Position: Science Team Leader, Bioproduct & Fibre Technology, AgResearch, Lincoln
Stewart leads a small research team at AgResearch developing technical textiles, including protective fabrics and composites reinforced with natural fibres like New Zealand flax (harakeke).
Stweart particularly enjoys designing the new textile structures – working out how to arrange the fibres and threads and which ones to use to get the required performance.
Stewart also led research looking into what happens to textile fibres once they enter freshwater systems and the sea. In 2020 the results were released confirming that wool fibres readily biodegrade in marine environments.
At school, Stewart studied all the science and mathematics he could, with physics and chemistry his preferences. He was planning to study engineering, but got a scholarship to study textile technology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He’d been interested in textiles and was reasonable at sewing too, but until he started university study, he had no intention of studying textiles at all.
I enjoy the fact that the textiles we develop get used in all sorts of different applications – we have to learn about other disciplines, such as medical, sports science and so on. This keeps it interesting!
Stewart came back to Christchurch to work for the Wool Research Organisation of NZ (WRONZ) and, after a few years, looked for an opportunity to do a PhD, which eventuated in 2001. He was enrolled at Massey University but mostly based at WRONZ and investigated ways of making textiles electrically conductive by depositing intrinsically conductive polymers onto them.
While doing his PhD, Stewart had the opportunity to work in the United Kingdom for 3 years, after which he returned to Christchurch. Stewart is one of relatively few in the Textiles section who’ve always been a textile specialist, right back to undergraduate level.
Stewart has developed an interest in gardening – especially how to maximise the food output of his own garden!
He also enjoys mountain biking and likes to get out on to the local tracks (Port Hills, Bottle Lake) as often as possible.
This article is based on information current in 2010 and 2021.