Doctoral graduate citations

We celebrate the hard work, dedication, and achievements of our May 2022 doctoral graduates. Read their research citations here.

The research citations (abstracts) are ordered alphabetically by the doctoral graduate's first listed name.

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Abdulmalik Saleh Hasanain

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Over the past decade, prostate cancer has been the most common cancer among men around the world but the experiences that Muslim men have with this illness is not well understood. Abdulmalik Hasanain’s study explores the experiences of a group of Jordanian Muslim men with prostate cancer and focuses on the challenges these men face as a result. Abdulmalik’s study shows that this cancer affects not only the men’s bodies and lives, but also their identity as Jordanian Muslim men. The results may influence nursing and health practices, and can be useful for psycho-social studies related to illness and gender identity.

Supervisors: Dr Martin Woods and Professor Annemarie Jutel

Abubakar Siddique

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Biological nervous systems can learn knowledge from simple and small-scale problems and then apply it to resolve more complex and large-scale problems in similar and related domains. However, rudimentary attempts to apply this transfer learning in artificial intelligence (AI) systems have struggled. Abubakar Siddique’s research devises a new lateralised framework, inspired by the principles of cognitive neuroscience, which can be adapted to create lateralised AI systems for a wide range of problem domains. It demonstrates that an AI system that enables lateralisation, and modular learning at different levels of abstraction, can solve complex hierarchical problems that a similar homogeneous system cannot.

Supervisors: Professor Will Browne and Dr Gina Grimshaw

Aleksandra Ilina

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Ultraviolet solar radiation is harmful to skin health. The natural skin pigment eumelanin serves as a shield, effectively dissipating 99.9 percent of the sun’s radiation into heat within a few picoseconds. Exactly how this shield works to protect the skin is not well understood. Aleksandra Ilina’s research explores the main energy dissipation pathway responsible for this natural photoprotection. Aleksandra’s study resolves the inconsistencies between previously published hypotheses and suggests small molecules, such as the eumelanin building block DHICA, are responsible for the rapid energy dissipation of the pigment.

Supervisors: Professor Justin Hodgkiss and Dr Baptiste Auguie

Alessandra Maria Giorgioni

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Literary Translation Studies

Alessandra Giorgioni’s research is an exercise in literary translation as a form of creative writing. It consists of an English translation of Leonardo Guzzo’s collection of short stories Le Radici del Mare (2015) and a critical commentary in the form of a translator’s diary. This study explores the pros and cons of an extensive collaboration with the author, shedding further light on the theory and practice of literary translation as linguistic and cultural collaboration. The translation of Guzzo’s Le Radici del Mare into New Zealand English thus works both as a translation and as a new work for a new readership.

Supervisors: Dr Marco Sonzogni and Associate Professor Sally Hill

Annika Sippel

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Art History

During the 1950s, Archdeacon Smythe gifted more than 1,500 British watercolours to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the National Art Gallery in Wellington. These watercolours were warmly welcomed and praised. However, they soon fell out of favour and remain rarely exhibited and poorly understood. Annika Sippel investigates the rise and fall of the Smythe collection and reveals the circumstances that led to its current low profile. The collection itself, as well as the impact of changing artistic tastes on its status, is analysed in depth to reveal shifting tastes symptomatic of a redefinition of national and cultural identities during the 1950s to 1980s.

Supervisors: Dr Rebecca Rice and Dr Raymond Spiteri

Alvey Jay Little

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Biology

Bartonella quintana is a species of bacteria that causes the disease trench fever. This bacteria is particularly noteworthy for its ability to evade the immune system. Alvey Little’s study explores the function of the B. quintana protein YopJ and its role in immune modulation. Alvey’s study identifies that B. quintana YopJ interferes with a major cellular immune pathway and likely interacts with an understudied protein. His research results suggest B. quintana YopJ suppresses the immune system using a distinctive mechanism.

Supervisor: Dr Joanna MacKichan

Amirhossein Gheitanchi Mashini

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology

Coral reefs are one the most important tropical ecosystems, providing a variety of ecological services. Coral’s success is based upon a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae. However, elevated temperatures disrupt this relationship and lead to coral bleaching. Bleaching events are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. Corals might adapt to warming conditions by adopting a new type of symbiotic alga that is more thermally tolerant than the previous partner. Amir Mashini’s research examines the cellular processes associated with hosting different symbionts and assesses the potential for coral reefs to establish new symbiotic relationships.

Supervisors: Professor Simon Davy and Dr Clint Oakley

Anastasia Marie Sawchak

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Anastasia Sawchak’s research examines the effectiveness of the antecedent prompting procedure in teaching a communication sequence to children with developmental disabilities and severe communication impairment. The communication sequence aims to teach participants to (a) greet their listener, (b) then make a request for a general object, (c) then make a request for a specific object, and (d) thank the listener for providing the requested item. The research is based on two studies, both using iPad-based speech-generating devices, one with a progressive display and the other with a static screen. The results of both studies are positive.

Supervisors: Professor Jeff Sigafoos and Dr Hannah Waddington

Andrea Janet Clark

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management

Collaborations are often required to address ‘wicked’ problems. Despite their promise, most are ineffective. Andrea Clark has developed an innovative approach to understand and improve collaborative working arrangements, drawing on two systems methodologies: the viable system model (VSM) and team syntegrity (TS). Andrea trialled this approach with a multi-organisational collaboration to identify if it supports pluralism and ‘fair dialogue’ in identification of improvements. Andrea’s study shows how the VSM can be used in multi-organisational contexts in a way that supports meaningful engagement. The findings are useful for anyone wanting to use the VSM and/or TS to improve a collaboration’s effectiveness or viability.

Supervisors: Professor John Brocklesby and Associate Professor Arun Elias

Anna Elisabeth Rigg

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Art History

As the cultural and political landscape shifted in the decades leading up to the French Revolution, gender roles underwent an especially prominent process of renegotiation. Anna Rigg’s research examines the role of gender in pre-revolutionary discussions about art, comparing fictionalised representations of women in published art criticism to women’s own commentaries on art in genres from pastoral poetry to anecdotal witticisms. Anna’s research establishes the significance of fictional and anecdotal forms of art criticism, placing the genre in its broader historical context and revealing the extent to which it was built on the voices of real and imagined women.

Supervisors: Dr Raymond Spiteri and David Maskill

Ao Zhang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Hydrogen iron-making is attracting increasing global interest as a route to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the steel industry. Ao Zhang’s research investigates the direct reduction behaviour of New Zealand titanomagnetite ironsand pellets in hydrogen (H2) gas, and the effects of temperature, gas flow rate, and concentration on the reduction rate. It characterises morphological evolution and phase distribution during reduction, and establishes an analytical kinetic model to describe the reduction process. His findings contribute to understanding of the reduction of New Zealand ironsand pellets in H2 gas. This knowledge will be applied to develop a prototype H2-direct reduction shaft reactor for New Zealand titanomagnetite ironsand pellets for industrialisation preparation.

Supervisors: Dr Chris Bumby, Professor Brian Monaghan, and Dr Raymond Longbottom


Baligh Mohammed Ahmed Al-Helali

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

Genetic programming (GP) for symbolic regression discovers mathematical models that best fit a given data set. However, real-world data sets might contain missing values due to various reasons such as ill-designed surveys and damaged sensors. Limited efforts have been made towards addressing the data incompleteness in GP-based symbolic regression. Baligh Al-Helali’s research demonstrates how to improve GP-based symbolic regression on incomplete data by developing new methods for data imputation, feature selection, instance selection, and transfer learning. Baligh’s study shows the proposed methods significantly enhance data quality, which in turn boosts the symbolic regression performance.

Supervisors: Professor Bing Xue, Professor Mengjie Zhang, and Dr Qi Chen

Baptiste Roucau

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

In pluralistic and often polarised democracies, young people have to learn how to navigate disagreement. Baptiste Roucau’s research uses a qualitative study conducted in Canada and New Zealand to explore the potential of philosophical dialogue to cultivate this important skill. Results of the research suggest that when young people inquire into philosophical and political issues together, they can successfully navigate disagreement while experiencing powerful emotions. Baptiste’s research also identifies effective strategies to manage disagreement and emotions during dialogue. These strategies can be taught to young people and the educators who support them.

Supervisors: Dr Andrea Milligan and Dr Sondra Bacharach

Bianca Jane Vowell

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics

Third Culture Kids (TCKs) grow up in superdiverse linguistic environments and their dialects change when they ‘return’ to their ‘home’ country, where they may not have lived before. Bianca Vowell’s study follows TCKs who moved or returned to New Zealand after growing up in Hong Kong or Singapore and shows that their pattern of dialect change differs from that of non-TCKs. Acquisition of New Zealand English (NZE) is facilitated by having NZE-speaking parents or having lived in New Zealand until age three. Furthermore, TCKs who consistently express a sense of belonging to places other than New Zealand acquire notably fewer features of NZE.

Supervisors: Professor Paul Warren and Professor Miriam Meyerhoff

Bobby Lust

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology

Changes in symbiont community composition within coral tissues could allow the coral host to adjust to prevailing environmental conditions. However, these changes are limited by sub-optimal symbiosis performance when hosts are paired with non-preferred (heterologous) symbionts. Bobby Lust’s work explores the potential for cellular integration between host and heterologous symbiont; that is, whether symbiosis function can improve over time, using a combined omics approach (proteomics and metabolomics) and stable isotopic labelling. Bobby’s work shows that the highly symbiont-specific model cnidarian Aiptasia (Exaiptasia pallida) has limited possibilities of improved host-symbiont integration over time. Bobby’s research adds insights to aid in the future survival of coral reefs.

Supervisors: Professor Simon Davy and Dr Clinton Oakley

Brian Joseph Tunui

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Māori Studies

Māori investment organisations are an influential component of the Māori economy, and yet little is known about how they function. Brian Tunui’s study examines three Māori investment organisations and explores their investment philosophy, decision-making, and the influence that tikanga Māori has on their investment decisions. The study uses kaupapa Māori as the overarching research methodology and offers a distinctive view of Māori investment practices through a whakapapa lens. Whakapapa investment philosophy privileges a Māori world view and provides Māori with a way to think about investing that considers their history, relationships, knowledge, and tikanga, which the study suggests will enhance their ability to provide for their people.

Supervisors: Dr Mike Ross and Associate Professor Maria Bargh

Bryony Anne Cornforth-Camden

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology

Bryony Cornforth-Camden’s study investigates the way the problem of human trafficking is narrated in New Zealand and international policy settings. This research analyses how human trafficking is defined, what discourses are drawn on, and how international narratives influence local responses. It aims to identify less problematic ways of conceptualising human trafficking and responding to migrant exploitation. The findings from this research provide insights for moving forward by proposing an alternative narrative that avoids the issues of western exceptionalism, narrow forms of victimhood, and a focus on sex trafficking, while providing a different method for conceptualising migration, exploitation, and harm.

Supervisors: Professor Simon Mackenzie and Dr Lynzi Armstrong


Christina Jane Baggott

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Research

Asthma affects more than 10 percent of New Zealanders, but poor adherence to preventer inhalers leads to a significant burden of symptoms and asthma exacerbations. Christina Baggott’s study investigates a new way of managing mild asthma using a combined preventer and reliever inhaler to be taken just as needed with no requirement for regular medication. Christina found that patients on the new treatment regimen had a lower rate of asthma exacerbations and were exposed to less inhaled steroid, compared to standard asthma management with a regular steroid preventer inhaler. Patients also preferred the new way of treating asthma over standard asthma regimens.

Supervisors: Dr James Fingleton, Professor Richard Beasley, and Professor Anne La Flamme

Christina Judy Egan Marnell

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Education

Christina Egan Marnell’s study explores how educational leadership is practised through internal evaluation processes in New Zealand early childhood education services and how these practices can support the professional capabilities and capacities of teachers. Christina’s research shows there is a complexity in how teachers identify with leadership, because they are often unaware of their own leadership practices and view leadership as being attached to formal positions. This study shows that when teachers have the opportunity to reconceptualise their understanding of leadership, they can be empowered to self-identify as leaders and develop leadership capacity.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Kate Thornton

Cintya Elizabeth del Rio Hernandez

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Cell and Molecular Bioscience

Statins are one of the most prescribed drugs in the world. Beyond their main cholesterol-lowering purpose, statins exert anticancer activity. However, statins have also shown prodiabetic action. This is a major concern because more than 200 million people take statins worldwide. Cintya del Rio Hernandez’s study elucidates the genetic mechanisms by which statins act on cancer and diabetes. Cintya’s results comprise a new integration of methods for characterising the genetic regulation underlying the anticancer and prodiabetic activity of atorvastatin in yeast and identify new combination therapies and molecular mechanisms to further investigate in human cells.

Supervisors: Dr Andrew Munkacsi and Professor Paul Atkinson


Déanna Fleur Shea

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

The early stages of lung cancer are difficult to detect, and late detection is associated with high levels of mortality. Déanna Shea’s study addresses a significant cancer diagnostics problem, using breath exosomes as a new source of biomarkers that can be detected at the earliest stages of cancer onset. Déanna’s research develops a model system proposing a FRET-based detection method that can reliably distinguish between breath exosomes from the cancer and healthy models. Déanna’s study benchmarks the breath proteome from a healthy population to allow future comparison to exosomes obtained from a population with lung dysfunction, including lung cancer.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Paul Teesdale-Spittle and Dr Nathaniel Davis

Diane Margaret Mackle

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Health

Knowledge translation of research findings into clinical practice is often delayed, but whether this delay occurs in intensive care units (ICU) is unknown. Diane Mackle’s research explores whether ICU-level participation in a trial about oxygen use increases the chance of knowing and using the trial results in clinical practice, and whether responses differ between doctors and nurses. Diane’s study shows a change in attitudes to oxygen management following ICU participation in a clinical trial, but changes in practice are inconsistent. Nurses are less likely than doctors to have read the clinical trial publication. Diane’s research shows how better to disseminate research findings in ICUs to increase knowledge translation.

Supervisors: Professor Richard Beasley, Dr Katherine Nelson, and Professor Paul Young

Doan Lan Vy

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics

Current writing practices focusing on form and error-free written products exert great pressure on English language learners in the Asian context. Research has been done on the writing process and pre-writing strategies, but much remains under-investigated. Vy Doan’s study compares the effects of outlining and mind mapping on Vietnamese undergraduates’ English writing enjoyment, self-belief, and performance. It also explores students’ actual use of these strategies under high-stakes conditions. Vy’s study shows that both mind mapping and outlining improve students’ performance, yet students who use outlining report more positive attitudes. The research suggests more time and effort should be given to training students with metacognitive strategies that require higher order skills and excessive cognitive demand.

Supervisors: Dr Rachael Ruegg and Associate Professor Jean Parkinson


Edward Kwaku Johnson

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management

Ghana’s gold mining sector is hugely important for the country but has failed to realise potential benefits for its many stakeholders, including government, industry, and communities. Previous studies have attempted to address this issue but involved limited scope and single frame analysis, and failed to capture multiple stakeholders’ interests. Edward Johnson’s study uses multi-framing and complementary-systems modelling approaches to capture multiple aspects and stakeholders’ interests. This multi-framing platform provides a much fuller understanding of what is holding back the industry and where, and how, it may be improved. It also contributes to better management and sound decision-making about the industry.

Supervisors: Emeritus Professor Vicky Mabin, Emeritus Professor John Davies, and Dr Geoff Plimmer

Elisabeth Miriam Alison Poppelwell

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the Pacific are important providers of public services, and need good governance to support effective and efficient delivery. Elisabeth Poppelwell’s study examines how SOEs in Sāmoa and Tonga approach governance when concepts of good corporate governance are changing. Elisabeth finds that governance principles are dynamic and responsive. SOE governors in Tonga and Sāmoa are actively adapting and innovating, and applying local cultural values and principles. There are important signs of ambiculturalism and a reshaping of the good-governance narrative with a Pacific flavour, and there are lessons that can be shared elsewhere.

Supervisor: Professor John Overton

Elizabeth Alice Webb

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Research

Fluoride is considered beneficial to oral health, but prolonged exposure to high concentrations causes irreversible defects to teeth and bone. Elizabeth Webb researches naturally occurring fluoride from active volcanoes in Vanuatu and its association, both positive (in preventing dental caries) and negative (in causing dental fluorosis), with children’s dental health in downwind communities. Elizabeth’s work suggests that international standards for drinking-water fluoride may be too high for Vanuatu, and also finds high levels of untreated pain in the children studied. Elizabeth’s work highlights the need for substantial investment in preventive dental care in Vanuatu.

Supervisors: Professor Elaine Dennison, Peggy Fairbairn Dunlop, and Associate Professor Carol Stewart

Elizabeth Grace Olsen

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

Logicians disagree about how validity—the very heart of logic—should be understood. Many different formal systems have been born due to this disagreement. Elizabeth Olsen’s research examines how teachers explain the subject matter of logic to students in introductory logic textbooks, and demonstrates the different explanations teachers use. Her research shows these differences help explain why logicians have different intuitions about validity. Elizabeth’s study argues that the correct approach is to recognise the legitimacy of each of the various explanations, but understand and show how each explanation affects how validity is interpreted.

Supervisor: Professor Edwin Mares

Emanuela Gabor

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Law

Emma Gabor’s thesis investigates why it was difficult to resolve insurance claims for multi-unit buildings during the Canterbury and Kaikōura earthquakes. Emma finds that, aside from insurance issues that affected all claims, there are special problems with multi-unit buildings, and the way they are built gives rise to repair and decision dependencies. Sometimes units cannot be repaired individually because they share construction elements and owners need to make common decisions on how the property is reinstated. This is difficult if there is no governance structure such as a body corporate. She identifies that some titles emphasise owner autonomy over community interests.

Supervisors: Professor Graeme Austin and Dr Bevan Marten

Ethan Francis Woolly

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

The natural product peloruside A, first isolated from the sea sponge Mycale hentscheli, is highly active against various cancerous cells and could be used as a new anticancer agent. However, development as a drug has been hindered due to a lack of viable sources of this compound. Large-scale isolation attempts from the sponge have been unsuccessful, while total synthesis has not delivered sufficient material for drug applications. Ethan Woolly researches an alternative synthesis to retain the active pharmacophores of the original compound and finds fragments that may be of use in future attempts, along with a deep investigation into the mechanism of several unexpected reaction outcomes.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Paul Teesdale-Spittle and Associate Professor Joanne Harvey

Eyuphan Ozdemir

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

How can a completely physical object feel pain, see colours, or appreciate the taste of beer? These and similar questions led many scientists and philosophers to think that subjective experiences form a special kind of consciousness, namely ‘phenomenal consciousness’, that cannot be fully explained in physical terms. Eyuphan Ozdemir’s research claims these theses mainly rely on certain intuitions and investigates how common these intuitions are in laypeople by analysing the results of existing studies and his new experiments. Eyuphan concludes lay intuitions on subjective experiences notably differ from those of most philosophers, which makes their theses less convincing.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Justin Sytsma and Dr Eugen Fischer


Fahim Afarinasadi

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Literary Translation Studies

The primary method for communicating ideas from a source language to a target language is translation. However, the complexities of a website as a means of multimodal communication generate difficulties in making concepts culturally acceptable for the target audience. Fahim Afarinasadi’s study investigates the theory and practice of football club website localisation, particularly in the context of Iran. Fahim’s research combines quantitative and qualitative data to analyse and assess translation and intercultural communication strategies adopted by football clubs to produce multilingual website content. Fahim also proposes a set of theoretical and practical guidelines to help website localisers, translation scholars, and marketing analysts better understand the importance of translation quality and cross-cultural competence.

Supervisors: Dr Marco Sonzogni and Dr Richard Millington

Fangfang Zhang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

Job shop scheduling is an important combinatorial optimisation problem that captures practical and challenging issues in real-world scheduling tasks such as order picking in warehouses. Fangfang Zhang’s research uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning techniques, especially evolutionary computation and genetic programming, to learn effective scheduling heuristics for job shop scheduling. Fangfang’s study investigates how to reduce the training time and search space of AI and machine-learning algorithms, how to improve the interpretability of AI, and how to solve multiple scheduling tasks simultaneously. This research contributes to efficient AI, interpretable AI, and multitask learning.

Supervisors: Dr Yi Mei and Professor Mengjie Zhang

Farnaz Pourzand

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

Droughts are natural disasters affecting different parts of the world, including New Zealand. Farnaz Pourzand’s research demonstrates how drought events and changes in climatic conditions impact the agriculture sector in New Zealand. Farnaz’s study explores the effects of droughts on farms’ financial performance. Her study shows that the impact of droughts on dairy farms is most likely mitigated by drought-induced higher milk prices. Farnaz’s work also examines how climate differences affect farmland values across New Zealand. Her results show New Zealand farmland with a warmer or drier climate tends to be more valuable.

Supervisors: Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Yigit Saglam

Fatemeh Irajzad

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Following the immigration policy reforms of 1986, New Zealand’s educational settings have been growing in cultural and linguistic diversity. With this has come the need to understand the experiences of diverse children attending early childhood education and care services. Through a mixed-methods research design, Mehri Irajzad’s research focuses on the experiences of Middle Eastern children and their parents in New Zealand early childhood centres. Her analysis uses descriptive statistics and thematic analysis, drawing on constructs from hybridity theory, critical multiculturalism, and funds of knowledge.

Supervisors: Professor Carmen Dalli and Associate Professor Mere Skerrett

Fiona Louise Dempsey

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Psychology

The concept of control is central to our current understanding of intimate partner violence (IPV). However, there is inconsistency in how control is defined and measured. Fiona Dempsey’s research examines accepted ideas about control and IPV that inform our current understanding and, in doing so, investigates the best way to define and measure control. Four of her studies contradict the common beliefs that control is associated with specific types of behaviour, an increased frequency of IPV, and with IPV perpetrated by men. The findings of Fiona’s thesis challenge the existing understanding of IPV and have implications for theory, policy, and treatment.

Supervisors: Professor Louise Dixon and Dr Matt Hammond

Florence Emily Isaacs

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Geography

Antarctica’s sea ice cover is an important part of the global climate system, however the processes that determine its distribution are not well understood, particularly around East Antarctica. Florence Isaacs’s research bridges this knowledge gap by exploring the relationships between climate variability and sea ice around East Antarctica. Florence’s study finds that recent changes in East Antarctic sea ice were affected by large-scale climate patterns and tropical teleconnections such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Florence’s research also shows that sea ice distribution changes can affect snowfall over continental East Antarctica, with implications for the mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Supervisors: Professor James Renwick, Dr Ruzica Dadic, and Professor Andrew Mackintosh

Fraser Ross Hughson

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

As the global transition to renewable energy picks up speed, the question of what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine is yet to be fully solved. Current energy storage technologies that can bridge these gaps such as lithium ion batteries and supercapacitors are filled with toxic and flammable chemicals that cause catastrophic damage when things go wrong. Fraser Hughson’s research focuses on clean, green, and cheap replacements for these chemicals to enable safe and affordable energy storage solutions, including the formation of a start-up company, Allegro Energy, of which Fraser is currently the chief technology officer.

Supervisors: Professor Jim Johnston and Professor Thomas Nann


Ganlong Wang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Speech intelligibility needs to be evaluated in the development of speech enhancement algorithms. Although subjective listening tests provide reliable intelligibility evaluation, they are time-consuming and costly. Ganlong Wang’s research studies an objective intelligibility metric based on information theory. Ganlong’s research demonstrates that the underlying message of speech has a discrete-valued distribution, instead of a continuous-valued distribution. Based on this finding, Ganlong’s thesis develops an intelligibility predictor that outperforms the previous mutual information-based intelligibility predictor. Ganlong’s research also extends the developed predictor, such that it can be used as an assistive tool for hearing-aid fitting.

Supervisor: Professor Bastiaan Kleijn

Germán Molina Larrain

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Building Science

Due to its subjective nature, the proper consideration of comfort in architectural design proves challenging. By prioritising usability, models of comfort (for example, acoustic, visual, and thermal) tend to oversimplify this concept, placing an excessive emphasis on physiology and objectively quantifiable environmental factors. Yet this is where the contradiction lies because, although comfort is considered a subjective state, most of the complexity of ‘the subject’ is avoided. Likewise, even if comfort is supposed to reside in the mind, the cognitive processes that characterise the mind are disregarded. Germán Molina’s research produces a model that acknowledges the subjectivity of comfort, which can be used in architectural design.

Supervisors: Dr Michael Donn, Dr Micael-Lee Johnstone, and Dr Casimir MacGregor

Greta Anne Gordon

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Government

Long-term unemployment demands innovative and agile policy responses, including those that involve collaboration. Greta Gordon’s research investigates collaborative governance, drawing on the Community Employment Group and Mayors Taskforce for Jobs to identify leadership styles and behaviours, participatory processes, and accountability mechanisms that enable ongoing collaboration to address long-term unemployment. Greta’s study found that leaders write their own rulebooks, and accountability and participatory mechanisms are inextricably intertwined with the personality, skills, and preferences of the leaders. Tenacious and visionary leadership, formal and informal accountability mechanisms, and frequent, genuine, and open communication between partners are the keys to success.

Supervisors: Dr Chris Eichbaum and Professor Michael Macaulay

Gustav Matthias Kessel

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Science

New Zealand is a hotspot of soft coral diversity, but less than half our species have been formally described and named. Gustav Kessel uses a combination of morphological and genetic data to describe two new genera and 10 new species of endemic soft corals, which are among the first marine invertebrates named in collaboration with iwi. Soft coral identification usually requires specialist microscopy, but Gustav develops a macroscopic identification method, allowing non-specialists to accurately identify and study these species for the first time. Gustav’s research is a significant contribution to our understanding of New Zealand’s marine biodiversity.

Supervisors: Professor Jonathan Gardner, Dr Phillip Alderslade, Dr Jaret Bilewitch, and Dr Kareen Schnabel


Hannah Grace Gibson

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Cultural Anthropology

Hannah Gibson’s research is the first detailed ethnographic account of surrogacy in Aotearoa New Zealand, examining how intended parents and surrogates innovatively navigate their reproductive journeys together. Legislation, ever-evolving technological advancement, and privatised fertility medicine create inequitable access to assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and surrogacy in Aotearoa New Zealand. In this context, surrogacy exists outside, or in the shadows of, heteronormative reproduction and mainstream Euro-American kinship. As a result, those creating families via surrogacy must go through various unknown processes. Hannah’s thesis shows how these surrogacy practices disrupt the monopoly of ARTs and pervasive ideas about kinship and motherhood ideologies.

Supervisors: Dr Catherine Trundle and Dr Nayantara Sheoran Appleton

Hannah May Hawkins Elder

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Eating disorders are an increasingly serious global health problem that lead to substantial psychological suffering and economic cost. Despite considerable research aimed at understanding and treating these conditions, interventions for disordered eating continue to have poor effectiveness. One possible reason for this is that the explanations underpinning these interventions are conceptually inadequate. Hannah Hawkins Elder’s research evaluates these explanations and identifies three meta-theoretical problems common to each of them. Hannah’s research proposes workable solutions for these problems that are likely to result in more valid, comprehensive, and fruitful explanations for disordered eating that provide better foundations for treatment and research.

Supervisor: Professor Tony Ward

Herath Mudiyanselage Manusha Pasan Sanjaya Herath

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics

The Hikurangi subduction margin is where the Pacific Plate dives beneath the Australian Plate and is a unique tectonic plate boundary on Earth. Pasan Herath’s research investigates the seismic wave velocity structure of the Hikurangi subduction margin from the surface down to the base of the Pacific Plate using active-source seismic data. Pasan’s findings provide new insights into subduction-related hydration of the Hikurangi oceanic plateau in the subducting Pacific Plate, the fine-scale structure of the base of the Pacific Plate, and relationships between material properties and subduction–thrust slip behaviour along the Hikurangi margin.

Supervisors: Professor Tim Stern, Professor Martha Savage, and Dr Dan Bassett

Holly Ruth Walker

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing

Finding out a family member has committed a serious offence is a shocking and distressing event that can disrupt someone’s self-narrative and must be somehow assimilated. Holly Walker’s thesis presents a collection of essays about this experience. A hybrid critical/creative work, it focuses particularly on Australian writer Helen Garner and on international scholarship about the experiences of prisoners’ families. Holly’s thesis contributes a literary work from a perspective not often encountered, and explores the ethics of life writing, the interface between motherhood and creativity, the management of overlapping identities, and the possibilities and limits of the essay form.

Supervisors: Professor Damien Wilkins and Dr Kate Duignan


Inbal Megiddo

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance

Inbal Megiddo’s research examines the teaching methods of Aldo Parisot, famed cello teacher and performer. Parisot has six decades of teaching experience at major institutions such as Yale University and Juilliard, and his students have seen significant success around the globe and across musical genres. Inbal’s study represents the first investigation into Parisot’s teaching. Through observation and analysis, and interviews with Parisot and former students, Inbal explores what is happening in his lessons, what is contributing to the artistic development of students, and whether his approach is distinctive. This research provides an important addition to the discussion on effective teaching and the field of cello pedagogy.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Martin Riseley and Dr Inge van Rij

Isaac Amankwaa

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

In 2008, Ghana adopted the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS’s opt-out HIV testing policy, leading to routine testing of women attending antenatal clinics. While studies have established the intervention’s outcome, nothing is known about the delivery process. Isaac Amankwaa’s study uses process evaluation and mixed methods to demonstrate that many healthcare providers do not adhere to HIV testing’s core human rights principles. Isaac’s study also shows that the complexity of the intervention, lack of facilitation, local beliefs, and unsuitable antenatal clinic environments affect the delivery process. Isaac’s research proposes a human rights framework to guide rights-based HIV testing in antenatal clinics in Ghana.

Supervisors: Dr Joan Skinner and Associate Professor Robyn Maude

Isabella Wagner

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

Metal halide perovskites have shown remarkable performances in both solar cells and light-emitting applications, but little is known about their photophysical properties. Isabella Wagner’s research explores the link between photoexcitation dynamics in perovskite semiconductors on an ultrafast timescale and the performance of various optoelectronic applications. Isabella’s thesis spans areas from transport properties in environmentally friendly perovskite compositions for solar harvesting, to the interplay of exciton dynamics in perovskite nanostructures for light emission and amplification. It also explores fundamental insights into photoluminescence up-conversion, which lays the foundation for optical cooling. Isabella’s vital new perceptions set guidelines for efficient device operation and material design.

Supervisors: Dr Kai Chen and Professor Justin Hodgkiss


Jacob Efrain Pastor-Paz

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

The effects of climate change are likely to cause higher property damages and thus an additional liability for the public insurer of New Zealand—the Earthquake Commission. Jacob Pastor-Paz investigates the effect of extreme precipitation and climate change on residential property damage associated with landslides, storms, and floods. Jacob’s research links extreme precipitation data to geo-referenced insurance claim-level data and other geospatial data sets to produce spatially detailed estimates of the current and future risk associated with extreme precipitation and climatic change. Jacob’s research shows that climate change will increase future liabilities and that historical losses are significantly driven by exposure.

Supervisors: Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Isabelle Sin

James Tane Sullivan

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture

How do you determine how brightly lit a room will be? You might expect that simply measuring the light level would tell you this, but this is not necessarily true. James Sullivan’s research examines the effects of even and uneven light distributions on how bright rooms appear and finds that the effects can be substantial, equivalent to doubling the light level. James’s findings challenge previous work by showing that making the light distribution more uneven can make a room appear either brighter or darker depending on whether or not it is done by manipulating light sources or how the light bounces off surfaces.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Michael Donn and Dr Christopher Cuttle

Jane Bernadine Verkerk

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Design Studies

Cloud computing provides ready access to data through a one-click connection to centralised data storage. For the user, the server infrastructure is reduced to a browser icon of a benign, poetic cloud, but users have concerns regarding privacy and data surveillance and don’t understand the technology. Jayn Verkerk’s research investigates the imbalance between users’ imaginary perceptions of the cloud, the physical reality of the industry, and the metaphor it uses to advertise itself. Inspired by users’ narratives, Jayn created artworks that function as models of the cloud, providing a record of the human experience of the invisible digital cloud.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Sydney Shep and Anne Niemetz

Jasmine Chara Wycoff Lovell-Smith

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Composition

Many contemporary composers write music that draws from multiple musical traditions, making it difficult to classify within a single genre. Combining interviews, musical analysis, and creative compositional work, Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s research asks how the work of composers Nicole Mitchell, Tyshawn Sorey, and Wayne Horvitz relates to jazz and Western classical traditions, and why these composers wish to avoid genre categorisation. Jasmine explores these issues from another angle in her creative work—which also combines aspects of the jazz and Western classical traditions—through her reflections on the differences between these musical worlds.

Supervisors: Dr Dave Wilson and Emeritus Professor John Psathas

Johannes Alfons Karl

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Mindfulness—the tendency to attend, non-evaluatively, to present-moment experiences—has a wide range of positive outcomes. While previous research on mindfulness as a trait has strongly focused on its outcomes, little is known about potential sources. Johannes Karl’s thesis explores potential predictors of this trait, incorporating cross-temporal and cross-cultural data. Results across studies highlight the reciprocal relationships of trait mindfulness and an individual’s personality, while drawing attention to potential differences in the concept across cultures.

Supervisors: Professor Ronald Fischer and Professor Paul Jose

José Jaime Villalobos Ruiz

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Law

Every legal instrument has a story that unveils its purpose. José Villalobos Ruiz’s thesis explores the history of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights to rediscover its intention and relevance. After studying hundreds of documents, events, biographies, international body decisions, and economic trends, José identifies an intimate connection between the covenant and the mid–twentieth-century moment he refers to as the ‘second countermovement’ against economic liberalism. Although society has changed significantly since the covenant was signed, José shows its goal of fighting back against the detrimental effects of the market economy is still valid today.

Supervisors: Professor Claudia Geiringer and Dr Guy Sinclair

Juan Pablo Yepez Placencia

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Mechatronic chordophones, also known as guitar robots, are instruments that integrate strings, mechanical components, and electronics to make music. These instruments can achieve speeds and precision beyond the capabilities of a human performer. However, existing chordophone designs have struggled to perform dynamic variations and expressive techniques, and their operation usually displays extraneous noise that interferes with their musical performances. JP Yepez’s research involves the creation of two guitar robots— Protochord and Azure Talos—that overcome these challenges through new expressive subsystems and noise minimisation approaches, and develops strategies to evaluate the musical capabilities of these instruments.

Supervisors: Professor Dale Carnegie and Dr Jim Murphy

Juliet Vicary Kennedy

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics

The importance of heritage language maintenance and its connection to community wellbeing is increasingly understood. However, opportunities to learn heritage languages are scarce in mainstream education. In Aotearoa, despite educational policies supporting linguistic and cultural identity in schools, access to learning Gagana Tokelau or lea faka-Tonga—languages with significant connections to New Zealand—within secondary education is limited or unavailable. Juliet Kennedy’s research analyses how understanding language, culture, and identity connect to wellbeing in Tokelauan and Tongan community and school settings. Juliet’s thesis explores how communities, schools, and other stakeholders can collaborate to develop a systemic approach to support Pacific language maintenance and community wellbeing.

Supervisors: Dr Corinne Seals and David Crabbe


Kamran Mukhtar

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Space weather poses a threat to both space and ground-based technologies. Kamran Mukhtar’s study explores one aspect of this—geomagnetically induced currents produced in New Zealand’s power network. The existence of unique data sets in New Zealand means a good framework for a more realistic approach of modelling these unwanted currents can be followed, utilising measurements of the electrical conductivity structure of both the North and South Islands. This technique, based on magnetotelluric measurements, has shown promising results in comparison with other methods, as has been demonstrated for the St. Patrick’s Day storm of 2015 and a solar storm in November 2003.

Supervisors: Dr Malcolm Ingham and Dr Wiebke Heise

Kanchan Mala Sharma

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Health and Wellbeing

Health systems around the world are seeking to deliver care that is patient-centred. This transformation requires large-scale changes involving multiple agencies and communities. However, implementing large-scale changes in health systems is challenging. Kanchan Sharma’s research investigates 10 elements that underpin successful implementation of large-scale changes in the New Zealand health system. Kanchan’s study emphasises that successful implementation of these changes requires a high-trust environment in which power is shared among leaders, health professionals, and communities. Kanchan concludes that a culture of continuous improvement, and the use of collaborative networks to bring organisations and communities together, is essential to achieve a shared vision.

Supervisors: Professor Jackie Cumming and Dr Lesley Middleton

Karen Margaret Oldfield

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Research

Cannabis and its use as a medicine is of significant interest to New Zealanders. Karen Oldfield’s research focuses on understanding how cannabis as a medicine is regulated globally, both from a legal/quality standard and a clinical efficacy perspective. Karen studies New Zealand health care professionals and their patients’ perceptions of the use of cannabis as a medicine, specifically focusing on their knowledge and expectations. Karen’s research examines five dominant themes that emerge from the cannabis literature: normalisation, gatekeeping, community, health, and economics. This research is being used to inform future research projects in the use of cannabis as medicine.

Supervisors: Dr Irene Braithwaite and Professor Richard Beasley

Kathryn Mary Oxborrow

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems

There is a strong emphasis on engagement with mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) in the library and information profession in Aotearoa due to its particular focus on information and knowledge. Kathryn Oxborrow’s research investigates non-Māori librarians’ learning and engagement with mātauranga Māori through their own eyes and those of their Māori colleagues. Kathryn’s research highlights the marginalisation of Māori knowledge in wider New Zealand society, and how this allows non-Māori librarians to avoid engagement, to the detriment of their Māori colleagues. Kathryn’s study also shows the centrality of te reo Māori in the process of engaging with mātauranga Māori.

Supervisors: Professor Anne Goulding and Associate Professor Spencer Lilley

Kealagh Robinson

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

One in four young people engage in self-injury, not to end their life, but rather to cope with overwhelming emotions. Kealagh Robinson’s research uses experimental affective science and individual differences methods to begin to isolate the precise alterations in emotional functioning that underpin self-injury. Kealagh’s research shows that, despite consistently reporting poorer emotional functioning in general, people who self-injure show largely typical responses to real-time emotional challenges. Her findings highlight both the complexity of the relationship between emotion and self-injury, and the need to distinguish the underlying causes of poorer global emotional functioning among people who self-injure, to better tailor therapeutic interventions.

Supervisors: Professor Marc Wilson and Dr Gina Grimshaw

Khandoker Akib Mohammad

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Statistics

In survival analysis, profile likelihood technique is a familiar methodology in the presence of an infinite-dimensional parameter. For decades, survival models using the profile likelihood technique have received much attention for analysing cancer and AIDS data. However, due to the complexity in existing statistical models, no closed-form formula is available to obtain the variance estimator directly. Akib Mohammad’s research develops a new statistical method to obtain the closed-form of the variance estimator. Real data examples and simulation studies suggest that Akib’s method is more computationally efficient and performs better in estimating variance compared with existing statistical methods and packages.

Supervisors: Dr Yuichi Hirose, Dr Budhi Surya, and Dr Yuan Yao


Lesley Metibogun

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture

While a high proportion of glazing in ‘green’ public library buildings may be beneficial for visual comfort, it also raises concerns about the indoor thermal performance and occupant satisfaction during long periods of mild outside temperatures. Lesley Metibogun’s research investigates the effects of thermal envelope and occupant interactions on indoor thermal conditions of ‘green’ public library buildings. Lesley’s research analyses the effects of radiant temperature on occupant thermal sensation, moisture content in the air, and key concerns on the duration and severity of the risk of overheating to enhance indoor thermal conditions. Lesley’s research contributes new socio-technical knowledge to the process of overheating risk assessment.

Supervisors: Professor Regan Potangaroa and Dr Nigel Isaacs

Linda Christine Maria Wilkin-Krug

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

One of the leading causes of autism is maternal infection during pregnancy. As environmental enrichment is a promising direction to prevent empathy-related deficits in autism, Linda Wilkin-Krug’s study explores how an enriched environment across the lifespan affects social behaviours in a preclinical immune model of autism. It examines the effects of multisensory stimulation on social communication, as well as basic and complex social behaviours such as prosociality. Linda Wilkin-Krug’s study aims to further the understanding of how environmental adjustments can be beneficial for patients with autism spectrum disorders.

Supervisors: Professor Bart Ellenbroek and Dr Anne Macaskill

Lindsay Robert Morris

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Statistics

Data observed at specific locations across space are called point referenced data. A common assumption made when modelling point referenced data is that the correlation between observations depends only on the distance between their locations. This assumption is not always appropriate. Lindsay Morris’s research proposes three new methodologies to account for this assumption in a flexible way: partitioning the locations into subregions using a clustering algorithm; modelling the correlation between point referenced data using networks; and using geographic random forests. Lindsay’s research also develops a test to assess the goodness-of-fit of geostatistical models.

Supervisor: Dr Nokuthaba Sibanda

Lingli Du

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics

Conventional expressions such as idioms (for example, ‘spill the beans’) are common in every language. Some expressions are shared or congruent across languages, while others are language-specific or incongruent. Congruent phrases are recognised faster and with less effort by bilinguals than incongruent ones. But why is that? A dominant theoretical hypothesis is that both languages of bilingual speakers are activated simultaneously, leading to the congruency advantage. However, Lingli Du’s study disproves this hypothesis. It indicates that the congruency advantage may not be due to the co-activation of both languages, but due to the indirect effect of cross-language transfer in learning processes.

Supervisors: Dr Anna Siyanova and Associate Professor Irina Elgort

Lorna Massov

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Midwifery

Birth is a normal physiological process and many women want a natural birth. However, there is worldwide concern over the increasing use of epidural analgesia and other pharmacological pain relief methods for women in labour. Lorna Massov’s study explores the experience of women using virtual reality (VR) as a non-pharmacological method of pain relief in labour to determine whether there is an effect on labour pain intensity. Lorna’s study shows that there were significantly lower reported pain scores, maternal heart rate, and mean arterial blood pressure rate when using VR during active labour, and that women reported a positive response to the use of VR in labour.

Supervisors: Dr Brian Robinson, Associate Professor Edgar Rodriguez-Ramirez, and Associate Professor Robyn Maude

Lucy Huang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Microbiology

Lucy Huang’s research explores the role of chemotaxis in the kiwifruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa). Chemotaxis plays a central role in bacteria, allowing them to navigate favourable niches for growth and survival. Lucy’s study uses cutting-edge technologies to understand the molecular basis of Psa chemotaxis and its complex environment on the kiwifruit leaf surface. Lucy’s discoveries present pioneering opportunities to advance research in an area that is attracting a considerable amount of interest.

Supervisors: Dr Monica Gerth and Associate Professor Robert Keyzers


Mahdi Abdollahi

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

Document classification (DC) is the task of assigning predefined labels to unseen documents by utilising the model trained on available labelled documents. It is critical for medical document management and analysis. For example, categorising clinical risk factors, automatic disease classification, and electronic health records classification can assist doctors in decision-making and correct decisions can reduce medical expenses. Mahdi Abdollahi’s study aims to develop new feature engineering approaches to improve the performance of medical DC by using domain-specific knowledge of the problem. These aim to automatically extract prominent features, construct high-level features, select informative features, and augment synthetic documents from original documents.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Xiaoying Gao and Dr Yi Mei

Mallika Appuhamillage Thathsaranie Piumika Manthrirathna

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

The development of an effective vaccine requires the involvement of both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. Vaccines need to incorporate an antigen, the target of an immune response, as well as an adjuvant, which enhances the immune response. Mallika Appuhamillage Thathsaranie Piumika Manthrirathna’s research discusses the synthesis and biological evaluation of ligands for the immune receptor Mincle. Thathsaranie’s studies demonstrate that these Mincle ligands augment the immune response, and thus have the potential to improve the efficacy of vaccines.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Bridget Stocker, Associate Professor Mattie Timmer, and Dr Emma Dangerfield

Margaret Peggy Vaka-Vivili

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Pasifika students’ achievement in Year 11 science is an enduring problem for New Zealand education. Nationally, Pasifika students have a lower performance than any other ethnic group. Margaret Vaka-Vivili’s research investigates how Pasifika students’ self-efficacy—their inner willpower to attempt or not attempt achieving a certain goal—influences their NCEA achievement. Findings of this qualitative, interpretive research suggest that most students who indicated high levels of self-efficacy achieved at a higher level. Margaret’s research shows that NCEA credits are prioritised over the learning process. Margaret’s research informs policy, teacher education, and teachers of Pasifika students.

Supervisors: Dr Azra Moeed and Dr Dayle Anderson

Masashi Yui

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

The type of government, whether the cabinet is a single-party majority, multiparty coalition, or minority, is often claimed to be important in affecting the shape of bureaucratic reform. Masashi Yui’s research investigates empirically whether this claim is valid in the New Zealand context, where the type of government has shifted since the introduction of the MMP electoral system in the mid-1990s from single-party majority cabinets to mostly multiparty minority cabinets. Through the investigation of the impacts of differences in cabinet type on government organisational restructuring, Masashi’s research shows that New Zealand has not followed the commonly claimed pattern in the relationship.

Supervisors: Emeritus Professor Robert Gregory, Associate Professor Amanda Wolf, and Professor Jonathan Boston

Matthew James Munro

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Science

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second highest cause of cancer deaths globally. Cancer stem cells drive tumour growth, recurrence, metastasis, and treatment resistance. The renin-angiotensin system controls blood pressure and may regulate cancer progression. Matthew Munro’s research characterised two types of colon cancer cells, which were found to have elevated levels of renin-angiotensin system components. These cells possess cancer stem cell properties that are suppressed by treatment with renin-angiotensin system inhibitors such as beta blockers. Matthew’s study suggests that anti-hypertensive medications may modulate cancer stem cells in colon cancer.

Supervisors: Dr Lifeng Peng, Dr Swee Tan, and Dr Susrutha Kusal Wickremesekera

Maximilon Kent Scanlan Baddeley

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology

There are few sociological studies that take artistic practice as a serious site of sociality. In observing how artists create artwork behind closed studio doors, Maximilon Baddeley’s research contributes qualitative empirical findings to the sociology of art literature. Maximilon’s research shows that artwork is a considered practical social action, managed by artists in the midst of their work and its local details. By observing and analysing real-time creative practice, Maximilon’s research demonstrates how human action both generates and renews context. This research helps sociologists focus upon how the interdependence between any two actions produces creative work.

Supervisors: Dr Mike Lloyd and Dr Catherine Caudwell

Mele‘ana Lahaina Koloto

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Inclusive education in Tonga is an area that requires more attention and research. Mele‘ana Koloto’s study explores the current inclusive education policy in Tonga and how it is implemented. Mele‘ana’s study gives Tongan families of, and individuals with, special needs the opportunity to share their stories and experiences in accessing education in Tonga. Mele‘ana highlights that ‘ulungaanga fakatonga (Tongan culture), ‘ofa (love), and the Christian faith play a key role in how Tongan families perceive and care for members with special needs, which they see as a tāpuaki mei he ‘Otua (a blessing from God). Mele‘ana’s study indicates the importance of incorporating Tongan values and culture through the Fāa‘i Kavei Koula (the four golden pillars of Tongan culture) in the development of an inclusive special education policy in Tonga.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Kabini Sanga and Dr Ali Glasgow

Meri Ashleigh Haami

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Music

Meri Haami’s thesis uncovers the relationship between the Whanganui River, Rānana Marae, and waiata by drawing on kaupapa Māori, Tupua Te Kawa from Te Awa Tupua, ecomusicology, and performative ethnography. The study recontextualises the pā auroa and hīnaki from Te Awa Tupua to embody a conceptual and theoretical strategy for creating a healthy succession infrastructure for whakapapa through waiata. It provides a kaupapa Māori ecomusicological framework called ‘he whiringa hīnaki’, which draws on the lived experiences from descendants of Rānana Marae, to contribute towards future generations who wish to examine waiata within its environmental and ancestral contexts.

Supervisors: Dr Brian Diettrich and Dr Mike Ross

Michael Peter Schweig

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Silica scaling is arguably the largest hindrance in the full utilisation of geothermal resources. The mineral forms an intractable scale which blocks pipes, valves, and reinjection wells. Calcium silicate technology has been developed in the laboratory to address this issue by transforming silica into a useful product. Michael Schweig’s research focuses on upscaling the technology to a continuous, automated, and field-deployed pilot plant process. Michael successfully develops new engineering solutions to key challenges in progressing this process from a laboratory environment to real-world conditions, creating a technology that will be commercialised in the future.

Supervisors: Professor Jim Johnston, Dr Thomas Borrmann, and Dr Chris Bumby

Miles Sterling Fuller

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing

One in six New Zealanders report experiencing chronic pain and, internationally, the rates can be much higher. Miles Fuller’s thesis collects narratives of lives in chronic pain, including his own, that are also lives of achievement, with bodies that take physical risks, such as bull riders, freedivers, and martial artists. With the growing urgency of these incurable or inexplicable medical conditions that cross all borders and identities, his thesis uses stories to examine how a life of limitations can also exceed expectations.

Supervisors: Professor Damien Wilkins and Professor Annemarie Jutel

Mohammed Mahmood Ali Al-Shaboti

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

The increasing use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices raises security and privacy concerns, requiring specific access control policies for inter-IoT communication to improve overall IoT security posture. However, deriving such policies is challenging due to the complexity of IoT interactions and the social factor when they are shared. Mohammed Al-Shaboti’s research studies user inputs to derive IoT network access control policies in shared and unshared smart spaces. Mohammed investigates new approaches using user-sharing policies to derive IoT access control to share IoT devices between users securely. Mohammed’s research shows user inputs, such as user preferences and sharing policies, can derive transparent and precise access policies that meet users’ security and privacy requirements.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Ian Welch and Dr Aaron Chen

Mouna Hakami

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

After more than a century of experience with speech transmission in telecommunication, it may be surprising that an automatic assessment of the quality of speech is still an issue. Mouna Hakami’s research presents two studies on automatic, non-intrusive, speech quality assessment methods. The first study applies supervised-learning methods to speech quality assessment—a common approach in machine-learning-based quality assessment. To outperform existing methods, Mouna concentrates on enhancing the feature set. In the second study, Mouna analyses quality assessment from a different point of view inspired by the biological brain, and presents the first unsupervised learning-based, non-intrusive quality assessment that doesn’t need labelled training data.

Supervisors: Professor Bastiaan Kleijn and Professor Dale Carnegie

Murugaraj Odiathevar

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Anomaly detection is an important aspect of many application domains, and an understanding of expected behaviour is fundamental. However, data profiles constantly evolve or are distributed, with privacy concerns around transmitting them in domains such as computer networks, surveillance monitoring, and healthcare. Murugaraj Odiathevar’s study focuses on building a robust anomaly-detection system in such scenarios. It proposes an online/offline framework to separate existing and new expected behaviour and anomalies in streaming data. It addresses the distributed scenario using a theoretically sound, fully Bayesian approach. These methods improve performances of anomaly detection systems, and work well with biased and uneven data partitions.

Supervisors: Professor Winston Seah and Associate Professor Marcus Frean


Ngo Minh Nam

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

Foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade are widely considered to be key growth drivers as they provide host countries with modern technology, intensive financial capital, and global supply chains integration. The presence of multinational firms, and the increase in export opportunities, can lead to improvement in overall wage levels and living standards. However, globalisation also tends to create winners and losers. Ngo Minh Nam’s research identifies and quantifies the impacts of FDI and trade on inequality. Empirical questions answered in Nam’s research will provide both qualitative and quantitative evidence for policymakers to better manage adjustment to globalisation and ensure inclusive growth.

Supervisors: Professor Yothin Jinjarak and Dr Luke Chu

Nguyen Thi Kim Hien

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

Understanding how fiscal and monetary policies contribute to a stable economy in response to unexpected shocks is important to policymakers. Nguyen Thi Kim Hien’s research revisits these important issues in small open economies. Hien’s first essay identifies the factors that explain countries’ fiscal cyclicality between 1960 and 2016. The second essay finds that, following the global commodity price shocks, the inflation-targeting countries—but not non-inflation-targeting countries—display persistent improvements in GDP growth. Hien’s last essay confirms that the New Zealand dollar appreciates immediately, and keeps appreciating for at least one year after an unexpected increase in New Zealand’s short-term interest rate.

Supervisors: Professor Yothin Jinjarak and Dr Robert Kirkby

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Dung

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Service learning has appeared on the horizon of Vietnamese higher education in the past few decades as an imported Western pedagogical approach. Dung Nguyen’s study explores this practice in four universities across Viet Nam to find out the opportunities and challenges for future contextualisation. The findings show that, despite its Western roots, the service learning approach accommodates Vietnamese ideological influences associated with creating a more capable workforce, fulfilling socialist responsibilities, and cultivating Confucian moral values. Dung’s research suggests important implications for policy development and practices of service learning in Asian, developing, and socialist communist contexts.

Supervisors: Dr Andrea Milligan and Associate Professor Kathryn Sutherland

Nicholas Bramwell Huntington

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

While the idea that policy should be ‘evidence based’ or ‘evidence informed’ is highly influential in modern thinking about government, what this means for policy practitioners themselves is an underexplored area. Nicholas Huntington’s research uses concepts from discursive psychology to explore how policy officials working in the skills field engage with the idea of working in evidence-based ways. Approaching policy work as a socially constructed activity, Nicholas’s study identifies interpretive repertoires used across domains of policy practice, policy context, and policy evidence. These cluster into three broad stances—evaluative, scientific, and pragmatic—that provide practitioners with ways to make sense of the concept of evidence.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Amanda Wolf and Professor Jane Bryson

Ningxin Ding

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

Sugar-sweetened-beverage (SSB) taxes have been put forward as a solution for obesity in many countries. However, SSB taxes may not be effective, as consumers may switch to other untaxed drinks. Ningxin Ding’s study addresses the socially optimal tax rate, considering substitutes and complements. His research also explores the most efficient tax base, and whether beverage taxes are superior to SSB taxes. The results indicate that the prices of SSBs in New Zealand should probably increase by 100 percent to 200 percent, and a beverage tax by calories is the most favourable option.

Supervisors: Dr Jaikishan Desai and Dr Paul Calcott


Omid Khazaeian

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geographic Information Science

Omid Khazaeian’s research finds that home parking quantity strongly and positively affects car ownership and proclivity for driving. More car trips from the suburbs mean higher demand for parking downtown, and highlight the relationship between home parking and work parking. Increased garage or driveway spaces at home noticeably motivates households to have multiple cars. A positive correlation exists between the chance of finding on-street parking and car ownership. For work parking, the study finds that walking time from public off-street parking locations to work significantly discourages commuters from choosing public off-street parking. Walking time from on-street parking to work is also a significant disincentive for choosing on-street parking.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Mairéad de Róiste, Associate Professor Toby Daglish, and Dr Yigit Saglam


Pham Thi Anh Dao

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics

Coherence is a difficult aspect of writing to teach and learn. Both teachers and learners find it hard to explain why one piece of writing is incoherent and another is not. Dao Pham’s study develops a system of coherence problems, and uses this system to identify the types and frequency of these problems in the writing of Vietnamese English foreign language (EFL) students. Dao combines the teaching of coherence problems with the teaching of topical structure analysis in an intervention, investigating the effects on students’ writing performance. Results show the intervention has positive impacts, and the study has significant pedagogical contributions to EFL writing, teaching, and learning.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Jean Parkinson and Dr Rachael Ruegg

Pranay Raj Panta

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics

Pranay Panta’s research focuses on efficient delivery of healthcare in New Zealand, and the findings have significant policy implications for healthcare resource allocation. In the absence of price, rationing of demand for publicly funded healthcare, especially elective surgeries, takes the form of waiting times. Pranay’s research investigates how supply of, and demand for, elective surgeries respond to waiting times and if ethnic disparities exist in the delivery of elective surgeries. In a subsequent chapter, Pranay develops an intuitive model that enables pharmaceutical wholesalers to solve the inventory optimisation problem to manage pharmaceutical demand.

Supervisors: Professor Ilan Noy and Professor Don Shin


Qurrat Ul Ain

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

Skin cancer is one of the five most common cancers worldwide, with Australia and New Zealand having the highest incidence rates. Early detection of skin cancer greatly assists dermatologists and significantly increases the survival rate of the patient. Qurrat Ul Ain’s research focuses on developing skin cancer detection methods using genetic programming, an artificial intelligence technique, to help the medical community diagnose the disease early without the need for costly and painful biopsy procedures. Qurrat’s methods extract useful information from skin images, construct new features, and provide significantly better classification performance than state-of-the-art deep learning methods.

Supervisors: Professor Bing Xue, Professor Mengjie Zhang, and Dr Harith Al-Sahaf


Rachel Mary Denee

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

The visual arts enrich young children’s learning when teachers take an active and intentional role. However, in Aotearoa early childhood education, visual arts teaching is still largely enacted with a set-up-and-stand-back approach. Rachel Denee’s research investigates early childhood teachers’ practices and perceptions about visual arts and explores the potential of the network Professional Learning Community approach to improve visual arts pedagogy. Rachel’s study shows that sustained professional learning including guided practice and reflection can shift underlying beliefs and improve teaching. The outcomes of this study have important implications for visual arts pedagogy and effective professional learning approaches for teachers.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Kate Thornton and Associate Professor Sue Cherrington

Rangituatahi Te Kanawa

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Museum and Heritage Studies

Rangituatahi Te Kanawa’s study examines the mātauranga of pre-European and contact period taonga kākahu (treasured garments), exploring various approaches to reconnecting this cultural heritage with their respective descendants. Fieldwork identified material practices and processes typical of several geographical regions, including dying the fibres black with paru (iron rich mud), which supports a means of identifying the origins of unprovenanced cloaks in museum collections. Experimental archaeology produced new interpretations and technical analysis of three case studies. The research aims to revitalise customary techniques and knowledge of dying and weaving, contribute to the conservation and display of Māori textiles, and enhance the mana and understanding of these taonga.

Supervisor: Professor Conal McCarthy

René Andreas Versteegh

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marketing

Environmentally friendly behaviours are desirable and increasingly necessary. René Versteegh’s research examines how internal motivators—self-image congruence, self-construal (relationship to others), and temporal orientation (relationship to time)—affect an individual’s decision to purchase a ‘sustainable’ good. This research demonstrates that congruence between product and self-image is the major motivating factor for consumers. Individuals’ sustainable goods purchase intentions, and their perception of time, were impacted by their relationship with others and whether they were parents. The results show that consumers consider the future and far future to be a relatively short time period, with far-reaching effects to problems with distant consequences.

Supervisors: Associate Professor James Richard and Dr Michelle Renton

Richard John Logan

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management

In 2010, there was an explosion at the Pike River Coal Ltd’s mine near Greymouth that resulted in the death of 29 miners and a loss of more than $300 million of invested funds. Richard Logan’s study explores possible reasons for the key decision makers failing to foresee this unexpected and significant event. Richard’s study identifies three types of organisational blindness: the illusion of certainty; inductive cognitive biases; and a single unquestioned top-down reference narrative. This suggests that Pike’s three key decision makers had adopted an overconfident, ‘hedgehog’ cognitive thinking style, which limited Pike’s collective intelligence to the small in-group.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Ian Yeoman, Dr Bronwyn Howell, and Adjunct Professor Bob Cavana

Rodreck David

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems

The emblematic organisational form of the digital era is the platform ecosystem. Digital platforms organise multiple aspects of everyday life—including transportation, accommodation, and social networks. Inter-organisational platform development processes and practices that lead to success or failure remain obscure. Rodreck David’s research addresses this gap by investigating the design and development of a digital platform for data services in New Zealand’s tourism sector. Rodreck’s study shows there are collective organising strategies at architecture and governance level that can be used to successfully develop inter-organisational platforms. Practical knowledge can be drawn on how such platforms are developed in conditions of heterogeneity and coopetition.

Supervisors: Dr Jean-Gregoire Bernard, Professor Benoit Aubert, and Associate Professor Markus Luczak-Roesch

Ronnie Roelof Tamming

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Semiconducting perovskites and organic photovoltaic materials show great promise for application in the next generation photovoltaic devices, such as solar panels and LEDs. To further improve the light–electricity conversion efficiency of these materials in real devices, their optical properties after the absorption of light need further investigation. Ronnie Tamming’s research involves the implementation of a new technique to measure the refractive index of these materials on the femtosecond timescale, after excitation with laser pulses. Ronnie’s findings show how the reflection changes after illumination, which will help to improve the design of future photovoltaic devices.

Supervisors: Professor Justin Hodgkiss and Associate Professor Franck Natali

Rosa Maria Theresa Cole

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

Private secretaries are neutral public servants working in the ‘purple zone’ where political strategy and public administration converge in government ministers’ offices, and are a neglected actor in research to date. Rosa Cole’s research identifies the key influences on New Zealand’s private secretary role over the last 30 years. Using participants’ narratives, the meaning made from their experiences, the traditions that shape their beliefs, and the dilemmas they confront, Rosa’s research illuminates how the private secretary role has changed over time. Three internationally published journal articles on core executive studies, public service bargains, and politicisation theories are integrated into Rosa’s research.

Supervisors: Dr Chris Eichbaum and Associate Professor Karl Lofgren

Rose May McLellan

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry

The development of bioactive fungal metabolites into valuable therapeutics is often hindered by their structural complexity and low abundance in nature. Understanding the biosynthesis of these metabolites is crucial for improving their accessibility and enabling functional studies. Rose McLellan’s research elucidates and reconstructs the biosynthetic pathways of several bioactive indole-diterpene metabolites from three fungal species using bioinformatic analysis, molecular and synthetic biology tools, analytical chemistry, and natural product isolation. Furthermore, she synthesises novel, potentially bioactive metabolites. Rose’s discoveries significantly expand the understanding of indole-diterpene biosynthesis and forms the basis for future research on these metabolites and their therapeutic development.

Supervisors: Professor Emily Parker, Dr Rosannah Cameron, and Dr Matthew Nicholson.

Roxane Lyn Gajadhar

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing

From the internet-enabled dominance of serialised television to virtual reality, technology is transforming entertainment, and cross-media adaptation of stories is prevalent. Roxane Gajadhar’s study uses creative practice screenwriting research to interrogate the way stories must transform to meet the demands of their new medium. Roxane’s creative work adapts the young-adult fantasy novels Dreamhunter and Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox into television and virtual-reality scripts. Roxane’s critical work analyses the qualities inherent within each form, as she argues for a medium-specific approach to adaptation and unpacks the industrial, theoretical, and practical processes that underpin it.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Ken Duncum and Dr Miriam Ross


Samradhni Jog

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy

Leadership development and its various forms of interpretation in organisational studies command attention across both public and private sectors. However, empirical research exploring the perceived impacts of this organisationally driven socialisation process on leaders remains sparse across mainstream leadership research. Samradhni Jog investigates the perceived impacts on public sector leaders attending a leadership development programme, resulting in identity work practices. Samradhni argues that undertaking leadership development training is vital for public sector leaders; however, it becomes more relevant during specific critical periods throughout their career trajectory.

Supervisors: Dr Karl Lofgren and Professor Brad Jackson

Sara Shabahang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture

Although global warming countermeasures have gained considerable attention in regard to architecture and city management, countermeasures in urban design remain neglected. Sara Shabahang’s study assesses how urban design characteristics impact air and surface temperatures through a simulation method using ENVI-met software. Sara’s results indicate that some urban characteristics are more influential on city temperature. Her study also shows that trees play a significant role as a countermeasure in urban design, as they help determine air and surface temperature.

Supervisors: Professor Brenda Vale and Associate Professor Morten Gjerde

Schyana Maya Sivanantham

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Most of us engage in mind reading every day; for instance, when we think about what other people are thinking. We even predict others’ goals based on their actions, such as when they reach for and grasp objects in their environment. Schyana Sivanantham’s research tests and validates a classic action observation paradigm for goal-directed movements, by measuring participants’ eye gaze, reaction times, and probability judgements. Schyana’s findings mean that the paradigm’s stimuli may not be fit for purpose, because they do not reliably show a motor-matching effect during action observation in adults.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Jason Low

Simon David Eastwood

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Composition

Simon Eastwood’s research explores a particular collaborative process, where several artists from different backgrounds each transform one of his works in their own way. In turn, Simon created new pieces in response to each of these collaborators. The resulting portfolio contains works that are diverse, yet intimately connected, illuminating the interwoven nature of communal creativity. Simon’s model of creative-collaborative provocation borrows the concept of a ‘provocation operation’ from Edward de Bono to explain this creative exchange, leading to a careful re-examination of prevailing models of musical semiotics that problematises traditional notions of ‘the work’.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Michael Norris and Emeritus Professor John Psathas

Siva Gopal Thaiyalan

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Siva Gopal’s research explores young Singaporeans’ active citizenship using critical theory and a feminist ethic of care. Siva’s research examines the kind of citizens prioritised by the Singaporean government and young people’s own experiences with citizenship in their everyday lives. Siva’s research reveals that, while prevailing citizenship education policies and programmes in Singapore focus on nurturing ‘citizen-workers of the future’, young Singaporeans prioritise relational forms of citizenship that are rooted in everyday acts of care for others and the natural environment. Furthermore, many young Singaporeans also demonstrate ‘citizenship imaginations’ that enable them to critique social, political, and economic contradictions in pursuit of social justice.

Supervisors: Dr Bronwyn Wood and Dr Andrea Milligan

Snita Ahir-Knight

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

A 15-year-old cuts themself without intending to end their life. Do they have a mental disorder? A seven-year-old has daily arguments, teases younger children, and blames others. Should a mental disorder diagnosis be needed for them to be offered mental health interventions? Snita Ahir-Knight argues that non-suicidal self-harm in youth is not a mental disorder in its own right, and that whether someone is offered a mental health intervention should not depend on whether they have a mental disorder. Snita explores the implications of her arguments for mental health practice and public policy.

Supervisors: Professor Simon Keller and Professor Nicholas Agar

Soheil Mohseni

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

Considerable effort has been devoted to interventions that address technological and regulatory barriers for renewable energy systems, but less attention has been given to address technical knowledge gaps in quantitative energy planning research, particularly when it comes to renewable energy-based micro-grid systems. Soheil Mohseni’s research introduces a strategic, meta-heuristic-based, demand-response-integrated, uncertainty-aware, long-term micro-grid energy planning and capacity optimisation model. His study demonstrates that using artificial-intelligence-based optimisation algorithms, capturing the real flexibility potential of small- to medium-scale end users, characterising multiple sources of data uncertainty, and adopting predictive dispatch strategies during the investment planning phases of micro-grid systems can pave the way towards reliable, affordable, clean community energy solutions.

Supervisors: Professor Alan Brent, Dr Daniel Burmester, and Professor Will Browne

Soheila Sadeghiram

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

With the emergence of mass data and technological advances, distributed data-intensive web service composition (DWSC) manipulates and selects data-intensive web services from diverse network locations and composes them to accomplish complicated tasks. As a fundamental challenge for service developers, service compositions must fulfil functional requirements, and simultaneously optimise quality of service (QoS). The QoS of a distributed DWSC is not only impacted by the QoS of component services, but also by the locations of services and data transformation between services. Soheila Sadeghiram’s work considers the impact of locations and data on service composition and proposes EC-based approaches to effectively solve single-objective, multi-objective, and dynamically distributed data-intensive web service composition problems.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Hui Ma and Dr Aaron Chen

Sola Jane Freeman

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Research has identified a stark absence of scientific opportunities for children in New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) services. The reasons include a lack of confidence and capabilities in science among ECE teachers, a complex and non-prescriptive curriculum, and a dominant hands-off, play-based philosophy of practice. Sola Freeman’s collaborative action research explores, alongside teaching teams in six ECE centres, how scientific experiences could be fostered. Sola’s study highlights the importance of the teacher in facilitating a culture of scientific inquiry by using intentional teaching practices, developing children’s interests, and opening doors to new knowledge with children through sustained interactions.

Supervisors: Dr Mary Jane Shuker and Associate Professor Kate Thornton


Ta Ngoc Hien Minh

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics

Intercultural competence is increasingly recognised globally as a goal of education. Ta Ngoc Hien Minh’s study investigates the opportunities for intercultural learning in an English foreign language programme at a Vietnamese university. After discovering limited opportunities for intercultural education in this programme, Minh developed a semester-long project to foster intercultural learning. A thematic analysis of classroom data, paired with reports from teachers and students, shows evidence for the effectiveness of Minh’s project-based learning approach for intercultural learning in this English foreign language programme context.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Jonathan Newton and Dr Corinne Seals

Tamayanthi Rajakumar

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Cell and Molecular Bioscience

Humans have approximately 19,000 genes that are used in combinations to predict traits. Disease traits, like any traits determined by genes, are complicated. Working out the contributing amounts can be done using a branch of genetics called network analysis. Tamayanthi Rajakumar’s research performs network analysis of traits involving specific lipids (sphingolipids) and proteins (deubiquitinases) that are often involved in disease. The results of this research, performed in laboratory model systems, identify key mechanisms that could be potential therapeutic targets.

Supervisors: Dr Andrew Munkacsi and Professor Paul Atkinson

Tanarat Chaichana

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Music

There is increasing interest in Thai–Western musical integration among Thai classical composers and ethnomusicologists. However, research to date has not extensively explored the integration of Thai music and jazz in the context of the contemporary jazz orchestra. Tanarat Chaichana’s research documents and critically reflects upon the creation of a collection of original works for contemporary jazz orchestras inspired by traditional Thai music. This research, including the musical works, comprises a case study of the musical hybridisation of Thai music and jazz that can be used in both Thai music studies and jazz research settings.

Supervisors: Dr David Lisik and Dr Dave Wilson

Teramira Christine Schütz

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

There is a rapidly growing number of I-Kiribati migrating to New Zealand, and the impact of climate change may see the total migration of I-Kiribati to host countries. Teramira Schütz developed ‘te kora’ research framework to understand the health practices of I-Kiribati in New Zealand. Te Kuan model of Te Mauri emerged from this research, a method of transferring health beliefs from Kiribati into New Zealand contexts. The study fills knowledge gaps about I-Kiribati health practices and identifies future interventions to help the New Zealand health system and other health systems respond to the needs of an I-Kiribati immigrant population.

Supervisors: Professor Annemarie Jutel, Dr Ausaga Faasalele Tanuvasa, and Dr Deborah Harris

Theresa Ellen Pankhurst

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Science

Respiratory viruses infect their host through the airways, so initiation of immunity in the airway mucosa can prevent infection at the local invasion site. Mucosal vaccines delivered intranasally can start immune responses both in the airway mucosa and at other sites in the body. However, mucosal vaccine advancement has been hampered by the lack of a suitable adjuvant. Theresa Ellen Pankhurst’s research describes how intranasal delivery of compounds that activate specific lung-resident immune cells can enhance mucosal and systemic immune responses against viral proteins. Her mucosal vaccination approach has shown the ability in vivo to improve protection against influenza infection and drive the production of neutralising antibodies that can prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Supervisor: Dr Lisa Connor

Tom Oosting

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology

Effective fisheries management requires in-depth knowledge of the demography and evolution of fished species. Advances in genomics now allow researchers to study wild populations at an unprecedented level. Tom Oosting’s research utilises genomics to study snapper (tāmure), one of New Zealand’s largest fisheries. Tom is able to identify genetically distinct populations, providing valuable information for future fishing regulations. His study also shows how glacial cycles have influenced the demographic history of snapper, and identifies genes in the snapper genome that show evidence of recent or ongoing evolutionary change. His findings will help secure a more sustainable seafood industry.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Peter Ritchie, Associate Professor Maren Wellenreuther, and Dr Nic Rawlence

Tutaima Christine Fagaloa

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Pacific leaders are employed in Aotearoa New Zealand’s public service to support the response of government agencies to the needs of Pacific people. However, Pacific leaders may themselves work within harsh environments where racist and discriminatory practices prevent them from achieving good outcomes for Pacific people. Tutaima Fagaloa’s study uses phenomenology, Talanoa, and Fa’afaletui methodologies to ground the research in a cultural context. Tutaima’s research finds that Pacific leaders in the New Zealand public sector are constantly negotiating spaces of Pacific and Western constructs, and that their methods of leadership focus on service and transformation for Pacific communities.

Supervisors: Dr Cherie Chu and Dr Jackie Cumming


Valerio Micaroni

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology

Mesophotic ecosystems lie between the well-lit shallow waters and the dark deep sea. While these ecosystems have been relatively well studied in tropical regions, the importance of temperate mesophotic ecosystems has only recently been recognised. Valerio Micaroni’s research explores the effects of anthropogenic stressors on mesophotic communities using Lough Hyne, Ireland, as a model system. Valerio’s findings show that temperate mesophotic ecosystems are vulnerable to environmental stressors and have slow recovery rates. This suggests that research and management of these habitats should be prioritised at Lough Hyne and elsewhere.

Supervisors: Professor James Bell, Associate Professor Rob McAllen, and Professor John Turner

Viet Nguyen

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Viet Nam prioritises English language learning for participation in the global market economy. Despite investment in policy and resources, there has been slow progress in increasing competence in English language. Viet Nguyen asks why, and explores the role culture and history play in English-as-a-foreign-language teachers’ beliefs and practices. His findings show that cultural values such as obedience, collective harmony, and avoiding face loss work to preserve traditional teaching practices and to limit transformation. Employing Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, Viet’s study illustrates how hierarchical relationships, values, and beliefs contribute to systemic inertia from the top level through to institutional and classroom level.

Supervisors: Dr Stephanie Doyle and Dr Sandi McCutcheon


Weiwei Wang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geophysics

Slow slip events (SSE) have been studied in increasing detail over the past 20 years, improving our understanding of subduction zone processes. Weiwei Wang’s research observes a velocity decrease during SSE, followed by a velocity increase. One hypothesis is that SSE break a low-permeability seal, allowing fluid to migrate into the upper plate, causing a velocity decrease. The second hypothesis is the upper plate goes into extension as the elastic strain is released during SSE, resulting in dilation and a porosity increase (seismic velocity reduction). Weiwei’s results have contributed to SSE studies.

Supervisors: Professor Martha Savage, Professor Tim Stern, and Dr Bill Fry

William Iván Henríquez González

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geology

Past changes in the southern westerly winds have been proposed as drivers of ocean-atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). However, the evolution of the winds in past climatic scenarios is still uncertain. Based on fossil pollen, charcoal, and chironomid records from Western Patagonia and New Zealand’s South Island, William Henríquez González’s study reconstructs poleward/enhanced and equatorward/reduced shifts of the winds concurrent with increases and declines in atmospheric CO2, respectively. His findings suggest that hemisphere-wide changes in the position or strength of the winds have modulated the atmospheric CO2 concentration via changes in wind-driven upwelling in the Southern Ocean since the LGM.

Supervisors: Professor Rewi Newnham, Dr Gavin Dunbar, Dr Andrew Rees, and Associate Professor Patricio Moreno


Yao Zhang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics

Magnetic skyrmion, a quasiparticle, is a whirling spin texture with nanoscale size, which has great potential applications for memory, logic gates, and computing. Yao Zhang’s research demonstrate that skyrmions can be easily created in Heusler alloy ultrathin films by magnetic field and ionic liquid gating techniques. Yao’s research explains the mechanisms of skyrmion generation at various external stimulus. Moreover, Yao successfully fabricates a material that can be used to generate a torque so that skyrmion can be energy efficiently driven and manipulated. Yao’s results improve the understanding of skyrmion generation and accelerate the realisation of skyrmion-based electronic devices.

Supervisors: Dr Simon Granville and Dr Ben Ruck

Yuanyuan Liang

Admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature

Trauma is a key feature of the young adult fiction of Margaret Mahy. Her characters suffer various traumatic events, ranging from situations related to death and interpersonal violence to more common traumatic conditions such as excessive parental expectations and sibling rivalry. Yuanyuan Liang’s research explores how Mahy’s protagonists and supporting characters work together to weave an intricate web of trauma, and how Mahy’s narrative techniques reflect her complex conceptualisation of it. Through exploring the depth and complexity of Mahy’s treatment of trauma, Yuanyuan’s study contributes to correcting the misconception that books written for young people tend to be simple and didactic.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Anna Jackson and Dr Geoff Miles