Professor Alison Downard

Professor Alison Downard

Professor Alison Downard

Principal Investigator

Phone: 03 364 2501

Postal Address:

Department of Chemistry
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140

Alison Downard is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Canterbury and a Principal Investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute. She gained her PhD at the University of Otago and undertook postdoctoral research at the University of Southampton with Prof. Derek Pletcher and at UNC-Chapel Hill with Prof. T. J. Meyer. She has an Honorary Doctorate from the Université de Rennes 1, France.

Alison has published more than 100 refereed papers on various aspects of electrochemistry. Her current major focus is on electrochemistry for surface engineering. She has undertaken various leadership roles including Associate Dean of Science, University of Canterbury (1999-2004) and Head of Department of Chemistry (2009-2010) and is currently Chair of the Analytical Electrochemistry Division of the International Society of Electrochemistry.


Research Interests

Alison’s research focuses on surface engineering, giving new properties to a surface while maintaining the usual properties of the bulk material. For example, a coating can be applied to improve the biocompatibility, corrosion resistance or self-cleaning properties of a material. A surface can also be modified with small numbers of molecules that act as tethers to anchor functional species such as biomolecules, inorganic molecules or nano-objects for the smart materials of the future. Alison’s group is expert in radical-based grafting procedures that give nanoscale coatings that are extremely strongly attached to the surface. Current research projects include strategies to control the growth of the layers and applications of surface functionalization in energy storage and conversion, and for controlling cell-surface interactions.




Associated Content


Professor Alison Downard – Excellent leadership on an international stage

Part of a series of stories from the Public Annual Report. This profile  comes from the Scientific Excellence section. To say that 2014 was a good year for Professor Alison Downard is a bit of an understatement. Even her admission that it was ‘really good’ is somewhat shy of the mark, given that she was made […]


The Best 100 Science Experiments – Round 2!

Children need to engage with science as early as possible; the more science the better, for them and society. “Presenting science in ways that give students the same sense of excitement and challenge that motivates grown-up scientists is important” says The MacDiarmid Institute’s Deputy Director Stakeholder Engagement Professor Alison Downard, “that’s the thinking behind our […]


MacDiarmid Institute Refunded: Thank you and congratulations

With the news that we have been successful in gaining funding through to the end of 2020 I get to be a bit self-indulgent this week and focus on thanking people for their participation and support during the past year or so as we developed the strategy for the bid. Many people have played very […]


International Award for Alison Downard

Congratulations to Professor Alison Downard, University of Canterbury, who was recently recognised by the international electrochemistry community, when she won the 2014 Electrochemistry Division of the Royal Australian Chemistry Institute’s Stokes Medal. The R.H. Stokes Medal is awarded for distinguished research in the field of electrochemistry carried out mainly in Australasia. Past recipients include R.H. Stokes, […]


The Christmas Wrap

We’ve had another big year. We welcomed two new Deputy Directors Profs David Williams (UoA) and Alison Downard (UoC) (Shaun Hendy stepping down at the end of last year and Simon Brown at mid year). We also welcomed six new Principal Investigators (Natalie Plank (VUW), Cather Simpson (UoA), John Kennedy (GNS), Duncan McGillivray (UoA), Bernd […]


The Bid is Gone – YAY – let the doing begin!

Eight months of living and breathing the MacDiarmid Institute Centre of Research Excellence funding proposal to come down to a click of the mouse. Where were the trumpets, the marching band, the ticker tape parade?! Shouldn’t such a momentous occasion be marked with an explosion of lights and fanfare rather than the soft snoring sound […]


Marsden Success 2013

Four Principal Investigators of The MacDiarmid Institute have been awarded Marsden Fund grants. Congratulations to Principal Investigators Profs Sally Brooker (Otago) Alison Downard (Canterbury) and Jeff Tallon (Callaghan Innovation) and Associate Investigator Dr Franck Natali (Victoria) for their success as the lead scientists on newly awarded Marsden grants. Graphene supercapacitors: transforming energy storage solutions Professor […]


Videos – Meet our scientists

During AMN-7 the Science Media Centre “SAVVY Express” team offered our Investigators and students targeted 15 minute sessions to practice speaking about their research on-camera, with feedback and training from a professional interviewer. The result is a series of seventeen interesting 90 second videos all of which are now available to watch via SMC’s Youtube channel, or you can […]

Chance Only Favours the Prepared Mind

Looking back at eleven years of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology   “When you’ve got the equipment, the expertise, and the space to think about problems in a different way, the research almost tells its own story.”   Popular culture delights in the concept of scientific serendipity: Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin after […]

Alison Downard – Taking a Circuitous Route

  An electrochemist, with a particular interest in surface science with a nanotechnology focus, Alison Downard’s first couple of years of undergrad were in the Department of Home Science at the University of Otago. This was in the 1970s, when a home science qualification was compulsory for those interested in becoming a dietician, as she […]

Collaborating On A (Very) Small Scale

    Casual conversations over conference tea-cups, chance meetings in stairwells, idle flicking through a journal – these may not sound like the stuff of which scientific endeavours are made, but they can provide a surprisingly significant role in the development of research projects and collaborations that span an organisation, a city, sometimes even the […]

From Molecules to the Market

Taking single molecules and tethering them to a surface to produce highly controllable functions as the basis for precision sensors, medical diagnostic tools or even lighting arrays may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but the groundwork is being tackled in the University of Canterbury lab of Dr Alison Downard. The MacDiarmid Institute Principal […]

Leading the Blind

For his third career, MacDiarmid graduate David Garrett is aiming to restore sight to the blind. It may sound improbable, but not much more so than the path he has taken to get there. You’d be hard-pressed to invent a more original CV. At age forty, he has secured his first academic post, working to prototype […]

Research Amidst the Rumbles

  What do you do when your laboratory starts to shake around you? Assume it´s just another aftershock and try to ignore it? Dive under your desk and ride it out? Make a dash for the precious samples vital for your PhD research? On February 22nd, those sorts of choices confronted staff and students alike […]

The MacDiarmid Institute Discovery Awards

  The first five Discovery Awards pupils, Ben Jones, Kate Tartawhiti, Nikita Hunia, PJ Campbell and Jardin Rose, along with teachers and members of their families, were welcomed to the programme in December. Three of the pupils will be placed at the University of Canterbury and two at Victoria University of Wellington. These are pupils […]