Paths to policy and industry » The MacDiarmid Institute
Paths to policy and industry

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Paths to policy and industry

28 May, 2020

Most science PhD graduates will not remain in academia. Many are looking to use their skills across a range of areas, including government and industry.

Extending our existing industry internship programme, in 2019 we launched MacDiarmid Institute three-month paid internships in government. The internships cover the period from thesis hand- in, through to oral PhD exam.

Paths to policy

Good science and environmental policy making requires people within the policy system who understand the science system, and the science itself, and who have the deep analytic and data skills required to make good recommendations to government.

With this in mind, in 2019 we supported 14 MacDiarmid Institute graduates into three-month internships within government – with seven graduates joining the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (OPMCSA), four joining the Ministry for the Environment, one starting at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), one with the Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) and another with Dunedin City Council.

PMCSA Office

Odile Smits: Minimizing the carbon footprint by efficient electricity distribution and storage.

Ankita Gangotra: Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy options for Aotearoa New Zealand’s science workforce.

Wayne Crump: The state of quantum computing in 2019, what the future might hold and what that means for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Georgina Shillito: Potential impact of current solar use on energy use and policy in New Zealand.

Akshita Wason: Rethinking plastic and diversity in education work stream.

Kyle Webster: The technological background of artificial intelligence and the long-term impacts of AI development on NZ society and policy.

Jono Barnsley: Insect decline and potential impacts for New Zealand industry and biodiversity.

Ministry for the Environment

Dani Metin: Developing processes and documentation primarily around the change to a code based, reproducible reporting platform.

Heather Jameson: Standardising data and enabling easier Treaty settlement environmental reporting.

Nishat Sultana: Joined the Strategy and Stewardship team to understand New Zealanders’ perspective on ministry proposals related to environmental reporting, data science and Te Ao Māori.

Shota Shirai: Development and validation of R code used for analysing air quality data and reviewing analysed data and interpretation in Kaitaki survey.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Alexander Smith: International trends, market opportunities, and New Zealand strengths and capabilities for clean energy.

Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL)

Mohsen Maddah: The project was to automate the existing MSL mass comparators for calibrating industrial mass units that involved the design and development of the system hardware and software.

Dunedin City Council

Noah Hensley: Stormwater quality and supporting the drinking water treatment team.

In March we were excited to launch our intern programme and have particularly enjoyed having our enthusiastic PhD graduates from the MacDiarmid Institute join us in the Office.

Professor Juliet Gerrard Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor

Commercial internships

MacDiarmid Institute students are a high-quality resource for local companies needing advanced technical and R&D skills and we’ve worked towards matching these skills and the companies through our internships.

The internships help students who have submitted their PhD theses to find placements that relate to their experience while rapidly developing valuable industry experience.

We support companies to find the right people as well as sourcing funding from numerous funding sources, including our own. We aim to provide a wide range of placements to ensure there’s something to suit everyone’s needs and have found both mature and early stage companies are able to benefit from the interns’ placements.

Mint Innovation

Mint Innovation is a startup company developing the ability to turn electronic waste into valuable raw materials, including gold.

After raising $5.2 million in late 2018, they have developed an industrial demonstration plant to refine their chemical and industrial processes and have needed robust technical capability to develop these innovative processes towards commercial scale.

Mint are hosting MacDiarmid Institute alumna, Loc Tran, following her PhD submission on methods to remove either nitrate or heavy metals from water.


Matū is a New Zealand VC firm that makes active, syndicated investments in early-stage deep tech start-ups supported by an experienced scientific advisory board.

They have an active intern programme upskilling recent graduates to work in the investment industry, a crucial need if New Zealand is to develop a large science-based economy.

The firm has developed good links to the Māori economy, including through a partnership with FOMA Innovate and has an ethical investment policy, where the fund takes a long-term view on the impacts of their investments.

There is a good match between Matū and the research and ethos of the MacDiarmid Institute with the long development cycles of deep tech, shared values, people development and recognition of the value of sustainability to New Zealand’s economic future.

Matū are hosting MacDiarmid Institute alumna, Dana Goodacre, with a background in analytical chemistry.

Dana’s excellent analytical abilities have helped the fund reach out to more researchers in the materials, additive manufacturing, and biochemistry fields. Her contributions to the team have been greatly valued, with both scientific expertise and strong communication skills.

Dr Andrew Chen Venture Associate, Matū Fund