Page 1

interface MACDIARMID


January 2013

Collaborating on a (very) small scale

Issue 21

Communicating Science to New Zealand


interface MACDIARMID


Issue 21: January 2013 ISSN 1176-1423 (Print) ISSN 1178-4911 (Online)

Editor Emily Sullivan Design Christine Prebble Cover image Dafnis Vargas Writers Glenda Lewis Vicki Hyde Kate McGrath Elf Eldridge Leny Woolsey

Acknowledging the past to move forward Sometimes, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when or how something started. Looking back and understanding how things have come about is an important part of moving forward. It helps us recognise future opportunities and provides evidence of what we are capable of achieving.

Photography Image Services, VUW Dafnis Vargas V Meduna/RNZ University of Canterbury

The MacDiarmid Institute was built around the concepts of collaboration and research excellence. This edition of Interface highlights some of the amazing new collaborations that are happening, not just within the MacDiarmid Institute but, most importantly, because of the MacDiarmid Institute. Research programmes are being initiated within New Zealand,

Proofreader Dan Thompson

across institutional and disciplinary borders and, maybe most notably, between people who are just down the corridor from each other. In this

Printing City Print Communications Ltd. Interface is published by The MacDiarmid Institute PO Box 600 Wellington New Zealand Emai

issue we will see examples of people creating new synergies, sharing knowledge and equipment infrastructure to work together and ask more challenging questions, and to probe problems from a range of different expertise perspectives. So, how did we get here and how do we build on what we have achieved? The Centres of Research Excellence emerged from an environment that had become overwhelmingly competitive. Individuals were pitted against each other; units and schools fought for students; organisations put up barriers and walls; our silo tendencies were magnified and nurtured. However, after more than a decade it became evident that competition was not returning the promised benefits. The road back from competition has been a slow one. The MacDiarmid Institute has helped advance this trek through our belief in excellence and collaboration. From the moment Paul Callaghan and Richard Blaikie

© Copyright 2012 The MacDiarmid Institute of

merged the bids from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of

Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Canterbury, we championed collaboration as a basis for achieving excellence in science. The nature of these collaborations is evolving. We have witnessed a definite change, a growth, and, through these, an advancement in the type of science that we explore. We are now learning how to sustain and improve collaborations, how to transform, support and facilitate them and in doing so we are building our future.

Kate McGrath Director, MacDiarmid Institute


interface issue 21 | January 2013

In this issue In this issue


Collaborating on a (very) small scale


Looking into the middle ground


Postdoctoral fellows


Connections on the human scale

14 15 16

Westmount High - Learning nanotech from the experts Career options through Chiasma AMN6 – Attracting the best to New Zealand



Collaborating on a (very) small scale Casual conversations over conference tea-cups, chance meetings in stairwells, idle flicking through a journal – these may not sound like the stuff of which scientific endeavours are

It’s a strategy that is paying off as more and more research projects gain a broader outlook and stronger connections.

made, but they can provide a surprisingly significant role in the

MacDiarmid Principal Investigator (PI) Dr Alison Downward

development of research projects and collaborations that span

is Professor of Chemistry at Canterbury University. She notes

an organisation, a city, sometimes even the world.

that the chemistry and physics people are in the same building

Such serendipitous encounters form the basis of scientific

on campus “so you see them every day”, but that they would

legend – Edward Jenner’s chat with an informative milkmaid

very rarely mix in any professional context. The networking

led to the smallpox vaccine; a chance meeting between DuPont

encouraged by the MacDiarmid Institute has helped changed

scientists and the Manhattan Project team gave the world

that, allowing researchers to connect with each other and learn

Teflon. These encounters also provide underpinning support for

about each other’s expertise.

encouraging researchers to look outside their own labs and their own disciplines. The MacDiarmid Institute intentionally plays a very deliberate

“It works best from the bottom up,” says Downard. In her case, collaborating with physics professor Simon Brown arose, not so much through the university, but via contacts in

and proactive role in fostering cross-disciplinary work and

MacDiarmid, where Brown is also a Principal Investigator and

organised collaborations. Newsletters, conferences, seminars

Deputy Director.

and the like all provide a means for researchers scattered


postdoctoral fellows.

The two are working together as part of the molecular

throughout New Zealand to gain an awareness of what their

electronics initiative, in the very early stages of trying to

colleagues are up to, who might have useful equipment, and

understand how specific molecules can be attached to particular

how they can work together directly or via shared students and

surfaces in a stable fashion. The aim is to build molecules

interface issue 21 | January 2013

[ feature ] “more interesting molecules” supplied by Chemistry Department colleague and new MacDiarmid PI Associate Professor Paul Kruger. His transition metal complex includes four iron ions, which makes them “nice and big” and thus good candidates for imaging on the Physics Department’s ultra-high vacuum scanning tunnelling microscope, itself funded by the MacDiarmid Institute.

You say “to-may-toe” I say “to- mah –toe” As part of this project, the Chemistry and Physics Departments now share a MacDiarmid Institute funded postdoctoral fellow Haifeng Ma. The cross-disciplinary collaboration has proven useful in helping each discipline gain a better understanding of the approaches of the other. “In this project we use different vocabulary when talking about exactly the same thing,” notes Downard, hastening to add that “we do understand what the physicists are saying”. Thus when referring to the layered graphite surfaces, with useful functionality that can then be assembled into tiny

the chemists will talk about “basal planes” and “edges”,

analogues of much larger-scale electronic components, such as

whereas the physicists will refer to “the terrace” and “steps”. Of greater significance are the differing experimental

transistors or switches. Until now, the group has been looking at very simple model compounds, concentrating on the molecule-tosurface attachment side of things to characterise that area

approaches and backgrounds which the different disciplines bring to the effort. “Physicists, especially in this area, are more used to looking

of understanding as an initial start. This involves utilising the

at systems that are very well organised and clean,” says

properties of strong covalent bonding from an attack of aryl

Downard. She attributes this to the traditional focus on

radicals at a carbon surface.

fundamental mechanisms and differences in how physicists

Downard explains that using the simple approach is a quicker, more cost-effective means of testing basic principles. “A synthetic chemist could take weeks to make something complicated for us to use, and probably wouldn’t be very happy if we used it all up on one shot,” she says.

The simple derivatives currently in use can be made quickly and locally. That said, the group has recently begun to use

Bridging the disciplines is a big

challenge, as each area has its own language, but it’s an exciting one and we are all relishing it. —Dr Sally Brooker

go about preparing materials for investigation. Chemists, on the other hand, tend to work in an environment that is more closely connected to applied real-world conditions, with all the potential for chaos that that can imply. “Our systems are very messy in comparison.” Another MacDiarmid Institute researcher who has also broadened her vocabulary through collaboration is Otago chemistry professor and MacDiarmid Institute PI Sally Brooker. “Bridging the disciplines is a big challenge, as each area has its own language, but it’s an exciting one and we are all relishing it,” says Brooker.

Beaker to surfaces Brooker’s research group is currently working in a different area of the broad MacDiarmid Institute research theme on Molecular Materials, investigating how single molecule magnets, or molecules which are spin-crossover active, can be switched between two or more electronic states. Such properties can


When referring to the

layered graphite surfaces, the chemists will talk about “basal planes” and “edges”, whereas the physicists will refer to “the terrace” and “steps”.

—Professor Alison Downward

the way to, for example, development of nano-devices for information storage and processing – in effect nano-computers. The “beaker to surfaces” project began in May, so is still in its very early stages of development with plenty of room for further collaboration in the areas of surface attachment as well as characterisation of the molecules on the surface once attached. The project draws on a range of people across a number of institutions, such as the variable temperature: magnetic data collection facilities operated by Industrial Research Ltd in Lower Hutt and the team there headed by Dr Jeff Tallon, yet another MacDiarmid Institute PI. Having access to such equipment and expertise has been “totally transformational” according to Brooker, citing the many joint publications this research has encouraged. She also acknowledges the importance of other MacDiarmid Institute supported equipment, such as the Raman microscope facilities at Otago led by Dr Keith Gordon, Professor of Chemistry; and New Zealand’s first low-temperature Mössbauer facility in Otago, operated under the guidance of Dr Guy Jameson. Brooker comments that the MacDiarmid Institute has helped dismantle institutional barriers, making it far easier to connect in a meaningful way with physical and engineering scientists. Communications technology has also helped. The advent of email and Skype means it’s now far less important whether your colleagues are in the lab next door or halfway around the world. Tallon points out that he maintains collaborations with people in Otago, Cambridge, Fribourg, Milan and New York without impediment. It can be a bit of a stretch at times, he admits, as greater interactivity can place increased demands on researchers. “My first twenty years in research allowed uninterrupted attention all day long, every day. That is a rare luxury nowadays and our work is diminished by this. At the same time, our


interface issue 21 | January 2013

be used as the basis of a form of digital memory, which points

There’s nothing wrong with

the ‘suck it and see’ approach but if you can identify what you’re after, talk to colleagues, find out what equipment you need, you can save a lot of time.

—Professor Richard Blaikie

Our activities are much more

multidimensional, and we can do so much more, because of collaboration. Hopefully the whole is much more than the mere sum of the parts. —Dr Jeff Tallon

activities are much more multidimensional, and we can do so

“There’s nothing wrong with the ‘suck it and see’ approach,”

much more, because of collaboration. Hopefully the whole is

says Blaikie, “but if you can identify what you’re after, talk to

much more than the mere sum of the parts.”

colleagues, find out what equipment you need, you can save a

When working together doesn’t work out

lot of time.”

In some cases, collaborative relationships can be helpful in identifying when not to work together. When Professor

More than just sharing equipment Jeff Tallon, based at IRL, has provided a good deal of

Richard Blaikie was approached for a project on the basis of

research skills, support and specialist machinery, such as the

his specialist interest in atomic force microscopy, he ended up

SQUID magnetometer, for MacDiarmid Institute projects.

passing the research on.

That work has expanded from characterising the magnetic

As it happened, he knew that the Physics Department at the

properties of materials to looking at structural and spectroscopic

University of Canterbury had more suitable instrumentation

characterisation. This, in turn, says Tallon, helped attract

– the ultra-high vacuum scanning tunnelling microscope

Associate Investigator Geoff Jameson from Massey University, as

(UHV-STM) – than that available in his own Department of

well as other researchers from Australia.

Engineering, and Blaikie suggested colleague Professor Simon

“The nice thing is that as the programme has grown, so

Brown could be a more useful addition to the collaboration at

our facilities have had to be developed in order to achieve

this stage.

the requisite sensitivity. In the end, we are all better off and

Now based at Otago as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research

those improvements are now being applied to other research

and Enterprise), Blaikie continues to take an interest in the area,

programmes. There is a symbiosis here that is distinctive in the

acting as “a sounding board for these types of molecules”.

research field. Benefits never just accrue in one direction.”

Although he wasn’t able to help out during these early days

Tallon notes that when looking back on his successful

of research, it may well be that he can continue to contribute

collaborations, it has been the human element which has driven

to analysing the possibilities for further research, providing

the success of the alliance.

contacts and feeding suggestions into experimental design. He sees bringing a broader range of experience and knowledge into a project as a valuable means of identifying which paths may be fruitful. Although Blaikie admits that serendipity does have a role to play in scientific work, there’s

“Somehow the passion that I have for science is enlarged by the relationship, and vice versa. Science is very much driven by passion and less by work plans.” Or, as Alison Downard puts it: “The people part of science is a big part of the fun of working in science.”

also a strong role for forward planning.


Looking into the middle ground well as examining the properties of the

studying soft materials,

bulk materials they produce, but the area

materials, you really do need to look

you may think of cuddly toys or

of the intermediate states remains a tad

in the mesocule space. If you look at

velvet cushions, but to MacDiarmid


just one single molecule, you’ll never


researchers it means the long chains

“Hair, for example, is not just individual

understand how it works.” Gaining that greater understanding

of molecules that make up cellulose

proteins stuck together in a lump,” says

fibres, dairy-based casein micelles

MacDiarmid Theme 4 Soft Materials

could point the way to being able

and protein filaments in hair or food.

research leader Dr Bill Williams. In hair,

to optimise the desired properties

as in many biological structures, long

of biomaterials, leading the way to

intermediary hierarchy between the

chains of proteins are arranged together

potentially huge improvements in

atomic and single molecule arena at the

in filaments, which then assemble into

medical applications such as artificial

nano-end of the scale and the real-world

fibrils. Even though this self-assembly is

joints; foods with improved taste

mass and form of everyday objects.

somewhat ubiquitous in living systems,

and texture qualities; or a more

how it occurs remains something of a

environmentally friendly means of oil

ordinary glass of milk, for example, and

puzzle, and predicting what happens and


you’ll find it made up of hydrogen and

how it affects the resulting soft material

oxygen, calcium, phosphorus and other

so formed is equally unclear.

These biomaterials form an

Take a very, very close look at an

Getting that work under way involves tapping into a broad range of expertise and requires an equally broad variety

elements. Pull back a little and you’ll

“Just because you know the molecule

see these organised into molecules of

doesn’t mean you’re going to understand

of specialist equipment. Bill is based at

proteins, fats, carbohydrates, which can,

the properties of the material,” says Bill.

Massey University, being an Associate

in turn, agglomerate into highly complex

It’s this area of the “mesocule”, as he puts

Professor in the Physics, Chemistry and

structures such as the roughly spherical

it, which has formed the focus of a new

Biophysics Group. Working with him are

globules of casein micelles, composed of

MacDiarmid collaborative project that

MacDiarmid Principal Investigators, Dr

thousands of large protein molecules.

aims at gaining a better understanding

Juliet Gerrard, Professor of Biochemistry

of this area and its implications when

at Canterbury University and co-director

designing new biomaterials.

of their Biomolecular Interaction Centre;

The biomaterials field has looked at the properties of individual polymers, as


“If you want to understand soft

hen someone says they are

interface issue 21 | January 2013

« Take a very, very close look at an ordinary glass of milk and you’ll find it made up of hydrogen and oxygen, calcium, phosphorus and other elements. Pull back a little and you’ll see these organised into molecules of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, which can, in turn, agglomerate into highly complex structures such as the roughly spherical globules of casein micelles, composed of thousands of large protein molecules.

and Dr Kate McGrath, Professor of Chemistry at Victoria University. “Together we‘ve got the opportunity

Insulin forms fibrils of about 7-10 nm in diameter, however lengths of fibrils vary hugely due to the complex nature of the fibril mechanism. These fibrils form rapidly when subjected to elevated temperature, low pH and in the presence of salt. Varying these growth conditions, along with native protein concentration, time and also the way in which the mature fibrils are stored are shown to have varying effects on the length of the fibril formed.

depend a lot on how these guys work together.” Bill sees strong value in taking

At Victoria, the project team will use a range of techniques – rheology, cryoscanning electron microscopy and small-

to do this,” says Bill, adding that it

advantage of complementary expertise,

angle X-ray scattering – to study the

wouldn’t be possible any other way.

as well as making use of complementary

resulting networks of macroscopic gels and

facilities and equipment. Trying to

develop models that will allow predictions

the three institutions. In Palmerston

gain a better understanding of what

of the bulk properties to be made from

North, working alongside Bill, is

is happening in the intermediate level

what is known about the individual fibrils.

postdoctoral fellow Sandy Suei, born

between individual molecules and soft

The team is settling into place across

in Taiwan, brought up in New Zealand

materials requires a variety of steps.

Having specialist equipment available every step of the way is vital to the project’s

It starts at Canterbury, where the

success, not just in the lab itself but also

work from Canada. The other

on-site expertise in protein engineering

via generating interest further afield from

postdoctoral fellow is Luigi Sasso, an

will be utilised in attaching micro-sized

researchers and students keen to work

Italian who is travelling from Denmark

beads at either end of fibrils made

with such gear.

to work at Canterbury with Juliet.

from a common protein found in whey,

and recently returned from postdoctoral

“It’s really a very powerful way of

Two research students from Spain and

beta-lactoglubulin. Luigi’s job will be to

bolstering collaborations.” Bill believes that

Greece, the former supported by the

make controlled lengths of these beta-

funding support for equipment and joint

Riddet Institute, fill out the initial group.

lactoglubulin fibrils, stretching them

students provides two very strong reasons

between the beads.

for why the CoRE system has been so

Bill expects further travel to be on the cards for everyone, as the plan is for

The team at Massey will then take

successful in development collaborations

researchers and students to get together

these and use that institution’s Optical

throughout New Zealand research

at the different campuses as the project

Tweezers to measure the mechanical



properties of the fibrils, or, as Bill puts

“I can’t think how else you could

it rather more colourfully, “they stick

fund this without [something like] the

together different skills and different

the handles on them so we can do the

MacDiarmid. Collaborations are really

expertise. The success of the project will

prodding and pulling.”


“I’m excited about the ability to bring


[ postdoctoral ] The MacDiarmid Institute currently supports

Between 2008-10 I left New Zealand for another Post-Doc at

13 Post Doctoral Fellowships, allowing early

the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions at the University

career scientists to focus on developing their

of Edinburgh, developing a high-pressure cell for neutron

research with the support and collaboration

diffraction at ISIS pulsed neutron facility. After I returned to IRL I commissioned a Circular Dichroism spectrometer as

of some of the top researchers in New

part of the Prime Minister’s Science award and an infra-red

Zealand. Three of these Postdoctoral

pulsed laser micro-machining facility for drilling, cutting and


liquid-phase pulsed laser ablation for nanomaterial synthesis. I designed and developed a ceramic anvil pressure cell for SQUID that can load samples up to 6 GPa. In collaboration with Australian Synchrotron Micro-crystallography beam line I performed the first exploratory high-pressure single-crystal diffraction study using a special DAC. My long term ambition is to build a national high-pressure R&D facility at IRL for the benefit of NZ science and industry.

`MICHAEL FRASER University of Otago, Department of Chemistry, Dunedin



Industrial Research Limited, Gracefield, Wellington

PhD thesis “The Synthesis and


Spectroscopic Properties of Some

PhD in Shock wave research 2002 “Some Investigations Under shock

Rhenium(I) and Copper(I) Polypyridyl

pressure” work carried out at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Complexes”, under the supervision of

(BARC), Mumbai, and University of Mumbai, India. Research Advisor:

Prof Keith Gordon and Assoc Prof Allan

Prof S.K. Sikka, Homi Bhabha Chair, BARC.

Blackman at the University of Otago.

My research interest is high-pressure science. High pressure

Part of our research in the “Gordon

research is important for both basic and applied sciences. The

Group” includes the synthesis of metal polypyridyl complexes

increasing use of pressure as a thermodynamic variable in

and the characterization of their excited state properties with

materials research is due to the fact that the volume reduction

spectroscopic and computational techniques. Our interests in

is much more effective than other methods. The material

metal polypyridyls lie in their potential application in molecular

behaviour which can be studied during this compression regime

electronic devices such as dye-sensitized solar cells and light-

ranges from elastic, plastic, structural phase transitions

emitting diodes.

and electron structure changes to the ionization of the inner

My PhD involved the synthesis of polypyridyl ligands and

electronic shell.

complexes with interesting optical and physical properties.

I began my first postdoctoral fellowship with the MacDiarmid

Earlier on in my PhD I made dipyridophenazine (dppz) ligands

Institute in 2004 developing high-pressure capability at

appended with sulfur-containing substituents and their

IRL to study the pressure effects on high-temperature

rhenium tricarbonyl chloride complexes. Despite the fact the

superconductors with Professor Jeff Tallon. I developed a non-

dppz systems have been studied for twenty years, the idea of

magnetic pressure cell that can subject samples to 1.2 GPa

appending a donor group like sulflur had never been done.

to study their magnetic properties at low temperatures using

These complexes showed unique photophysical properties

the SQUID at IRL, diamond anvil cells (DAC) for Raman and

because they have a new type of electronic state in which there

X-ray diffraction for powder and single crystal samples up to 20

is a charge-transfer from each end of the molecule, the metal

GPa., and assisted Prof Geoff Jameson at Massey University to

and the sulfur into an electron accepting ligand core.

acquire a high-pressure cell for the NMR spectrometer which is now operational.


interface issue 21 | January 2013

[ postdoctoral ] `JAMES STOREY Industrial Research Limited, Wellington ( PhD Physics 2007, “Electronic Structure and Thermodynamic Properties of High Temperature Superconductors”. Supervisors: Prof Jeffery Tallon and Dr Grant Williams. The mechanism of superconductivity in high-temperature superconductors (HTS) remains an unresolved challenge in physics. In 2004 I joined the world-wide efforts to solve this problem when I decided to undertake an MSc, which was later extended into a PhD, with Jeff Tallon studying isotope effects in high-Tc cuprate superconductors. Although I didn’t have a great deal of success with the initial isotope effect work, I really began to hit my stride calculating thermodynamic and transport properties from the electronic structure and comparing the results with those found

With the help of PhD student Chris Larsen, I am currently building on these findings. We hope to use the sensitivity of these dppz ligands and complexes to design reporter

through experiments. The research allowed me to combine

molecules for dye-sensitized solar cells. By attaching

physics with programming – one of my hobbies. A particular

these molecules to the surface of TiO2 in a solar cell, we

highlight was explaining the variation of the superconducting

hope to gain an insight into the chemical environment of

transition temperature of different cuprates in terms of the

a working dye-sensitized solar cell. Another advantage of

variation in the electronic density of states combined with a

using these types of rhenium complexes is the carbonyl

universal electron pairing energy from spin fluctuations.

co-ligands, which give a spectroscopic ‘handle’ on the

Last year I returned to NZ after leading efforts at Cambridge

complexes, allowing us to further utilize time-resolved

University in high precision differential specific heat

Raman and infrared spectroscopic techniques, in

measurements for three years. Measuring the difference in

collaboration with Prof Michael George (Nottingham).

specific heat between two closely related samples eliminates

To make these molecules we need to develop some

most of the large phonon background from the raw data,

chemistry and, as part of the program, both Chris and I are

allowing features of the electronic specific heat to be studied

co-supervised by Dr Nigel Lucas (AI) who is an expert in

over the entire temperature range. During my time there I

coupling reactions (among other things). We are currently

performed the first comprehensive study of the electronic

synthesising a range of dppz-based ligands using coupling

specific heat of a recently discovered class of iron-arsenide

chemistry including the Suzuki and Sonogashira methods.

HTS, Ba1-xKxFe2As2, totalling 11 samples and spanning the

By doing this we alter the electron donor-acceptor

entire temperature, doping and magnetic field phase diagram

properties of ligands. Re(I) complexes will be synthesized

– a mammoth task. The results from this research are

with functional groups for attachment to TiO2.

currently being prepared for publication.

Ultimately, device fabrication and characterization will be

Since returning to Wellington I have been studying a

possible through collaboration with Dr Justin Hodgkiss

phenomenological model that does a good job of describing

(Victoria University of Wellington) and Prof Simon Hall

several normal-state properties of high-Tc cuprates at

(Massey University) and overseas collaborator Dr Atilla

low dopings. I have also contributed to the applied HTS

Mozer (University of Wollongong, Australia). It is hoped

programme at IRL by developing a rig to measure the room-

much can be learned about the inner workings of dye-

temperature thermopower of second-generation thin film HTS

sensitized solar cells by using these types of molecules.

wires. Thermopower provides a quick and reliable method of determining the doping state of the superconductor which must be finely tuned in order to maximize performance.


help shape our future. The MacDiarmid Institute has long championed the role of science in discussions regarding New Zealand’s economic direction. This led to the Transit of Venus Forum it initiated and ran in June 2012 and a book, coauthored by Sir Paul and Deputy Director of the Institute, Shaun Hendy, discussing the relationship between science and economics, due to be released in March 2013. For the last eight years, the MacDiarmid Institute and the Royal Society of New Zealand have run a series of science and mathematics classes for invited journalists, publishers, creative writers, producers, and others from the media and creative industries. These have extended beyond physics and chemistry to topics such as potential natural disasters, the science of land use, climate change, and disease. For


the most part, these VIP Science Classes were run by Howard Lukefahr and John Hannah and featured many outstanding

on the human scale One of the Centres of Research Excellence raisons d’êtres is public

didn’t just shake your hand, he held it in

guest contributors. Gillian Turner’s recent book North Pole,

science communication, or outreach, as

both of his, and searched your eyes for

South Pole resulted from her session

it’s called these days. In line with this

understanding and connection.

on the changing magnetic pole, which

emphasis, CoRE policy is managed by the Ministry of Education, rather than

Kate McGrath places equal value on outreach and has a burning

fascinated publisher Mary Varnham. Shaun Hendy has a regular slot on

the Ministry of Science which is now

commitment to science education at

Radio New Zealand National’s Nights

part of the super-Ministry of Business,

all levels. Kate feels a responsibility to

with Bryan Crump and Sir Paul’s three-

Innovation and Employment.

prepare people for the next generation

year series of regular interviews with

Has this new organizational model

of nanotechnology products, something

Radio New Zealand National presenter,

resulted in bigger and better science

which can be achieved through effective

Kim Hill, led to the sell-out book, As Far

communication? I think the answer is a

science communication. More than

as we Know.

resounding yes!

that, she wants everyone to experience

Are Angels OK? was an unusual

the excitement science can bring. Kate

collaboration between physicists and ten

flexibility and funding to experiment

never turns down an opportunity to talk

of our top creative writers, led by Sir Paul

with innovative ways of connecting with,

to people – from small Church groups to

and poet Bill Manhire, resulting in an

and inspiring, people. The late Sir Paul

large broadcast audiences – and she has

anthology, performances in New Zealand

Callaghan placed a very high priority

a gift for clear explanation, without over-

and the UK, and a number of writers

on outreach and recruited brilliant


who are now surprisingly knowledgeable

CoREs have the motivating freedom,

teachers and communicators like Howard

Discussing the latest research in the

about Maxwell’s equations, Heisenberg’s

Lukefahr, Shaun Hendy and others. Their

area of physics and chemistry with

Uncertainty Principle, and general

inspiration came from the MacDiarmid

people outside the discipline can be

relativity - a veritable swing bridge over

Institute’s namesake, Alan MacDiarmid,

challenging, but you don’t have to

the chasm between science and the arts.

an exceptionally warm and approachable

grapple with the equations to appreciate

man, who simply loved talking to people


and making them feel important. He

interface issue 21 | January 2013

the basic principles, or how science can

Recognising the low number of Maori and Pacific Island students enrolling in

university science courses, Sir Paul and former MacDiarmid Institute Manager, Margaret Brown, started the Discovery Awards. Coordinated by Sarah Dadley, the Discovery Awards are presented annually. The intention is to make science less intimidating and more accessible to Year 12 and 13 Maori and PasiďŹ ka science students by involving them in research projects. Dr Ben Ruck and PhD studen Elf Eldridge and others go out and talk to high school students in areas such as Naenae and Wainuiomata. Alan MacDiarmid, who grew up in the Hutt during The Depression, would have been right behind that. The Nanocamps run by the Institute are residential week-long summer schools to give those already interested a taste of real science research in the area of nanotechnology. The biennial international conferences run by the Institute have attracted hundreds of the best scientists in the ďŹ eld from all around the world, including many Nobel Prize-winners, and created opportunities for associated public

public lecture on 13 February, and, on

lectures, school presentations and media

the same day, over 600 senior school


science students will get to see A Very

Roald Hoffmann will be the star

Glenda Lewis was made a companion of RSNZ in 2012 for her outstanding leadership in science, and contributions to

Small Show by The Masters of Small:

keynote at AMN6 in February 2013.

Joanna Aizenberg (Harvard), Dan Nocera

Over 600 Aucklanders will have the

(Harvard), Don Eigler (formerly IBM

chance to hear him speak at an evening

Research), and Kate McGrath.

the promotion and advancement of science and technology in New Zealand

Elf wearing his yellow glasses


Westmount High – learning nanotechnology from the experts On 7th September, the Victoria

biology and chemistry, and I try and focus

can manipulate single atoms”. After a

University arm of the MacDiarmid

on what the students want to talk about.

severe bout of discussion and debate,

Institute played host to 20 high-school

Delving into opsin photosensitivity,

several of the students were able to

science students. While outreach events

protein gating mechanisms, electron

return the correct answer and show that

typically bring hundreds of students

diffraction, wave particle duality, DNA

Feynman’s postulate was indeed correct,

per year to the Institute and its partner

extractions and a sprinkling of emergent

with Prof Zuelicke commenting on how

organizations for a dose of basic physics

behaviour, all inside an hour and a half,

“responsive and engaging” an audience

and chemistry, this one was a little

sounds like a daunting prospect at the

the students made.

different. These students, year 12s

outset, yet the students seem to take it

(that’s 15 and 16 year olds to those still

all in their stride.

confused by the naming system) from

be forgiven for asking whether it is worth the time and associated cost

Westmount High School had chosen to

under the guidance of Prof Zuelicke,

for researchers to interact one-on-one

do an elective on nanotechnology. And

the students looked in more detail

with high-school students, many of

who better to give them a crash course

at the nanoelectronics expected to

whom may not go into science at all?

in nanotechnology than the MacDiarmid

shape tomorrow’s world. Starting

The importance of having a public that

Institute researchers? With support

with the nanoscience ‘basics’, Prof

is aware of, and engaged with, the

from the Kaipara trust, these chemistry

Zuelicke encouraged students to try

research being done in the MacDiarmid

students braved a bumpy flight to visit

and understand some of the quantum

Institute cannot be overstated. These

Victoria University’s School of Chemical

weirdness that MacDiarmid Institute

students will grow up and interact with

and Physical Sciences and meet some of

researchers must deal with in their

the next generation of New Zealanders

the MacDiarmid Institute researchers that

day-to-day activities, interspersed with

and ultimately dictate whether the

it houses.

attention-grabbing questions such as

Institute continues to receive funding

“Could you REALLY shrink a human

or not. To butcher my favourite,

the students by Director Kate McGrath,

to the size of an ant?” (For those

misattributed Feynman-ism, sure,

who described the research performed

interested, I’m afraid the answer is

outreach may give some practical results,

by MacDiarmid Institute investigators

no. It would require red blood cells to

but that’s not why we do it.

and the role of the Institute in a broader

become the size of individual atoms).

NZ context. Once that was complete

Moving onto a more taxing task, Prof

I took them down into the labs for

Zuelicke then asked the students to

bionanotechnology 101. The material

validate Feynman’s claim “that the entire

we talk about is a little hodgepodge,

contents of the Encyclopaedia Britannica

Zealand to aim high and believe they are

I’ll admit. We cover aspects of physics,

could be printed on a pin’s head if we

capable of achieving great things.

The day began with a greeting of


Following their lunch break, and

At the end of all this, one could

interface issue 21 | January 2013

James “Elf” Eldridge is a PhD student funded by the MacDiarmid Institute who has a passion inspiring the youth of New

If you would like to see evidence of the MESA effect, you need look no further than Chiasma WGTN, an organisation that connects students with high-tech companies, and provides them with a greater range of options at the end of their studies. Founders Ben Mallett and myself, Elf Eldrige were both members of the MESA committee since its inception in 2010. We realised, as many students do, that the knowledge required for a career after completing a PhD can be somewhat disconnected from our study. With support from the MacDiarmid Institute as well as Industrial Research Limited and GrowWGTN, we spent the

Career options through


next six months talking to companies and students about this problem and what could be done to solve it. Finally, in March 2012, Chiasma WGTN was launched in front of a crowd of over 200 students and industry representatives in Te Papa’s Icon lounge. At the beginning we had no idea what we were doing, we

As they’re a student-led organisation,

just realised there was a problem that

there is rapid turnover of members. Next

we shared with many other science and

year’s CEO, Jingjing Wang, who played

engineering graduates, and decided we

a key role in Chiasma’s 2012 activities,

wanted to do something about it.

is excited by the potential opportunities

Since then, Chiasma WGTN has

that come with her new role. “2012 is

been making ever-increasing waves

an encouraging start” she says “I have

in the Wellington science community.

big plans for 2013 and can’t wait to

Following the successful model used by

see how many of them we can fulfil!”

Chiasma Auckland, the Wellington team

Chiasma is rounding off the 2012

has hosted three workshops teaching

working year by facilitating several ‘site

students the basic skills of business

visits’ where small groups of students are

introducing them to Wellington’s high-

taken to local companies, shown around

tech industry players and promoting

and encouraged to get to know the staff

science communication. This culminated

and environment. With visits to Kiwistar

in their 2012 careers fair Synapse, held at

Optics and Matakina Technologies

the St. James theatre on the 30th August.

already completed, the team has its

“I really don’t like the phrase ‘careers

sights set on GNS’ Avalon facility and

fair’” says Ben, the 2012 CEO, “we

CatalystIT for early 2013.

think of it much more like dating: you

The team is always hungry for

have two parties with a mutual interest

new ideas, talent and contributors.

– you just need to get them talking!”.

Information on their upcoming

Chiasma’s method is rooted in evidence-

programme, contact details and

based success, with the Chiasma WGTN

everything you want to know about

team helping to place six students in paid

Chiasma Wellington is available on their

employment this year.




MESA is the MacDiarmid Institute Emerging Scientists Association,


Chiasma was founded in Auckland in September 2004, with the support of the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and Business School, The Auckland Bioengineering Institute, and the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology.


The Wellington branch was launched in March 2012 with the support of the MacDiarmid Institute, Industrial Research Limited and GrowWGTN.


A Christchurch branch is expected to be launched in 2013.


For more information or to join Chiasma, visit http://


Contact all branches via


The world’s best physical scientists attracted to New Zealand through the MacDiarmid Institute’s International AMN conference series In February 2013, the 6th International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology (AMN6) will take

programme will cover topics as varied as physical phenomena; biological interface; molecular materials; engineered nanosystems and nanoscale systems. (The full programme can now be viewed on the website

Social and outreach events The AMN conference has always been an excellent

place at the University of Auckland Business School. This series

opportunity for people to network with their peers and form

of biennial events, hosted by the MacDiarmid Institute, has

new collaborations. AMN6’s formal opening will showcase

developed a strong reputation for bringing together leading

Auckland University’s musical talent and the conference dinner

Australasian and international researchers at the forefront of

will be held at the recently opened Viaduct Events Centre

advanced materials and nanotechnology.

overlooking the Waitemata Harbour.

Speakers and programme The high calibre of the conferences is reflected in the quality of keynote and plenary speakers and has included top international scientists such as the Nobel Laureates Sir Harry Kroto, Sir Anthony Leggett, and the Cavendish Professor of Physics, Sir Richard Friend. AMN-6 welcomes Professor Joanna Aizenberg of Harvard University, Professor Krzysztof Matyjazewski of Carnegie Mellon University, Professor Don

In parallel with the scientific programme of these conferences, our keynote speakers will partake in a number of outreach activities involving the wider community, and in 2013 these will include a public talk and schools lecture at the Auckland Museum. There will also be a nanotechnology art exhibition held at the nearby Gus Fisher gallery.

Latest information Registration for the conference is now open on the website

Eigler, the Kavli Prize Laureate for Nanoscience in 2010, and we encourage you to visit the page for

Professor Roald Hoffman, 1981 recipient of the Nobel Prize in

updates on activities between now and February. For presenting

Chemistry and Professor Daniel Nocera from the Massachusetts

authors, full papers will be invited for submission to the

Institute of Technology as keynote speakers.

International Journal of Nanotechnology and instructions are

In addition, the conference will also welcome over 20 plenary and approximately 150 invited speakers and oral presenters. The

available on the call for abstracts page. We hope that you will share in the experience of AMN6 and look forward to seeing you in Auckland in February.


interface issue 21 | January 2013

Interface Issue 21  

A description...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you