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Researcher awarded Internet New Zealand grant

08 Apr 2014 - 16:32 in Research

Dr Qiang Fu, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded a $20,000 grant for a project to understand the practical issues on the adoption of Software Defined Networking (SDN), technology that helps network administrators manage network services. Each year InternetNZ grants nearly half a million dollars to individuals and organisations who share its vision of a better world through a better internet.

Meet a man who owns a key to a major part of Internet security

04 Apr 2014 - 11:47 in Achievement

There are 14 people worldwide who own keys that protect the security of web domain names. One of those people, engineer Andy Linton, joins James Ball, special projects editor for Guardian US, and Consider This host Antonio Mora to explain how the security system works and how Linton came to be a key holder. To see this item on America Aljazeera please click on the link below:

Datacom Scholarship

31 Mar 2014 - 09:42 in Achievement

Simon Ferrari (General Manager, Datacom Systems), Alastair Turrell (Director, Systems and Integration, Datacom Systems), Tony Butler, Tim Stapels

A number of prizes are awarded annually to the top performing undergraduate students in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. These awards are possible through the generosity of organisations in the Wellington region. Since 2006 Datacom Systems has been awarding a $5,000 scholarship to a full-time student intending to undertake 300 level study in Computer Science or Engineering. The award is in excellence and this year the Scholarship went to two students, Tony Butler and Tim Stapels. Alastair Turrell, the Director of Datacom Systems, who presented the scholarship to the students, stated:

The Datacom Scholarship commenced in 2006 and we are as delighted and impressed with the quality of the 2014 graduate group as ever. Many of our staff are former students, and the visionary thought-leaders of our future are certain to come from your graduate pool.

Each year, as we set about assessing the scholarship candidates, we are continually impressed by the abilities, achievements and wisdom-beyond-years that we see. This year was no exception, and in evaluating the 2014 Datacom Computer Science Scholarship applicants, we decided to award two scholarships reflecting both the depth of talent emerging from the final year and the excellence of both scholarship recipients.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science would like to thank Datacom System for its on-going support.

Research gets gold

21 Mar 2014 - 11:44 in Research

Described as “the equivalent of a desktop version of a mainframe computer” the smart red Spinsolve machine sitting on a lab bench at Victoria University is evidence, say its designers, that the vision of the late Sir Paul Callaghan is coming to fruition.

Spinsolve is an early product resulting from a $4 million dollar investment in research being carried out by scientists at Victoria and Magritek, the Wellington-based company founded by Sir Paul which makes scientific instruments.

The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer can produce information on the structure of molecules in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, that it takes to do the analysis on traditional equipment.

“It’s also portable (larger NMR spectrometers have to be housed in a special facility and are expensive to maintain) and beautifully simple to operate,” says Dr Robin Dykstra, a senior lecturer in Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“We are seeing the results of the foundation laid by Sir Paul—most of us working on this research completed our PhDs under Paul’s supervision and we are making a reality of his dream of using science and technology to create a world-class, home grown industry.

“Paul would have been exceptionally proud of the research we are doing and we are proud to be taking his work to the next stage.”

The project, which is led by Dr Dykstra and Dr Petrik Galvosas, senior research fellow in Victoria’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, has received a sought-after gold star rating from its funder, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, which indicates a very high standard of achievement in terms of science discoveries and impact.

“What we are aiming to do,” says Dr Dykstra, “is move Magnetic Resonance (MR) out of the lab and the clinic and open up possibilities for it to be used in a whole range of new industries such as oil and gas, geothermal, chemical processing and biotechnology.

“There is significant international interest in MR because it is non-invasive and rich in information. Our group has a real technology edge in this field.”

Made partly in Germany and partly in Wellington, Spinsolve is being continuously improved but the current version is already proving popular among researchers in educational facilities and pharmaceutical companies around the world.

“Its performance is less than the large, superconducting magnet-based machines but it’s perfect for those wanting quick turnaround to regularly monitor what they are doing,” says Dr Dykstra.

The highly-rated research project has a number of work strands—Spinsolve is at the commercialisation end of the spectrum while another initiative, led by Dr Galvosas, is early stage and exploratory.

He and his team of researchers, which includes a young scientist recruited from an internationally renowned research group in China, are investigating ways of applying knowledge about testing porous media (Magritek’s technology is already used for testing how porous rocks are) to detecting breast cancer.

“Tissue is porous,” says Dr Galvosas, “so in theory our technology can be used to track the way fluids move through the tissue, providing accurate information about its structure.

“Our vision is to develop a simple, portable device which would sit on a doctor’s desk and be routinely used for screening, alerting the doctor if there was abnormality in tissue which needed further investigation.”

The advantages, says Dr Galvosas, would be significant. “Current scanning systems carry some risk—we are aiming to develop a machine which is an alternative to X-ray and to MRI systems that use chemicals for improved imaging contrast which may not be tolerated by all patients.”

Dr Dykstra says a key strength underpins the success the research group is having.

“It is the benefit of a long-standing collaboration between Victoria University and Magritek. Between us, we arguably have the best capability in the world to take MR ideas from concept through to product that is successfully marketed worldwide.”

Craig Holmes, Senior Sector Manager of Manufacturing and Resources at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, says an additional strength of the Victoria-based research is that it will deliver a competitive advantage to a range of New Zealand businesses.

“The Government is committed to ensuring we invest in purpose-driven research that benefits New Zealand, which is exactly what this work is doing. Firms which supply services and technology to Magritek will benefit from this research by gaining knowledge that will lift their technological capability, and, in turn, increase their international competitiveness,” he says.

For further information, please contact Dr Robin Dykstra, on 021-380 904 or

Making the most of windy Wellington

17 Mar 2014 - 13:33 in Research

Windy Wellington is providing the perfect backdrop for two postgraduate students from Victoria University to research the potential of wind power.

Daniel Akinyele and Hatem Alzaanin are part of a newly formed and rapidly expanding power and renewable energy systems research group led by Dr Ramesh Rayudu at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Daniel and Hatem are poised to raise the profile of the group’s work after scooping the only two available sponsorships to attend and present their research at the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition taking place in Wellington in April.

Dr Rayudu is excited two of his group will have a chance to present at the conference.

“It’s a great achievement for both of these scholarships to have gone to Victoria students—it shows we are becoming known as a centre of excellence in renewable energy and particularly wind power.”

Daniel, a PhD student originally from Nigeria, is researching the use of micro-grids in Wellington. A micro-grid is a small scale power generator such as a solar panel or wind turbine that could be located on residential or commercial buildings. They can be connected to the main network or operated independently.

Daniel is investigating how micro-grids can provide extra power to the network during peak times and act as a back-up source of energy should the main network go down after a natural disaster.

“In a major earthquake,” says Daniel, “Wellington could be left without power for days or weeks. If we had a network of micro-grids, the impact could be much less severe,” says Daniel.

Andy Linton - Internet Key Holder

11 Mar 2014 - 13:36 in Achievement

Andy Linton, a senior lecturer at Victoria University explains on Radio NZ his job as one of the 14 keyholders helping to keep the internet secure.

IET Engineering Student Award

10 Mar 2014 - 16:56 in Achievement

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David Owen, from the IET Council and Wellington Network Committee, presenting the IET 2013 prize to Victoria University student, Thomas Sherson.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is a leading professional body that shares and advances knowledge to promote science, engineering and technology through its more than 150,000 members in 127 countries. It offers a professional home for life for engineers and technicians and is a trusted source of essential engineering intelligence. To recognize and reward excellence, it currently awards NZ$1 Million in prizes, scholarships and medals each year; this includes an annual prize to VUW’s top engineering student.

Persistence pays off for Smart City Network Project

24 Feb 2014 - 11:19 in Research


The School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington is part of an international group which has been awarded a prestigious grant funded by the European Union.

The highly sought after Erasmus Mundus grant will allow PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff members to share and collaborate on their research by visiting partner universities.

The project theme is a ‘Smart City Network’, and it will be made up of a wide range of smaller individual projects that focus on information and communications technology (ICT). A city can be called ‘smart’ when it uses integrated ICTs to produce sustainable economic development and a high quality of life for its citizens.

Victoria is the sole New Zealand university in the group of 10 institutions from Europe and Australasia. Led by the University of Malaga in Spain, this is the consortium’s third attempt to secure project funding through the Erasmus Mundus grant. The group’s persistence has paid off with €1.188 million ($NZ1.96 million) granted to support the project for three years.

Professor Winston Seah, from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has worked with the University of Malaga to put together each application and is pleased to see the consortium’s efforts rewarded.

He says the project provides an exciting opportunity for students and staff at the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“This will benefit the faculty as a whole,” says Professor Seah. “Not only will it allow our students and staff to travel to partner institutions to enrich their studies, it will also mean we benefit from the expertise of visiting researchers who choose to further their work here at Victoria.”

Professor Dale Carnegie, Head of School, is thrilled at the affirmation of the quality of Victoria’s engineering programme. “This provides an exceptional opportunity to increase the collaboration opportunities of our world-class staff and to provide a unique experience for our growing student cohort,” says Professor Carnegie.

The first round of applications will be called for shortly meaning PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff members from the 10 partner institutions will have the chance to apply to have their travel expenses covered to continue their research at another university. Professor Seah says there has already been significant interest shown from international scholars keen to further their projects at Victoria.

Computing Research Education Best Paper Award

11 Feb 2014 - 09:48 in Achievement


PhD Candidate Masood Mansoori's paper "YALIH, Yet Another Low Interaction Honeyclient" was awarded the 2014 Computing Research & Education Best Paper for best graduate paper presented at the annual Australasian Information Security Conference (ACSW-AISC). His supervisors and co-authors are Dr Ian Welch and Dr Qiang Fu from the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The paper describes an improved method for detecting web sites infected with a drive-by-download exploit. This type of exploit allows a hacker to deliver a computer virus to a victim's computer simply by luring the victim to the web site, for example by embedding the URL in an email sent to the victim. Exisiting methods for detection called low interaction honeyclients suffer from high rates of missed infections (false negatives). Low interaction honeyclients emulate sufficient functionality of a real web browser to allow web site executable content to be retrieved and searched for patterns known to be associated with drive-by-download exploits. Unfortunately, hackers have responded to the development of this technique by creating code obfuscation tools that randomly rewrite expoit code on-the-fly so it doesn't match known signatures.

Masood's main contribution described in this paper is to reduce the missed infection rate by implementing de-obfuscation techniques within a low interaction honeyclient. Code de-obfuscation attempts to transform multiple reordered versions of the same exploit into a single canonical version allowing more reliable matching against known drive-by-download exploit signatures. He has implemented this idea as an opensource tool called YALIH (Yet Another Low Interaction Honeyclient) and shown that YALIH achieves a significantly lower missed infection rate compared to other well-known low interaction honeyclients (Monkey-Spider, HoneyC, SpyBye and Thug).

VUW Students Work with Greater Wellington Regional Council to Monitor Toxic Algae in Hutt River

06 Jan 2014 - 14:00 in Research

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and Victoria University students are teaming up to trial the use of aerial imagery taken from a small unmanned plane to monitor the amount of toxic algae in the Hutt River this summer. Mark Heath is a PhD student with the School of Biological Science, and Jonathan Olds is a PhD student with the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The trial will involve flying the plane (known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) over three sites in the Hutt River and analysing the images taken to see whether toxic algae coverage in the river can be accurately estimated.

This work adds to eight years of toxic algae research in the Hutt catchment, which were discussed in a series of public science seminars jointly organised by GWRC, Upper Hutt Council, Hutt City Council and Regional Public Health. Click on the link below to listen to a Radio NZ interview with Mark Heath and Jonathan Olds.