Summer Scholars Scheme

Over the summer the Faculty provides several scholarships to students, offering a unique opportunity for students to gain experience in research—with the added bonus of paid work over the summer trimester.

Students will be selected for these scholarships based on academic merit, expertise in the research area, and recommendations from staff associated with the project.

For general information, terms and conditions and to check your eligibility, see Summer Research Scholarships.


The second round of 2020/21 Summer Research Scholarships will be advertised from 16 September 2020. Applications will close on 30 September.


For further background on the scheme contact Keith Willett in the Science Faculty Office.

Keith Willett profile picture photograph

Keith Willett

Open in Teams

Keith Willett

Open in Teams

Academic Coordinator, Leave, Grants and Scholars
Wellington Faculty of Science

Faculty of Science Summer Research Scholarships

Ferrier Research Institute

Generating recombinant protein vaccine candidates in yeast (External)

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for fast and efficient vaccine development. Our goal is to address this pressing issue combining classic protein biochemistry with chemical conjugation techniques. Yeast expression systems can be used to quickly and reliably produce protein-based vaccine candidates. These can be further modified chemically with the aim of increasing their effectiveness in inducing the desired immune response.

During this project—which will use the new Ferrier Research Institute facilities at Victoria University of Wellington for Chemical and Synthetic Biology at the Kelburn campus—potential protein vaccine targets based on the Covid-19 spike protein will be designed, produced, and prepared for in vivo testing.

Robinson Research Institute

Test measurements of high-temperature superconductor tapes (Internal)

Superconducting wires and tapes are most universally characterised by their critical current, being the physical quantity determining their suitability for many applications. For this characterisation we sometimes need to first modify the dimensions of samples using a laser ablation scriber. In this project you will use be testing a new laser ablation apparatus, optimising operational parameters to scribe samples without damaging the surrounding superconductor. Successful scribing will be determined by optical and electron microscopy and critical current measurements.

A spintronic magnetic field sensor (Internal)

In this spintronics project you will make magnetic tunnel junction thin film stacks and test their use as magnetic field sensors. This work is part of a larger Robinson Research Institute programme to make the sensor for a prototype tool that will detect defects in metal structures like pipelines, helping to keep critical infrastructure operating for longer. The project will suit an Honours-year physics or engineering student who may be interested in high-vacuum thin film growth, producing simple electronic devices, and magnetic materials for spintronics research.

School of Biological Sciences

Visualising immune cell trafficking in the brain (Internal)

This project will investigate the signals that regulate the trafficking of immune cells into the central nervous system. Using immunohistochemistry, the student will identify the type of immune cells that are trafficking during neuroinflammation and the molecular interactions that are involved in this process. Working with other researchers, the student will help to understand how trafficking can be specifically regulated to prevent or resolve neuroinflammation.

School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

Vaccine development: Upping the ante (Internal)

This research project provides the summer scholar with the opportunity to work on the development of vaccine adjuvants. The key focus of the project will be on the synthesis and characterisation of ligands for receptors on the surface of innate immune cells. As such, the scholar will gain experience in synthetic chemistry and also have the opportunity to explore key concepts in immunology.

Synthesis and characterisation of hybrid inorganic-organic chromophores (Internal)

The project will focus on the synthesis and characterisation of commercially relevant hybrid inorganic-organic chromophores for the advancement of luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs), a cutting-edge solar technology.

Ion transport and metabolism in red blood cells (Internal)

Study the link between transmembrane ion transport and metabolic activity in red blood cells under rest and mechanical stress.

Synthesis of glycopeptides (Internal)

Glycoproteins are ubiquitous in nature and there is much incentive to use glycoproteins to modify and understand immune responses. This typically requires the conjugation of carbohydrates ('glyco') to proteins or peptides so as to generate structurally defined constructs (e.g. for vaccines). This summer project will provide a student with interests in postgraduate research with the opportunity to work in the interdisciplinary fields of synthetic chemistry and biology in our state-of-the-art chemical immunology laboratorium.

Recovery and recycle of titanium dioxide from waste paint (Internal)

This research is concerned with the recovery of pigment grade titanium dioxide from waste water-based paint, for possible re-use in paint formulations. Various approaches to separating the titanium dioxide material from the binder resin will be explored together with the characterisation of the titanium dioxide recovered and its suitability for re-use in paint.

Nanofunctionalisation of epoxies for antimicrobial surface coatings (External)

This summer project will involve functionalising epoxy resins and coatings using novel silver nanoparticle technology. These silver nanoparticle composites have been shown to be highly antimicrobial. You will be working in collaboration with Professor Jim Johnston, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, and Inhibit Coatings, a start-up that produces antimicrobial coatings. You will also work alongside Inhibits scientists to optimise the nanofunctionalisation methods and antimicrobial performance.

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

Safety beacons—increasing the usage (External)

What are the behaviours, process, and price changes that over time influenced the increased use of ski helmets and life jackets? Using that information how do we encourage greater use of safety beacons for outdoor recreation?

School of Psychology

Improving behavioural flexibility to treat drug addiction (Internal)

This project aims to restore cognitive control that has been disrupted by repeated exposure to methamphetamine. We will administer selective pharmacotherapeutics targeting the brain dopamine system and determine the effects on reversal learning in control rats and in rats that have been exposed to methamphetamine. Students will learn technical and conceptual skills in the behavioural pharmacology of drug addiction.

The use of mātauranga Māori and rongoa Māori to assist the Department of Conservation in developing an awareness of how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is conceptualised and can be applied in conservation and management (External)

Kauri dieback spores infect the roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree, eventually killing it. The disease can be spread by only a pinhead of soil. The spores contaminate soil, which can be moved around by human activity, animals (especially pigs) and vehicles. Infected trees will eventually show a range of symptoms, such as yellowing foliage, leaf loss, dead branches, and often (but not always) lesions that bleed resin at the base of the trunk. DOC is responsible for many of New Zealand’s most significant kauri forests, including Waipoua Forest, which is home to the iconic Tâne Mahuta, the largest kauri in New Zealand. DOC is part of a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)-led collaboration that is undertaking research to develop a treatment for kauri dieback. Mātauranga Māori or Traditional Ecological Knowledge is a mixture of knowledge, beliefs, and practices operating in an iterative and holistic system that emerges over time, across generations. TEK has been applied in the management of various flora and fauna species for millennia. While many scholars of mātauranga Māori understand TEK as science, some researchers still maintain the philosophical question of whether it is, indeed, “science" as the understanding of what TEK is and in which circumstances and how to use it remain unclear. This uncertainty may lead to inequitable approaches to research with Indigenous communities. Therefore, it is worth exploring how DOC conceptualises mātauranga Māori and question how it may be considered in pursuits of acquiring the best available science for natural resource management. The results will provide DOC some foundation knowledge on how mātauranga Māori could enhance the knowledge base for decision-making about ecosystems, species and their habitats, and provide longitudinal knowledge for climate change projects. This may strengthen relationships with Whanau, Hapu and Iwi over topics of common interest, reduce misunderstandings about Iwi natural resource perspectives, and broaden understandings of ethics of wildlife use. Research using both Māori and Western paradigms could result in mutually agreeable and equitable approaches to conservation.