School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

Victoria University of Wellington

P.O Box 600
New Zealand

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The science and technology of chemistry and physics are the basis of the physical and biological world. They are fundamental to all natural physical, chemical and biological processes and to the development, operation and performance of all technologies, energy, the environment, manufacturing processes and consumer products in the world today. They play a vital role in the development, sustainability and advancement of national and international economies. The School has a high profile in the University and is a nationally and internationally recognised for its contribution to teaching and research in the exciting world of chemistry and physics.

The School offers an integrated suite of courses in pure and applied chemistry, physics, electronics, and materials science and technology for the undergraduate BSc ? Bachelor of Science, BScTech ? Bachelor of Science and Technology and BIT- Bachelor of Information Technology degrees, the graduate BSc (Honours) degree and the postgraduate research-based MSc and PhD degree programmes. There is a very strong culture of fundamental and applied research and technology development in the School with staff and their research groups being recognized internationally for their excellence. This is evidenced by the substantial publications staff have in high quality international refereed journals, invitations to international conferences and research workshops, patents and prestigious research medals. The staff work closely with scientists in Industrial Research Ltd, a Government owned research and development institution in close proximity at Lower Hutt, other Crown Research Laboratories and industry. Staff also collaborate extensively with colleagues in other New Zealand and overseas universities and research institutions.

The School has a major strategic focus on materials science research encompassing the collective expertise of staff in the relevant areas of chemistry, physics, electronics, materials science and technology spanning fundamental science through to applied science, technology development and potential commercialisation. The School has recently established and hosts the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. Industrial Research Ltd and the University of Canterbury are major partners in this Institute. It has been selected by Government as one of eight Centres of Research Excellence in New Zealand for special recognition and funding. It is the only Centre covering chemistry, physics and materials science. The Institute is named after Professor Alan MacDiarmid a Chemistry graduate in of Victoria University and recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery and pioneering development work on conducting polymers. Professor MacDiarmid visits the School regularly and collaborates with various staff in their research programmes.

Research in materials science encompasses: condensed matter physics including the development of new high temperature superconducting materials, new colossal magneto-resistance materials for recording media, opto-electronic materials including blue light laser diodes and optically active glasses for X-ray imaging, theoretical studies of the interactions of electromagnetic radiation with matter, carbon nanotubes and nanoporous materials by ion beam implantation; soft materials physics including the characterisation and study of rheological materials, emulsions, liquid crystals, biological systems and natural and synthetic polymers by NMR and optical methods; functional materials including the development of new materials and technologies centred around novel functionalised silica and silicate-based materials, conducting polymers and conducting polymer ? silicate composites, anticorrosive coatings, smart papers and packaging materials, photoactive and catalytic surfaces, highly specific catalysts for fine chemical synthesis, carbon nanotubes, sensors, high performance ceramics, and biomaterials.

The School also has a strong research focus on bioactive materials which extends partially into biotechnology. This includes the identification, isolation and characterization of organic molecules with potential bioactivity from marine sponges and collaborating with the School of Biological Sciences and external organizations to assess the nature and extent of any bioactivity. Current activities relate to the identification of the proprietary compound peloruside which is a potential anti-cancer agent isolated from a marine sponge, and the identification of algal toxins. The bioactives research also includes developing synthetic pathways for peloruside and other natural product bioactives, as well as synthesizing new molecules with potential bioactivity from carbohydrate precursors. Other organic chemistry synthesis research includes small strained organic molecules and organometallic catalysts.

In addition there are active research programmes in environmental chemistry and physics relating to the global climate change, thermal and optical properties of Antarctic sea ice and permafrost, vehicle emissions, paper recycling and new technology for the treatment of industrial waste streams; geophysics involving paleomagnetic studies of sediment cores to determine past geologic and geophysical environments, and electrodynamics to study subsurface formations and fluid movement; and astrophysics which includes the study of pulsating white dwarf stars and contributing to the international microlensing observations (MOA) programme and the whole earth telescope (WET) project.


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