Please make a general enquiry with Geoff at any time about any of the research areas mentioned on this site. Our work is interdisciplinary, and the team includes researchers who have studied physics, chemistry, various engineering disciplines, and materials science at undergraduate level. We work on experiments, theory, and simulations, and projects can be set up in any of these areas.
We are currently recruiting for 2 x fully-funded PhD studentships for our project to develop portable, adaptable technology known as ‘Ion Pipette Aspiration’ for mechanical measurement of small, soft particles. The mechanical behaviour of these particles turns out to be very important for very many research fields. These studentships represent a rare opportunity to carry out transdisciplinary work collaborating with a range of highly-skilled academic groups.
- Student 1 will carry out collaborative experiments using small, soft microparticles, probing the limits of what can be achieved. They will use the resulting data to develop the models and methods required to measure mechanical properties.
- Student 2 will focus on the hardware required for technological development, and will work to continuously improve the technology based on user feedback. This work will combine microfluidic fabrication with electronics, and eventually with optics.
This project extends our work on pipettes and aspiration. Review of applications will start immediately (September 2023) and continue until the positions are filled, with the aim of commencing the project by the start of 2024.
We also have funding for a 2023-24 Summer Student on this same ‘Ion Pipette Aspiration’ project. This student will develop and apply aspiration for measurement of interesting soft particles such as liposomes, various cell types, and industrially-relevant colloids. The focus could be on carrying out experiments, developing the hardware, and/or studying the physical analysis models and methods. The student should be an aspiring researcher in physics, physical or analytical chemistry, engineering, or a related field.
- Honours / 4th Year: we have many possibilities for Honours projects in the Department of Physics and the School of Chemical Sciences. We can also set up 4th year Engineering projects with a co-supervisor in Engineering.
- Masters and PhD: These are possible with the required funding. Please discuss with Geoff about possibilities.
- Research Assistants (RA): Part-time or fixed-term work (paid hourly, and not associated with course requirements) is usually available in any of our research areas. Please get in touch with Geoff to discuss.
Emerging areas of work in the Dynamic Microfluidics Laboratory include:
- Bursting bubbles;
- Evaporation of levitated droplets;
- Spreading of droplets on interesting microstructures; and
- Sheet lighting experiments.
We are looking for students with good academic and experimental skills, and with an interest in soft matter physics, materials science, physical chemistry, engineering or a related field. Experience in the areas of work described above would be an advantage but is not necessary. Applicants should have good communication and time management capabilities.
MEET THE TEAM
Associate Professor Geoff Willmott is a New Zealander who studied at the University of Cambridge (UK), obtaining a PhD in shock physics in 2005. The following year, he returned to New Zealand and joined the Nano and Micro Fluidics team at Industrial Research Limited (now Callaghan Innovation) in Lower Hutt. He developed interests in nanofluidics and dynamic microfluidics, and in 2012 was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship and a Marsden Faststart to work in these areas. In 2013 he moved to the Department of Physics and Chemistry at the University of Auckland. He has been a Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology since 2010, and was the Institute’s Deputy Director for Commercialisation and Industry Engagement for five years (2018-23). In 2021 he was appointed co-Deputy Head of Department in Physics.
MSc, Physics, University of Auckland
Stephen’s PhD is concerned with experimentally studying interactions between small numbers of asymmetric particles, including Janus particles. He is developing experiments involving bespoke microfluidic channels and optical microscopy in order to observe the particle interactions. In this MacDiarmid Institute project, one goal is to work with our collaborators to identify ways of manipulating interparticle interactions which enable self-assembly. Stephen worked at Engender, a local start-up company, between his MSc and commencing his PhD in 2022.
MSc, Food Technology & Nutrition, Lund University, Sweden
Cynthia is working on a industry project representing a collaboration between the MacDiarmid Institute and Fonterra, based at Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre in Palmerston North. She is co-supervised by Dr Davoud Zare at Fonterra, and A. Prof Catherine Whitby of Massey University. Cynthia’s research experience includes industrial projects with Tetra Pak AB Sweden.
FORMER GROUP MEMBERS
Dr Sina Safaei
MSc, Nanotechnology, Sharif University of Technology, Iran
Sina’s PhD research focused on theoretical and computational studies to understand the way that soft matter interacts, and self-assembles into coherent phases and higher-order structures. Sina performed large-scale molecular dynamics simulations to study the dynamics of (for example) Janus particles in fluid flows. After graduation, he has worked at Hydroxsys (a local deep tech start-up) and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.
Dr Santhosh Kumar Pandian
MSc, Materials Science, Tampere University of Technology, Finland
Santhosh studied drop impacts of non-Newtonian fluids on structured surfaces in the Dynamic Microfluidics Laboratory. This work involved high-speed photography of the impact events, and analysis of the physical processes observed in the resulting movies. Although Newtonian fluids and impacts on flat surfaces are well studied, everyday applications often involve more complex fluids and rough surfaces.
Dr Qaisar Latif
MEng, Materials Science and Engineering, University of Kiel, Germany
Qaisar’s PhD project focused on experimental studies to understand novel emergent properties of soft matter. He employed various microfluidic techniques to study individual and collective particle dynamics in a colloidal system. One aim of the research was to further elucidate the role of slip in particle dynamics. Following graduation, Qaisar worked for Engender before moving to a microfabrication role with ASML (Netherlands).
Dr Steve Wells
PhD, University of Wollongong, Australia.
Steve worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow on high-speed photography of fluids, and superconductivity. His interests include fluid interactions with surfaces (e.g. drop impact) for various fluids and surfaces – including ferrofluids and superhydrophobic surfaces. He also worked on a project to make and investigte liquid superconductors. Steve joined Fisher and Paykel Healthcare in 2021.
Dr Nicola Lacalendola
BEng (Hons), Electronics Engineering, Newcastle University, UK
Nick’s main area of research was the mechanics of soft materials on the micro- and nanoscale. He worked on translating a novel ion-based technique which characterizes micromechanical properties to the nanoscale. This included a comparative study where experimental results were benchmarked against well-known techniques (e.g. atomic force microscopy) while the analysis and the development of a bespoke analytical model was accompanied by finite element simulations. After graduation, Nick was employed by the IMEC Institute (Belgium).
Dr Ayoub Abdollahi
PhD, Mechanical Engineering, The University of Auckland
Ayoub joined the Dynamic Microfluidics Lab as a Research Fellow between 2020 and 2022. He completed his PhD and was a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UoA. His research interests are in the fields of experimental and computational heat transfer, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), two-phase flow, and microfluidics. He worked on an experimental project focusing on the interactions between drops and surfaces in a heated environment. He is currently working at Ametek Brookfield & Process.
Dr Ankita Gangotra
PhD, The University of Auckland (2019)
MEng, Electronics with Nanotechnology, University of York, UK
Ankita moved to New Zealand in late 2015 for a PhD project on aspiration of soft particles using nanoscale pipettes, funded by the MacDiarmid Institute. Following graduation, she has worked with a local start-up (Toha) and as an intern with the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, before taking up a Postdoc at Georgetown University, Washington DC.
Dr Matheu Broom
PhD, The University of Auckland (2019)
MPhys (Hons), The University of Hull, UK
Matheu’s research focussed on the role of surface patterning on water repellant surfaces – including drop impact on micropatterns. He developed a range of experimental methods using soft lithography, high-speed photography, and digital image analysis during his PhD. He is now working at Engender, a local start-up.
Dr Miguel Balzan
PhD, Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Canada
Miguel was a Postdoctoral Fellow with the group from 2018-20 with expertise in fluid mechanics and especially spray engineering. He worked in the Dynamic Microfluidics Laboratory on our MBIE-funded project relating to spray drying of dairy products. Miguel obtained a permanent role in the USA in 2020.
Previous PhD students with Geoff as main supervisor:
James ‘Elf’ Eldridge (Victoria University of Wellington)
Eva Weatherall (Victoria University of Wellington)
Peter Hauer (Victoria University of Wellington)
Anna Radionova (University of Auckland)
Hima Kavuri (University of Auckland)