarship celebrating the success of women in engineering and the Freemasons University Scholarship.
BSc in ChemistryCurrent Student
“Waikato is an excellent university choice, with smaller class sizes resulting in more practical work…”
The former Kerikeri High School student is currently studying a conjoint Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Business Analysis degree and has also completed statistics papers to further support his Chemistry and Finance majors.
One highlight for Sanjay has been the practical component of his study, and its real-life application.
“Practical work is such a nice change from theory and can be quite fulfilling. In the first year we built and raced boats in an engineering paper, while last summer I was granted a $5000 Summer Research Scholarship, where I used computational chemistry to investigate phosphine-ozone complexes in the atmosphere.”
In the future Sanjay’s aim is to use both his science and business degrees throughout his career.
“Waikato is an excellent university choice, with smaller class sizes resulting in more practical work, which is valued by industry managers. Waikato has allowed me to diversify myself through networking, taking broad paper selections and getting involved in extracurricular activities. All of these things will help me stand out to potential employers.”
BSc; MSc in Biological SciencesResearch Associate
Plant and Food Research
"I'm currently working on projects involving molecular biology as well as tissue culture."
Undergraduate and postgraduate study in biology has let to exciting role in plant genetics for graduate Ella Grierson.
Ella works within the plant pigments team at Plant and Food Research in Palmerston North.
"I'm assisting with research focussed on understanding the genes responsible for certain valuable traits, to enable us to develop new plant cultivars faster. We use a wide range of techniques, and I'm currently working on projects involving molecular biology as well as tissue culture."
Ella says that no two days are the same and she's enjoying working with likeminded people who share her enthusiasm for plant biology. "Being part of such a friendly team and to be contributing to our understanding of plant genetics is really exciting."
BSc in Biological SciencesDirector and Skipper
Owner/Operator of Golden Future Environmental Ltd
“Five percent of my proceeds...are going to the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, a community based conservation group."
Waikato biological sciences graduate Stewart Robertson has used his scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial vision to create an idyllic lifestyle for himself as an owner/operator conservation tour guide in the Abel Tasman National Park.
“A typical day for me involves greeting each of my tour groups with a presentation on ecology and conservation themes. We then board my boat ‘Zeehaen’ and embark on a voyage of discovery around the iconic Abel Tasman National Park. We explore intertidal areas, soft and rocky shores, open sea, island bird sanctuaries, tidal inlets and seal colonies. The day is broken up with lunch at Anchorage beach and a two hour guided walk around Pitt Head mainland ecological island.”
This venture did not come out of the blue. Stewart spent last summer working as a senior water taxi skipper for Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi, which included sustainability consulting. He continues to act as a sustainability manager and skipper for Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi alongside his own company.
Stewart says he not only has high hopes for the success of his business, Golden Future Environmental Ltd, but also for the level that he can contribute to the environment and wider community.
“Five percent of my proceeds from the tours are going to the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, a community based conservation group. I hope to achieve significant results for them as well as expanding my activities to deliver conservation messages to school and community groups.”
While eco-tourism is his core business, Stewart also provides scientific research services to organisations such as Waikato University. In the past he has worked as a scientific diver for the University and specialist dive contractors Dive NZ on the Rena response, plus he has worked as a scientific diver for Waikato University and the Department of Conservation at Kapiti Island.
Stewart finished his studies at the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus just last year. He began his studies with a two-year Diploma of Marine Studies through the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and continued on to a third year of study with Waikato University; crediting his diploma towards a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological Sciences.
BSc in Environmental SciencesExchange student from University of California Davis
“I wanted a more personalised, hands-on experience at university, and Waikato provided that."
University of California Davis student Kathleen Martinez chose an exchange in New Zealand because of the unique ecosystems, beautiful landscapes and rich Maori heritage.
Just half way through a 10 month exchange at the University of Waikato, Kathleen credits her exchange as the highlight of her university experience thus far and says she has already grown in so many ways.
“I wanted a more personalised, hands-on experience at university, and Waikato provided that. Waikato puts an emphasis on small class sizes, and the science papers typically have a lab and field work component. I’m in a lab the same amount of time, if not more than I’m in lectures each week, which really helps me retain the information I’m learning,” says Kathleen.
As an environmental sciences student, Kathleen found that the excellent variety of resource and ecology papers at Waikato made it easy to choose classes that would count towards her degree.
“I’m studying a variety of papers in soil science, atmospheric science, hydrology, ecology, geography and resource planning while at Waikato. I’m also taking one cultural paper in Maori weaving, which has been ideal for expressing my creative side while learning about Maori culture.”
She describes Hamilton’s location within the North Island of New Zealand as ideal for travelling. With its proximity to the ocean, the Coromandel region and more, Kathleen has been able to explore the area easily and has taken lots of small road trips during the semester.
“New Zealand’s people and Hamilton’s location have made my time here so enjoyable. I have made so many close friendships with New Zealand students and their families during my stay that it will be difficult to leave in a couple months.”
After graduation, Kathleen hopes to become an environmental scientist, natural resource scientist, or environmental consultant; and because of her time in New Zealand, she says she is now inspired to live and work abroad in the future.
BSc(Tech); MSc in ChemistryCurrent Student
"Waikato has so much to offer! Be prepared to have fun, meet new friends, and learn exciting stuff"
Multiple scholarships, a year working in London and a fantastic research experience, have made study an exciting journey for former Hillcrest High student Alice Wang.
"I majored in Biochemistry for my undergraduate studies but I took a lot of chemistry papers. I'm now about to hand in my thesis for a Master of Science in Chemistry. My research focused on elucidating the cytotoxicity of a bioactive compound isolated from a marine organism and the effects on cancer cells."
"In the final year of my Bachelor of Science (Technology), I got the amazing opportunity to go to the UK to complete one of my work placements. I spent 12 months working at Tata Global Beverages in London, where I really enjoyed working in research and development. I also took the opportunity to travel around Europe in my spare time."
The London placement was a highlight for Alice and she says the opportunity was an amazing chance for her to put the theory she had learnt in class in to practice. The work placement programme is coordinated by the University's Co-operative Education Unit. Most placements are paid and all contribute to course credit.
Working hard and getting involved in university life has paid off for Alice, both literally and in the skills she has gained. Alice was the recipient of both the School Leavers and Science Admission Fees scholarships in her first year, and has more recently been awarded a University of Waikato Taught Postgraduate Fees Scholarship, a Brian Perry Charitable Trust Graduate Scholarship, a Todd Foundation Award for Excellence and a University of Waikato Masters Research Scholarship.
Alice thoroughly enjoys studying at the University of Waikato, and recommends it to students considering study.
"Waikato has so much to offer! Be prepared to have fun, meet new friends, and learn exciting stuff. Join a club on campus to be more involved, it's totally worth it. It's not all fun and games though; you've got to work hard! The academics work hard to help their students and they expect the students to try their best. You'll love it here like I do."
BE(Hons) in EngineeringCurrent Student
"Being recognised as a high achiever and a hard worker by my lecturers has been a highlight for me."
For electronic engineering honours student Kirsten Nel, the University of Waikato was her first choice because of glowing reviews from current students.
Kirsten came straight to Waikato University from Fraser High School in Hamilton, which meant she could save money by living at home and didn't have to cope with moving to another city.
"I also already knew numerous other students from the year above me who were doing the same degree and only had good things to say about it."
In addition to the practicalities of studying in her home town, she was blown away by the hands-on element of the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree.
"At the end of our second and third years Waikato staff help us to find paid work placements which are carried out over the summer holidays. The work load in terms of theory and practical is also pretty even, which means that we spend just as much time learning as we do putting those concepts into practice."
Currently in the middle of her third year, Kirsten's biggest goal right now is to graduate with first class honours. She believes this will be a major achievement and will provide a significant advantage when it comes to future employment.
"At the moment I'm employed by Gallaghers, which was my first choice of work placement and somewhere I have aimed to work since I was a Year 10 electronics student at high school. My aim is to show the team at Gallagher how much of an asset I am to them, in the hope they consider employing me full-time when I graduate."
A recipient of numerous scholarships including the School Leavers Merit Scholarship and Engineering Fees Scholarship, Kirsten is also a member of the Golden Key International Honours society for academic excellence and a recently nominated student ambassador for the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
BSc(Tech) in Earth SciencesEngineering Geologist
"It's been a real privilege to be able to help the people of Christchurch get back to normal."
Choosing the University of Waikato because of its in-depth focus on Earth Sciences and Environmental Sciences has paid off for a former student of St John's College Hamilton. Kit Lawrence scored a full-time graduate position with AECOM following an eight month BSc(Tech) work placement.
Kit works as an Engineering Geologist in Christchurch, where he is involved in many different projects across the city including rebuild and repair design work for commercial and residential properties following the 2010/2011 earthquakes, highway projects, project management and geotechnical instigations.
"It's been a real privilege to be able to help the people of Christchurch get back to normal. The amount of damage there still amazes me and I'm just glad to help."
Additionally, in 2013/2014 Kit was sent to Saudi Arabia for six months to work on a large scale infrastructure project, undertaking the geotechnical testing for two (out of six) rail lines incorporating above ground, at ground and underground railway.
"During this overseas stint, my role was part of a geological and geotechnical team, working as a consultant during the geotechnical investigations. Investigations involved boreholes and numerous geotechnical testing methods. The role was a great experience both in terms of career development and cultural awareness. It has also been both fun and very testing!"
BE in Materials and Process EngineeringGraduate Process Engineer
WorleyParsons, New Plymouth
Victoria has worked on projects throughout New Zealand during her time in the company's graduate programme.
Victoria McCullough chose engineering because she wanted to study towards a career that was both academic and practical.
As a Graduate Process Engineer for engineering consultancy WorleyParsons New Zealand, Victoria is putting her skills to the test.
"Companies approach us to complete projects for them. This can be anything from design work, through to sourcing components and commissioning the project."
Although based in New Plymouth, Victoria has worked on projects throughout New Zealand during her time in the company's graduate programme. Projects have included involvement in the design stage of Marsden Point Oil Refinery's $365 million expansion and site experience at Fonterra Whareroa, updating the company's plant drawings. She is currently on a secondment to the New Plymouth office of Origin Energy, an Australian energy company.
Victoria was also seconded to WorleyParsons' client Origin Energy (an Australian energy company) to investigate how things operate from another perspective. She is currently working on a well drilling and development project for Todd Energy.
BSc(Tech) in Biological SciencesTechnician
Plant and Food Research, Hamilton
"I absolutely love my job and I get to learn new things every day."
Sarah Cross is buzzing with enthusiasm in her role at Plant and Food Research, Hamilton.
One of Sarah's roles is as the hive manager for the Pollination and Apiculture team. She travels around the Waikato maintaining the health of hives, collecting honey and monitoring a number of different diseases and pests such as varroa mite and American Foul Brood (AFB) disease.
She also spends time in the laboratories, running toxicity tests, pollination trials and tests on the pollination efficiency of alternative pollinating insects.
"I absolutely love my job and I get to learn new things every day. Bees are so important for pollination of crops around the world and I feel proud to be a part of such a world renowned organisation that is helping to keep bees healthy."
BE in Materials and Process EngineeringInstrument Technician
"The hands-on nature of my engineering degree set me up with practical troubleshooting expertise.."
Mikita works in the busy inorganic section of Hill Laboratories’ Environmental Division. Here she analyses water and soil samples using high-tech instruments.
“We analyse an extensive range of substances, including drinking water, lake, river and stream water, effluent, sludge and raw sewage. Testing is done for many reasons, such as analysis for resource consents and contaminated sites, plus general monitoring of water ways.”
“The hands-on nature of my engineering degree set me up with practical troubleshooting expertise, an attention to detail and the ability to meet deadlines – all which are vital skills in my current position.”
Originally from India, Mikita came to New Zealand in 2002 and studied at Hamilton Girls’ High School. Her Materials & Process Engineering programme at Waikato included papers in physics, mathematics, computer science, electronics and materials and process dynamics.
During study she enjoyed her work placements, which gave her credit towards her degree. Mikita’s first placement involved working in a research group, studying the use of titanium alloys for orthopaedic applications.
BSc; MSc; PhD in ChemistryPost-Doctoral Researcher
Cawthron Institute, Nelson
"I'm presently researching the triggers for production of microcystin, a cyanotoxin found in many freshwater cyanobacteria."
Jonathan specialises in analytical biochemistry and uses analytical techniques to understand the biochemistry of cyanobacteria and algae.
"Through a joint project between the University of Waikato and Cawthron institute, I'm presently researching the triggers for production of microcystin, a cyanotoxin found in many freshwater cyanobacteria. When blooms of the Microcystis (a type of cyanobacteria) form on the surface of lakes, microcystin production rapidly increases."
Jonathan's aim is to understand why this occurs, which will hopefully lead to better water quality predictions in the future.
A bonus of his work is conducting experiments in the field, rather than in a laboratory. "We feel that this more accurately reflects the natural environment these organisms are exposed to, but adds additional logistical difficulties for our work. One of the techniques we have designed to overcome this is collecting samples using cryo-samplers; metal probes which are chilled to sub-zero temperatures and instantly capture/preserve cyanobacterial communities in a sheet of ice."
If you would like to know more about Jonathan's research then check out: #CyanoResearch on Vimeo and Twitter.
BSc; MSc in ChemistryScientist
“What I love about my job is the wide variety."
Scientist Jamie Bridson is researching how we can use biological materials from the forestry industry to create new environmentally friendly products such as biodegradable plastics.
“One of the most exciting things I’ve worked on was a project using extracts from the bark of pine trees. These extracts are great antioxidants, have antimicrobial properties and absorb UV light, so we’re looking to use them in plastics or cosmetics as a substitute for petrochemical additives.”
At Scion, one of New Zealand’s government research institutes, Jamie’s day starts with planning and research then he gets into action in the laboratory. The afternoon generally sees him using high-tech equipment to analyse the results of his day’s work.
“What I love about my job is the wide variety. I can be analysing a sample that’s less than a fraction of a gram or working with tonnes of material for a large-scale pilot plant project. Sometimes I look at the chemical bonding between atoms; other times I’m developing a system to pump hundreds of litres of water.”
He says that important characteristics to have in his role include persistence and being creative, practical and hands-on when solving problems, and he thinks that people who “have a curiosity mindset” would enjoy his work.
“My job may lead to a more senior research position within a research organisation or alternatively my experience would translate well into a career in industry. I could work at a pulp and paper mill, for a plastic or resin manufacturer or in the pharmaceutical industry.”
Profile provided courtesy of Futureintech www.futureintech.org.nz
BE in Chemical and Biological EngineeringProject Engineer
Bakels Edible Oils, Mt Maunganui
"In the short term I want to gain as much practical experience as possible, to complement what I learnt at university and reduce the effects of waste and fuel in New Zealand industrial practices."
Following undergraduate and postgraduate engineering study at the University of Waikato, Aaron Low has taken his knowledge of materials and process engineering to a whole new level at Bakels Edible Oils in Mt Maunganui.
"Bakels refines edible oils for local and international markets. My role as a Project Engineer involves designing, managing and commissioning different projects on site. Some of the larger projects I've worked on include upgrading our refinery and installing a new edible oil deodorizer."
A past Hamilton Boys High School student, Aaron chose to study at the University of Waikato for its interesting subjects, small class sizes, good location and excellent reputation.
"It meant I could remain close to family. I also liked Hamilton because it was central to good locations for outdoor activities like tramping and hunting."
Aaron's fascination with reducing waste in industrial processes began as an undergraduate student completing his Bachelor of Engineering in Biochemical Engineering*. His fourth-year project involved developing methods to remove colour from red blood cell concentrate, a waste product from meat processing. Due to the success he found, he was asked to stay on for a PhD, during which he worked on removing the colour and smell from bloodmeal (another by-product from meat processing) and converting that material into a bioplastic.
"I achieved this and obtained several journal publications, a provisional patent and attended several international and local conferences."
"In the short term I want to gain as much practical experience as possible, to complement what I learnt at university and reduce the effects of waste and fuel in New Zealand industrial practices. Further into the future I hope to become a university lecturer, as I enjoy teaching, research and interacting with students."
BSc; MSc in Earth SciencesGeothermal Monitoring Technician
"Your degree is what you make it. Take every chance and opportunity you are given and it could take you anywhere."
Geothermal energy is said to be the power source of the future and Waikato graduate Holly Goddard is making the most of her opportunity to learn as much as she can about this rapidly expanding industry.
Holly works for MB Century, a company which completes geothermal investigation and development work throughout the North Island and globally. She is currently a Geothermal Monitoring Supervisor, overseeing the day to day operations of the monitoring team as well as field work and client liaisons.
Holly says her Masters enabled her to develop self-learning skills which have been invaluable in her job to help her think outside the box when problems or new challenges arise.
During her Masters study she won an Antarctica New Zealand Scholarship which funded a trip to Antarctica to work on her research. In addition she travelled to Russia to present her research findings at a conference and worked on the search for the Pink and White Terraces in Rotorua.
“Your degree is what you make it. Take every chance and opportunity you are given and it could take you anywhere.”
BSc(Tech); MSc in Biological SciencesCurrent MSc student at Waikato University
“I absolutely loved my placement at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, where I was a keeper and raised eight baby kiwi chicks.”
Former Hillcrest High School student Ashley Webby chose Waikato because it was close to home and had an excellent range of papers, taught by enthusiastic lecturers.
Ashley began her study with a Bachelor of Science (Technology) majoring in physiology and ecology.
She describes the highlight of her undergraduate study as her work placements, which included working two summers at Waikato University as a research assistant and work experience at Otorohanga Kiwi House.
“I absolutely loved my placement at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, where I was a keeper and raised eight baby kiwi chicks.”
Following her BSc(Tech), Ashley began her Master of Science, which she is currently in the middle of.
“My masters project looks into the toxicity of Rena pollutants to New Zealand fish and shellfish, with help from my supervisors Associate Professor Nicholas Ling and Professor Chris Battershill.”
“It is estimated that 350 tonnes of oil leaked into the environment from the Rena and as most New Zealanders know, the oil spillage had a huge impact on the wildlife and environment in the Bay of Plenty region."
Ashley will use organisms including a range of soft shore and hard shore species including snapper, spotties, crayfish, blue mussels, cockles, Macomona, scallops and flounder in her research. The organisms will be exposed to varying contaminants from the Rena oil spill including Rena heavy fuel oil and corexit 9500 (the dispersant used to disperse the oil). The organisms will then be examined to gauge the extent to which they have taken in these chemicals. She will be looking at how they are affected over different time periods and how long it may take the animals to recover from the toxic effects looking at both lethal and sub lethal impacts.
BSc; MSc in Earth SciencesAustralia's Horizon's Programme
“We’ll be using advanced geological and geophysical tools and new technologies to find, evaluate and develop oil and gas resources.”
Growing up in rural Taranaki, Aaron developed an appreciation and passion for the environment. Surrounded by natural energy producers he also gained an enthusiasm for the energy industry, which sparked his interest in the Earth sciences.
Aaron has been selected for Chevron Australia’s Horizons’ Programme, which will take five years and involve three different assignments.
For Chevron he’ll be undertaking exploration, production management, research and development, and reservoir management and development. He’s one of three graduate geologists that Chevron’s taking on in 2014.
“We’ll be using advanced geological and geophysical tools and new technologies to find, evaluate and develop oil and gas resources.”
Aaron will be the sixth Waikato student in as many years to be selected for a graduate position in Chevron.
Following secondary school at Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth, he chose Waikato University due to the world-class facilities available for students and the exceptional teaching and research regime. He credits the numerous field trips as having been a highlight of his studies, with trips to Huriwai Valley to map stratigraphy and into the Taupo Volcanic Zone, including doing the Tongariro Crossing as part of a third-year Earth Sciences paper.
BSc; MSc in Biological SciencesResearch Support Officer
Environmental Research Institute, University of Waikato
"Waikato is one of the top universities to study ecology and is surrounded by so many incredible ecosystems."
A six-month exchange to Canada, a handful of scholarships and excellent support from lecturers were just a few of the things that made study at Waikato an experience of a lifetime for graduate Catherine Kirby.
"My role as a research assistant is very diverse and exciting and I don't really have a 'typical day'. Sometimes I arrive at work, jump in a van and head into the field to investigate vegetation patterns in areas such as the Erua, Taranaki and Waipoua forests. Other days I am busy assisting with the Institute's research programmes, helping MSc students with their thesis research, writing reports and articles, and sharing our research findings through presentations."
The Environmental Research Institute combines environmental expertise from different areas in the University to work out how we can improve and sustain the quality of New Zealanders' natural and physical environment.
Catherine began her studies with a Bachelor of Science, specialising in Resource and Environmental Planning, and focusing mainly on Earth Sciences. Following this she undertook a Master of Science, where she decided to alter her focus to Biological Sciences.
"For my masters I concentrated primarily on plant ecology, as I felt that this is an area where I could make more of a difference in terms of environmental conservation and restoration."
PGDip in Materials and ProcessingQuality Assurance Manager
The New Zealand Dessert Company Limited, Tauranga
“Studying at a top university such as Waikato was my long term goal right from my childhood..."
Graduate Josh Livingston is enjoying sweet success as a Quality Assurance Manager at The New Zealand Dessert Company Limited in Tauranga.
“My main priority in this role is to maintain a high quality product and a healthy working environment. My day-to-day tasks include upholding standards and procedures, organizing laboratory testing on finished products, completing internal audits, and working closely with the factory manager on planning and scheduling productions,” says Josh.
Josh decided to move to New Zealand to study towards a Post Graduate Diploma in Materials and Processing at Waikato University upon completing a bachelor degree in biotechnology in India. Before arriving for his study, Josh had not visited New Zealand before.
“I believe New Zealand is one of the most amazing countries, filled with many opportunities for the younger generation such as myself. Hamilton was a great place to live and the beautiful climate and landscapes captured me right from the first day. I would love to bring my parents someday to stay with me in this awesome country.”
“Within Materials and Processing I chose to study protein purification and extraction. My papers gave me a clear and practical understanding of the recent technologies that are being used in industry. I also took papers on bio-processing techniques and food technology, which helped to develop my technical knowledge and practical skills.”
Josh was able to keep strong ties with his Indian culture while living in Hamilton. Church fellowships, social gatherings, youth outings, and cricket games all helped him to feel more at home.
“Studying at a top university such as Waikato was my long term goal right from my childhood. Here I’ve had the chance to use a wide range of facilities and interact with some amazing teaching staff and students. From the very first day I was supported by staff in every possible way.”
Cathy (Zhi) Liu
PhD in Earth SciencesCoastal Modeller
Waikato Regional Council
"As a Coastal Modeller my main duties include setting up numerical models to analyse relevant coastal processes..."
Maintaining healthy harbours and estuaries is just one of the projects that Waikato PhD graduate Cathy Liu has been involved in during her time at the Waikato Regional Council (WRC).
"As a Coastal Modeller my main duties include setting up numerical models to analyse relevant coastal processes and provide data and information on Waikato's coastal environments. This includes developing models which can help the council to access changes, threats and impacts on the coastal and marine areas and make decisions about the management of these areas."
One highlight for Cathy has been her work on the Whitianga Marina project. "A plan was introduced to change the current marina access channel direction by dredging. I developed a set of hydrodynamic and sediment transport models of the Whitianga Harbour which were used to estimate the impacts of the physical process on the channel, and also the impacts of channel dredging on the harbour's health."
Cathy began working with the WRC in 2012 during her PhD research into Hydrodynamics and Sediment Transport in the Tairua Estuary. Her research involved substantial field data collection from waves, tidal currents, river flow and suspended sediment concentrations as the basis for establishing a fully calibrated and verified hydrodynamic and sediment transport numerical model of the Tairua Estuary on the East Coromandel Coast of New Zealand.
BSc(Tech); MSc in Biological SciencesMSc student
University of Waikato
“I learnt through my experiences that a conservation project is not possible without involving the local community.”
Studying bird life in some of the world’s most beautiful islands has been all part of the Waikato University experience for science student Tehani Withers.
Tehani began a Master of Science last year, following completion of a Bachelor of Science (Technology) (BSc(Tech)).
“For my masters I will be studying the habitats and nutrient requirements for the translocated takahe on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland. The island has recently been eradicated of pests, and translocation of the takahe was made in 2011. Since the island is mostly a big farm, we want to see how restoration of wetlands in certain areas would benefit the birds, in terms of their feeding and breeding success,” says Tehani.
During her BSc(Tech) degree she completed two work placements in French Polynesia, both with the Bird Society SOP (Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie) Manu.
“During my first three-month placement I spent a month on Tahuata Island, a small island of the Marquesas Archipelago. Here I studied the Marquesas kingfisher population and spent time learning skills such as bird monitoring, using GPS and taking field notes.”
As part of the intern position she also spent time at the island’s school, teaching students about the birds which inhabit their village. The second two months of her work placement were spent in Tahiti at the SOP office, working on data, maps, report writing and creating articles for the local press.
During the second work placement of six months, Tehani returned to SOP Manu to study the Tahiti monarch, a fly-catcher bird species. “I monitored the reproductive and feeding behaviours of the birds and completed a survey of electric ants which are a potential threat. I also conducted a point-count survey for invasive introduced bird species such as the common myna and red-vented bulbul, which lead to participating in a trapping campaign with Susana Saavedra, an expert trapper from Spain.”
Tehani loved getting to know the locals and learning about their culture. “One of the main things I learnt through my experiences is that a conservation project is not possible without involving the local community.”
Tehani grew up in French Polynesia and her family reside there. After completing secondary school in Tahiti, Tehani chose to complete her tertiary study in New Zealand. The University of Waikato’s reputation for conservation and restoration brought her to Hamilton, along with the exciting prospect of the work placements and practical experience that come through completing a BSc(Tech) degree.
BSc; MSc in Biological SciencesEcologist
Tonkin & Taylor Ltd
A highlight has been creating a translocation plan for tuatara.
Ensuring high profile infrastructure projects have a minimal impact on the environment is a real buzz for graduate Kieran Miller.
In the field Kieran has enjoyed relocating native skinks and geckos, and working with elite researchers on the ecological implications of a major motorway project in Auckland. In the office a highlight has been creating a translocation plan for tuatara.
Tonkin & Taylor Ltd are an engineering and environmental consultancy.
BE in Mechanical EngineeringSales Engineer
RML Engineering, Hamilton
"We provide solutions to any process that needs to be more automated."
From a childhood spent playing with Lego and tinkering with remote control cars, to teenage years spent fixing his own car, Varun Dennis describes his choice to study Mechanical Engineering as a natural progression.
While at Waikato University Varun took advantage of the WESMO (Waikato Engineering Student Motorsport) team. "WESMO provided me with the initial exposure to the practical side of engineering. I really enjoyed the challenge of building an open-wheeler race car with a good bunch of mates."
"I started with RML as a Mechanical Design Engineer and have progressed into the role of a Sales Engineer. My current role involves generating sales and bringing new clients to the company. This includes coming up with the best solution (skills I learnt as a design engineer), pricing, tender responses, scrutanising contracts and presenting proposals for projects around the world. "
RML design, manufacture, assemble, project manage and commission production automation solutions.
"Basically we provide solutions to any process that needs to be less manual and more automated."
BSc; MSc in ChemistryTechnologist
“The MSc really gave me a taste for research..”
A passion for chemistry has led Cody Wright to an exciting position with New Zealand’s leading analytical testing laboratory.
Cody works in the research and development division at Hill Laboratories as a Technologist. This is his second position with the company.
He is involved in the testing of products for pesticide levels using a suite of high-tech equipment.
“While my previous role involved performing the tests myself, my current role is at an operational level. As new pesticides come onto the market and/or regulations are updated, we need to ensure that we can test for them down to the required detection limits. This often requires implementation of new and existing instruments and techniques to develop more effective testing methods.”
Cody went to high school at Katikati College. He was selected for direct entry into year two chemistry classes at university due to his exceptional grades in Year 13 chemistry.
During his studies he worked on a project which was published in a reputable journal of chemistry. “This subsequently allowed me to receive a summer scholarship, which gave me a head start on my research for the thesis portion of my MSc. Since then I’ve had two more papers published. The MSc really gave me a taste for research and I’d ultimately love to end up in a position where I was able to undertake research and development orientated work.”
BSc(Tech) in Biological SciencesClinical Embryologist
Fertility Associates, Hamilton
“I‘m fascinated by the human body and how it works”.
Hearing heart-warming pregnancy success stories from her patients is the ultimate reward for Catherine Charleson, who works in a Hamilton fertility clinic as a clinical embryologist.
Everyday tasks for Catherine include working in a lab with oocytes and sperm to create human embryos; interacting and educating patients; and helping women with IVF cycle management.
Following high school at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in Hamilton, Catherine studied a Bachelor of Science (Technology), majoring in Biological Sciences and specifying in the Biomedical Sciences programme. The programme included papers in physiology, genetics, anatomy and biochemistry.A work placement at AgResearch Ruakura as an embryologist and laboratory technician led her to her first full-time position as a clinical embryologist at Fertility Associates in Hamilton. An aspiration to work overseas took her to London, in mid 2011, where she enjoyed a similar position at The London Women's Clinic. Catherine returned to Hamilton in 2013 to a senior clinical embryologist role back at Fertility Associates.
BSc; MSc in Earth SciencesSoil Scientist
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Queensland Government
"The practical skills I learnt during study were invaluable for securing a job after graduation."
For Riki Lewis, studying Earth Sciences at Waikato has led to an exciting job as a Soil Scientist with the Queensland Government.
“I travel to beef feed lots to collect soil samples, which we test on site. Currently I’m in charge of running an experiment in which we’re trying to validate a new experimental method against an older, more trusted method.
The validation experiment involves running a machine which analyses greenhouse gasses (GHG) at very low concentrations. I then collect and process the meteorological data.”
The government will use this data to help determine an acceptable level of GHG emissions from feed lots and to set a limit from which farmers will begin to pay carbon tax.
Riki moved straight onto tertiary study following his teenage years at Cambridge High School.
While studying he attended conferences in New Zealand and Australia, which gave him one on one contact with industry – a valuable bonus when looking for jobs later in his career.
As for study advice? “Study what you find interesting. Subjects you are interested in will be more enjoyable and you’ll do better in them. If you’re unsure about anything, just ask. Lecturers and support staff at Waikato are excellent.”
BSc(Tech); MSc(Tech)(Hons) in ChemistryArea Manager
NALCO, an Ecolab company, Hamilton
"My job involves managing a team of water treatment experts..."
For Waikato graduate Dylan Harrison, a career in science has always been on the cards.
A number of university scholarships and awards, work placements at two leading New Zealand science companies and a masters research collaboration with Fonterra, gave Dylan the competitive advantage when seeking employment.
NALCO is a leading provider of integrated water treatment and process improvement services, chemicals, and equipment programmes for industrial and institutional applications.
"My job involves managing a team of water treatment experts with the goal of providing value to our customers by implementing water treatment programmes for industries such as dairy, power, hospitals and other food and beverage manufacturers. Our main focus is monitoring chemical programmes on industrial boilers and cooling towers. A typical day would involve travelling to three or four industrial sites. Here we monitor their water treatment programmes based on chemical analysis and make any changes or recommendations to help optimise the programme based on our onsite test results."
With the ambition to take his role even further, Dylan has recently completed part one of an MBA (Post Graduate Diploma in Business Studies) at Waikato University and will complete part two in the near future.
BSc; MSc in Biological SciencesHead of Science
Food Animal Initiative Ltd
"I'm doing something I absolutely love every day and getting paid for it."
A passion for animal welfare and a PhD at Oxford University has led to an exciting role in the UK at the Food Animal Initiative Ltd (FAI) for science graduate Ashleigh Bright.
“I’m involved in animal behaviour/welfare research projects on the farm and with commercial industry partners. Our role is between academia and industry, taking the scientific research, getting it working on our farm and then out into the wider world."
Ashleigh manages five other scientists and is currently the industry supervisor for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Reading. The project title is 'To develop and embed a method for assessing sustainability of livestock production systems, testing and demonstrating its application by a series of case studies.'
It wasn’t until Ashleigh’s second year at Waikato that she discovered her fascination with animal behaviour. “Originally I was enrolled in marine biology.”
“Keep your options open. What you think you want to do at the beginning of a degree is often not what you want to do at the end. If you come across a subject you find interesting, try it!"
BSc; MSc in Earth SciencesDevelopment Geologist
"The best thing about my job has been the opportunity to develop my career... "
Waikato graduate and former Tauranga Boys’ College student Brad Hopcroft is a development geologist for Chevron, a global energy company.
"I’m currently working on the Barrow Island Oil Field, which is around 60km from the mainland of Western Australia. Chevron has been producing oil on Barrow Island since 1967 and has drilled over 900 wells. My role includes planning new development wells, identifying new development opportunities and optimising existing production wells.”
“The best thing about my job has been the opportunity to develop my career and move to other Chevron business units around the world for work placements. Chevron currently operates in over 180 countries with a global headquarters in Texas.”
BE; PhD in Materials and Process EngineeringResearch Fellow
University of Waikato
"My PhD research demonstrated that steam use in a typical New Zealand milk powder factory could decrease by 10% if exhaust heat recovery for the milk dryer is installed."
A PhD focused on increasing the energy efficiency of milk powder production has led University of Waikato engineering graduate Tim Walmsley to a full-time job with the very research group within which he worked as a PhD candidate.
"My PhD research demonstrated that steam use in a typical New Zealand milk powder factory could decrease by 10% if exhaust heat recovery for the milk dryer is installed. Lab scale tests indicated issues relating to milk powder build-up and fouling, which is a key reason why dairy companies choose not to install this energy efficient technology, can be avoided through smart heat recuperator design and purposefully not being greedy in recovering heat," says Tim.
His position as a Research Fellow came about when the University of Waikato's Energy Research Group was awarded a three-year grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) late last year.
"Fonterra, Windsor Engineering and the Energy Education Trust co-funded our research bid and a significant part of this successful proposal continues on from my PhD research."
The next step in his research is to prove his design solution at a pilot-scale level before further up-scaling to a full-size New Zealand milk spray dryer. "A milk spray dryer exhaust heat recovery project is a million dollar investment and a pilot scale installation will help de-risk and bring greater certainty around the economics of a full-scale project."
While studying towards his PhD, Tim won a University of Waikato Doctoral Scholarship, the Todd Foundation Scholarship in Energy Research, and a Claude McCarthy Conference Travel scholarship. These scholarships supported him through his three years of study towards a PhD in engineering, which he completed in June 2014, and provided the opportunity for him to present his work at two international engineering conferences.