Masters scholarships » The MacDiarmid Institute
Masters scholarships

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Masters scholarships

Collaborative researchThe MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology is extremely proud to be New Zealand’s premier research organisation in materials science and nanotechnology. At times, Masters studentships are available in our research areas and partnership institutions.

Successful candidates will become members of the MacDiarmid Institute, and given exciting collaborative opportunities and a thriving environment within which to work.

Our alumni are working all over New Zealand and the world in many different fields and are having real impact. As a MacDiarmid Institute Masters student you will be encouraged and financially supported to take advantage of the many opportunities we provide to broaden your experience and skills.

Activities available for Masters scholarship students include:

  • Annual multi-day workshops on specialist topics such as communication, commercialisation and leadership
  • Intensive annual multi-day bootcamps (held in remote and beautiful locations) where experts share their knowledge in an important current research area
  • Outreach events, working with school teachers or children
  • Membership of the MacDiarmid Emerging Scientists Association (MESA), run by students and postdocs, which organises additional activities.

Each scholarship is worth NZD$25,000 per annum (not taxed) plus all domestic student fees.

When Master scholarships are available, more detailed information will be posted on this page. 

Externally funded Masters Scholarships

Superatoms: catalysts for CO2 activation

A 1-year Master Scholarship is available to work on designing new superatoms and examine their catalytic behavior, using computational chemistry with quantum chemistry techniques. We have recently shown that designing novel superatomic systems and exploring their physicochemical properties might be used to create desirable functional materials. [1-4] The main research goals of the project are to understand how ionization energy, electronic structure and composition of superatoms relate to activating CO2, and use this information to design the best possible catalyst.

This work builds on experience in design superatoms and is part of a project that has recently been founded by New Zealand’s Marsden Fund. The project also aligns closely with the objectives of the MacDiarmid Institute, a national Centre of Research Excellence, and the successful applicant will enjoy access to the facilities and programs of the Institute.

[1] Sikorska C., Gaston N. (2020). N4Mg6M (M = Li, Na, K) superalkalis for CO2 activation. Journal of Chemical Physics 153:144301
[2] Sikorska C., Gaston N. (2021). Bimetallic superalkali substitution in the CsPbBr3 perovskite: Pseudocubic phases and tunable bandgap. Journal of Chemical Physics 155:174307
[3] Sikorska C. (2019). Magnesium-Based Clusters as Building Blocks of Electrolytes in Lithium-Ion Batteries. Chemphyschem 20:2236-2246
[4] Sikorska C. (2019). Magnesium-Based Oxyfluoride Superatoms: Design, Structure, and Electronic Properties. Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling 59:2175-2189


The successful candidate should have a BSc in physics or chemistry and have completed the first year of Masters or a BSc (Hons) or PGDipSci in one of these disciplines.

Please note that all applications must include:
• A full Curriculum Vitae, INCLUDING your university transcript (i.e., list of grades
• The names of two people who are prepared to act as referees.

Also note that because of Covid-related restrictions on entry to NZ, it is unlikely that applications can be considered from countries other than Australia or New Zealand. If you are considering applying from another country, you should provide a clear statement as to why you expect to be allowed to enter NZ. Applicants should also satisfy the requirements for admission as a Masters student candidate at the University of Auckland.

Total value and tenure of scholarship

The scholarship is worth $22,000 per annum and includes all student fees.

How to apply

To apply, please send a CV, an up-to-date University transcript, and the names and contact details of two referees to: All applications should be emailed to with "Superatoms: catalysts for CO2 activation” in the subject line.

Only applications received before the deadline of 7 February 2023 will be considered.

Green H2 Storage

Please see the 4 descriptions below for the potential topics for the 3 available Masters scholarship projects in aspects of green hydrogen storage. Applicants should indicate the area and primary supervisor they would prefer to work with in their application.


The applicant needs a science degree equivalent to the 4-year BSc (Honours) degree in New Zealand, with 1st class Honours, or a postgraduate Diploma in Applied Mathematics, Engineering, Physics or equivalent. Experience in the appropriate research field will be advantageous. Māori and Pasifika students are particularly encouraged to apply. Candidates should satisfy the requirements for admission as a master’s candidate at the relevant NZ University.

Total value and tenure of scholarship

Each master’s scholarship will include domestic tuition fees and a stipend of $15,000 p.a. (tax-free) for one year.

How to apply

To apply, please send your CV, academic record, and the names and contact details of two referees to:  Professor Sally Brooker,, with “Masters in hydrogen storage materials – subtopic of your choice” in the subject line.

Novel metallurgical production of low-cost H2 storage alloys

Hydrogen will play a key role in the future zero-carbon economy, as a fuel for transport and for use in industry. However, hydrogen is a low-density gas and hence challenging to store for use ‘on-demand’. One approach is to use reversible hydrogen-storage materials such as the intermetallic alloy, Ti-Fe. This alloy absorbs hydrogen within its metal lattice at ambient temperatures, and can achieve storage densities approaching cryogenic liquid hydrogen. However, existing routes to producing Ti-Fe rely on a multi-step process that uses high purity precursor metals. As such, the cost of production is prohibitively high.

This project will explore alternative new synthetic routes to produce Ti-Fe, which can reduce production costs by employing abundant, low-cost naturally-occurring oxides as starting materials, such as titanium-bearing slags and mineral sands.  The primary focus will be to pursue high-temperature metallurgical approaches to develop a proof-of-concept laboratory process suitable for scaling to industrial volumes. The student will gain familiarity with a wide range of metallurgical synthesis techniques and characterisation instruments including scanning electron microscopy (with EDS and EBSD mapping), TGA/DSC, XRD, XRF, and more. Hydrogen storage properties of sample materials produced in this work will be studied using the custom ‘Sieverts apparatus’ available at Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon and the University of Otago.

Supervision and support for the project will be provided by Dr Chris Bumby at Victoria University of Wellington and Professor Peng Cao at University of Auckland (New Zealand), and staff at the Institute of Hydrogen Technology, Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon (Germany).  Processing and characterisation of Ti-Fe alloys as H2 storage materials from NZ feedstocks.Processing and characterisation of Ti-Fe alloys as H2 storage materials from NZ feedstocks.

Processing and characterisation of Ti-Fe alloys as H2 storage materials from NZ feedstocks

Green hydrogen will become a pivotal vector to carry and store renewable energy in a future net-zero carbon New Zealand. Ti-Fe alloys demonstrate high hydrogen uptake at ambient conditions and are an attractive candidate material for stationary bulk hydrogen storage applications. Nevertheless, several key issues require further investigation, such as surface activation, cycle stability, impurity tolerance, and supply volume of the metallic feedstocks.

Students will explore the production and processing of Ti-Fe alloys from New Zealand-sourced feedstocks using metallurgical and mechanochemical methods as part of collaborative research within the German-New Zealand Green Hydrogen alliance. The alloys prepared will be characterised by a range of methods (XRD, SEM/EDS, ICP-MS, XRF, DSC), and their hydrogen storage capacity and kinetics studied using custom ‘Sieverts apparatus’. Furthermore, the presence of common impurities within the Ti-Fe alloys will be systematically studied to better understand how locally-sourced feedstocks are likely to perform as hydrogen storage materials, including the effect of surface impurities on reactivity/diffusion characteristics.

Supervision and support for the project will be provided by Associate Professor Nigel Lucas at the University of Otago and Associate Professor Alex Yip at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and staff at the Institute of Hydrogen Technology, Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Germany.

Modelling of hydrogen storage materials using density functional theory

The student will investigate key materials properties relating to the uptake of hydrogen for storage applications.

Supervision and support for the project will be provided by Dr Anna Garden at the University of Otago in New Zealand and staff at the Institute of Hydrogen Technology, Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Germany

NZ National Energy System Modelling – Role of Hydrogen

To meet Net-Zero carbon targets requires a fundamental change in New Zealand’s energy system. National energy system models that include all types of energy demand and supply enable us to explore scenarios to Net Zero that encompass the scale of the changes required and include interactions across sectors, e.g. Transport and Electricity.

UniSyD is an economic model of New Zealand’s energy system coded in STELLA software and based on process flows. It has been used for a variety of New Zealand applications and adapted to several other countries, including Japan and Iceland.

This Ph.D. project will use UniSyD to explore some important questions for the New Zealand energy system, including

  • The optimum role of hydrogen in the NZ energy system, including storage options
  • The optimum role of biomass in the NZ energy system
  • The optimum evolution of hydrogen infrastructure

Supervision and support for the project will be provided by Associate Professor Michael Jack at the University of Otago and Associate Professor Jonathan Lever at Unitec in New Zealand and the Institute of Hydrogen Technology, Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon, Germany. The student will be enrolled at the University of Otago, but it is expected that the candidate will spend time at both the New Zealand and German host institutions over the course of the PhD studies.