Our interns and fellows

As part of our mission to build and develop links between science, research and policy, the Office continues to host and mentor interns and seconded fellows from research organisations into policy environments.

Read more about our internships and fellowships

Meet our past and present interns and fellows below.

Dr Anne-Gaelle Ausseil

Anne-Gaelle completed her studies in France, with a PhD in precision agriculture. She moved to New Zealand with her family in 2002 and has been working for the last 17 years at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. Her research focuses on land-use and climate change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. She has been an active expert with the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), participating as a coordinating lead author and as a member of the New Zealand delegation in 2019. Her systems thinking and wide-ranging knowledge on land use and ecosystem services, have been used to help shape and develop recent reports by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ such as Our Land, 2018 and Environment Aotearoa, 2019.

The project

Working with Alison Collins (Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry for the Environment), as well as experts in several other government agencies, Anne-Gaelle is exploring the different frameworks used for understanding the environment and its relationship to well-being. The intended impact of the project is to stimulate conversation on how to move towards more robust, relevant, and integrative data and indicators for the environment.

Read the report ‘Environmental stewardship and well-being’ on the Manaaki Whenua website

Associate Professor Duncan McGillivray

Duncan is an Associate Professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Auckland, whose current research is focused on materials science, including colloids and surface science. He is interested in the physical basis of biologically-relevant materials and how to adapt colloidal systems and surfaces to control how they behave. His research group is looking at wide range of challenges, including developing low-waste surface coating methods, improving antimicrobial materials, understanding the impacts of nanoplastics, developing surfaces that can be used for spintronic devices, and novel functional food encapsulation. Duncan trained in neutron and X-ray scattering in the UK, USA and Australia before establishing his research group in New Zealand. Duncan is a visiting fellow with the PMCSA, initially investigating nanoplastics.

Professor Justin O'Sullivan

Professor Justin O’Sullivan

Justin is a Professor in the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland. His current research focuses on a holistic approach to understand genomes and cell structure formation, function, and inheritance. The goal is to interpret the relationships between what a cell’s DNA codes for (the genotype) and what we actually see (the phenotype) in terms of genome biology. To do this he uses and develops methods and technologies from molecular biology, bioinformatics, and computational biology to integrate the spatial organisation of genomes with measures of their function. He also has a work programme about the microbiome and the potential use of microbes as therapeutic treatments. Justin is a visiting fellow with the OPMCSA, initially investigating antimicrobial resistance and threats from infectious diseases.

Olivia Ogilvie

Dr Olivia Ogilvie

Olivia completed her studies at the University of Auckland with a PhD in Biochemistry. Her PhD was in food biochemistry and used mass spectrometry to investigate the digestion of gluten peptides that cause coeliac disease. She is interested in using science to innovate and improve our food production system, leading her to undertake a postdoctoral fellowship in cellular agriculture. She is also interested in research commercialisation and investment.

The project

Olivia’s work now focuses on cellular agriculture and future protein sources with a lens on the regulatory, policy and ethical implications of these technologies in an Aotearoa New Zealand context. She is interested in how these technologies will be regulated within Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally, and how science can be used to inform regulations. Her work is part of a larger research project in this area, in conjunction with researchers at the University of Canterbury, the University of Auckland and Massey University.

See Olivia’s cellular agriculture summary and resource portal

Dr David Pomeroy

David has a background in high school mathematics teaching and is now a lecturer in mathematics education at the University of Canterbury. He attended Cambridge University on a Woolf Fisher scholarship, where he earned his PhD researching socioeconomic, ethnic and gender inequalities in the mathematics learning of New Zealand Year 9 students. He was a member of the inaugural Science Policy Exchange. He is interested in building stronger connections between research, policy and practice in education.

The project

David is piloting a model for building closer links between research and policy professionals. Working under the guidance of Professor Stuart McNaughton (Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry of Education) he is producing a synthesis of research about achieving equity and excellence in mathematics education.

Dr Simone Weyand

Dr Simone Weyand

Simone was a Sir Henry Dale Fellow and Group Leader at the University of Cambridge, where she is now an independent scientist. Her research interests are in the structure determination of membrane proteins from pathogenic organisms in order to understand their molecular mechanism. She is also a fellow and member of the governing body of Darwin College in Cambridge. Simone is currently on sabbatical leave and working with the OPMCSA as a visiting fellow. Initially, Simone is undertaking a survey of international antimicrobial resistance policy responses.

Intern and fellow alumni

Dr Jono Barnsley

Jono has a background in physical chemistry and recently finished his PhD involving the study of highly coloured materials.

He worked on ‘insect decline’ and the potential impacts it has for New Zealand industry and biodiversity. This involved working alongside the Chief Scientists at Ministry for Primary Industries and Department of Conservation. Jono carried out research into the trends and the state of monitoring efforts both nationally and internationally.

Jono is pursuing an analytical career in industry or in government.

Read Jono’s reflection on insect decline

Read an interview with Jono on RNZ

Dr Wayne Crump

With a background in maths and physics, Wayne undertook his PhD in the field of superconductivity. His project at the OPMCSA focused on the potential impacts of quantum computing technology, including examining the potential timelines for its impact on New Zealand industry and society.

Wayne completed his internship in July 2019, and created the two resources below.

Read the quantum computing information sheet

An accessible, short summary on the state of quantum computing in 2019, what the future might hold, and what that means for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Read the quantum computing resource list

A list of local and international resources related to quantum computing, including general reports on the state of technology, government research programmes, potential policy implications, commercial aspects, post-quantum cryptography, research organisations and cloud services, as of July 2019.

Read Wayne’s reflection on his internship

Wayne has accepted a postdoctoral position in Finland working at Aalto University in Helsinki.

Dr Ankita Gangotra

Born in India, Ankita moved to the United Kingdom in 2011 to study electronics engineering at the University of York. After graduating with an MEng Electronics with nanotechnology in 2015, she moved to New Zealand. Ankita completed her PhD in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland. Her project combined principles of engineering, physics, chemistry and biology to study the mechanical properties of soft nanoparticles.

Ankita is a staunch advocate for equity in STEM, and explored ways to improve equity as part of her internship.

Read Ankita’s findings in the report ‘Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (PDF, 1MB)

Ben Jones

Ben’s academic background is in pharmacology and he holds a Master’s degree in drug discovery and development from Victoria University of Wellington. Since graduating, he has worked at Medsafe, New Zealand’s medicines regulator, where he currently leads the team responsible for the pre-market assessment of prescription medicines to be approved for use in Aotearoa. For the past year he has been studying science communication through the University of Otago. As part of this programme, he is conducting an internship to build a framework for the communication of research already completed by the PMCSA on antimicrobial resistance, and as a model to apply to future work done by the office. He is also working with the Ministry of Health to assist in their communication efforts on this issue, particularly around initiatives for World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Ben has collated resources which explain what antimicrobial resistance is, what the impacts may be and what workstreams are in place nationally and internationally.

Shinji Kihara

Born in Japan, Shinji moved to Aotearoa New Zealand when he was 15. He enjoyed country life in Nelson before making his way to the University of Auckland in 2013. Shinji pursued his interest in physical chemistry, and submitted his PhD thesis in June 2020. The research focused on the corona-like structure proteins that form around plastic nanoparticles (nanoplastics) and assessed their biological impacts (such as cell toxicity and particle uptake).

Shinji’s internship looked into the regulatory framework on nanomaterials safety in Aotearoa New Zealand, assessing the strengths and weaknesses from a scientific point of view. He also undertook some work on AI and COVID-19.

Dr Madhuri Kumari

Madhuri is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago’s Department of Physics. She is investigating optical frequency comb generation for spectroscopy applications. Over the last eight years, she has studied a variety of photonic systems to understand the behaviour of light and develop devices such as an optical gas sensor. Prior to her career as a physicist, she was a science and mathematics school teacher. She aspires to be a science communicator, bridging academia and society. As a member of the Diversity Committee of the Dodd-Walls Centre she advocates for diversity and equity in STEM.

In her internship project she created a map of organisations working within the photonics sector of Aotearoa New Zealand. Her survey revealed that the current research and business activities related to photonic technologies play key roles in advancing agritech, enabling telecommunications, and empowering manufacturing industries.

Stephen Lo

Stephen has submitted his PhD thesis in chemistry at the University of Auckland. His research was focused on the extraction of bioactive flavonoids from grape waste and the lipophilic derivatisation of these flavonoids to improve their therapeutic potential. This was conducted as a strategy to improve the commercial value of the grape waste which is left behind after wine production. Stephen worked with the Office on COVID-19 and prepared a report on seasonality.

Dr Tara McAllister

Dr Tara McAllister (Te Aitanga ā Māhaki) did her PhD in freshwater ecology at the University of Canterbury. Her thesis involved examining the environmental drivers of toxic cyanobacterial blooms in New Zealand rivers. She focused on the influence of nutrients and river flow on cyanobacterial growth in order to understand how bloom formation is likely to be affected by agricultural intensification. She is currently a Research Fellow with Te Pūnaha Matatini and is working in association with us to examine the numbers of Māori in science, as an MBIE-based internship.

Read the paper ‘Why isn’t my professor Māori? A snapshot of the academic workforce in New Zealand universities’ – a publication by TG McAllister, J Kidman, O Rowley and RF Theordore

Read and listen to an interview on RNZ with Tara and her fellow researcher Dr Sereana Naepi about their research into the stubbornly low numbers of Māori and Pasifika working at New Zealand universities

Fang Ou

Fang recently submitted her thesis for a PhD in physics at the University of Auckland, where she developed a novel method for convenient and rapid bacterial detection. Her PhD project was highly interdisciplinary and combined techniques from optics, applied microbiology, data analytics, and machine learning. In particular, her interests are in education, data analytics, photonics, sustainability and healthcare.

Fang’s project at the OPMCSA was to assess the impact of artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality technologies on learning, teaching and education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Read the report ‘On the impact and potential of AI in education’ (PDF, 690KB)

Dr Georgina Shillito

Georgina did her PhD in chemistry at the University of Otago and has just recently submitted her doctoral thesis for examination. Her thesis involved investigation into how transition metal complexes interact with light. Understanding the photophysical properties of such materials allows us to understand their potential for application in areas of technology, such as solar energy conversion.

Georgina’s intern project involved examination of current solar energy use in New Zealand and also evaluated new, emerging technologies and assessed their potential impact on energy use and policy in New Zealand.

Georgie has accepted a postdoc at the University of Bordeaux Nathan McClenaghan and Gediminas Jonusauskas in their laser lab looking at ultrafast spectroscopy of molecular machines.

Dr Odile Smits

Odile has an educational background in theoretical physics and she obtained her PhD in computational physics/chemistry. Odile is now a postdoctoral researcher in nuclear physics.

Besides her interest in understanding the fundamental laws of nature, Odile is interested in applying her knowledge to environmental issues.

Her research project was about minimising the carbon footprint through efficient electricity distribution and storage.

Casey Spearin

Casey has a background in conservation and science education. She completed her undergraduate degree in chemistry, moving herself from Canada to Aotearoa New Zealand in the process. Currently, she’s completing her Master’s degree in Science in Society at Victoria University of Wellington, while also working as a science communicator for the Department of Conservation’s marine ecosystems team.

The project

Her internship project, conducted with the supervision of Anne-Gaelle Aussiel (Manaaki Whenua) and Alison Collins (Ministry for the Environment) studies the initiatives to link environment and well-being in relation to Cultural Health Indicators (CHIs). CHIs include the diverse recreational, educational, spiritual and social benefits that humans derive from healthy ecosystems, and how these can be represented in policy decisions. Casey is particularly passionate about cross-cultural interfaces between science and other knowledge cultures.

Abi Thampi

Abi is a third-year PhD candidate at the University of Auckland’s Department of Physics. He is researching optical coherence tomography to study the quality of biological tissues. Born in India, Abi moved to Ireland in 2016 to pursue his MSc in Physics (specialising in biophysics) before coming to New Zealand in 2018 for his PhD. Abi is a result-oriented researcher who is motivated to solve real world problems. His background is highly interdisciplinary and his applied research has earned him skills in optics, biophysics, nanoscience, data analytics and machine learning. Besides research, Abi is engaged in science outreach activities and advocates for equity and diversity in science.

Abi’s work with the Office looked at citizen science platforms around the world. 

See Abi’s collated resources in ‘Citizen science: The international landscape’

Dr Cherie Tollemache

Cherie is a recent PhD graduate from the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland. Her thesis involved evaluating mixed self-assembled monolayers as a tool for functionalising electrodes used in biosensor applications. Cherie worked most recently with the Office as a MacDiarmid-funded research assistant investigating new technologies to reduce waste. She previously worked with the Office on COVID-19, preparing a report on COVID-19 severity and vitamin D status.

Dr Akshita Wason

Akshita worked as research analyst during her internship, on secondment from a research role at the University of Canterbury. With a background in biotechnology and science commercialisation, she worked across a broad range of topics, including background research for our rethinking plastics project, our diversity in education work stream, and miscellaneous enquiries from the public. Akshita is pursuing a Masters in Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland and leaves us to join KPMG, Auckland, as a Senior Consultant (Innovation and Growth) in February 2019.

Kyle Webster

Kyle grew up in Nelson and he enjoys travel, running, triathlons, and video games. His research background is in protein nanotechnology. He has worked on combining nanoparticles with human proteins to work towards self-assembling manufacturing techniques for next-generation computer processors.

Kyle’s internship involved exploring the technological background of artificial intelligence (AI). He talked to people around the country to capture what experts were thinking in this area, and scoped the long term impacts of AI development on New Zealand society and policy.

Read Kyle’s reflection on his internship

Read “AI is here to stay. Now we need to ensure everyone benefits” on The Conversation

See Kyle’s summary of AI resources

Kyle is fully occupied with his start-up company, Litmaps.

We gratefully acknowledge the funding of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies.

We thank them for supporting several internships that aim to bridge the gap between scientific research and policy.