Internships support a new generation of researchers

A summer internship can be a lonely experience. That wasn’t the case for the 12 interns supported by Te Pūnaha Matatini over the 2023-24 summer.

A group of interns stand on a flight of stairs.

As they worked on their diverse research projects in complex systems, the interns also came together to build whanaungatanga, experience the pioneering transdisciplinary approach of Te Pūnaha Matatini, and share their work with each other, supported by Te Pūnaha Matatini Deputy Director Associate Professor Mike O’Sullivan.

Te Pūnaha Matatini is growing and supporting a new generation of researchers who are ethical, collaborative, and do work that matters for Aotearoa New Zealand. This summer, their interns worked on projects ranging from the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science, how Pacific people perceive science in Aotearoa, enhancing an early warning system in a coronary care unit and improving virtual reality displays of a flood model, through to mathematically modelling lake health and investigating intergenerational language acquisition and transmission of te reo Māori.

It gives us immense joy to see these interns coming through with all their skills and energy. It’s such a pleasure to interact and learn from them, and hopefully they will have learned something along the way as well.

Associate Professor Priscilla Wehi Te Pūnaha Matatini

Madeleine Barber-Wilson (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāti Ruapani mai Waikaremoana) spent the summer working with Te Pūnaha Matatini Principal Investigators Associate Professor Graham Donovan and Dr Matiu Prebble as part of a project seed funded by Te Pūnaha Matatini to mathematically model the health of Wairewa Roto.

Maddie explains that “shallow lakes are known to undergo abrupt transitions between a cloudy, polluted state with frequent algal blooms and a clear, healthy state based on changes in underlying conditions such as phosphorus levels. These critical transitions can be modelled mathematically, and our goal is to use a model to find mathematical early warning signals of changes in state for Wairewa Roto. This lake has particular significance as it is a customary eel fishery for Ngāi Tahu, so restoring its health means protecting a source of mātauranga and kai for iwi and hapū of the rohe.”

Te Pūnaha Matatini is the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems, with researchers and students based across the country. We coordinate an internship scheme for partner organisations including iwi, ministries, government departments, and private companies.

Mike explains that “we want to give our interns a small community to feel like they’re a part of over summer, because sometimes internships can be lonely. It’s really exciting to see such talented researchers coming through our education system, and the diverse topics that they are all contributing to.”

If you are from an organisation that is interested in collaborating with Te Pūnaha Matatini on future internships, get in touch at