Summer studentships

Summer Research Scholarships are a great way to gain valuable research experience, work with leading researchers at the University of Auckland, enhance your career opportunities and help you think about pursuing postgraduate study.

  • Conduct a research project under supervision for 10 weeks over the summer months.
  • Receive a tax-free stipend of $6,500.
  • Open to high-achieving domestic students who are enrolled in a New Zealand and have the potential to succeed in postgraduate study.
  • Due to the ongoing travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, we are not accepting applications from students currently residing outside of New Zealand.

Application process

Applications are now closed. Successful candidates will be notified by Monday 8th November

Available Projects

Understanding fluid movement in the lungs during and after spaceflight.
Project code: TPASI-001SupervisorsProfessor Merryn Tawhai
Dr Edward Ashworth
Professor Anthony Phillips
Dr Lisa Brown
Contact for further information
Dr. Edward Ashworth:

Space flight is often associated with large movements of body fluids. This can result in unwanted accumulation of fluid in the lungs. The lung gas exchange tissue is very delicate, and cannot function properly when it contains too much fluid. Fluid movement can therefore be dangerous for the astronaut. We are developing a computer simulation of how the lungs change in space.

This summer studentship will involve researching the core variables to inform this computational model. Most of the project will involve undertaking a detailed analysis of literature and various other datasets from a range of spaceflight sources to characterise the differences between normal gravity and spaceflight. These data will then be fed into an already established lung model to determine whether we can mimic the observed lung function in human astronauts.

Strong literature and data summarising skills are required. A knowledge of basic physiology and or anatomy is an advantage. Computer or data modelling skills are not specifically required. However if the candidate is strong in these skills there will be an opportunity to work on the model (although that skill set is not a requirement to apply).

Adapting the European Space Agency’s Eco-design for the New Zealand context
Project code: TPASI-002
Cody Mankelow
Contact for further information
Cody Mankelow 

New Zealand’s emerging space industry offers a unique opportunity to integrate international best practices for environmental ordinated space design into the sector from its foundation. The integration of Sustainable design will reduce the impact the developing sector has on the environment and help ensure its longevity. Examples of environmental ordinated space design practices include the recently developed European Space Agency (ESA) Space Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Eco Design framework.

Through a pilot study, our research group has begun to benchmark the New Zealand Space sector and conduct a high-level Environmental impact assessment of payloads approved for launch from New Zealand. Using the Strathclyde Space Systems Database (SSSD) Life Cycle Inventory and OpenLCA, we conducted a higher-level Life Cycle Assessment model of approved payloads. To date, the model is using aggregated launch data and international values for products and impacts and needs to be refined to reflect the unique New Zealand context better.

The project will be a desktop study to refine and expand the current LCA model. The student will learn to use the LCA tool OpenLCA, while performing literature research to update impact factors for the New Zealand context.

The ideal candidate for this project requires no special skills or background, only a commitment to learning and a passion for a sustainable future and space sector. However, prior experience with Life cycle assessment and the OpenLCA tool will be a plus.

Wavelength conversion for storing information in quantum memories.
Project code: TPASI-003
Nicholas Rattenbury (Physics)
John Cater (Engineering Science)
Mikhael Sayat (Physics)
Contact for further information
Nicholas Rattenbury:

Te Pūnaha Ātea is developing plans to create a New Zealand node of the Australian Optical Communication Ground Station Network. This node will feature the capacity for quantum communications; in particular, storing information in quantum memories.

Free-space optical communications between optically enabled satellites and ground stations is performed by transmitting information encoded in lasers from satellites to ground.

Optical satellites transmit information in lasers of many different wavelengths. However, current quantum memories from The University of Otago can only store information if the incoming lasers have wavelengths of 580 nm, 606 nm, 793 nm, 1000 nm, and 1536 nm.

This project will involve:

  1. Designing a laser wavelength converter from one wavelength to another (including the aforementioned wavelengths) with an emphasis on cost-effectiveness and modular adaptability.
  2. Building, validating, and testing the design.

The successful candidate will exhibit the following attributes:

  1. Knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum and optics. Previous work with lasers is highly desirable but not required.
  2. Engineering design skills.
  3. Previous knowledge and work with quantum mechanics, quantum communications, quantum memories are desirable but not required.
  4. Hands-on approach and creativity.
  5. Collaborative

First steps:

  1. Perform a literature review on wavelength conversion technologies that retains information in lasers. This will give you an understanding of the current technologies and the different approaches for a design.
  2. Design a wavelength converter which works with quantum memories, with an emphasis on cost-effectiveness and modular adaptability.
  3. Validate the design with supervisors and experts.
  4. Build and test the design.

If time permits, test the design with quantum memories.

Telescope scheduling
Project code: TPASI-004
Oliver Sinnen (Electrical Computer and Software Engineering)
Contact for further information
Oliver Sinnen

Telescopes observe celestial objects in the sky. The telescopes are usually movable and can point at different positions in the sky. Very large scientific telescopes in astronomical observatories are highly specialised, very expensive and scarce. Hence, they must be used as efficiently as possible.

In a typical operation mode, a telescope will be configured to observe a given list of objects, which correspond to positions in the sky. It remains pointed at a source of the list for a certain observation period, e.g. 10 minutes, after which the telescope is rotated and tilted to point to the next object on the list. Due to the fact that the movement between positions takes time and that necessary observation periods might vary, this observation of sources becomes a difficult optimisation problem.

In this project you will develop scheduling and ordering algorithms to optimise the use of telescopes. This includes the development of a tool that can process lists of source to be observed which then creates optimised observation sequences that can be used for the operation of real telescopes.

Developing new space situational awareness tools for cislunar missions
Project code: TPASI-005
Prof Roberto Armellin (Mechanical Engineering)
Laura Pirovano (Mechanical Engineering)
Contact for further information
Roberto Armellin

There is a renewed interest in missions in cislunar space, the American Artemis programme and the Chinese Chang’e project are two examples. As a result, the space around the Moon will be populated with spacecraft, some of which will be manned. To guarantee the safety of these missions, it will be necessary to extend space situational awareness to cislunar space (i.e., determine where the objects are and predict their motion). This new need will bring many challenges. The difficulty to track these far space objects and the non-Keplerian, possibly chaotic, dynamics are two relevant ones. This research project aims to lay the foundations for the development new initial orbit determination algorithms tailored for non-Keplerian dynamics and the use of both ground- and space-based optical observations, an essential capability for space safety in cislunar space.


  • Excellent mathematical skills
  • Excellent programming skills (MATLAB/Python and C++)
  • Excellent scientific computing skills
  • Good knowledge of classical mechanics

Space enthusiast and ability to work independently

Beacon for Optical Communications Development
Project code: TPASI-006
Ben Taylor (Mechanical Engineering)
Nicholas Rattenbury (Physics)
Contact for further information
Nicholas Rattenbury

The student will develop a payload from concept to flight design of a satellite optical beacon to be flown on a future TPA-SI mission to support optical communications research. The student will work with space and ground segment teams to derive requirements and perform trade-off studies to build and test a prototype payload. Results from the build and testing will then be used to arrive at a final design.


  • Applied physics and experimental physics experience
  • Excellent electronics design, assembly and test experience
  • Good embedded and general-purpose programming skills (C, Python)
  • Understanding of spacecraft systems

Not required, but desirable:

  • Optical physics experience (geometric)
  • Mechanical design experience
  • Good understanding of spacecraft operations

Full drivers’ licence

Thermal Control Panel Payload
Project code: TPASI-007
SupervisorsProf G Aglietti (Mechanical Engineering)
Ben Taylor  (Mechanical Engineering)
Contact for further information
G Aglietti 

A thermal control panel is being designed using phase change materials to thermally clamp the temperature of an external panel in a CubeSat between 0 and +40degC to provide a comfortable operating condition for components. Channels within the panels will be filled with materials selected with appropriate melting points.

The student will develop a thermal model of the panel to determine the required properties and layout of the panel, leading to the design, manufacture and assembly of a prototype panel. The panel will then be tested compared to a control panel of solid material to validate modelling.  Results from the build and testing will then be used to arrive at a final design.


  • Applied physics and experimental physics experience
  • Excellent Mechanical design experience
  • Understanding of thermal transport

Not required, but desirable:

  • Good programming skills (Python)
  • Understanding of spacecraft environment
Ultra-Low Profile Reaction Wheels
Project code: TPASI-008
Prof G Aglietti (Mechanical Engineering)
Ben Taylor  (Mechanical Engineering)
Contact for further information
G Aglietti 

In order to make efficient use of internal volumes of small CubeSats, TPA-SI are working towards reducing the size of the spacecraft attitude control system. There is a need Reaction Wheels to provide full three-axis control of the spacecraft in an ultra-low profile, with the drive system of laptop Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) identified as demonstrating the required properties of stability, speed control, and physical dimensions.

To establish feasibility, the student will assess the general design of Reaction wheels and HDDs before performing a strip down inspection of an off-the-shelf HDD. Relevant components will be extracted and reconstituted into a novel prototype wheel design along with control electronics and appropriately designed wheels.

The wheel will then be tested to characterise behaviour and validate performance against expectations.


  • Good mechanical analysis and design experience
  • Excellent electronics assembly and test experience
  • Good embedded and general-purpose programming skills (C, Python)

Not required, but desirable:

  • Understanding of spacecraft systems
  • Electronics hobbyist
Validation and verification of test equipment for the National Satellite Test Facility
Project code: TPASI-009
Prof Guglielmo Aglietti (Mechanical Engineering)
Frank May (Mechanical Engineering)
Contact for further information
Frank May 

In the coming months test equipment will be delivered from suppliers or developed and manufactured at Te Pūnaha Ātea Space Institute.

After installation, a thorough validation and verification process has to start to ensure that the equipment is fit for purpose and all required qualification tests can be performed.

Most likely – but also depending on the progress in the next months – tasks during the summer studentship will cover finalising the commissioning of the device to measure centre of mass and the shock test bed. But also working on the shaker systems for vibration testing and with the passive vacuum chamber or the thermal vacuum chamber is a possibility.

A great insight into measurements and testing in general but also specifically in aerospace testing can be gained in this summer studentship.