History of partnerships

Our partnerships

History of partnerships

Lab in a Box

Children working on Lab-in-a-Box science projects Lab-in-a-Box was a mobile science laboratory that toured rural communities and schools. It included our MacDiarmid Institute Nano-Chem boxes to introduce people to hands-on nanochemistry experiments such as polymerisation, crystallisation and hydrophobic surfaces.

We proudly supported Lab-in-a-Box in 2017, an ingenious invention by Professor Peter Dearden of the University of Otago.

Lab-in-a-Box is a mobile science laboratory, built in a 20 foot shipping container. Professor Dearden developed the idea as a way to take experimental science teaching resources into rural communities and schools. The box comes fully equipped with science equipment and an educator. Researchers, university students and professors from around New Zealand also join teaching sessions as the lab tours the country.

Lab-in-a-Box is not only for school students but also for others who live in our rural communities, especially those who are custodians of our land and water. The Lab-in-a-Box team works with farmers and local businesses and the hands-on practical teaching experience can inspire people in a way that a theoretical explanation sometimes just can’t Watch a slidehow about Lab-in-a-Box.

Watch a slidehow about Lab-in-a-Box

Read more about Lab-in-a-Box


Nanogirl is the alter ego of former MacDiarmid Institute Associate Investigator Dr Michelle Dickinson. Through Nanogirl presentations, Michelle has helped us take our advanced materials and nanotechnology resources to a much bigger audience.

Nanogirl in action during her Nanogirl Live! stage showYoung people across New Zealand have been inspired and entertained by Nanogirl, the alter ego of former MacDiarmid Institute investigator Dr Michelle Dickinson, who has helped us take our advanced materials and nanotechnology resources to a much bigger audience.

As a university engineering student, Michelle discovered she was a visual learner and so she found the highly theoretical curriculum delivery a challenge. She vowed then to be a science communicator and to translate science theory into language anyone could understand. This vow, combined with a childhood desire to be a superhero, led to the creation of Nanogirl - a science-savvy female who uses her engineering skills to solve her way out of challenges in life.

The Nanogirl Live! stage show has now been seen by thousands of young people both in New Zealand and internationally. The show brings science and engineering to life with rockets, explosions and other live experiments.

Nanogirl embodies the vision of Sir Paul Callaghan and the MacDiarmid Institute - that science doesn’t have to happen in a classroom or lab, but instead science is everywhere and for everyone. Nanogirl also has promoted diverse role models in science and engineering and will hopefully attract more young women to embrace a science career.

Annual Report and media coverage

Dr Michelle Dickinson's Ted X talk: Nanogirl, my quest to become a superhero

Dr Michelle Dickinson’s Ted X talk on nanotechnology and her quest to become a superhero.

Michelle has a PhD in biomedical materials engineering, and is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie. Her passion for both sports and science has enabled her to travel the world on the search for her next adventure or research project. With specialist knowledge in nanotechnology, Michelle has contributed to the development of cutting edge technologies.

Secretly, however, Michelle has been working on advancing these developments to help her to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a real life superhero.

In her spare time you will usually find her outside kitesurfing, cycling, running, paddle boarding, or inside practicing martial arts. Her move to academia from industry was a step towards her goal of inspiring females to push the boundaries in both science and sports, and to encourage environmentally sustainable living through engineering design.

December 4, 2012

Te Papa

Working on the nature zone at Te PapaWe partnered with Te Papa Tongarewa to include materials science and future sustainability science and technologies in the national museum’s new Te Taiao | Nature exhibition which opened in May 2019.

Over 300,000 visitors saw the MacDiarmid Institute exhibit in the first five months of the display.

The new exhibition explored what’s weird and wonderful about our unique land and wildlife, the forces that create the land’s formation, and the environmental challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand, highlighting the innovative ways we are protecting it.

Based on the work of scientists at the MacDiarmid Institute, new energy technologies that can capture carbon dioxide out of the air and new types of solar cells and the contribution they can make to mitigating our changing climate were on display as part of the climate change section of the exhibit. 

Annual Report and media coverage

We were very excited about our new partnership with the MacDiarmid Institute, allowing us to showcase some of New Zealand’s leading research on material science related to building a more sustainable future.

Dr Dean Peterson Director of Strategy and Performance Te Papa

Travelling Science Showcase

Website 450x300 18The ‘Showcasing Our Unique Technologies’ project was a collaboration with the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), the Dodd-Walls Centre and the Otago Museum, we took hi-tech stories to museums around the country to the general public in a novel way.

The ‘Mighty Small, Mighty Bright’ travelling showcase is an interactive exhibition around material science, nanotechnology and photonics to engage people in the work of the two Centres of Research Excellence (CoRE) and to illustrate the journey of science from the lab to New Zealand homes and businesses.

It makes use of hands-on activities, videos, live displays and virtual reality, as well as examples of end-product materials and technologies that are the result of our research.

This novel approach to outreach helps address the challenge of delivering information to different areas around New Zealand by designing a showcase that is portable and adaptable to different spaces.

Working in partnership with the two museums allows us to leverage the deep science communication and exhibition design knowledge and skills within the museums to translate our research into an engaging exhibition format.

The exhibition kicked off at MOTAT in Auckland in May and then headed south to open at Te Manawa in Palmerston North in November. 

The exhibition was also held at Papakura Museum in South Auckland for the school holidays in June 2022 before making its way south to Otago Museum on 2 July 2022.  

More information and in the Annual Report

MOTAT’s partnership with the MacDiarmid Institute resulted in a wonderful exhibition, bringing complex science to a broad audience.

REBECCA BRITT Exhibitions Manager MOTAT

Sponsorship and support

Along with our many current partnerships and community relationships, we are proud to have supported the following organisations:

The Asia Nano Forum

The Asia Nano Forum (ANF) is a nanotechnology networking organisation covering 15 economies in the Asia Pacific region. ANF’s mission is to promote responsible research and development of nanotechnology that educationally, socially, environmentally and economically benefits each economy by fostering international network and collaboration.


CHIASMA is New Zealand’s premier student-led organisation that fosters connections between science and business, connecting university students to high-tech industries.


Eureka! The Sir Paul Callaghan Awards for young science orators, including paid MacDiarmid Institute internships.

Te Rōpū Āwhina

Te Rōpū Āwhina in the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Architecture and Design at Victoria University of Wellington, was established in 1999. The kaupapa of Āwhina is to produce Māori and Pacific scientists, technologists, engineers, architects and designers to contribute to Māori and Pacific community development and leadership.