View the range of scholarships available to students in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences.
Master Thesis or Postgraduate student research project
PhD positions available
PhD position available: Intracluster medium of galaxy clusters
A fully funded PhD scholarship is available to work with Dr Yvette Perrott at Victoria University of Wellington on research into the intracluster medium of galaxy clusters. The use of galaxy clusters as precision cosmological probes is currently limited by our poor understanding of how the easily-observable gas component relates to the dark-matter-dominated total mass. This observational and simulation-based project will involve investigating flexible yet robust methods for extracting cluster gas pressure profiles from Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect data using current and next-generation instruments and investigating ways of modelling non-thermal pressure and its connection to synchrotron radio emission.
The ideal candidate will have a strong background in astronomy and/or general physics. Familiarity with radio astronomy, Bayesian statistics, and computational skills will also be an advantage, but not essential. Candidates must meet the entry requirements for the doctoral programme at Victoria University of Wellington (https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/fgr/prospective-phds/qualifications-required).
The successful applicant will receive a tax-free stipend of NZD $27,500 p.a. as well as payment of all university tuition fees and funding to attend international conferences (if possible). The scholarship is to be awarded for a period of 3 years.
To apply, please send a cover letter describing why you believe you are a good fit for this position, a CV (including your academic transcript), and the names of two academic referees to email@example.com.
PhD position available: Ultrafast spectroscopy of photo- and electroactive framework materials
Photo- and electroactive framework materials including metal organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs) are promising catalytic artchitectures in which light and electricity is delivered to catalytic sites distributed throughout a porous frameworks. In this project, we will develop and apply ultrafast optical spectroscopy experiments to explore the limits of exciton and charge transport in these framework materials. Such materials feature well-defined and systematically tuned crystalline structures, with control over coupling between redox and chromophore units. In this project, we will explore structure-function relations by measuring exciton and charge diffusion coefficients using ultrafast optical spectroscopy, adapting methods we have pioneered for thin films, along with a novel time-domain single shot THz spectrometer for optical measurement of charge mobility.
We are seeking a highly motivated person with an excellent academic record and a good understanding of physical chemistry or experimental physics. Experience in optics and spectroscopy research is considered favourably. Applicants should have a chemistry or physics degree equivalent to the 4-year BSc (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or an MSc or postgraduate Diploma. Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a PhD candidate at Victoria University of Wellington.
The scholarship is provided by the MacDiarmid Institute – a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence focusing on materials science for sustainability. As well as benefiting from extensive interdisciplinary collaboration networks in this project, PhD candidates in the MacDiarmid Institute are supported in a range of engagement and career development activities.
The scholarship provides a non-taxed stipend of NZ$30,000 per annum plus PhD tuition fees for three years.
To apply, please send a CV, academic record, and the names and contact details of two referees to: Justin.Hodgkiss@vuw.ac.nz with “PhD framework photophysics” in the subject line.
PhD position available: Nanowire materials for high density networks of memristors
The aim of this project is to study the neuromorphic behaviour of large numbers of interconnected nanowire memristors. Memristors are typically 2 terminal devices bridged with an insulator that can be switched between a low resistance state and a high resistance state by the application of a DC bias or combination of pulsed voltages. For neuromorphic computing applications large numbers of interconnected interfaces are required, and it is important that those interfaces occur frequently and can be accessed randomly throughout the network. ZnO NWs have emerged as a memristive system where both single nanowires and meshes of nanowires have displayed memristive properties.
In this project the successful candidate will fabricate and characterise the ZnO nanowire memristive networks interfaced with multielectrode arrays. To do so ZnO nanowires will be synthesised using hydrothermal growth techniques.
We are seeking a highly motivated person with an excellent academic record and a good understanding of physics or electrical engineering. Previous cleanroom and microfabrication experience is an advantage. Knowledge of electronics and Labview and python coding are also an advantage, but not essential. Applicants should have a physics or electrical engineering degree equivalent to the 4-year BSc (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or an MSc or postgraduate Diploma. Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a PhD candidate at Victoria University of Wellington .
The scholarship provides a non-taxed stipend of NZ$30,000 per annum plus the PhD tuition fee for three years.
To apply, please send a CV, academic record, and the names and contact details of two referees to: Natalie.Plank@vuw.ac.nz with “PhD nanowires” in the subject line.
PhD position available: Activating Substrates for Chemical Synthesis with Reactive Aluminium Reagents
Two fully funded studentships are available to work with Prof Martyn Coles and A/Prof Robin Fulton at Victoria University of Wellington. The projects involve synthetic inorganic chemistry to develop new chemical reagents based on the recently discovered class of aluminyl anions. Emphasis will be placed on exploring the reactivity of these species with small molecules to convert low value chemical feedstocks to useful building blocks for chemical synthesis.
Chemical reagents based on aluminium have traditionally exploited the electron deficiency of this main group metal, which activates substrate molecules by accepting electrons (i.e. Lewis acid). Recent research in our group has isolated a new class of anionic Al(I) compound, referred to as the aluminyl anions [Al(L)]– (where L is a dianionic chelating ligand). In contrast to the previously established mode of reactivity, the aluminium centre in these species has an associated lone-pair of electrons and has demonstrated nucleophilic characteristics (i.e. can activate substrates as a Lewis base).
The project will explore the chemical reactivity of these novel compounds for the activation of small molecules. The aim is to understand how these reagents interact with different functional groups, and how this will enable further chemistry to take place at the substrate. Ultimately we will develop compounds that can be used to elaborate readily available chemical feedstocks (e.g. CO2, CO, alkenes etc.) to generate more complex molecules that can be used in chemical synthesis.
The development of bimetallic systems in which the aluminium centre is bonded to another metal M will form a separate component of this work. The synergistic reactivity of the resulting Al–M bonds will also be tested towards the activation and derivatization of small molecules.
You will work with both Prof Coles and A/Prof Fulton during all aspects of this project. The lab is fully equipped for the synthesis and manipulation of air-sensitive chemicals and reagents, including inert atmosphere gloveboxes and vacuum lines. Analysis of the compounds and reactions will utilize the state-of-the art NMR facility at VUW (including multinuclear NMR, 2-D experiments, variable temperature reaction monitoring) and X-ray diffraction.
The project incorporates an active collaboration with Dr Claire McMullin (University of Bath, UK), who will support the synthetic work with computational analysis of new compounds and reaction pathways.
A good undergraduate degree (4-year BSc with 1st or 2:1 honours), MSc or postgraduate diploma in Chemistry with experience in synthesis. You must be highly motivated and able to work as part of a team. Full training will be given in all aspects of the project.
For further information or to apply please email a cover letter (including a referee that can be contacted for a reference) and CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
 Hicks, J.; Vasko, P.; Goicoechea, J. M.; Aldridge, S., "The Aluminyl Anion: A New Generation of Aluminium Nucleophile", Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2021, 60, 1702-1713.
PhD position available: Wood-derived graphite for Li-ion batteries
A fully funded studentship is available to work with Dr. Kim McKelvey at Victoria University of Wellington and CarbonScape (https://www.carbonscape.com/). The project will use advanced characterisation techniques to quantify the performance of graphite Li-ion anodes synthesised using CarbonScape’s patented thermo-catalytic graphitization process.
Li-ion batteries power almost all modern mobile devices, and battery performance is key to the advancement of these technologies. CarbonScape, a New Zealand-based company, have developed a new synthesis method to form high-quality synthetic graphite from widely available biomass char. Interestingly, the properties of the synthetic graphite can be tailored through optimisation of the synthesis process. However, a detailed understanding of how the synthesis process effects the performance of the synthetic graphite as a Li-ion anode is needed. This project aims to measure the performance of CarbonScape’s synthetic graphite as an Li-ion anode and quantify how the graphite synthesis process influences anode performance.
You will work in a close collaboration with both Dr. Kim McKelvey and CarbonScape. You will be part of a supportive research group in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences (http://www.mckelveylab.com/), as well as the research effort of Blenheim-based CarbonScape. Research will be primarily undertaken at Victoria University of Wellington’s Kelburn campus, with samples synthesised at CarbonScape’s test facility in Blenheim. The School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington offers a vibrant research community with world class research facilities. You will have opportunities to interact with other research groups within Victoria, New Zealand, and internationally. You will have the opportunity to attend and present at national and international conferences.
Good degree (4-year BSc (1st or 2:1 honours), MSc, or postgraduate diploma) in Chemistry, Physics, Nanoscience, or related subject. You must be highly motivated and able to work as part of a team. Full training will be given in all aspects of the project.
For further information or to apply please email a cover letter and CV to email@example.com.
PhD position available: Ultrafast spectroscopy of rapid exciton diffusion in fused ring electron acceptors
The development of organic photovoltaics has long been guided by the idea that excitons – bound electron-hole pairs created by light absorption – can only diffuse over 5-10 nm. Undoubtedly true for thousands of materials, this idea led to the bulk heterojunction morphology to balance light absorption with exciton harvesting. We recently discovered remarkably rapid exciton diffusion in a new class of record-breaking organic semiconductors called fused-ring electron acceptors . By applying unique ultrafast optical spectroscopy measurements to a series of these materials, we will learn how exciton diffusion coefficients relate to molecular structure and spectroscopic properties. Informed by exciton dynamics measurements and crystal structures of these materials, we will build numerical models to predict exciton diffusion lengths from simple input parameters, and thereby accelerate the discovery of materials whose exciton diffusion lengths approach their light absorption lengths.
We are seeking a highly motivated person with an excellent academic record and a good understanding of physical chemistry or experimental physics. Experience in optics and spectroscopy research is considered favourably. Applicants should have a chemistry or physics degree equivalent to the 4-year BSc (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or an MSc or postgraduate Diploma. Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a PhD candidate at Victoria University of Wellington .
The scholarship provides a generous non-taxed stipend of NZ$27,500 per annum plus the PhD tuition fee for three years.
To apply, please send a CV, academic record, and the names and contact details of two referees to: Justin.Hodgkiss@vuw.ac.nz with “PhD exciton” in the subject line.
 Chandrabose et al, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 6922-6929.
PhD scholarship in Next generation optical-based magnetic sensors using magnetochromic composites
History and purpose
A fully funded PhD scholarship in Physics/Engineering is available for research into developing a new class of magnetochromic composites for fibre-optics based magnetic field sensors. The successful candidate will join the world leading Robinson Research Institute  at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
The candidate will undertake materials preparation using solid-state chemistry, thin film fabrication, and ion-implantation, as well as assist in the setting up of a magneto-optical test rig on the Quantum Design physical property measurement system (PPMS). The materials will be characterised and studied by x-ray diffraction, magnetic force microscopy (MFM), SEM, TEM, magnetometer, and physical property measurement system (PPMS). Access to additional resources is available through the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology  where both supervisors are investigators.
This PhD project is part of a newly funded New Zealand Marsden research programme on ‘Next generation magneto-piezochromic composites for optically based intelligent magnetic field sensing’, which involves researchers from Victoria University of Wellington, GNS Science, and the University of Boudreaux. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to contribute to the fundamental understanding of the intrinsic properties that enable the magneto-piezochromic effect (similar to a magnetoelectric effect) plus investigate ways to optimize the stress-strain transfer between the magnetostrictive and piezochromic phases. There is also the opportunity for the candidate to travel abroad to attend international conferences and work with researchers from other parts of New Zealand. We will also consider an MSc project on the same proposed work for a suitable candidate.
Applicants should have a relevant degree equivalent to the 4-year Physics/Engineering (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or an MSc or postgraduate Diploma with high grades. We are seeking a highly motivated person with an excellent academic record, a good understanding of materials science/physics, and able to work well in a team. Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a PhD candidate at Victoria University and applicants should ensure that they can satisfy the English language requirements .
Total value and tenure
The successful applicant will receive a stipend of $27,500 per annum for 3 years, as well as payment of all university tuition fees. For a Masters student that will be $17K scholarship plus fees (New Zealand resident rates) for one year.
How to apply
Please send an email to Prof. Grant Williams (Grant.Williams@vuw.ac.nz) and Dr. Shen Chong (firstname.lastname@example.org) with PhD scholarship in “Next generation optical-based magnetic sensors using magnetochromic composites” in the subject line. Please include the following information,
- A full curriculum vitae, including your university transcripts,
- A statement detailing why you are interested in this project
- The names of at least two people who are prepared to act as referees,
- Evidence of your English language ability,
- Your expected starting date.
Light and chirality at the nanoscale: T-matrix modelling of particles & molecules
Full-time PhD position, funded for 3 years, or MSc project
Chiral materials naturally respond with a slight asymmetry to left or right circularly-polarised light, and the minute difference in spectroscopic signals can be exploited to trace back precious 3D structural information at the nanoscale, such as the relative orientation of molecular groups. Until very recently the weakness of chiroptical effects had restricted their study and application to bulk samples such as highly-concentrated chemical solutions. Artificial chiral nanostructures have now opened remarkable new perspectives at the nanoscale in this emerging branch of nano-optics, enabling greater control over light and its interaction with chiral matter. Crucially, the deliberate spatial arrangement of metallic particles can shape the intrinsic chirality of local electromagnetic fields, introducing a new degree of freedom in the design and engineering of all chiroptical spectroscopy techniques. Such artificial structures are also expected to yield entirely new responses, not present in natural systems. These intriguing predictions are not yet fully understood and better theoretical tools are needed, as well as the exploration of a wide range of possible structures.
Our project is to explore theoretically the interaction of circularly-polarised light with chiral nanostructures, in particular those comprised of strongly resonant metal nanoparticles, with overarching goal to enhance the weak signals hindering structure-sensitive spectroscopies such as circular dichroism, fluorescence and Raman optical activity. Specifically, we will use and extend the superposition T-matrix framework, which provides a rigorous solution of the Maxwell equations for multiple scattering of light by systems of particles. Our implementation is documented at http://nano-optics. ac.nz/terms/, and provides the starting point for this project.
The successful candidate will have a solid background in general physics, particularly in modern optics, electromagnetism, and spectroscopy. The project also requires strong computational and mathematical skills. We are seeking a highly motivated student with a genuine passion for scientific research.
How to apply
For further information please contact: Dr Baptiste Auguié email@example.com
Dodd-Walls Centre (AI), MacDiarmid Institute (AI)