Rights: © Copyright 2014. University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 29 April 2014 Download

Professor Margaret Hyland, from the Engineering Department at the University of Auckland, originally trained as a research chemist. Working alongside an inspiring head of department precipitated a move into the chemical and materials engineering field. After a successful research programme in aluminium smelting, Margaret has now applied her considerable talent to research in the thermal plasma spray field.


I think of engineering as the interface between society and technology. Engineers are doing that translation across from the technology or the piece of science that is really interesting – how do we really use that?

It is about the technical issues of maybe taking something and scaling it up to a size that’s practical, but more and more now, it’s about what other implications does that have, not only how are we using it for this industry but if this industry is using it well, how does it affect that industry? How does it affect our overall energy use? How does it affect society more broadly? So I think of engineers as thinking about the application of technology in a really broad way.

How did I get to be a chemical materials engineer? I took the long way round. I started off in biology, realised that I just hated all the memory work, really enjoyed chemistry. I chose chemistry. And I didn’t really get into the engineering until I came to New Zealand.

So as part of my PhD was on a special surface analytical techniques, and about the time that I was finishing, the University of Auckland was buying its first equipment related to surface analysis. So I came to work on that equipment, and it turned out that that equipment or that lab facility was based here in engineering. And I had a boss who was just really encouraging, and he really drew me from the surface side of things much more into engineering. And as I started doing research more in the engineering side of the chemistry stuff that I’d done, I realised, oh, I actually really enjoy this, I really like the applied work.

And the first bit of applied work that I did was actually not in thermal spray-coatings but in aluminium smelting, and you know, the contrast between a smelter and a lab, between engineering, practical engineering and kind of fundamental chemistry couldn’t have been bigger, but I really enjoyed it. I really liked the –  seeing my work actually being applied in industry.

Professor Margaret Hyland, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Auckland
Dr Anh Tran
Holster Engineering Ltd, Tokoroa
Revolution Fibres Ltd
Professor Charles Fleischmann and Associate Professor Mike Spearpoint, Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury
Claire Burnett