The Department of Physics is excited to welcome Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, who joins us on 1 March. She was previously a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Victoria University and is a Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. She is also a former President of the NZ Association of Scientists.
Professor Gaston employs quantum mechanical techniques to explore the relationship between electronic structure and the chemical and physical environment of a material. She researches how various materials’ size, shape, and composition correlate with their catalytic activity, chemical reactivity, conductivity, and thermodynamic stability.
She is particularly interested in the relationship between size and the material properties of atom-clusters, molecules, and nanoparticles. For instance, she recently challenged the accepted notion of “melting point depression”. This holds that the unstable surface layers of nano-structured materials cause them to melt at lower temperatures than their bulk-structured counterparts. Professor Gaston’s results indicated that some nanomaterials’ melting points are hundreds of degrees higher than their bulk-structured counterparts.
Beyond her scientific research, Professor Gaston is a prominent science communicator and an advocate for women in academia. Along with many public addresses and articles, Professor Gaston has recently published Why Science Is Sexist, Bridget Williams Books, 2015.