Andrea Kolb first came to Victoria for an internship in 2009, but enjoyed it so much that she has now come back to do her PhD. She is working on colouring wool with nanogold—a project that has been running in the School since 2006.
"I am building on what has been done already. The work was begun by Professor Johnston, and others in his research team have made a lot of progress, so there is now significant commercial interest in our product within New Zealand and internationally. The next step is to understand some aspects of the chemistry in detail, optimise the process, and make our premium goldwool product more efficiently and inexpensively, she says.
"It's really important that the coloured wool retains its amazing properties after the colouring process—it's beautiful handling, odour resistance and smooth surface. We also want to make the process as 'green' as possible.
Back at the University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg, Andrea first heard about the nanomaterials research when she attended a talk by Jim Johnston. Links between Victoria and Nuremberg universities were well established and several other students had already come from Germany to study here. She was keen to travel and was able to take up the six month internship at the end of her four-year programme of study.
After doing 'real research' in New Zealand, she decided not to pursue the jobs in industry that her degree was preparing her for. "I got a taste for research and wanted to do more of it, but I couldn't have done it in Germany. I was delighted to be awarded a prestigious MacDiarmid Institute PhD scholarship to enable me to come back to Victoria.
"Wellington is an amazing city to live in. Because it's so compact, you can walk to everything. There is so much to do and lots of it is free. You can go to a jazz night or go to Te Papa and there are lots of op shops to browse in if you want some new clothes.
"I was determined to immerse myself in kiwi culture while I was here, so I deliberately chose to find a flat with Kiwis, rather than live by myself. My flatmates have all travelled too and we enjoy different cultures. I've only been here four months, but have met lots of other international students through the PhD orientation events and done some fun things together.
"The MacDiarmid Institute and the School have a very good reputation. Our group has lots of experience, so I'm looking forward to playing my part in getting this wonderful product to market."
See New Materials and Technologies Research Group for more information.