Fascination Science

A free lecture series

Reserve the last Tuesday of each month to hear from some of the leading minds in science today. Massey University Auckland scientists and guest speakers take you into the fascinating world of scientific discoveries.

Most lectures are held on the Massey Auckland campus in the Sir Neil Waters lecture theatre. See map on the right.

Lectures start at 7pm. Light refreshments are served after the talk.

Upcoming events

Illustration of brain activity

Biological clocks – adjustable time-keeping makes for good health


Aneta Stafanovska Today, thanks to the advances in visual and imaging technologies, we can as easily see ourselves from the inside as on the outside. Yet, our body involves not only structures, but also functions. The majority of them are rhythmical. The most obvious one is perhaps the sleep-wake cycle, also known as circadian. But there are many other rhythms, operating on different time-scales, such as the beating of the heart, breathing, brain activity and metabolic activity. The body is an orchestra of irregular rhythms in which the key to good functioning lies in their coordination.

In this talk, I will discuss technological advances in the monitoring of a variety of biological clocks and ways of modelling them mathematically. I will also introduce new physics that is being developed to describe the interactions between the rhythms and how this can improve our understanding of diseases such as dementia, malaria and melanoma, and facilitate their diagnosis and treatment.

Illustrations of Kohlwein research

Demented yeast and obese flies: model organisms in biomedical research

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Sepp Kohlwein What do obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer have in common? Their causes root in an imbalance of highly complex mechanisms that control thousands of biochemical reactions in trillions of cells in the human body.

The complexity of these processes demands the use of ‘model organisms’ in biomedical research, such as yeast, fruit flies, or roundworms, to obtain a better understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms in healthy and diseased cells.

The elucidation of these processes in humans is a mere impossible task – and who would ever agree to experiments on their own body?

Molecular biophysics

The light fantastic: Dizzying interactions between light and matter

tuesday 30 April 2019

Professor Bill Williams

Nature provides fascinating examples of nanotechnology, creating functional entities from the bottom-up; from molecules to materials & devices. But this is not the nanotechnology of miniature submarines and nano-bots; it is that of molecular biology, the wet nanotechnology of biopolymers and their assemblies. It is the nanotechnology of DNA condensation and transcription, of protein fibers and molecular motors. It is the physics of the nanoscale that is so elegantly exploited and Brownian motion that brings the dance to life.


In order to take a trip down the rabbit hole of such exquisite molecular machinery scientists need not only to see but also to feel the nanoworld. Optical tweezers (OT), for which Arthur Askin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, are one of the exciting tools that can be used to apply and measure minute forces, and they do so, not using tiny mechanical grippers, but using highly focused beams of light. The talk will describe how OT perform this remarkable task and our journey to implement them in order to stretch a single strand of DNA.

Kangaroos with mathematical formulae describing spread of disease

Ecology and infectious diseases: a mathematical perspective


Mick Roberts

If you push an ecosystem too far the rules change. Parasites have been described as the dark matter in ecosystems, always there but often overlooked. Ecosystems may change for many reasons, including human actions and invasion by pests or pathogens. As ecosystems change new infectious diseases may emerge, and existing infections may reappear or change their host range. Mathematical models are necessary to unravel the complicated interactions between ecology and the epidemiology of infectious diseases.

This is the story of a 27 year collaboration between New Zealand and the Netherlands, and how mathematics has been used to describe epidemics and pandemics.

illustration of variations on pi

The life of

tuesday 30 JULY 2019
Professor Rod Downey, Victoria University, Wellington

In this talk, Professor Downey, awarded the Rutherford Medal in 2018, will examine the history of how we began to understand the number pi over the last four millennia. This is also the story of the development of a branch of modern mathematics called analysis; a story still being told today.

Previous Fascination Science lectures

Find out more about previous speakers and their topics.

Previous lectures

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All lectures take place from 7–8.30pm unless noted otherwise.


Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatre
Massey University Auckland, Albany

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