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Change in leadership sees MacDiarmid Institute head in new direction

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Change in leadership sees MacDiarmid Institute head in new direction

8 May, 2018

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 researchers and both have previously been Deputy Directors of the Institute.”

Victoria University of Wellington Pro Vice-Chancellor for Science and Engineering, Professor Mike Wilson welcomed the appointments.

“Victoria University has hosted the MacDiarmid Institute since Sir Paul Callaghan founded the Institute in 2002, and has seen the Institute go from strength to strength over this time.   The two new Co-Directors have a clear vision for the future of the Institute, placing fundamental materials research firmly at the centre of the world’s most urgent long term challenges, by further developing the Institute’s strengths around materials for energy and electronic technologies, to focus on sustainability.”

Speaking following the announcement, Co-Director Associate Professor Nicola Gaston said that materials research was at the heart of sustainable economic development.

“Materials research is inherently about the responsible use of resources. This includes the fundamental work to understand how to make specific materials more energy efficient, in computing hardware or in energy generation and storage, and extends through to the practical design of materials to avoid toxic or scarce elements. We also often work at the nanoscale – which means that the science solutions can be based on tiny, almost infinitesimal amounts of the world’s natural resources. “

She said that working at the nanoscale means there is a much greater surface area per volume, and that materials researchers can then modify the structures of these large surfaces to develop new capabilities and technologies – to make a material antibacterial, or make it absorb more light.

“The whakataukī that best captures our purpose is: ahakoa he iti, he pounamu. We invest in the development of fundamental knowledge, and so enable ourselves and others to be smart about what resources we use to make the materials needed for technology development. It’s about minimizing the material impact we make on the world.“

Co-Director Associate Professor Justin Hodgkiss said that materials research in the Institute was already creating hi-tech solutions for climate change, including renewable energies, new battery technologies, efficient computing technologies, and fresh water testing and remediation. 

“The challenges we will face in the coming decades, driven by population growth, increasing per capita energy use, and the price of changing from the status quo, call for scientists to put better options on the table.”

He said the MacDiarmid Institute had delivered beyond its founding vision of economic transformation through high value technology exports to the point that science commercialisation had already become part of the Institute’s DNA.

“The MacDiarmid Institute already contributes to the high-value manufacturing sector, working closely with companies such as Fisher and Paykel Healthcare and Lanaco, and delivering graduates to companies like Dulux, Revolution Fibres and RocketLab. The Institute has also spun out 14 new companies from its own work, starting with Sir Paul Callaghan’s Magritek. We’d love to see some of the next 14 spinouts put new sustainable technologies into the marketplace.”

Both Co-Directors said they were looking forward to leading the Institute, a group of 79 of New Zealand’s best materials scientists and engineers, plus over 200 PhD students and postdocs, unified for a common goal – to make, understand and use new materials to improve people’s lives.

Contact details:

Chair of the MacDiarmid Institute Governance Board Paul Atkins 021 430 193

Co-Director Associate Professor Justin Hodgkiss 022 605 5007

Co-Director Associate Professor Nicola Gaston 021 027 99624

Strategic Engagement Manager Vanessa Young 027 426 3453

How tiny science can tackle our biggest problem - climate change - New Zealand Herald, May 9, 2018