Science summer research scholarships

Browse the current summer research scholarships on offer for students in the science faculty.

Each year the Faculty of Science offers several exciting scholarships through the summer research scholarship scheme. These scholarships provide students with a unique opportunity to pursue an area of research they are passionate about.

To apply for a scholarship, get in touch with the supervisor directly.

Applications close November 8 2023.

Soft particle mechanics

We have developed a method known as ‘aspiration’ which can measure the mechanical properties of soft microparticles using the humble pipette. The important role of such mechanical properties in (bio-)medical research is emerging.

This project will develop and apply aspiration for measurement of interesting soft particles such as liposomes, various cell types, and industrially relevant colloids. The focus could be on carrying out experiments, developing the hardware, and/or studying the physical analysis models and methods. The student should be an aspiring researcher in physics, physical or analytical chemistry, engineering, or a related field.

Supervisor:
Associate Professor Geoff Willmott
Department of Physics and School of Chemical Sciences

Investigating the evolution of simplicity in toxic cyanobacteria

A challenge in evolutionary biology is to describe why there are organisms of different complexity levels. For a long time, research focused on the evolution of microbiological complexity. The evolution of simplicity is a relatively new concept. 

This project undertakes research into the Black Queen Hypothesis and aims to determine whether the genome reduction observed in toxic Microcoleus strains is the result of Black Queen Hypothesis dynamics, where metabolic public goods (for example, vitamins) are obtained from non-toxic counterparts.

Supervisor: 
Associate Professor Kim Handley
School of Biological Sciences

Structure-activity studies towards eco-friendly marine antifouling

Marine biofouling plagues all maritime industries at vast economic and environmental cost. Current methods to control biofouling have employed highly persistent toxins and heavy metals, including tin, copper and zinc. These toxic methods are resulting in unacceptable environmental harm and are coming under immense regulatory pressure. Eco-friendly alternatives are urgently required.

This project will focus on incorporating the pharmacophore derived from amphiphilic micropeptides into a 2,5-diketopiperazine (DKP) scaffold. The successful candidate will develop skills in modern organic chemical synthesis and reverse-phase HPLC. The biological evaluation of compounds prepared as part of this study will be conducted by collaborators at the Cawthron Institute, Nelson.

Supervisors: 
Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble
Dr David Rennison
School of Chemical Sciences    

Spectroscopy of water contaminants

Water sources may be contaminated with a range of compounds. Rapid and cost-effective identification of contaminated water and the nature of the contamination is important. In this project the students will use spectroscopic methods to examine different types of contaminants in water and assess which are the most appropriate methods for further development. This project is appropriate for a student with a chemistry or physics background.

Supervisor: 
Dr Cushla McGoverin
Department of Physics

Knowledge infrastructures and global management consultancies

Two summer research scholarships to collect, collate and summarise material from publicly available documents and contribute to research team meetings. The research is part of a programme funded by a Marsden Award to examine the role played by global management consultancies in the knowledge infrastructures that shape New Zealand’s futures.

Each of the summer scholars will work with the supervisor, other team members, and the second scholar to identify and analyse documents in one field where consultants have been prominent in shaping popular discourse and advising government and corporate organisations (e.g. higher education, climate change). The task will involve a mix of independent and team-based research and students will have significant freedom to organise their hours. There will be scope to become involved in writing for publication.

Supervisor: 
Associate Professor Nicolas Lewis
School of Environment

Synthesis of the spirocyclic core of marine toxins – developing a general access to the active pharmacophore

Marine toxins are a group of complex organic compounds which pose a risk to human health through contamination of fish and shellfish. These naturally occurring compounds are also great sources of life-changing medicines. Of those, spirocyclic imine marine toxins are recognised as “fast-acting toxins” and the spirocyclic imine motif common to these marine toxins is postulated to be an important component of the active pharmacophore.

The project will focus on developing a general strategy to synthesise the key spirocyclic core of these marine toxins. The powerful exo-selective and convergent Diels-Alder transformation will be employed to efficiently assemble the spirocyclic fragments, to prepare an analogue library for pharmacological evaluation. The student undertaking this project will be involved in modern organic synthesis, purification and compound characterisation.

Supervisors: 
Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble
Dr Freda Li
School of Chemical Sciences

Removing varroa mites using lasers

The project involves working developing new laser technology to eradicate varroa mites from bees. The Summer Scholar will be engaged in studying the light-matter interactions between the laser source(s), mites and bees and designing optical pathways to accomplish the goals of eliminating the very harmful and invasive pests before they can damage the hive.  This project also will expose the summer student to entrepreneurial/business skills and mentoring.

Supervisor:
Professor Cather Simpson
School of Chemical Sciences

Photonic skin testing for melanoma

Current methods for evaluating suspicious lesions for if they are malignant involve inspection by eye or using an imaging system. Both of these rely upon features that are visibly observable. Luminoma's novel technology goes much deeper, taking advantage of rich biomolecular signals. The project will involve working with a team to optimise the optical systems, implement novel analysis techniques and/or measure data in the clinic to validate performance. This project also will expose the Summer Scholar to entrepreneurial/business skills and mentoring.

Supervisor: 
Professor Cather Simpson
School of Chemical Sciences