Being a PhD Student in New Zealand

 

Raoul Peltier, France

What degree are you doing?
A PhD in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Auckland, supervised by Professors David Williams and Margaret Brimble.

What is your research about?
Antifreeze glycoproteins found in Antarctic fishes inhibit the growth of tiny ice crystals at cold temperatures. This allows the fish to survive in cold water where any normal fish blood would freeze. The mechanism of crystal growth inhibition is based on a special shaping of these ice crystals. Our aim is to understand some basic rules of the mechanism of crystal growth and then apply it to other types of crystals. Our method is based on the synthesis of analogues that will help us in the understanding of the phenomenon.

What do you like best about what you do?
I like the diversity of my work. My research topic combines organic synthesis, NMR studies, crystal studies and even biology. I have a background in organic chemistry, biochemistry and nanotechnology. After my masters, I thought that it would be impossible to find a PhD combining all these areas. Luckily, I came into contact with Professor David Williams, who suggested I work on the antifreeze protein. I couldn’t have found a topic that suits me better.

What did you do before becoming a graduate student at the MacDiarmid Institute?
I did my masters degree in organic chemistry and nanotechnology in France (Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse).

What made you decide to come to New Zealand?
Both the PhD proposition of Professor David Williams and the desire to discover this nice country.

What differences are there compared to where you come from?
On the research side, it is pretty similar to France. But as for the country itself, the difference is in the number of people! There are so many places empty of people in New Zealand (beaches, national parks …). In France everywhere is crowded. Also, nature is beautiful in New Zealand, and the people are much more relaxed.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Fishing, surfing, tramping and camping, and barbecues!

Anything else you would like to add?
What is the deal about cricket?

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Rajesh Deshpande, India

What degree are you doing?
I am doing a PhD in the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University. My supervisors are Dr Shane Telfer and Professor Geoff Jameson.

What is your research about?
My research is about using porous materials for catalysis, including Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) and Zeolitic Imidazolate Frameworks (ZIFs). So far, we have made some new Metal Organic Frameworks that are of immense value in directing the course of the project, and are working on designing more.

What do you like best about what you do?
I am in this area because of my background experience in synthesis and preparing catalysts coupled with the opportunity provided to me by the MacDiarmid Institute.

What did you do before becoming a graduate student at the MacDiarmid Institute?
I was working at the National Chemical Laboratory in India on a project on synthesis, immobilisation and applications of metalloporphyrins. I successfully completed the project with four publications, two US patents and two Indian patents. After completion of the project I was looking out for PhD opportunities.

What made you decide to come to New Zealand?
I replied to an advertisement on the internet for a PhD. A positive response from Dr Telfer made me to look into the publications he had and the kind of work he was doing. His interests matched mine and I felt that I would be able to get a good amount of knowledge by working with him. He was also associated with the MacDiarmid Institute which made me think of coming to New Zealand.

What differences are there compared to where you come from?
We are all one.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to update myself on the world news. I like to interact with my family members to have an update of things going on in India, especially my mother. I like feeding birds and animals. I like to spread the benefits of keeping to a vegetarian diet by being a vegetarian myself. I spend time sometimes chatting with friends. I like to do anything constructive that would be of use at least to me if not anyone else. I like taking long walks.

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Hui Lin Tan, Malaysia

What degree are you doing?
A PhD in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University, supervised by Associate Professor Kathryn McGrath.

What is your research about?
My research is about emulsions; for example, butter and salad dressing. To form an emulsion, basically you need three components: oil, water and emulsifier. The emulsifier that I use is casein – a protein isolated from cow’s milk that is used as an ingredient in a wide range of formulated food emulsions such as ice-cream. While it is believed that the emulsifying agent is important in processing and also throughout the lifetime of the product, and plays a major role in defining the internal fluid structure of the emulsion, the manner in which these controls are achieved is not known. Hence, we are trying to gain a fundamental understanding of the emulsifying properties of caseins.

What do you like best about what you do?
As my peers were preparing job applications and buying business suits when we were about to graduate, I wanted nothing more than to spend another few years in chemistry. I wanted to continue in my education because I was beginning to realize how much more I would like to learn. Postgraduate study seems an opportunity to continue studying, but more profoundly, more independently and with more direction than ever before.

What did you do before becoming a graduate student at the MacDiarmid Institute?

I began my undergraduate career in 2001 when I was 18 years old. I obtained my bachelor degree in 2005. When I did my undergraduate study, I took a graduate course in colloid and surface science. I also trained at a resin (polymer) manufacturing and compounding company where I learned about many practical applications, especially product design and modification. These positive experiences broadened my view of the world of science and enhanced my interest in chemistry.

What made you decide to come to New Zealand?
I was encouraged by my uncle to study at Victoria University. He gained his honours degree in mathematics from Victoria about 40 years ago. He did his sixth and seventh form here in Taumarunui High School where he was treated by his homestay parents like their own son. When he came to Wellington for his undergraduate study, he met a lot of nice, kind-hearted and very helpful people. I also realised that leaving Malaysia to study overseas would expose me to such an entirely new range of people and possibilities.

What differences are there compared to where you come from?
New Zealand is a very beautiful place where there is spectacular scenery everywhere. It is a clean country where people always take care of the environment. In particular, New Zealanders are friendly, kind and very helpful. However, Wellington is cold, dry and windy for me!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy playing badminton and reading.

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Volker Nock, Germany

What degree are you doing?
A PhD in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Canterbury. My supervisors are Professor Richard Blaikie and Professor Tim David.

What is your research about?
Oxygen control and measurement in microfluidic cell-culture bioreactors. We have shown how oxygen transport to liver cells grown in a bio-artificial liver bioreactor can be controlled via geometry and a novel oxygen sensor. In a separate project we have demonstrated how the force of tiny moving worms can be measured using flexible micro-pillars.

What do you like best about what you do?
The applied nature of the research in combination with the biological aspects of it. My background is on the engineering side of microsystems and it is great to see how these can be applied to biological and medical systems.

What did you do before becoming a graduate student at the MacDiarmid Institute?
I did a Diplom Ingenieur degree in Microsystem Technology at the University of Freiburg in Germany (IMTEK). For my 6 month long research thesis I went to the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, where I worked on minimally invasive drug delivery. Prior to coming to New Zealand I also worked for three months as a Research Engineer in wireless medical sensors at IMTEK in Freiburg.

What made you decide to come to New Zealand?
Partially because of the interesting project and partially to find out what the ‘craze’ is all about. After studying in Australia for a year in 2002, New Zealand was the obvious next stop and living in a place is always the best way to experience a country and its people.

What differences are there compared to where you come from?
Life is more relaxed here and it is a lot less crowded than Europe. But it took a while to fi nd a ‘proper’ house.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Being outdoors, rock-climbing and lots of tramping with the university tramping club.