Research in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences covers a wide range of exciting topics and is at the forefront of international study.

At the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, we emphasise materials science research as a common thread in the following fields:

  • nanomaterials - quantum dots, wool colourants, carbon nanotubes
  • ceramics and glasses for imaging
  • Raman spectroscopy (SERS)
  • solar cells
  • theoretical and computational physics and chemistry

Other research topics include:

  • synthesis of bioactive natural products
  • carbohydrates as immunotherapy drugs
  • environmental physics, geophysics and palaeomagnetism
  • astrophysics and astronomy

Read more about our research groups.


We have around 80 PhD students and 20 Master's students in the School who help create a vibrant atmosphere for research.

Research funding

Research is funded internally, from external research grants and via a number of postgraduate scholarships. Some scholarships are linked with Crown Research Institutes and in collaboration with industry. The Curtis-Gordon Scholarship fund is available for chemistry PhD, Master's, and Honours students.

Our staff regularly publish and contribute to peer-reviewed journals.


We work with a number of research centres and institutes. The School hosts the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. The Institute is named after our School's most famous graduate, the late Professor Alan MacDiarmid. He was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000 for his work on conducting polymers. The MacDiarmid Institute is New Zealand's only Centre of Research Excellence in the physical sciences.

We have close ties with the University’s Ferrier Research Institute and Paihau—Robinson Research Institute, which offer opportunities for chemistry and physics postgraduate study. Other students are hosted by the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research on our Kelburn campus. We also collaborate on research with Callaghan InnovationGNS Science, and NIWA in the Wellington region. These organisations add breadth and practical experience to the opportunities available for students.

Staff at the School have ongoing collaborative research programmes with many overseas universities and research institutes. For example, we work with scientists at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Imperial College London, the Max-Plank Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, and Boston and Stanford Universities in the United States.

Strong links with a wide range of industries, such as New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, Toshiba, and Magritek facilitate the rapid uptake and development of discoveries from research programmes.