Associate Professor Nicola Gaston

Principal Investigator

Phone: +64 9 923 4427

Postal Address:

Department of Physics
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142

Dr Nicola Gaston is Co-Director of the MacDiarmid Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at The University of Auckland. Nicola Gaston was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at VUW.  She was previously a Principal Research Scientist at IRL, where she was based since returning to New Zealand in 2007 from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden.  She has previously been the leader of Theme 2: Electronic and Optical Materials and a member of the Science Executive.  



Research Interests

Nicola is interested in understanding the development and variation of physical properties in materials as a function of size, from few atom clusters to large nanoparticles and the bulk.  Her current research is focused on understanding the relationship between electronic structure and properties such as catalytic activity, chemical reactivity, conductivity and thermodynamic stability, and how this relates to the underlying structure (size, shape, composition) of the material.  She uses a range of ab initio quantum mechanical techniques to describe electronic structure and the way it depends on the chemical and physical environment.  



Associated Content


Change in leadership sees MacDiarmid Institute head in new direction

Chair of the MacDiarmid Institute Board, Paul Atkins, today announced the appointment of Associate Professor Nicola Gaston and Associate Professor Justin Hodgkiss as Co-Directors of the Institute. “I’m delighted to see both Associate Professor Gaston and Associate Professor Hodgkiss take up the roles of Co-Director of the MacDiarmid Institute.  Both have long experience as MacDiarmid […]


MacDiarmid Deputy Director Nicola Gaston talks with Kathryn Ryan about the science of stuff used to make things

MacDiarmid Deputy Director Nicola Gaston talks with Kathryn Ryan about the science of stuff used to make things Listen to the Podcast on RadioNZ  


Nanoscale melting: how size changes thermodynamic stabiility

The properties of nanomaterials change in a number of different ways, some of which are predictable, while others can be quite surprising! Nanoparticles usually melt at lower temperatures than the bulk material, due to the reduced stability of atoms at the surface. This paradigm – called melting point depression – has been challenged by experimental […]


Dr Nicola Gaston – Exploring latest advances in science

How to melt a teaspoon in a cup of tea and how chemistry can help unlock new wine markets are among innovative scientific developments people will be able to learn about at a free talk in the Masterton Town Hall next week. Chemistry and physics experts from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at […]


Women of Influence Recognised

Four MacDiarmind Institute Investigators; Margaret Brimble, Michelle Dickinson, Nicola Gaston and Kathryn McGrath were shortlisted in the Fairfax Media and Westpac Women of Excellence Awards. The Women of Influence Awards identify the bold, energetic women who are helping shape New Zealand and its future across eight categories. They acknowledge women who are having an impact well beyond their […]


Women of Influence and Young Science Communicators: Movers and Shakers of Our Future

The first celebrating New Zealand Women, a Fairfax Media and Westpac initiative, now it its second year, and the second New Zealand’s young science communicators in the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards, a Rotary initiative running now for three years. Professor Margaret Brimble, an Associate Investigator in the institute and based in the School of […]


Women of Influence Profiled

Four MacDiarmind Institute Investigators; Margaret Brimble, Michelle Dickinson, Nicola Gaston and Kathryn McGrath have been shortlisted in the Fairfax Media and Westpac Women of Excellence Awards. The Innovation and Science category recognises women who are driving innovation within a business, workplace or community, through their work in the sciences, medicine, academia, IT and biotechnology, finance, engineering or in organisational design and management.    Source: […]


Sisters are doing it together

One of the most motivating pieces of advice scientist Dr Nicola Gaston ever received was being told how to dress. It was 2012, and Gaston was leaving her job at Industrial Research Ltd to take up a lecturing post at Victoria University. She was invited to give a farewell address and discuss her scientific work. […]


Women of Influence

The MacDiarmid Institute had four investigators placed as finalists in the Science and Innovation category of Westpac’s Women of Influence Awards for 2014.

Opinion: Time To Process

Dr Nicola Gaston teaches in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at VUW. Her research aims to improve our understanding of the functionality of materials. In particular she looks at the development and variation of physical properties as a function of size, from simple clusters of a few atoms, to large nanoparticles and bulk materials, using accurate quantum mechanical calculations and […]

Understanding Metals

All chemical elements have specific properties, but just exactly how these properties are acquired is a challenging scientific question at the heart of Nicola Gaston’s research. A theoretical chemist at Industrial Research Ltd, Gaston was appointed as a Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute at the start of 2010, following two years of close collaborations […]

Going Two Places

In June this year, I visited collaborators at the Free University Berlin to explore a new project funded by a bilateral ISAT grant, working with Dr Dirk Andrae. As well as spending a productive few weeks working on the problem of how to calculate energy increments in knotted molecules, I was able to visit the […]

Himmelbjergegnens Natur-og Idrætsefterskole

As a PhD student in my first year at Victoria University of Wellington, my research is primarily focused on modeling the melting of small gallium clusters (30-55 atoms). I recently had the pleasure of embarking on a two-continent, monthplus journey as part of my PhD professional development. I started the journey visiting our experimental counterparts […]

New Principal Investigators

  Following the call for applications for new Principal Investigator positions in the MacDiarmid Institute 7 appointments were made to commence on 01 January 2010. They are: Martin Allen Martin in based at the University of Canterbury. His research interests are: The physical properties and device applications of metal oxide semiconduc­tors (in particular the oxides […]