Professor Kathryn McGrath

Kate McGrath

Professor Kathryn McGrath

Emeritus Investigator

Phone: 04 463 5963

Postal Address:

School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Wellington 6140

Kate completed her BSc(Hons) degree in Chemistry at the University of Canterbury, before moving to The Australian National University (Department of Applied Mathematics), Canberra, Australia where she obtained her PhD.  After finishing her PhD Kate took up a post-doctoral position in Paris at L’Université de Pierre et Marie Curie – Paris VI (Laboratoire de Mineralogie et Cristallographie), with Maurice Kléman.  During her second post-doctoral fellowship, Kate worked with Sol Gruner in the Physics Department at Princeton University, Princeton.  Kate’s first lecturing position was in the Department of Chemistry, University of Otago, where she stayed for six years, completing a PGDipCom in Finance in her spare time.  In January 2004 she moved to Victoria University of Wellington.  In 2011 Kate was promoted to Professor and became the Director of the MacDiarmid Institute.  Kate’s research has been recognised by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (2003 Easterfield Medal) and the New Zealand Association of Scientists (2007 Research Medal).  In 2013 Kate was awarded the Wellington Gold Inspire Wellington Award. Kate is currently Chair of the association of Centres of Research Excellence.  


Research Interests

Molecular Self-assembly, Complex Fluids and Hierarchical Solid Formation. Many materials consist of molecules interacting with each other via weak interactions only and are often formed by a process called self-assembly.  Furthermore, depending on what length scale or time scale is investigated different effects and/or structure is evident.  These materials are examples of hierarchical materials, our bones, cellular membranes and emulsions are examples or such materials.  In our group we are working to understand the fundamental behaviour of such materials so that we are able to make new materials with advanced physical, chemical and mechanical characteristics.  

Associated Content


Over … And … Out

Next week I am stepping down as Director of the Institute, having taken up the role of Vice-Provost (Research) at VUW in January this year, so this is my last Update. No more desperately trying to come up with something interesting, informative, hopefully occasionally thought provoking and maybe even evocative and controversial every couple of […]


Podcast: People Behind The Science – Kate McGrath

People Behind the Science’s mission is to inspire current and future scientists, share the different paths to a successful career in science, educate the general population on what scientists do, and show the human side of science. In each episode, a different scientist will guides the listener through their journey by sharing their successes, failures, and […]


Our new Emeritus Investigators

Quiet week this week, no controversy, think I did enough of that last time. This week it is time to shine the light on others. But first THANK YOU to the huge number of people I know and don’t know who contacted me and thanked me for speaking out on issues that they believe need […]


Professor Kate McGrath: Time for a change in funding research

This op-ed by The MacDiarmid Institute’s Director Professor Kate McGrath, originally appeared in The Dominion Post and The Press on Monday 1st June 2015.  Success rates of less than 10 percent for competitive government funding programmes are becoming commonplace in New Zealand. Sometimes these plummet as low as 5 percent. This is a matter of […]


Government funding… Tight, tighter, tightest!

We keep trying to get ‘it’ right: Government funding in a limited resources environment. Some recent things have highlighted just how tight things are really getting in the area of Government funding; reviews and refreshes are taking place, but meantime we all have to deal with functioning in a seemingly ever tightening resource environment. With […]


What gets measured, gets done… What then is a meaningful set of KPIs?

Not everything that is valuable can be measured so how are these things included via an evidence base? You hear it a lot, and there is plenty of evidence out there to show, that if you set a numerical target for something, measure and monitor it then lo and behold you’ll achieve it. Why? Well […]


Vision Mātauranga: partnering to create a new tomorrow

Last year, thanks to the initial work and foresight of Desi Ramoo, we began a relationship with Nihi Houia and Ron Hough of Ngā Hononga Marae (Charitable) Trust in Whanganui. Nihi and Ron visited us in Wellington and then in turn welcomed us in Whanganui. Very quickly it was evident that they shared our vision […]


Getting Ready for Market: what role science and scientists?

We maybe think this doesn’t or shouldn’t pertain to us as scientists but in fact we get ready for market all the time; what makes us believe that expanding our market in order to make available the outcomes of our work to so-called end users is any less worth our time and efforts, any less […]


Editorial By Professor Kate McGrath

There is a lot I could focus on in this editorial; the enormous success of our 7th International conference, AMN7, thanks to the hard work of Shane Telfer and his team; the calibre of our speakers at the conference with topics from threads of electric charge to creating complex molecular architectures as MOFs; and the […]


Outreach – Institute Investigators visit Nelson College for Girls

While in Nelson for AMN-7 the MacDiarmid Institute’s seventh international conference for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, three of the Institute’s Investigators visited Nelson College for Girls to share with the Year 12 and 13 students their passion and enthusiasm for science. Senior science students from Nelson College for Boys also attended the presentations.   Fibonacci [...]

Editorial: Inspiring, Influencing, Initiating

Professor Kate McGrath, Director of The MacDiarmid Institute The stories captured in this edition of Interface abound with people who are making a difference. People who are willing to take a leap of faith, whether that be by moving half way around the world to join the MacDiarmid Institute in order to explore opportunities for […]


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.

Imagination is a curious thing

In our minds what we have created is very real, and yet it is not tangible—you cannot hold it or show it to someone else—but you can describe it and share it; and in doing so, sometimes you have the capacity to generate something that is ultimately real. We have just been given the opportunity […]

The MacDiarmid Institute’s New Direction

  The MacDiarmid Institute was founded twelve years ago around a vision of doing science collaboratively. New Zealand may not have been as big or as well-resourced as other countries, but our size and culture of openness made it an ideal place to pull multidisciplinary groups together to tackle unique science challenges. Some of the […]

Kōrero with scientists

A scheme to make it possible for primary teachers to Kōrero  (converse) with scientists is being developed by The MacDiarmid Institute. In two-hour interactive workshops, teachers explore basic concepts (like magnets, light, acids and bases) with scientists as well as hearing about areas of specialist research. “Interacting with scientists is a rare experience for many teachers, but you see them getting […]


Biominerals to bones

Anybody in need of joint replacement surgery will appreciate the options modern medicine provides, but if Kate McGrath has her way, future patients won’t require any screws or other metal parts in their new hips or knees. The director of the MacDiarmid Institute and her research team are borrowing ideas from nature to develop innovative […]