MESA 2014 3 Day Photovoltaics Boot Camp

Attention MacDiarmid Institute students, postdocs and investigators, it’s that time of year again!
MESA is thrilled to announce the third annual and now famous 3 day (4 including return Sunday morning) intensive research bootcamp. This year we are attacking all things photovoltaic and moving things south! Over three nights (Nov 6th – 9th) in the beautiful and remote Cragieburn Educational Center, 100 km from Christchurch we will gather together 5 world class researchers to put you through your solar cell paces for what is shaping up to be our biggest event to date. An international first for MESA, it gives us great  pleasure to confirm Dr Attila Mozer from the University of Wollongong, Australia will also be among the speakers. See the attached flyer for details.
Fresh recruits can enlist online via the mesa website very soon, which they must do by the 19th of October at the absolute latest. However, we are limited to 20 recruits in total, which means positions may run out before then. First in first served!
You can also apply directly by filling out the form here
The event is free to attend and includes food, lodging and transport from Christchurch. In general, we expect attendees to approach their supervisors to fund travel to and from Christchurch, although there are a strictly limited number of scholarships available for people who are unable to otherwise secure travel funding.
Check out the flyer and website, and email or with any inquiries. This is going to be an engaging, challenging, rewarding and very fun event in a beautiful location. Apply now, this is one event not to be missed!
-The MESA Committee
PV bootcamp

Print Your Experiment – MESA 3D Printing Workshop

3D Printing Workshop

MESA’s 3D Printing workshop will be held next Thursday (29th May) in conjunction with Masters students from VUW School of Design.

The goal of the workshop is to expose Science to Design and Design to Science. Here we will get to see the whole process of 3D printing,from start to finish while working with the School of Design’s talented students.
In the morning, Masters students will come to SCPS to discuss your experimental issues, convey your design ideas and hopefully sketch up a quick solution. In the afternoon, we will head down to the School of Design where the Masters students will draw up the sketches using 3D drawing software.
Ideally attendees will have a (not too complex!) experimental (or theoretical, if you are that way inclined) problem they need solved that could be achievable through 3D printing.
The workshop will start at 10.30am at SCPS (room TBC) and finish around 4pm at the Te Aro campus.
The following week attendees will return to the School of Design to see how their projects turned out and meet up with Masters students for a debrief over refreshments.
Places are limited so for more info or to register please RSVP to ASAP.
Printing our way to the future,
The MESA Committee.

MacDiarmid Institute Science Commercialisation Workshop

mesaworkshopTuesday 3rd June

9:30 – 3:30 pm

Venue: Victoria University of Wellington AM 411

The MacDiarmid Institute unarguably comprises of the nation’s shinning lights in nanotechnology and advanced materials. We increasingly see cross discipline teams, within the MacDiarmid Institute, being established to draw together complementary expertise which when combined opens up opportunities which would remain untapped without such collaboration. As science experts we readily seek out collaborations to advance science whilst satisfying our thirst to understand the world around us on the macro and micro scales. The MacDiarmid Institute is committed to passing on the significant scientific knowledge and expertise through delivery of exemplar PhD training which includes workshops and boot camps in science commercialisation.

When students select their PhD they tend to identify an area of interest without considering where their research fits in a real world application. Supervisors are the first point of call to develop scientific skills and knowledge. However, supervisors have varying levels of commercialisation experience and may not be the most ideal person to provide commercialisation training due to lack of experience.  Those supervisors who have commercialisation experience simply do not always have time to develop commercial opportunities in addition to their traditional PI or AI responsibilities. The focus of the workshop is to work with PhD students and post docs so they identify the commercial applications of their research in the long and short term and to use the MacDiarmid Institute Commercialisation programme as part of their training.

Who should attend? This workshop would suit PhD students and Post Docs with little or no commercialisation experience but all are welcome. Please RSVP by 27th May and note any special dietary requirements.
This workshop is also planned for Auckland 10th June and Canterbury 17th June, details to follow.

Opportunity for Chemists to Attend ACS Meeting

Join a select group of Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers from around the world this August 5-14 to help shape the future of chemical information! During this all-expense-paid trip, you’ll get to exchange ideas with CAS scientists and learn about the latest research advances at the248th ACS National Meeting & Exposition in San Francisco, CA.

Apply for the 2014 SciFinder Future Leaders in Chemistry program by Sunday, March 30 at

Science Media SAVVY workshop report from Lisa Strover, MESA-Sponsored Attendee

Last month, courtesy of a scholarship from MESA to cover registration, I was fortunate enough to attend the Science Media Centre’s SAVVY workshop in Auckland. Twelve researchers, including myself, participated in the two-day long media skills workshop, and initially I have to say I felt a bit out of my depth when meeting my cohort; the participants had a broad range of prior experience with the media (nearly all more than myself), came from a wide range of disciplines and research institutions, and ranged from PhD students and early to mid-career researchers, to professors and Heads of Department. The diversity of the group however was a definite asset, and it was somewhat reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt out of my comfort zone – even the most experienced of the workshop participants seemed to have a few nerves during on-camera practice interviews.


Auckland SAVVY participants on the Breakfast couch inside TVNZ Studio 4 [reproduced from here]

Over two days, we each developed media pitches on our own research, which we presented to a panel of journalists on the second day. Despite my suspicions being confirmed that materials science is somewhat harder to sell to the media and the public than some other fields of science, SAVVY was definitely a valuable experience. The focus was very much on media skills, and as such a fair portion of the workshop was devoted to learning about how the media works; this included a visit to TVNZ and a media Q&A panel with journalists from both television and print media. Many of the skills developed, however, were more general communication skills, and as such are definitely applicable to any form of science communication. At this point I’d like to share a few pieces of advice I picked up over the workshop. These aren’t necessarily key take-home messages from SAVVY, but they’re tidbits that really resonated with me.


1. When talking to the media, you are talking to the sofa people.

The sofa people being your average people who sit on the sofa in the evening and channel surf. The point is, that when talking about your science, you need to think about who your audience is and find a way to engage with them. It’s not actually the interviewer that you are speaking to – it’s the public who are going to watch that interview.


2.  ‘Eliminate the latinate’ or ‘cut the crap’.

Avoid jargon. This one seems obvious, but what didn’t occur to me is that the ‘jargon’ is not necessarily just niche scientific terms, but can just be overly complicated language. The way we’re trained to communicate as scientists means that we regularly use a lot of ‘big words’ (eg. utilise, generate, parameters, propagate, phenomenon) when a simpler expression (eg. use, make, limits, spread, event) would do just as well, and probably make us sound a lot less pretentious.


3.  Beware the tyranny of precision.

I work with conducting polymers. I hate referring to my polymers as ‘plastics’ when trying to explain my research to a non-science person… it’s just so imprecise! But sometimes you just have to sacrifice precision or your audience will tune out after three words because they don’t understand what you’re talking about. I know, it’s hard to do.


So that’s it from me. Many thanks go to MESA and to the Science Media Centre for giving me the opportunity to attend SAVVY. Thanks in particular to the workshop facilitators, Michael Brown, Peter Griffin and Dacia Herbulock, whose advice and feedback was invaluable. I would highly recommend SAVVY to anyone in working in science who ever talks to anyone outside their field. Which, apart from some reclusive mathematicians, is pretty much everyone.

Lisa Strover is a PhD student in the Travas-Sedjic group at the University of Auckland. Find out more about the SAVVY workshop here.

MacDiarmid Student and Postdoc Symposium 2012

The 8th MacDiarmid Student and Postdoc Symposium will be held at University of Canterbury 22-23 November 2012.

The theme this year is Mind the Gap – Future Proofing your Skillset.
Registration is open to all students and postdocs whose supervisor is a MacDiarmid Investigator whether funded or unfunded.
We will pay for one night’s accommodation and meals during the symposium. You will also get a MacDiarmid t-shirt!

All students and postdocs, who are not already presenting oral contributions, must present a poster. The poster should be A1 sized and clearly describe your research to your target audience. You may choose at least one of the following target audiences:
(a) Outreach for school kids aged 15-18 yrs old,

(b) Informing the media & public,

(c) Lobbying government and policy makers to make some change,

(d) Obtaining funding for a commercial enterprise.

The posters will be judged according to best presentation and prizes will be awarded at the end of conference.
To register please go to our website:

Registration closes Friday 9 November.

Transit of Venus Forum Impressions from Riyad Mucadam, MESA-Sponsored Attendee

Last month we offered to sponsor a MacDiarmid-affiliated student with $1500 to attend the 2012 Transit of Venus Forum – this was a a great chance to join delegates from the science, business, iwi and government communities talking about Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision for New Zealand – a place where talent wants to live. PhD student Riyad Mucadam, from Victoria University Wellington, took this chance to attend the forum, and gives his impressions below:

A handful of students in New Zealand had the chance to be student delegates to the Transit of Venus conference in Gisborne on June 5-7th.   Elf and I were lucky to part of that inspiring event. Despite predictions of unfavourable weather, the universe aligned itself otherwise.  It did not rain, it was not grey during the duration of the conference.  During the sighting hours the clouds parted at the right moment to let the Transit of Venus be witnessed at the serene Tolaga Bay school grounds and historic, rugged wharf.

Attended by a sort of truncated who’s who or their proxies in science, science education, policy, maori science, innovation led technology or vice-versa, and its promoters,  the Transit of Venus forum was a congregation that had no “authority”, but a vision: to commemorate Sir Paul Callaghan and to advance to action the idea that science will be a strong player in the economy environment and cohesive society in New Zealand.    It was palpably energised by a diverse roll call of achievers or protagonists who found its purpose worthy enough to commit to and engage in with gusto.

Garth Morgan, Derek Handley,  Sir Peter Gluckman, Dame Anne Salmond, Sam Johnson (Young New Zealander of the Year), Sir Peter Blake awardees, hi-fi professors,  crown research institute kahunas,  tech start up stars,   Greater Council chairs, Iwi Trusts,  bankers with a science-community thumb,  Prime Ministers Science Prize awardees…the Wattage could go on and higher  :  the old school and the flash new kids on the block.  And…MESA reps

There was not a single presentation that was …death by power point.  I remember most as mature, thorough, with a latent fervour that accompanies achievement and deep experience, despite some bristling at being “held back” by the “system” – perhaps government,  or the small scale of science and society in New Zealand, or an attitude or institution that prevented collaboration or the four letter…PBRF.   We witnessed an interpretation of Capt Cook’s first encounters with the Maori communities of the North East coast, of a period before “disciplines had fragmented”.  We got a hint of what the logistics of protecting biodiversity meant for a port authority and what role molecular i.d. technology could play in facilitating that role.  We were asked how sustainable development could be explained, seriously and honestly, to a child who is growing up in New Zealand.  Our notions of green New Zealand were turned brownish with facts about water quality.  Dairy or agriculture’s voice was heard in response to perhaps pointed fingers.   There was a proposition that the close to the heart of NewZealanders environment required management by people who had studied and grown up here.

Some speakers were so engaging the panel chair just let them transit right through the timekeeper’s signals:  Sam Johnson’s narration of the volunteer army of Christchurch’s use of the web and telecom tech and his meeting with Hillary Clinton.  For statistical purposes, a very small fraction of the talks made me nod for a few minutes or step out  of the room to stretch.    The science described by the believer-doers-leaders ranged from rock and seaweed- that of the exploration of the EEZ and marine education in coastal reserves to the thoughtscape of evaluation of risk , the role of innovation in reducing risk, of the networks of collaboration,  the evolution of homo hubris  and ecosystems of innovation .

A few simple themes appeared :  Science should be relevant to the tool of diplomacy;  Matauranga Maori should develop its own identity without the rejection of modern science; science scholarship is not a luxury for rich countries but a necessity;  silo-isation of science ain’t helping, cut it out whoever you are;  scientists should provide advice – focussed, based on  knowledge, and the emotions should respond to knowledge;  New Zealand should see itself as and be a small clever nation relevant to the Pacific doing better in science and art than it is at the moment; the communication of science,  speaking the same language across platforms of collaboration and tapping into the need to help were essential in engaging with youth.

If the speakers were enough of a spread, the attendees or their backgrounds were..flat out.  Germans, Americans, Latinos, Pacifika, Asiana, Oceania, Kiwiana, consultants, paediatricians, psychologists, radio station hosts…I met the world record holder for the longest continuous FM broadcast while downing a koha based mussel chowder in Tolaga Bay.  If you haven’t grown up along the coast in a small community, and you think you know a lot, go spend a sabbatical or summa at Tolaga Bay.  Ill share this with you as a primer: UAWA : unrelenting attitude with achievement.

We had a flash dinner with a genuine Iwi-Pinky forget-the-P.C.-rubbish -host, the naval band, a bit of old school graze-n- bump dancing,   a Mayor with Pavarottian vocal chords and some random speeches. Historical, stimulating, memorable, a tribute, the journey starts, in Sir Paul’s words- “its all about love”.

– Riyad M. M. Mucadam