Dr Rachael C Tighe

Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering

Qualifications: MPhys (Hons) Physics; MSc Environmental Technology; PhD University of Southampton

About Rachael

Rachael graduated from the University of Lancaster with a Masters of Physics and swapped over to the dark side for her PhD in Engineering from the University of Southampton. Rachael worked as a Research Fellow in Faculty of Engineering at the University of Southampton 2014-2016, worked for the UK Ministry of Defence 2016-2018 before emigrating to New Zealand and the University of Waikato in 2018.

Rachael is Chair of the Thermomechanics and Infrared Imaging Technical Division within the Society of Experimental Mechanics and is on the Conference Committee for Manufacturing, Design and Entrepreneurship NZ. Rachael is a member of the Waikato Robotics, Automation and Sensing (WaiRAS), Centre for Advanced Materials and Manufacture (WaiCAMM) and Resilience, Infrastructure and Sustainable Construction (WaiRISC) Research Groups.

Throughout her career Rachael has work on a wide range of sensor development and implementation problems from implementation in extreme environments to high volume inspection and data processing. Rachael's main research areas are:

Non-destructive evaluation: adapting existing and developing new techniques and methods to a variety of materials, components and structures. Working on the physical implementation alongside signal/data processing developments.

Structural health monitoring: Development of longer term monitoring approaches including identifying complimentary techniques to obtain the data needed.

Sensors for environmental measurement: Rachael is working with colleagues in the School of Science to develop systems to aid in environmental measurements and monitoring.

Rachael is continually looking for new collaborations with both academia and industry to work with her in the field of non-destructive evaluation looking at advancing existing techniques, finding new applications and tackling current inspection challenges.

Rachael has also lead outreach efforts from the School of Engineering since 2019 including E2, technical school visits and other activities.

Research Interests

Rachael’s research interests are in the fundamentals of sensing and inspection technologies, particularly non-destructive evaluation of materials, components and structures. Such inspection applications range from online manufacturing quality control to in-service through life inspections. Research to date has largely focused on the use and development of using imaging techniques such as pulse phase thermography (defect detection), thermoelastic stress analysis (stress distributions) and digital image correlation (displacements/strain) to gather such information. Interest lies in coupling such imaging techniques with other sensing systems to reveal complimentary information to build more complete understanding. The overall aim is to build from detecting defects towards assessing the impact of those defects on the component, i.e. there is a defect, now do we care? Current work looks at a variety of traditional and advanced materials, manufacturing and structures.

Stress distributions around a weld under vibration loading, measured using TSA [click here for more info].

Ongoing projects:

Thermographic assessment of polymer and metallic additive manufactured materials

Inspection and assessment of surface coating health and corrosion using thermography

Non Destructive Evaluation of adhesive bonds in composite aircraft using thermography

Online inspection of reinforced 3D printing filament

Measuring the colour of water - a self orientating platform for multi-sensor data collection

Online seal inspection in multi layer packaging

Plastic recycling and reuse - reducing the waste from 3D printing

Cars vs. Clams - measuring the impact of beach traffic on Toheroa population

Research Supervised

PhD Researchers

Matthew Seabright - Occlusion prediction for kiwifruit yield estimation, University of Waikato. (Co-supervisor; Under examination)

Geir Olafsson - Non-destructive examination (NDE) of composite to steel joints for in-
build and through life condition monitoring in the marine environment. 
University of Southampton, UK. (Co-supervisor; In progress)

Xutao Sun - Natural frequency-based crack detection: the use of the roving spring-mass system, University of Waikato (Co-supervisor; In progress)

Masters Researchers

Ding Yi Huang - Thermographic inspection to provide quality assurance for reinforced 3D printer filaments, University of Waikato (Chief supervisor; In progress)

Larissa Kopf - Formula SAE Wesmo car suspension dynamics, University of Waikato (Co-supervisor; Under examination)

Teaching Commitments


Engineering; Materials and Processing; Mechanical; Physics; Remote Sensing

Recent Publications

  • Olafsson, G., Tighe, R., Boyd, G., Trumper, R., & Dulieu-Barton, J. (2020). Assessing composite joints on ships. IOM3. Retrieved from

  • Seabright, M., Streeter, L., Cree, M., Duke, M., & Tighe, R. (2018). Simple stereo matching algorithm for localising keypoints in a restricted search space. In 2018 International Conference on Image and Vision Computing New Zealand (IVCNZ) (pp. 6 pages). Conference held Auckland, New Zealand: IEEE. doi:10.1109/IVCNZ.2018.8634791 Open Access version:

  • Tighe, R. (2018). Thermographic inspection {Report from the Workshop on NDT Requirements for Marine Composites]. UK: British Institute of Non Destructive Testing. doi:10.1784/book.2018.002

  • Olafsson, G., Tighe, R. C., & Dulieu-Barton, J. M. (2018). Improving the probing depth of thermographic inspections of polymer composite materials. Measurement Science and Technology. doi:10.1088/1361-6501/aaed15

View All research publications by Rachael Tighe

Contact Details

Room: EF.2.01
Phone: +64 7 838 4109