1.9 New associate investigators – Annual Report 2017

Dr Philip Brydon, University of Otago

Superconductivity is a low-temperature quantum state of matter where electricity can flow without resistance. Despite intense study, we still have a poor understanding of the many unconventional superconductors. Philip’s research aims to develop a microscopic description of these enigmatic, but technologically important, superconductors that relates to their observable properties.

Dr Laura Domigan, University of Auckland

Laura’s research is broadly focused on the application of fundamental knowledge underlying protein structure and function to create new materials and devices for bionanotechnology and biomedical engineering. Her current research is focused on biomimetic materials fabrication and creating protein biomaterials derived from natural products.

Dr Charles Unsworth, University of Auckland

Associate Professor Charles Unsworth’s Neural Engineering Research Group, in the Department of Engineering Science and the Centre for Brain Research, specialises in neural chip platforms, advanced signal and image processing, and computational neuroscience.

Dr Guy Dubuis, Victoria University of Wellington

Guy is an experiment physicist interested in how solid matter behaves at extreme conditions, particularly at very low temperatures and under high magnetic fields. Guy currently studies high-temperature superconductors and exotic new electronic states called skyrmions. Skyrmions may hold the key to future generations of improved computer chips.

Dr Erin Leitao, University of Auckland

Erin’s research aims to discover new catalytic ways to link earth-abundant main-group elements together, with the eventual aim of making long chains (polymers) – either with the same atom or two different atoms alternating along the polymer backbone. These new materials will have really interesting properties (for example, semi- conducting).

Dr Elke Pahl, Massey University Albany (Auckland)

Elke’s research focuses on the modelling of material properties under normal conditions and in extreme environments characterised by ultra-high pressures or magnetic fields. In particular, she is interested in describing melting from an atomistic view using quantum-mechanical tools and understanding how solid-state properties emerge from small few-atom clusters.

Dr James Crowley, University of Otago

James’ research uses ‘click’ methods and self-assembly to generate new functional molecules and materials. He and his group have developed a wide range of nanoscale cages through self-assembly, and they are examining if they can be used to improve cancer- drug delivery or generate new catalysts.

Dr Chris Fitchett, University of Canterbury

Chris is interested in the synthesis of new organic molecules, particularly focusing on large, flat, mostly carbon-based molecules called heterographenes. These molecules conduct electricity and absorb light, making them ideal components for organic solar cells. They are also highly coloured, making them useful as active components in OLED displays.

Dr Ben Mallett, University of Auckland

Ben is fascinated by how electrons give solids their unique properties; like their colour or conductivity. He uses light, electric and magnetic fields to study the electrons in particularly enigmatic solids. Ben uses these studies to tailor the interaction between electrons – resulting in new, potentially useful properties.

Dr Baptiste Auguié, Victoria University of Wellington

Baptiste studies the interaction of light with nanostructures. Much like how a regular antenna is used to funnel electromagnetic waves into electronic devices, a nanoparticle can act as an antenna for light on a much smaller scale, localising light beyond the resolution of optical microscopes. The scattering of light captures some information about material properties at the nanoscale, and even down to the molecular scale. This may be applied in non-intrusive optical sensors, but also in the light-harvesting design of solar cells, and novel display technologies.

Dr Michel Nieuwoudt, University of Auckland

Michel’s research focuses on transforming complex spectral data and large datasets into knowledge and insight. Michel combines different forms of spectroscopy with chemometric and machine-learning approaches to interrogate materials without changing the sample matrix. This reveals their properties and behaviour in their natural place, and interactions between multiple components in complex matrices.

Dr Aaron Marshall, University of Canterbury

Aaron’s research is based on electrochemical energy technologies. These technologies include the development of materials for large- scale batteries, hydrogen generation, and electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels. The goal of his research is to enhance the rate of the relevant electrochemical reactions used in these technologies by developing electrode materials with high catalytic performance.