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.

Hannah McKerchar

Dr Priyanka Dhopade

Priyanka has a background in aerospace engineering and industrial research from the University of Oxford. Her current research at Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland is in sustainable engineering with the use of lifecycle assessments and whole systems thinking. Her fellowship will explore the sustainability of space activity from a lifecycle perspective that accounts for the environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts of space technology.

The project

Priyanka’s project aims to provide a more holistic view of the environmental considerations for space-related activity across terrestrial and orbital environments, as well as generate more societal awareness of space technology and our increasing reliance on it.

Read Priyanka’s reflection on navigating the complexities of pollution from the space industry. 

Ngahuia Mita

Dr Revel Drummond 

Revel has been working as a plant molecular biologist at Plant & Food Research since he received his PhD in biology from the University of Auckland in 2005. His research is focused on plant architecture and the plant hormone strigolactone. Revel likes to explore new techniques and has been a big part of PFR onboarding CRISPR-Cas technologies (both gene editing and CRISPR diagnostics). Although he is first and foremost a scientist the social, ethical and cultural implications of these technologies capture a lot of Revel’s attention.

The project

This project will explore how the science of CRISPR-Cas gene editing has been accepted, or not, by different countries and cultures. In particular the differing routes that countries have taken in setting regulatory boundaries for these technologies will be investigated. The goal being to identify potential solutions for NZ that will allow the benefits of these technologies to be realised while maintaining regulatory settings that appropriately protect New Zealand’s unique health, environment, social and cultural values.

Ngahuia Mita

Lysea Haggie 

Lysea has an interdisciplinary background in psychology, physiology, education and engineering. Her PhD is in computational neuroscience models using spiking neural networks to understand patterns of brain activity related to movement generation. She is interested in the development and implementation of emerging technologies, as well as the potential social and ethical implications.

The project

Lysea is focusing on the use of AI in education. 

Ngahuia Mita

Dr Becs Jarvis

Becs is a Senior Lecturer in Marine Social Science in the Department of Environmental Science, School of Science, at Auckland University of Technology. Her research interests include the high seas, marine science, marine social science, ocean governance, marine management, transdisciplinary research, and knowledge-policy-action. Becs is Lead Author on the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Nexus Assessment on the interlinkages between biodiversity, climate, food, and human health.

The project

This project explores the relevance of what happens in the high seas for our future ocean and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Hannah McKerchar

Dr Hannah McKerchar

Hannah has a PhD in biochemistry which mapped changes in food proteins and has a background as a commercial litigation lawyer.

The project

Hannah’s project is exploring how to improve the use of research evidence and connections with policy in Aotearoa. Read more about her, and the OPMCSA’s,  work in this area here.

Hannah has produced a resource ‘Engaging with policy – resources to help scientists navigate a complex environment’ 

This resource includes two videos; one on explaining how to produce a policy brief and the other on the challenges of getting research to inform policy. She has also produced a policy brief guide and template.

We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Riddet Institute.

Hannah McKerchar

Jessica O’Connor

Jessica is currently completing her PhD at the University of Otago, her research focuses on understanding the quantities, drivers, and opportunities for mitigating food loss and waste in New Zealand dairy and beef production and processing. She also has a background in agriculture, plant breeding, and quantitative genetics.

The project

As an intern with the office, Jessica is using her expertise and enthusiasm for positive change in food systems to contribute to the Food Loss and Waste Prevention Report.

Ngahuia Mita

Dr Ngahuia Mita

(Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Hako)

Ko Horouta, Tākitimu, Tairāwhiti ngā waka
Ko Maungahaumi, Pukehāpopo, Te Rae o Te Papa ngā maunga
Ko Tūranganui a Kiwa, me Tikapa ngā moana
Ko Waipaoa, Waiomoko, Waihou ngā awa
Ko Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Hako ngā iwi
Ko Ngāti Wāhia, Ngāti Konohi ngā hapū
Ko Parihimanihi, Whangara, Tirohia ngā marae

Ngahuia is a fellow with the OPMCSA and she is working on a project in collaboration with Professor Anne-Marie Jackson. She has completed a PhD on Māori Health and Physical Education entitled Tairāwhiti Waka, Tairāwhiti Tāngata: Examining Tairāwhiti Voyaging Philosophies. Her PhD examines Tairāwhiti voyaging whakapapa and how Tairāwhiti Waka hourua can improve health and wellbeing in Te Tairāwhiti.

In 2021-2023, Ngahuia was one of two Tairāwhiti interns in partnership with Tairāwhiti iwi Ngāi Tāmanuhiri (Tāmanuhiri Tūtū Poroporo Trust), Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Porou, and the OPMCSA. The Prime Minister had asked our office to host two internships to undertake future-focused projects centred in Tairāwhiti, to support the ‘shared future’ kaupapa of the 2019 commemorations of the beginnings of the nation now known as Aotearoa New Zealand. As a fellow Ngahuia will continue this work alongside Professor Jackson and Te Koronga, the Centre of Indigenous Science at the University of Otago.

The project

The focus of Ngahuia’s internship is to examine, understand and highlight a Te Ao Māori perspective on the climate emergency, specifically from the perspective of Te Tairāwhiti. In order to achieve this Ngahuia will examine a number of significant sites, connected to tūpuna waka (ancestral canoes), in the Tairāwhiti rohe (region) to determine what the impact of the current climate change emergency is in these places.

We gratefully acknowledge funding from Te Koronga.

Intern and fellow alumni

Dr Anne-Gaelle Ausseil

Dr Anne-Gaelle Ausseil

Working with Alison Collins (Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry for the Environment), Anne-Gaelle’s project explored the different frameworks used for understanding the environment and its relationship to well-being. She completed her fellowship in 2021, but is continuing this work in her new role as a principal scientist at the Ministry for the Environment. Previously, Anne-Gaelle spent 17 years working at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

Read the report ‘Environmental stewardship and well-being’ on the Manaaki Whenua website (May 2021)

Read a summary ‘Codifying the relationship between nature and people’ (PDF, 658KB) (May 2021)

Dr Jono Barnsley

Dr Jono Barnsley

Jono has a background in physical chemistry and a PhD involving the study of highly coloured materials. For his internship he completed in 2019, Jono worked on ‘insect decline’. He carried out research into the trends and the state of monitoring efforts both nationally and internationally.

Read the report ‘What is known about terrestrial insect population trends in Aotearoa New Zealand?’ (PDF, 597KB) (September 2021)

Read Jono’s reflection on insect decline (November 2021)

 Read an interview with Jono on RNZ (January 2020)

Ngahuia Mita

Brittany Bennenbroek

Brittany has a Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Psychology, and is currently completing the Master of Science in Society at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington.

Brittany’s project with the office was a collaboration with the Kindness in Science project with Te Pūnaha Matatini, completed in 2023. She explored the effect and timing of past policy changes aimed at improving a culture of inclusion, or kindness in research in Aotearoa.

Read her reflection here (March 2023)

The project report here (February 2023)

The timeline (format best configured to a computer) can be found here (February 2023)

We gratefully acknowledge funding from Te Pūnaha Matatini.

Ngahuia Mita

Dr Jared Carpendale

​Working with Stuart McNaughton (Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry of Education), Jared’s fellowship focused on developing a deeper understanding of the enablers and constraints that teachers and students face in Years 4-8 science. Outcomes from this work will be used to increase student interest, engagement, and achievement in science, including changing the inequitable patterns of achievement by ethnicity and gender. He completed his fellowship in 2023.

Ngahuia Mita

Emma Coultas

Emma has a Bachelor of Science in Geography & Sociology and graduated from the Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience programme at the University of Canterbury. Emma is also completing her Masters of Science at the University of Canterbury. 

Emma’s project focused on coordinating the national science response to the Cyclone Gabrielle recovery which was completed in 2023. She worked  with Tom Wilson (Chief Science Advisor for the National Emergency Management Agency) to provide national support to locally led science, mātauranga, and Te Ao Māori initiatives.

Dr Wayne Crump

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

Read the quantum computing information sheet (PDF, 252KB) (July 2019)

Read the quantum computing resource list (PDF, 194KB) (July 2019) 

Read Wayne’s reflection on his internship (July 2019)

Pauls Davis

Pauls Davis

Pauls completed his internship with the OPMCSA in 2021, having just completed his PhD in innovation management at the University of Auckland. His internship explored academic-business collaboration linkages and their potential in the Aotearoa New Zealand innovation ecosystem.

Funded through Te Pūnaha Matatini and UniServices.

headshot of Jacques smiling

Jacques de Satgé

Jacques has completed his PhD in conservation biology at Massey University and has a background in urban ecology and human-wildlife conflict studies. In his 2021 internship with the OPMCSA, Jacques produced a synthesis of the types and extent of legal mangrove removal in Aotearoa New Zealand, the socio-ecological drivers of this removal, and how removal practices may affect native birds.

Download ‘Mangrove management in Aotearoa New Zealand: A bird’s eye review’ (PDF, 5MB) (October 2021)

Watch a presentation by Jacques about mangroves and the banded rail (September 2021)

Ngahuia Mita

Sherry Feng

Sherry is currently completing a PhD on data augmentation techniques for natural language processing (NLP) at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Her internship in 2023, focused on the potential for Large Language Models (LLM’s) to be used within the healthcare system, exploring the benefits and challenges for patients, medical professionals and policymakers if this was to occur.

Ankita Gangotra

Dr Ankita Gangotra

Ankita completed her PhD in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland. Ankita is a staunch advocate for equity in STEM, and explored ways to improve equity as part of her internship in 2019.

Read Ankita’s findings in the report ‘Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (PDF, 1MB) (December 2019)

Ben Jones

Ben Jones

Ben’s academic background is in pharmacology and he works at Medsafe, New Zealand’s medicines regulator. As part of a science communication programme, Ben worked with the OPMCSA and the Ministry of Health on antimicrobial resistance in 2019. Ben collated resources which explain what antimicrobial resistance is (December 2019), what the impacts may be and what workstreams are in place nationally and internationally.

Shinji Kihara

Shinji Kihara

Shinji has a PhD in physical chemistry. His internship completed in 2020 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.

Read Shinji’s report ‘Nanotechnology regulation in Aotearoa New Zealand: Current developments and comparison with overseas regulations’ (PDF, 865KB) (May 2021)

Madhuri Kumari

Dr Madhuri Kumari

Madhuri is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago’s Department of Physics. In her internship project, completed in 2020, 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 Lo

Stephen has submitted his PhD thesis in chemistry at the University of Auckland. Stephen worked with the Office remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and prepared a report on seasonality.

Ngahuia Mita

Richard Marks

Richard is a MSc student at the University of Otago studying Science Communication, with a background in neuroscience. While interning with the office in 2022, Richard produced infographics to support OPMCSA’s 2022/23 project on food waste.

Dr Tara McAllister

Dr Tara McAllister

Tara (Te Aitanga ā Māhaki) did her PhD in freshwater ecology at the University of Canterbury. She is a Research Fellow with Te Pūnaha Matatini and worked in association with the Office in 2019 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 (2019)

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 (August 2019)

Associate Professor Duncan McGillivray

Professor Duncan McGillivray

Duncan is a Professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Auckland. Duncan was a visiting fellow with the OPMCSA, finishing up in 2021. His current research is focused on materials science, including colloids and surface science.

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.

Olivia’s internship, completed in 2022, focused 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.  Her work was a 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

Olivia Ogilvie

André Oliveira

André studied a Master of Public Policy (MPP) at the University of Oxford, with his internship the final part of this programme. His 2022 internship with OPMCSA explored food loss and waste at the primary production stage of the food supply chain, with a particular focus on the impacts of climate change and related extreme weather events. His project related to the OPMCSA’s 2022/23 project on food waste.

 

Professor Justin O'Sullivan

Professor Justin O’Sullivan

Justin is a Professor in the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland. Justin completed his fellowship in 2021, developing an explainer resource on genomics for policy makers. His current research focuses on a holistic approach to understand genomes and cell structure formation, function, and inheritance.

Fang Ou

Fang Ou

Fang has a PhD in physics from the University of Auckland. Her project at the OPMCSA in 2019 was to assess the impact of artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality technologies on learning, teaching and education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Summary: AI and education at a glance (PDF, 320KB)

Report: On the impact and potential of AI in education (PDF, 690KB)

Dr David Pomeroy

Working under the guidance of Professor Stuart McNaughton (Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry of Education) in 2020, David produced a synthesis of research about achieving equity and excellence in mathematics education.

David has a background in high school mathematics teaching and is a lecturer in mathematics education at the University of Canterbury.

Read ‘Could academic streaming in New Zealand schools be on the way out? The evidence suggests it should be’ on The Conversation  (September 2020)

Cate Roy

Dr Cate Roy

Cate is a senior policy analyst in the Office of Research Strategy and Integrity at the University of Auckland. She was a fellow with our Office in 2021.Working with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Universities New Zealand, Cate explored the research-policy interface. Her project aimed to expand knowledge on potential approaches to strengthening the two-way flow of knowledge between academia and policy makers. Read more about her, and the OPMCSA’s, work in this area here.

Read Connecting two worlds: Enhancing knowledge sharing between academics and policymakers in Aotearoa New Zealand (November 2022)

Download ‘Enhancing knowledge sharing between academics and policymakers in Aotearoa New Zealand’ (PDF, 448KB) (December 2021)

Tom Saunders

Tom Saunders

Tom has a background in entomology, chemical ecology, and biological control, and he joined the OPMCSA in 2021 after submitting his PhD. Tom is passionate about open research practices. His internship explored the topic of public access to taxpayer-funded research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Read ‘The Future is Open: Establishing Wider Open Access for Research Publications in Aotearoa New Zealand’ (May 2022)

Dr Georgina Shillito

Dr Georgina Shillito

Georgina did her PhD in chemistry at the University of Otago. Georgina’s intern project in 2019 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.

Download ‘Solar Energy Policy’ (PDF, 671KB) (October 2019)

Dr Odile Smits

Dr Odile Smits

Odile obtained her PhD in computational physics/chemistry. Her intern project in 2020 was about minimising carbon footprints through efficient electricity distribution and storage.

Download ‘CO₂ emissions and energy consumption 2018’ (PDF, 2MB) (April 2020)

Download ‘How does the type of vehicle impact on whether hydrogen fuel cell EVs are better than battery EVs?’ (PDF, 476KB) (April 2020)

Casey Spearin

Casey Spearin

Casey has a Master’s degree in Science in Society from Victoria University of Wellington and works as a science communicator for the Department of Conservation’s marine ecosystems team. Her internship project, which she completed in 2020 and conducted with the supervision of Anne-Gaelle Aussiel (Manaaki Whenua) and Alison Collins (Ministry for the Environment), studied the initiatives to link environment and wellbeing in relation to Cultural Health Indicators (CHIs).

Abi Thampi

Abi Thampi

Abi has a PhD in physics from the University of Auckland. Abi’s work with the Office in 2020 looked at citizen science platforms around the world.

See Abi’s collated resources in ‘Citizen science: The international landscape’ (PDF, 262KB) (July 2020)

Ngahuia Mita

Ben Thurlow

Ben is a human geographer and social scientist studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge. 

Ben’s internship project, completed in 2023, explored New Zealand scientists’ reflections on the public reception of the science communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, considering both the successes of the government’s response as well as potential lessons for the future.

Headshot of Cherie with the MacDiarmid logo

Dr Cherie Tollemache

Cherie has a PhD from the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland. Cherie worked most recently with the Office in 2021 as a MacDiarmid-funded research assistant investigating new technologies to reduce waste. She previously worked with the Office on COVID-19 during the 2020 lockdown, preparing a report on COVID-19 severity and vitamin D status.

See Cherie’s work ‘Evaluation of new technologies to reduce plastic waste in Aotearoa New Zealand’ (PDF, 1MB) (April 2021)

Dr Akshita Wason

Dr Akshita Wason

Akshita worked as research analyst during her internship she completed in 2019, on secondment from a research role at the University of Canterbury. 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.

Kyle Webster

Kyle Webster

Kyle’s research background is in protein nanotechnology. His 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 Aotearoa New Zealand society and policy completing his internship in 2021. Kyle is fully occupied with his start-up company, Litmaps.

Curated list of AI resources (PDF, 127KB)

AI is here to stay. Now we need to ensure everyone benefits (The Conversation)

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. In 2021, Simone was a visiting fellow that undertook a survey of international antimicrobial resistance policy responses.

Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi

Tanith Wirihana Te Waitohioterangi

(Rongowhakaaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongomaiwahine, Ngati Oneone)

Ka rere Te Ārai te Uru, Ka rere Waipaoa ki Kōpututea ki Te Moana nui a Kiwa ko te ara tēnā o ngā waka i haere ai ki Nukunukuroa. Ko Tākitimu, Ko Nukutere, Ko Horouta, Ko Kurahaupō ngā waka tipua whakaihiihi, whakawehiwehi ka tau ki raro ngā ngaru whatiwhati, ka hoki atu i te pōuriuri, i te pōtangotango. Ko Arowhana, Ko Maungahaumi, Ko Pōpōia, Ko Titirangi, Ko Manawarū, Ko Puketapu, Ko Ngā pari mā mai, koirā ko Te Kurī o Whata, ngā Taupae rawa o Tūranganui a Rua te matua, o Tūranga nui a Maru, o Tūranganui a Kiwa. Kua mauria mai ngā iwi katoa ki rō te kupenga o Te wairua pane o te ora.

Tanith is currently completing a BA in political science and public policy. In his internship that he finished in 2022, he was attached to Te Papa Tongarewa, and worked closely with the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust in Tūranga (Gisborne) to establish the provenance of tāonga attributed to Rongowhakaata Iwi and hapū, collected and disbursed by Lt. James Cook and the Endeavour crew at the conclusion of their 1769–1771 voyage of discovery.

Funded from the PM’s Emerging Priorities Fund as part of the Tuia 250 commemorations.

Read Tanith’s report and related commentaries here

We gratefully acknowledge past or present funding from Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and NanotechnologyRiddet Institute, Royal Society Te Apārangi, Te Pūnaha Matatini, and UniServices.

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