Position: Senior lecturer, Field: Plasma spray-coating, Organisation: Massey University

Steven developed an interest in science while attending Western Heights High School in Rotorua. As part of his chemistry and physics classes, he was required to work on projects for the local science fair. These projects really opened his eyes to the fact that all the ‘stuff’ being taught in class was actually useful in the real world for solving real-world problems. He became hooked on pursuing a career in scientific research.

The greatest part of what I do is working on things no-one has seen before and collaborating with people from around the world who are just as enthusiastic as I am about the work I do.

His interest in atoms and the microscopic nature of materials led him to enrol in a physics degree at the University of Auckland. During his first year, a friend introduced him to the Engineering School where they taught a huge range of fascinating subjects such as materials engineering, biomedical engineering and mechatronics to name a few. Steven found that the focus on the practical application of science in solving real-world problems in the engineering programmes struck a chord and so he transferred into the chemical and materials engineering degree programme.

After graduating, Steven went on to complete a PhD in materials engineering, investigating the high-temperature erosion characteristics of thermal spray coatings used in aircraft jet engine applications. In this work, he got hands-on experience in thermally spraying materials using high-velocity combustion flames as well as the opportunity to design, build and operate testing equipment.

In 2004, Steven travelled overseas to take up a position as a Research and Development Manager for Bekaert Advanced Coatings in Belgium. This role involved the development and optimisation of next-generation materials in the production of sputtering targets. These are used to apply very thin film coatings for architectural glass applications and in flat screen electronics.

Steven returned to New Zealand in late 2007 to take up a position at Massey University as a materials and manufacturing lecturer in the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology. His main research interests are the use of thermal spray-coating technology (plasma spraying, high-velocity oxygen fuel spraying and arc spraying) to produce innovative coatings to solve challenging engineering problems and the application of powder metallurgy to manufacturing. This research allows him to collaborate with researchers throughout New Zealand and around the world.

Outside of his busy researching and teaching schedule, Steven enjoys the outdoor interests of fly-fishing and re-establishing bush blocks in his local area with home-propagated native plants.

Nature of science

The experimental phases of Steven’s research often involve imaginative trial and error and creative ‘tinkering’ methods rather than strict adherence to a set method often referred to in classrooms as ‘the scientific method’. In the real world, there is no single method in science.

This article is based on information current in 2014.

    Published 29 April 2014