Summer research scholarship Projects

(Electrical and Computer Engineering - Law)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Project # 19

Project title: Software to measure forces exerted by invasive microorganisms

Project leaders: Volker Nock, Ashley Garrill

project description: 

Fungi and oomycetes grow as pathogenic species on both plants and animals. They can have significant effects on human health and affairs, either directly through infections or indirectly through loss of crop and other species. The ability to grow invasively is one of the key processes in the pathogenicity of these organisms. Protrusive forces generated by the tip of a growing hyphae aid
in the invasion. As part of a Marsden Grant funded project we are developing a micromechanical Lab-on-a-chip platform containing force sensing micropillars, which will help to extend the understanding of the mechanisms that underlie invasive growth1. The magnitude and direction of force exerted by an organism are measured by recording the deflection of the circular pillar top (~10 um diameter) using an optical microscope. Knowing the mechanical and geometrical properties of the pillar, this deflection can be translated into force using a simple mechanical bending model.

Currently, recorded image sequences are imported into ImageJ and the a track of the pillar top is generated using the TrackMate plugin. This tracking data (x,y- coordinate list) is handed to Matlab and a custom script is used to calculate the force as a function of time. The script also generates force vector overlays for visualization. An example of the current output can be found at As part of this summer project we are looking to simplify the data analysis by development of a software tool which streamlines the analysis process. A possible solution could either be implemented in ImageJ as a plugin, based on the published TrackMate source code. Or, alternatively, a completely new, self-contained piece of software could be developed. As part of the project you will be able to actively interact with biology and engineering PhD students and staff. Existing source code and mechanical models will be provided. You will get the opportunity to experience working in a multi-disciplinary research team and test your code on the latest experimental results. Due to the cutting-edge nature of the work, this may also include a chance to be part of a publication on the results of this project.


student requirements:

Experience in software development/programming


Project # 52

Project title: Transient Models of Power Electronic devices

Project leader: Neville Watson

project description: 

With the advances in solid-state electronics there is widespread use power electronic based equipment in the distribution and transmission systems. In is very important to be able to study the impact this new technology will have on the electrical network before problems occur due to their wide spread. In order to achieve this research is required on the circuit topologies used. Transient models need to be developed that are suitable for use in electromagnetic transient program such as PSCAD/EMTDC. Once this is achieved the evaluation of circuit topologies can be performed as well as investigation of mitigation techniques to overcome some of the undesirable effects.

student requirements: ENEL382 & ENEL371 


Project # 53

Project title: Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging

Project leader: Neville Watson

project description:  

In order for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles to occur there needs to be good and plentiful EV chargers available. To achieve this standards and guidelines are required, and these must be technically sound. The MBIE released some EV charging guidelines in 2016 that are dubious technically if not erroneous. The aim of this project is to produce experimental proof to some preliminary studies undertaken on EV chargers. Therefore physical testing of hardware in the laboratories is required. This testing has implications to other power electronic circuits and if time permits more transient modelling on refined models of EV chargers and other circuits will be performed.

student requirements:ENEL382 & ENEL371 


Project # 54

Project title: Heat-pump Electrical Characterisation

Project leader: Neville Watson

project description:

Heat-pumps are a major load in the electrical network and understanding their electrical performance is important. Earlier work did a lot to uncover the performance of heat-pumps, however, the test equipment available was limited. The test equipment now is far more capable and the aim is to retest the heat-pumps and obtain conducted emission levels of the heat-pumps in the 2.5-9 kHz range.

The student undertaking this project will be strongly encouraged to write a conference paper summarising their research and submit to the 2018 Electricity Engineers’ Association conference (Auckland). Travel and accommodation to the conference will be provided by the EPECentre to present the paper. GREEN Grid EPECentre summer research projects students have won the prize for best student paper at this conference for the past few years.

student requirements:ENEL382 & ENEL371 


Project # 28

Project title: Adaptive Optics Software

Project leader: Richard Clare

project description:

Images of astronomical objects captured from ground-based telescopes are blurred by the time-varying effect of the earth’s atmosphere. This blurring can be overcome with a closed loop adaptive optics systems.

An adaptive optics system consists of a wavefront sensor, which estimates the wavefront aberration induced by the earth’s atmosphere, and a deformable mirror, which consists of a thin glass mirror whose shape can be modified by driving a number of independent actuators. The voltages to drive the actuators are calculated from the wavefront estimate provided by the wavefront sensor.

A commonly used wavefront sensor is the Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor, which consists of an array of lenses, with each lens forming an image. If there is a wavefront aberration, this will image will be displaced by an amount proportional to the slope of the wavefront over that lens. By combining all of these wavefront slopes across the telescope pupil, we can estimate the shape of the wavefront (the atmospheric aberration).

The wavefront sensor requires light (photons) in order to estimate the atmospheric turbulence. However, many areas of astronomy involve the observation of dark objects, so the wavefront sensor measurements are low signal-to-noise. Many astronomical observatories around the world overcome this problem by creating an artificial bright star in the sky, and use this artificial star to drive the wavefront sensor to estimate the atmospheric turbulence.

These artificial stars are created by firing a sodium laser into the mesosphere (about 90km) and exciting the sodium atoms present there to emit photons, which are captured by the wavefront sensor on the ground. For the Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor, each lens captures an image of the instantaneous structure of the sodium layer. However, each lens will capture a different image depending on its geometry with respect to the laser launch position.

This project involves the computation of the images of the sodium layer with a Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor, and the investigation into the shape of these images based on the sodium profile and the geometry of the laser launch position.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is the European centre for ground-based astronomy, and they are currently designing the world’s largest telescope. ESO’s adaptive optics simulator OCTOPUS is written in the C language. The output of this research will be written in C in order to be used by OCTOPUS.

student requirements:

The software needs to be written in C to be ported into the European Southern Observatory’s adaptive optics simulator OCTOPUS. Therefore the recipient needs to be proficient in C, and should have completed ENCE260.

The calculations of the subaperture images will require a decent level of mathematical background, and so EMTH210 and EMTH211 need to have been completed (or alternatively MATH201 and MATH203).

No prior knowledge of astronomy is required. This is primarily an applied math/computing research project.



Project # 109

Project title: Audio Converter and Interrupter Circuit for Solid State Tesla Coil

Project leader: Andrew Lapthorn

project description:

During the summer of 2007/2008 Rowan Sinton and Andrew Lapthorn designed and built a Dual Resonant Solid State Tesla Coil out of parts lying around the ECE department. Summer students Jesse Stuart and Benjamin Williams upgraded this to a bigger coil in the summer of 2016/2017. The Tesla coil works by transferring energy from a LC primary tank circuit to a secondary LC circuit, of a similar natural resonant frequency, over several cycles. This creates a large voltage on the top load of the secondary circuit, which results in an electrical arc forming.

The primary LC tank circuit is driven by a full H-Bridge circuit consisting of Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBTs). This H-Bridge switches at the resonant frequency of the primary LC tank circuit (approximately 150 kHz). By adjusting the time that the H-Bridge is on for, the tesla coil can be modulated at audio frequencies. This is achieved with a logic level pulse (approx. 150 µs) fed into the H-Bridge controller (the Interrupter).

The Task:
Your task is to design an audio converter circuit, which can take inputs from various sources and produce an appropriate logic level interrupter signal via a fibre optic interface. The tesla coil can only really handle monophonic tones (i.e. one note at a time) so the circuit should be able to process the incoming signal such that the fundamental frequency is output to the tesla coil.

student requirements:

Students should have a background in electronics, signal processing, and embedded systems. Ability to develop printed circuit boards is a must.

EPECentre (Electric Power Engineering Centre) 

Project # 81

Project title: Modelling the Joule heating process in durable eucalypts and other timber species

Project leaders: Bill Heffernan; Nurzhan Nursultanov

project description: 

The EPECentre has recently completed a research project in which electrical Joule heating has been shown to be a viable alternative to chemical fumigation for radiata pine export logs, capable of displacing the current methyl bromide process. 
This technique also shows promise as a rapid heating method for preparing high value timber species for processing, such as veneer peeling and slicing for plywood and laminated veneer lumber (LVL). The forest products industry is interested in the potential for manufacturing stiff laminates incorporating hardwoods as an alternative, or adjunct, to pine. 
The project will involve measuring the thermal and electrical properties of samples of the chosen species, as a function of temperature, and incorporating these into a full 3D finite volume computer model and a simplified 1D MATLAB model. Depending on the predictions of the model it may be appropriate to carry out validation testing on full sized logs in the High Voltage Laboratory heating rig.

student requirements: 

This project is interdisciplinary in nature and may be of interest to students who have completed 2nd or 3rd professional years in Forestry or Chemical and Process Engineering and are looking to broaden their horizons. In each case the student’s contribution will be tailored to their background and skills.
Forestry students are likely to have completed FORE327; CAPE students are likely to have completed ENCH393 (and possibly ENGR401 or ENGR406).


Project # 80

Project title: Protection modelling in residential electricity network with distributed generation

Project leader: Bill Heffernan; Ryan van Herel

project description:

The project will involve building a model of a residential electricity distribution network, in PowerFactory or similar power systems simulation software. The behaviour of the protection elements, such as breakers and fuses, will be evaluated under different fault conditions, with differing levels of photovoltaic generation distributed around the houses in the network.
This work is of importance to the electricity sector in NZ, as the traditional model of centralized generation is changing at an increasing pace with the potential for unintended consequences in terms of power quality, safety and reliability.
The student undertaking this project will be strongly encouraged to write a conference paper summarising their research and submit to the 2018 Electricity Engineers’ Association conference (Auckland). Travel and accommodation to the conference will be provided by the EPECentre to present the paper. GREEN Grid EPECEntre summer research projects students have won the prize for best student paper at this conference for the past few years.

student requirements:

The student is expected to have completed either 2nd or 3rd professional year and will have taken ENEL382 and possibly ENEL480.


Project # 51

Project title: Analysis of transient waveforms on Electric Power Distribution Networks

Project leader: Alan Wood

project description:

Distribution network transient waveforms are only recorded for system faults that trigger protection operation. Surprisingly, no in-depth analysis of these waveforms is done.
Preliminary work has shown that transient waveforms can carry information that is indicative of fault type and location. In particular, locating faults is a significant issue for distribution companies, and any method to speed up this mainly manual process is of high value.
Further to this, transient events that do not trigger protection operation may indicate developing faults. Detection of these, with appropriate waveform analysis, may lead to fault prevention resulting in improved reliability and safety.
The aim of this project is to firstly simulate a range of faults in a distribution network, capture the waveforms, and analyse them to see what useful information they hold. Secondly, it is to apply the analysis techniques to real transient waveforms captured in distribution networks. The final goal is a proof-of-concept document, to enable this project to continue.
The student undertaking this project will be strongly encouraged to write a conference paper summarising their research and submit to the 2018 Electricity Engineers’ Association conference (Auckland). Travel and accommodation to the conference will be provided by the EPECentre to present the paper. EPECentre summer research projects students have won the prize for best student paper at this conference for the past few years.

student requirements:

The student is expected to have completed either 2nd or 3rd professional year (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) and Preferably having completed ENEL480.


Project # 110

Project title: Electrification of stationary energy and heavy transport in New Zealand

Project leaders: Ian Mason, Sharee McNab

project description:

Previous work has identified the amount of electrical energy required to fully electrify the majority of stationary energy and transport in New Zealand (Mason et. al., 2016). There is now a need to investigate the potential for such a transformation at a detailed process level for specific key industries and for heavy transport modes. The challenges of electrification of medium and high temperature heat requirements in industrial applications need particular focus. In this research, energy requirements will be critically examined for each unit operation or process in selected key industries and electrical alternatives identified. Technical impediments including transmission will be described and solutions explored. Planning and regulatory issues will be identified at a detailed and local level. Heavy transport electrification options will be explored and reviewed. The key output from the research will be a report in which a pathway for future research and development in the electrification of stationary energy and heavy transport is mapped out, and critical research gaps are identified. It is anticipated that a paper suitable for submission to the NZ Electricity Engineers 2018 Conference will follow.

Reference: Mason, I.G., Gates, H., Chua, H., Miller, A., 2017. Transitioning New Zealand to Renewable Energy. , Proceedings of the EEA Conference and Exhibition, 21-23 June 2017, Wellington, NZ.

The student undertaking this project will be strongly encouraged to write a conference paper summarising their research and submit to the 2018 Electricity Engineers’ Association conference (Auckland). Travel and accommodation to the conference will be provided by the EPECentre to present the paper. GREEN Grid EPECentre summer research projects students have won the prize for best student paper at this conference for the past few years.

student requirements:

The student is expected to have completed Third professional year, either in Electrical and Electronic Engineering or Natural Resources Engineering.


Project # 107

Project title: WEL Networks Power Quality

Project leaders: Neville Watson, Sharee McNab

project description: 

In partnership with WEL Networks, and to prepare future research work, this project will help to define what is the power quality of their network. The objective is to determine a methodology to capture a representative fingerprint of harmonics in the LV WEL Networks - either using their smart meter data if relevant or doing some spot-measurements. 
There could be some extension work to dertermine where are the EVs on their network (Determine a method to “find” home charging EVs).
Note that the scope of the project will be reviewed and refined with WEL networks and could slightly change.
The project may require some travel to Hamilton to meet with WEL Networks staff. Expenses (Flights and accommodation) will be covered by the EPECentre.

The student undertaking this project will be strongly encouraged to write a conference paper summarising their research and submit to the 2018 Electricity Engineers’ Association conference (Auckland). Travel and accommodation to the conference will be provided by the EPECentre to present the paper. GREEN Grid EPECentre summer research projects students have won the prize for best student paper at this conference for the past few years.

student requirements:  The student is expected to have completed the 3rd professional year and will have taken ENEL382 and possibly ENEL480.



Project # 63

Project title: Economics of durable eucalypts species in New Zealand for specific end uses

Project leader: David Evison

project description: 

The School of Forestry has a long term research programme in partnership with the Drylands Forestry Initiative (NZDFI). This programme looks at all aspects of growing durable eucalyptus species for high value end uses such as ground-durable posts or super stiff LVL. The research focus of this programme will be influenced by an analysis of the product and market opportunities available for this type of timber resource. 
Currently neither the growing costs of these trees nor the potential value of logs to processors are known. This value can be estimated when suitable end products are identified and the cost and materials balance in conversion of log to product has been analysed.
The proposed project will provide economic analysis for the value chain associated with growing and processing these high value timber species. Eventually the model will provide a tool to evaluate identified opportunities from the seed and seedlings, through growth of the trees and processing of the log products to the market. This work is suitable for an honours project or could be further expanded into a post graduate thesis.
The project will require skills in economics. Knowledge of tree growing and manufacturing processes would be an advantage. Modelling growing and conversion processes and the analysing the economics of these processes will be carried out using Excel spreadsheets. There could be the opportunity to assist with field work as a part of this project.

student requirements:

The project will require skills in economics. Knowledge of tree growing and manufacturing processes would be an advantage. Modelling growing and conversion processes and the analysing the economics of these processes will be carried out using Excel spread


Project # 40

Project title: Forest dynamics, invasions and relationships with soil nutrients

Project leader: David Norton & Peter Bellingham

project description: 

Landcare Research has long-term research projects on dynamics of natural ecosystems. Two students on Summer UG Scholarships would assist in: (1) remeasurement of permanent plots in montane rain forests in central Westland, which will yield 46 years’ data on tree growth, mortality and recruitment along gradients of soil nutrient availability, time since disturbance (landslides, earthquakes), and widespread death of canopy trees; (2) establishment of new study sites to measure above- and below-ground effects of invasive conifers and to determine legacy effects of their removal (including altered soil nutrient availability, soil biota, and plant communities); (3) determination of soil nutrient availability from a national set of permanent plots established by the Department of Conservation. 
The students will gain field experience as part of skilled and experienced field teams, with high standards for health and safety, and will learn methods for plot measurement that are in widespread use nationally by the research community, and central and regional government agencies. This could enhance their employment prospects. The students will gain insight into experimental design and treatments with the research programme on invasive conifers, including discussions with scientists in the field about appropriate scales of sampling to reconcile above-ground measurements with soil sampling intensity. They will learn appropriate methods for handling soil samples to avoid contamination, etc. The students will learn lab protocols and processing of plant and soil material, all of which could assist them if they pursued postgraduate options or sought employment in labs.

student requirements:

A background in Biology and/or Forestry is required, including an interest in plant ecology. Students should also be experienced in the outdoors (e.g. tramping) and/or are keen to work in the outdoors over the summer.


Project # 57

Project title: Detecting sapwood in living trees

Project leader: Clemens Altaner, Euan Mason

project description:

The New Zealand Dryland Forestry Initiative aims to promote the growth and harvest of trees that have naturally durable heartwood. Species being considered are Eucalypts that have evolved to grow in dryland areas of Australia, and will grow near vineyards in New Zealand. Vineyard posts are currently made with CCA treated pine, and after use they make hazardous waste. Naturally durable woods are much better for the environment. Our research involves tree breeding, silviculture, and wood properties, and we need a rapid way to detect sapwood/heartwood boundaries of living trees. An electrical scanning device (“Treetronic”) has been developed for this purpose, and the summer scholarship aims to test the efficacy of the device across a range of tree sizes, genotypes and species.  The work will involve using the device on trees in Marlborough and then either destroying them to examine sapwood and heartwood contents or coring them to test for heartwood/sapwood boundaries. Students can expect that this research will be suitable for a dissertation or a thesis, and may result in a peer-reviewed publication. Much of the study will be conducted in Marlborough, and it will be done in conjunction with a student working on another project that involves destructive tree measurements.


student requirements:

Students with skills in forestry, forest engineering, statistics and biology would be well suited to this project. Applicants also need a current New Zealand drivers licence. The student should expect to spend several weeks in Marlborough


Project # 34

Project title: Understanding the use of geomatics in New Zealand forest industry

Project leader: Justin Morgenroth

project description:

Geospatial tools and technologies (e.g. GPS, satellite imagery, LiDAR) are increasingly used in forest monitoring and management in New Zealand. Benefits to adopting these technologies include efficient data capture over large areas, minimising subjectivity in forest description, and repeatable data collection practices. Together, this results in increased accuracy and precision in forest inventory and monitoring. In 2012, a survey of New Zealand forestry companies was undertaken to gauge their uptake of geospatial tools and technologies and to identify barriers to uptake. Now, five years later, the summer scholarship student will undertake a follow-up survey to see how things have changed.

student requirements:

The ideal candidate will have knowledge or experience in forestry, geomatics and surveying. They will have effective oral and written communication skills as surveys may be conducted in person or via email.


Project # 102

Project title: Radial variability of wood properties in young trees

Project leader:Luis Apiolaza and Clemens Altaner

project description:

The goal of this project is to validate research on very early screening of wood properties conducted by the School of Forestry. We have collected increment cores in 90+ families and clones which are used commercially by the forest industry. 

The summer project requires working with an acoustic scanner for increment cores, assessing the radial (from pith to bark) trends for wood stiffness and grain angle.

The student will assess the samples and be involved in the analysis of the results. There is a preference for a student who pays attention to detail and with interest on improving his/her analytical skills. Training on how to operate the instruments and additional background on the overall project will be provided, as well as an opportunity for writing a short research paper. This work is suitable for an honours project or could be further expanded into a post graduate thesis.

student requirements: none


Project # 58

Project title: Biomass and carbon sequestration of eucalypts

Project leaders: Euan Mason, Justin Morgenroth

project description: 

The New Zealand Dryland Forestry Initiative aims to promote the growth and harvest of trees that have naturally durable heartwood. Species being considered are Eucalypts that have evolved to grow in dryland areas of Australia, and will grow near vineyards in New Zealand. Vineyard posts are currently made with CCA treated pine, and after use they make hazardous waste. Naturally durable woods are much better for the environment. Our research involves tree breeding, silviculture, and wood properties, and we need to understand the biomass development of these species. Understanding relationships between commonly employed measurements of tree stems and biomasses of stems, branches, leaves is vital for physiological studies and also for estimating rates of carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change. We also wish to be able to estimate individual tree leaf area, and biomass assessments will enable us to test the efficacy of ground-based imaging devices used for estimating leaf area index. This latter project could be part of the study if the applicant is keen. Students can expect that this research will be suitable for a dissertation or a thesis, and may result in a peer-reviewed publication. Much of the study will be conducted in Marlborough, and it will be done in conjunction with a student working on another project that involves destructive tree measurements.

student requirements:

Students with skills in forestry, forest engineering, statistics and biology would be well suited to this project. Applicants also need a current New Zealand driver’s licence. The student should expect to spend several weeks in Marlborough and will be working outside in forest plantations. A current first aid certificate is required, and so successful applicants should either have one or be prepared to acquire one. Some chainsaw use is involved and so we shall send the successful applicant on a chainsaw use course that will result in an NZQA qualification.


Project # 20

Project title:Using RFID technology to track robust grasshopper movement in the wild

Project leader: Tara Murray / DOC

project description: 

A two year study at the University of Canterbury recently reported on successful protocols for the translocation of robust grasshopper, but noted that future translocations would benefit from an investigation into dispersal and movement patterns (habitat use) to help prevent initial dispersal away from release sites. They also collated data on monitoring methods leading to a set of recommendations for annual population monitoring and translocation monitoring, which noted the importance of understanding post-release dispersal as part of measuring translocation success. From November 2017 the group will be trialling HOLOHIL LB-2X transmitters as a monitoring tool to study movement patterns and nocturnal behaviour. This summer project will support transmitter work and test alternative RFID technologies to determine key elements of grasshopper behaviour. Information on dispersal and movement patterns will improve best practices translocation design (habitat selection and release protocols), and best practice monitoring design (where and how large monitoring areas need to be), while determining nocturnal refuges will improve predator control strategies for this national endangered species.
The student will trial RFID attachment techniques in the lab and detection distances in natural braided river habitat using a mobile detection device. This technique have not previously been used on New Zealand grasshoppers. For the field trial RFIDs will be attached to a sample of at least 20 adult grasshoppers which will be followed for a period of 6 weeks to collect data on daily distance moved, habitat use and nocturnal resting places. The student will work alongside and be supported by the Canterbury University robust grasshopper research team.

student requirements:

Completion of BIOL211 preferred 



Project # 31

Project title: Geofall: assessing the potential of wearable devices for collecting spatial information on outdoor falls

Project leader: Angela Curl

project description: 

When older adults fall outside the health and wellbeing consequences are severe. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation in people aged 65 years and over and 30% of those aged 65 years and over falling each year. The project aims are to assess the feasibility of using wearable devices as a means of spatial data collection with older adults, with a focus on falls.

There is a lack of data on where falls happen which impedes understanding of which kinds of urban environment lead to falling and have a negative impact on the health, wellbeing and mobility of older adults. GPS enabled wearable devices offer potential to address this data gap but there are limitations in the use of such technologies with an older population.

The student will assist with:

1)      Review and analysis of existing data– Review of existing sources of spatial information on falls (e.g ACC, St John, INTERAI) to understand the gaps which need to be addressed by new data collection approaches – this will help inform the criteria to be included in a review of existing products

2)      Review of current market products – Review of currently available GPS enabled falls alarms and fitness trackers to assess their potential for use in collecting data on the spatial location of falls and acceptability for older adults.

3)      Analysing data from a survey of older adults

4)      Potential focus groups with adults aged 65-75 

The research will be important for a range of public health professionals and urban planners. The findings will impact falls prevention programmes and provide evidence for the Safer Christchurch team and NZTA. Recommendations will be made for health promoting urban design in ageing cities. Ultimately the impacts should be to reduce falls and improve mobility and wellbeing in ageing populations.

student requirements: 

This would suit students interested in public policy, public health and urban planning from a geography, social sciences or health sciences background.
Some experiences with quantitative analysis of survey data would be beneficial. The project may also interest Engineering students interested in product design or human-interface technologies



Project # 125

Project title: Diverse economies of native bush rejuvenation on the Port Hills and surroundings

Project leaders: John Abrahamson; Kelly Dombroski

project description:

A new trust* has been established to further encourage public participation in the rejuvenation of native plant enclaves on the Port Hills and surroundings.  The trust will be launched in Christchurch on the 1st of September.  It plans to collaborate and communicate with current groups interested in this activity and provide collective help to these groups.  The summer project will attempt to survey the existing diverse groups (> 20 of them), collecting information on their projects, structures, legal and business models.  The student will work with Dr Kelly Dombroski from the Department of Geography for the diverse economies side of the project, and with Dr John Abrahamson from Te Tapuwae O Rakau for reporting findings which will help fine-tune the direction of the new trust.  The student will be able to tap into experience and guidance where necessary from the members of the trust, and work alongside them where appropriate.  

* Te Tapuwae O Rakau Trust, or The Trees Footprint Trust

student requirements: 

Students should have completed GEOG351 Rethinking Development and GEOG309 Research Methods in Human Geography.



Project # 108

Project title: Sustainable transport behaviour change in Christchurch

Project leader: Simon Kingham & James Young (CCC)

project description:

A number of businesses are moving back into the central city as the rebuild gains momentum. Previous research has shown that when organisations move is a good time to get people to change their travel mode. This is something the city council is keen to do and see more people using active and public transport for their daily commute and has been putting work into, with some success. They now want to see how this behaviour change can be maintained through organisations supporting active commuting choices. This project will seek to identify what can be done to do this. 

student requirements:

Social science and social media background Some knowledge of sustainable transport would be useful.


Geohealth Laboratory (UC)

Project # 74

Project title: Stocktake, review and map social connectedness projects in New Zealand

Project leader: Simon Kingham and Malcolm Campbell

project description:

This summer project will be part of a larger project where University’s GeoHealth Laboratory are working with researchers at the Canterbury District Health Board and Otago University. This project is focused on trying to improve the health of people with long-term health conditions (LTCs), e.g. heart disease, COPD, anxiety, depression, diabetes, and bone disease. The project aims to identify and evaluate ways of increasing the social connectedness of people with LTCs to help them better manage their own health and well-being. The project has a specific focus on solutions that can be easily implemented in other locations, with a specific focus on technology based solutions specifically using geospatial tools.

In this summer scholarship the student will initially

  1. take a stocktake of community based approaches designed to increase the social connectedness of people with LTCs, and review the effectiveness of them. For those projects in NZ the student will map the initiatives within a GIS.
  2. review and assess variations in the use of mobile technology and smartphones, access to internet and use of social media, across the community, specifically identifying key barriers to uptake of such technologies.
  3. review international software and social media tools that could potentially increase social connectedness among those with LTCs. 

student requirements: 

Some background in health (e.g. GEOG322) and some GIS expertise (e.g. GEOG205).


Geological Sciences


Project # 71

Project title:Canterbury Basin Mudstone Porosity

Project leader: Andy Nicol

project description:

Mudstone porosities in sedimentary strata can be used to constrain the burial and tectonic histories of sedimentary basins. The proposed UC summer scholarship will focus on the measurement and geological analysis of mudstone porosities in the Canterbury Basin. The student will collect mudstone core samples and use a pycnometer recently purchased by UC to measure mudstone porosities for at least 100 samples in Cretaceous-Pliocene strata exposed onshore in the Canterbury region. The results will be part of a new dataset used to chart the evolution of the basin over the last ~60 Million years. Outputs from this study will improve our understanding of the evolution of the New Zealand plate boundary and the petroleum potential of the basin.

student requirements:

The successful student must be completing a BSc degree with a geology major. They will be required to conduct fieldwork and have a current drivers licence.


Project # 127 

Project title: Burial history reconstruction at several well locations in Taranaki Basin

Project leader: Kari Bassett, Karsten Kroeger (GNS)

project description: Use lithological data from several wells in Taranaki Basin to construct 1D basin models. Lithological information will be simplified to average mudstone, siltstone, sandstone and coal contents for stratigraphic intervals in the well. The data will be used as input for basin modelling software. The student will learn how to construct a basic forward basin model using model time steps derived from the well stratigraphy. These models will illustrate the subsidence and thermal history of the basin at the well locations.

student requirements:

Some experience in describing sedimentary rocks or measuring sedimentological sections, which will help with lithological classifications would be helpful.


Project # 64

Project title: North Canterbury Flood Scenario Development

Project leaders: Tim Davies, Graeme Smart (NIWA)

project description: 

Through the National Science Challenge "Resilience to Nature's Challenges" (RNC) there is a need to develop a severe flood scenario to understand the impact of such an event on the dairy industry in North Canterbury. This involves (i) analysing past data to generate characteristic isohyets for a set of storms of different types (e.g. southerly, easterly, convectional); (ii) increasing the isohyet values to correspond with an extreme storm; (iii) using a NIWA catchment model to quantify river and stream discharges at every road crossing for each event and (iv) supply these data as GIS-compatible files to the RNC Rural Co-creation Laboratory.
The student will learn skills and gain experience in
(1) Searching meteorological databases and analysing spatial rainfall data;
(2) Synthesising data to generate characteristic isohyets;
(3) Calculating annual exceedence probabilities for specific generated storms
(4) Using flood models to estimate spatial distribution of local peak discharges from rainfall distributions
(5) Presenting data in GIS-compatible form
(6) Report writing.

student requirements:

(1) Numerate
(2) Computer-literate (databases, spreadsheets)
(3) Background in physical geography/hydrology/engineering
(4) Understanding of, or aptitude to learn, GIS software



Project # 14

Project title: Building Engineering Geology Models Using Leapfrog Works

Project leader: Marlene Villeneuve

project description: 

The project is a collaboration between the University of Canterbury and ARANZ Geo, a local software development firm who have created the Leapfrog series. Leapfrog Works is a new version of Leapfrog aimed at the geotechnical industry. The student would be working with ARANZ Geo and the Department of Geological Sciences to put together an engineering geology model of a construction case study for testing the Leapfrog Works module and for eventual training on new users of Leapfrog Works.

student requirements:

Applicants will preferably have completed/be enrolled in GEOL 388 Engineering and Mining Geology. Applicants will also be keen to work with the Leapfrog software and be willing to work partly on campus and partly in ARANZ Geos offices on Moorehouse Ave. Applicants will also be keen to conduct desktop studies and literature searches to pull together the data necessary for building the case study models.


Health Sciences 

Project # 92

Project title: Concussion in rugby: assessment and prevention (Health Sciences and Mechanical Engineering)

Project leaders: Nick Draper & Keith Alexander

project description:

The collisions in rugby and other contact sports have major health concerns for players past and present as well as coaches and the sports organisations in general. The collisions in sports occur as direct impacts, or as rotational impact events or in combination. While there are a number of products to measure forces in direct impacts this is not the case for rotational forces. A week-long pilot study review of current literature and a patent search suggests that there is room to: (a) develop a system/equipment to measure rotational forces occurring in some collisions and (b) examine possible materials, methods and systems to establish improved protective headgear for players. The aim of this project will be to investigate both these aspects and to move towards a potential proof of concept.

The tasks addressed in the Summer Scholarship Project will consist of some of the following:
• Review testing equipment and procedures from various standards and research papers
• Develop concepts for test apparatus that could measure rotational impacts on a helmet
• Undertake initial design and CAD modelling of one chosen concept
• Build and test a simple rotational impact measuring apparatus

• Undertake a more focussed literature review based on particular helmet requirements,
• Develop concepts for helmets that might reduce the effect of rotational impact
• Do CAD modelling of a chosen concept

Due to the commercial sensitivity of this work, and the associated IP, it is not possible to describe in further detail at this stage the work completed to date, however, after signing the confidentiality document the successful summer scholarship student will be fully briefed on the work to be completed and approach to be taken.

student requirements:

The ideal student for this project would be one with a background in mechanical engineering and with a passion for sport and/or sport science research.


Project # 131

Project title: T ki te ao, tau ana: Expanding on the constructs of self-identity for vulnerable Māori tamariki and rangatahi.

Project leaders:  Sonja Macfarlane and Angus Macfarlane

project description: 

T ki te ao, tau ana is a quantitative research project which seeks explore if and how self-identity moderates self-worth (fosters a sense of self) in Māori youth. Within New Zealand, there are a number of social disparities between ethnicities. (description incomplete - more to be submitted shortly)

student requirements: n/a

Human Interface Technology (HITLab NZ)

Project # 124

Project title: Developing a Graphical User Interface for Personalized Treatment of Spider Phobia in a Virtual Reality System

Project leaders: Adrian Clark, Simon Hoermann

project description: 

This summer project scope is to develop and evaluate a graphical user interface for an existing Virtual Reality (VR) system that is aimed to help people overcome their fear of spiders. The system incorporates various scenes with different levels of fear-provoking content. During the treatment, the phobic user will be desensitised by gradually exposing him/her to stronger fear-provoking stimuli e.g., starting with a scene with a small spider in a jar, through to a very strong stimulus with several large spiders crawling on the user’s arms.
The successful candidate will develop a user interface that allows easy customization of the virtual environment, based on the therapeutic progress and momentary state of the user. The operator (therapist) should be able to adjust components of VR scene in real-time during the intervention, but also be able to track the user’s state, including the display of their physiological data (e.g., heart rate), their activity in the virtual environment, as well as other verbal and non-verbal cues that might be relevant for the therapy.
The user interface will be developed incrementally; several prototypes of varying fidelity will be created during the process. There will also be the opportunity to conduct a small usability study to evaluate the user interface at the end of the summer studentship.

student requirements:

The ideal candidate should have some skills in using Unity3D. A development background with Visual Studio and knowledge of C# and Windows/Android development tools would be beneficial too. Candidates with experience in prototyping, research methods in human–computer interaction or interactive product design are also invited to apply.


Project # 122

Project title: Integrating multisensory feedback in a virtual reality simulator

Project leaders: Simon Hoermann, Rob Lindeman

project description: 

This summer project is about integrating multisensory feedback components in a Virtual Reality (VR) simulator. The Multisensory User Experience Research Group (hosted by the Human Interface Technology Lab NZ) is developing a VR simulator and is looking for a highly motivated student to contribute to the development of multisensory feedback components for that project.
The VR simulator is developed using Unreal Engine (UE) as the game engine. The hardware includes high-fidelity audio equipment (headphones and a multi-channel speaker set-up), custom-made and off-the-shelf tangible interaction and feedback devices, a 6K 270-degree active stereoscopic 3D projection system (and/or HTC Vive Head Mounted Display) and a gaming PC with top-end graphics performance.
The summer project’s goal is to integrate multisensory feedback for several scenarios. This process involves software development using the UE and is envisioned to include but not limited to audio, visual as well as vibration feedback. The aim is to provide realistic and synchronized feedback that enhances the user experience and actively supports the interaction with the virtual environment.
The student will have the opportunity to support a research study to evaluate aspects of the user experience. This will be part of research that is currently being carried out and help to explore the effectiveness of various multisensory feedback components.

student requirements:

The ideal candidate should have skills in using game engines such as Unreal or Unity3D. A software development background in C++, scripting languages or Java could be beneficial as well. Ideally, the candidate also has experience in one or more of the following topics: Arduino development, audio recording/processing/mixing or 3D Computer Aided Design and visualization.



Project # 67

Project title: The gender impact of social investment in New Zealand law

Project leader: Annick Masselot

project description: 

In recent years, NZ has increasingly made reference to “social investment” in social policy development. Social investment approaches support strong female labour force participation through State subsidized work-family conciliation policies, promoting early childcare and education. The central aims of social investment is to invest in children in order to develop their human capital so as to prepare them to future employment and to end the intergenerational transfer of poverty. As such, social investment strategies have contributed to raise gender equality awareness.
The aims of the project is to assess the gender impact of social investment in New Zealand law. The project will address two main area of law:
1) Social welfare law. The project aims to provide a critical inspection of young and lone-parents welfare benefits in NZ in order to reveal whether gender equality concerns are in fact taken into account in the law relating to social welfare.
2) The set-up and the work of the recently adopted Social Investment Agency will also be critically analysed in a feminist context
A summer student will be required to research in these two areas as well as gather material relating to social investment critical theory.

student requirements:

Ideally, this project needs a student with a law degree and/or political sciences. Students who have taken LAWS344 gender and the law or any other gender course would be at an advantage. Strong independent legal research and writing skills will also represent an advantage


Project # 96

Project title: Feminist Perspectives on Surrogacy

Project leader: Rhonda Powell

project description:

This summer project will focus on feminist perspectives about surrogacy. The successful applicant will conduct a search for relevant literature, analyse it and prepare a report discussing the different feminist perspectives on surrogacy, and how they may be relevant to the New Zealand legal framework. The report will contribute to the Rethinking Surrogacy Laws project, an ongoing multi-disciplinary project lead by members of the Faculty of Law. 

student requirements:

Students who have completed LAWS344 (Gender and the Law), LAWS383 (Law and Medicine) or LAWS322 (International Human Rights Law) are particularly encouraged to apply. A background in political theory, philosophy or feminist theory is desirable. In your application, please outline your experience in legal research and writing. 


Project # 75

Project title: Indigenous Water Rights in Law and Regulation: Lessons from Comparative Experience

Project leader: Elizabeth Macpherson

project description: 

The research project responds to a pressing question in legal scholarship: how to include indigenous people in the distribution of water rights in regulatory regimes for water. The project considers that imperative in the context of two key (yet apparently conflicting) trajectories of contemporary water law and policy: (1) the tendency to ‘commoditise’ the natural environment and use private property rights and market mechanisms in water regulation; and (2) the tendency of domestic and international courts and legislatures to devise new legal mechanisms to protect the ‘rights of nature’. To address the research question I am using a comparative, interdisciplinary, legal method, examining law in its historical and political context via comparative studies (Australia, Chile, New Zealand and Colombia). The Australian and Chilean studies highlight opportunities to allocate commercial rights to use water within water markets, both countries being paradigmatic examples of a market-based approach to water resources management. In 2017 the New Zealand Parliament passed the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act, which for the first time declared that a river is a ‘legal person’. In a landmark Colombian case released in May, the Constitutional Court similarly declared that the Atrato River is the subject of legal rights, designing a collaborative governance framework informed by the Te Awa Tupua Act. Despite the significance of the New Zealand and Colombian cases in terms of cultural water rights, and their coverage in the media, they enjoy little attention in the academic literature.The main research output for this project will be a monograph on indigenous water rights in comparative contexts. There are also a number of peer-reviewed journal outputs and conference papers for the project. I am negotiating with Cambridge University Press regarding the contract for the book, with an estimated submission date at the end of 2018. The student researcher would provide valuable assistance with research for the book, including carrying out and supporting comparative secondary research and interpreting results of fieldwork in Chile and Colombia in September 2017, including interviews with senior politicians, bureaucrats, judges and lawyers about indigenous water rights in each country. The funding will support me to progress my research project and raise my profile as an early career researcher in this field. The research is highly novel, addressing significant, recent legal developments that have had little consideration in the academic literature.

student requirements:

An LLB student 


Project #88

Project title: How do states acquire private land for a public work, what compensation do they pay, and is there an offer-back requirement?

Project leader: Elizabeth Toomey

project description: 

New Zealand has a robust Public Works Act 1981 that enables the state to take private land for a public work.. Within that Act, there is also a somewhat controversial provision (s 40) that demands that should the public work for which the land was taken be completed or abandoned, and there is not an alternate public work envisaged, the land must be first offered back to the original owner or his or her successors before it is put on the market.
There is significant New Zealand case law on both the taking (and related compensation) and the offering back of the land.
This project asks the scholar to investigate similar legislation in the following countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and, if there is time, some western European countries.
Once that investigation is completed, the student would be asked to map some of the significant legislative provisions against New Zealand’s Public Works Act 1981 and appropriate case law.
Two particular areas will take priority:
• The relationship between the state and indigenous peoples
o In New Zealand, at times, the Crown’s obligations to settle land claims under the Treaty of Waitangi create a direct collision course with s 40 of the Public Works Act 1981. Who has the better claim: the former owner from whom the land was taken or iwi ( Kane v Attorney-General [2014] NZHC 251).
• How the statutes operate after a natural disaster
o In New Zealand, the relationship of the Public Works Act 1981 and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 was somewhat complex.

Other areas the student will be asked to research include:
• whether the original land-taking must to be a compulsory (as opposed to a voluntary) acquisition in order to trigger the offer-back;
• whether a s 40 offer back right can be waived;
• the controversial question concerning litigation funding arrangements; and
• whether statutory limitation periods apply to a claim for declaratory relief.

student requirements:

Students must have successfully completed all Laws 200 subjects.
Preference will be given to those with strong grades in their LLB degree thus far.
An interest in the subject matter is essential.
Students should demonstrate an interest in post-graduate study.

Project #100

Project title: Legal Issues arising from natural disasters: small town business and the rural sector after the Kaikoura earthquake 2016

Project leader: Toni Collins

project description:

The legal issues arising from a significant natural disaster where a city has been affected, have been studied since the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes. However, the same has not been done in relation to businesses in small towns and the rural sector. After the Kaikoura earthquake of 2016, businesses in a number of small towns including Waiau, Cheviot, Rotherham, Mt Lyford, Ward and Kaikoura faced a dramatic drop in their turnover as a direct result of the earthquake which had closed State Highway One.
One example is Kaikoura. This small seaside town was isolated after the earthquake when State Highway One was closed to the north and south of the town after massive land slips. The closure of this important main road has had a huge impact on businesses which rely on tourism; tourists were simply unable to access the town. Even when an alternative route was established, it meant a longer and more arduous journey which many potential visitors did not wish to make.
Another example of the affect the earthquakes had on small towns is that experienced by Cheviot. When State Highway One was closed, the traffic that would normally pass through the town heading north was diverted so that Cheviot became a town at the end of a dead-end route. Its visitor numbers drastically declined over- night which had a huge impact on the businesses that relied on the through traffic.
After the earthquake the Government stepped in to help affected businesses. The main form of support was an earthquake support subsidy. It also provided other programmes to assist the Primary sector and assist local businesses with their tax payments.
This project aims to examine what happened to these businesses once the government support was removed. How have they fared in the longer term after this significant natural disaster? What legal issues have arisen and how have they dealt with these? Are there areas where support was required but not forthcoming and reform of the law is needed? Is there be a “best practice” solution that could be implemented across New Zealand as a way of being prepared for other natural disasters?
This project will also look at the legal issues that have arisen for businesses in small towns in Australia after natural disasters such as flooding and fires, to discover whether there are better ways to support and assist business owners in a time of need.

student requirements: 

Law courses would be helpful.


See other tabs for projects listed from Art Hisotry - Economics and Finance and Management Marketing and Entrepreneurship - WRC project lists