A word from the Dean

Welcome to the 2022 edition of inSCight.

Kia ora tātou

This edition is themed around energy and transport, which have grown in prominence as supply chain issues have featured, fuel prices have risen alarmingly, both contributing to cost of living increases,and the reduction of carbon use in both travel and energy production becomes urgent as we address the climate crisis. We will be exploring many of the ways in which research in the faculty has responded to these issues in the past year.

Professor John Hosking, Dean of Science
Professor John Hosking, Dean of Science

Getting creative with clean energy

Associate Professor Geoff Waterhouse in Chemical Sciences is working on novel ways to generate hydrogen fuel as part of a newly awarded James Cook Fellowship. This work focuses on use of a new type of catalyst – metal single atom catalysts – for driving the oxygen evolution and oxygen reduction reactions needed for a viable hydrogen economy. This builds on prior work by Geoff on prototype metal-air batteries.

Also working in the renewable energy space is alumnus Henry Chen, currently working for TESLA Asia Pacific, but based out of Auckland, undertaking forecasting for solar generation. This is on the back of Henry winning the global Clarkson Medal for undergraduate Maths and Physics, often referred to as the Junior Nobel Prize, for his work on periodic orbits of quadrilateral billiard tables. While this fundamental work provided new insights for billiards and new connections to number theory, it unfortunately did not improve his ability to play billiards in real life!

…the reduction of carbon use in both travel and
energy production becomes urgent as we address
the climate crisis.

Choosing greener travel routes

Another alumnus working on reducing travel impacts is Norman Thom award winner Cody Lim, a Master of Environmental Science graduate who supports teams at Auckland Transport to develop and deliver travel behaviour change programmes.

Associate Professor Yun Sing Koh and Professor Gill Dobbie from Computer Science are also looking to reduce the carbon costs of travel in a micromobility research partnership with Beam, to identify and promote priority pathways to reduce transport emissions.

Auckland city cycle pathways

The power of data

Taking a different slant, Dr Mike Laverick from the Centre for e-Research is working on a large international project to receive and visualise data from sensors on Air New Zealand passenger aircraft designed to capture highly detailed environmental satellite data below the clouds over New Zealand to undertake better climate modelling.

Taryn Smith, an undergraduate student studying Geographic Information Science and Environmental Science, is looking at the next step: to integrate GIS and Environmental Science into everyday business, policy and communication and create solutions for a sustainable future.

Becoming a sustainable university

The University has been examining its own Sustainability practices through the development of a new Sustainability Strategy and associated Net-Zero Carbon Strategy. Professor Gillian Lewis, Associate Dean Sustainability, and I have been playing a lead role in the Strategy development. The strategy has ambitious goals for the University to become a net-zero carbon university by 2030, to have more societal impact from our sustainability research and teaching, and to get its decision-making structures right so making a sustainable decision is the easy decision.

Dr Charlotte Jones-Todd exemplifies the types of action necessary to assist us to reach these goals with her alternative to international conference travel, exchanging air travel for a Raglan hub approach to conference realisation.

Deputy Dean JR Rowland demonstrates our commitment to sustainability research impact through her leadership of our new University Research Centre, Ngā Ara Whetū – the first Auckland pan-university centre focusing on sustainability issues.

Rounding out the issue is a profile of Jessie Houston, a Tongan/New Zealand European BSc (Psychology) student highlighting Leadership through Learning, a leadership development programme for Māori and Pacific students, as well as an article on the new Matariki public holiday and the future plans for Tuākana.

Returning to the transport theme, Dr Sally Watson, from the Institute of Marine Science and NIWA, has been exploring the impacts of ship anchoring on the seafloor, work that has been published in Nature. With the supply chain issues we have been having, we have seen more ships being moored offshore, and hence more concern for the impact they have.

As always, a diverse set of contributions from our diverse and impactful faculty. I do hope you enjoy it and that you and yours are surviving well in these unusual times.

Ngā mihi

Dean of Science, University of Auckland


This article appears in the 2021 edition of inSCight, the print magazine for Faculty of Science alumni. View more articles from inSCight.

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