Thesis topics and supervisors available in 2019

Supervisor and student

Find a thesis topic and supervisor. Staff members and their research interests and topic areas are listed below by campus.

Please note:
We strongly advise students to take early action to find a supervisor for their Research Project or Thesis.We suggest you arrange supervision prior to enrolment in any of the research courses. Your enrolment will not be confirmed until supervision arrangements have been finalised and the Agreement to Supervise form has been signed by you and by your supervisor.
The link to the Agreement to Supervise form is Agreement to Supervise Postgraduate Research Form (355 KB)
(It should be completed electronically in Adobe Acrobat Reader at each stage.)

Auckland campus

Dr Siautu Alefaio

Pacific-indigenous humanitarian psychology, Pacific-indigenous faith-based family violence prevention and intervention, Pacific-indigenous Matua care-practices, Pacific-indigenous disaster preparedness, risk resilience and management, humanitarian response, and overall psycho-social impact of climate change in Oceania.

Stuart Carr

The applied psychology of sustainable livelihoods, including living wages against working poverty, and promoting decent work, potential for co-supervision with Prof. Darrin Hodgetts.

Kerry Chamberlain

Not available in 2019.

Richard Fletcher

I am interested in research methodology that primarily encompasses quantitative research, although I am more and more encouraging a mixed methods approach.  Areas of interest are psychometrics, sport psychology, group processes, wellbeing and cosmetic surgery.  Generally, I am open to discussions around most subjects being that I am a research methodologist.

Darrin Hodgetts

Topics include urban poverty, issues of work and health, homelessness and social services. Happy to co-supervise with Professor Stuart Carr.

Veronica Hopner

I am happy to supervise honours, masters and doctoral students relating to:

  • Military Psychology
  • The Psychology of Security
  • Psychology of Terrorism and Violent Extremism
  • Effects of prenatal methamphetamine use for infants with a focus on the caregiving relationship

Heather Kempton

I’m supervising in the area of mindfulness/meditation research and I have both quantitative and qualitative interests in the topic. At the moment I am particularly interested in spiritual aspects of mindfulness, and would be happy to hear from Masters and Doctoral students. I’m supervising in the area of mindfulness/meditation research and I have both quantitative and qualitative interests in the topic. At the moment I am particularly interested in spiritual aspects of mindfulness, and would be happy to hear from Masters and Doctoral students. I’m also interested in hearing from students who might like to undertake a research project in conjunction with Amitabha Hospice (based in Avondale).

James Liu

My research is in the areas of social, cross-cultural, and political psychology. I have a long-term focus in four areas: 1) Digital Influence (the impact of mass media, especially the internet and social media, on psychological functioning & social relationships), 2) History and Identity (how social representations of history influence the national psychology of a people), 3) Action Research (applied research in collaboration with communities that follows a cyclical process of planning-action-reflection to achieve community-based outcomes), and 4) Global Consciousness (how people can develop a prosocial orientation for others that goes beyond the limits of national and local identities).

I also have an interest in research on the intersections between culture and psychology, and intergroup relations and prejudice more generally.

Paul Merrick

Unavailable for new supervision in 2019.

Clifford Van Ommen

I will be unavailable for supervising new projects until further notice.

Methodologically, I am keen (if space allows) to supervise students interested in (critical and innovative) qualitative methods, including phenomenology, narrative analysis, and discourse analysis, amongst others. My research and supervision interests include, broadly speaking, Critical Neuroscience and Critical Psychology. These projects seek to understand the consequences of the contemporary neuroscience and psychology for subjectivity and their influence on our understandings of, and engagement with, sociopolitical issues. Research projects that fall within these broad outlines would be of interest to me. Aside from this, I am also interested in the identity processes and sense making of and about South African migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand and the critical historical analysis of Psychology in Aotearoa New Zealand. I would also be interested in supervising projects focussing on poverty, migrant and refugee issues and, within neuropsychology, the problem of concussion.

Pikihuia Pomare

I am open to supervising honours students on the following topics:

  • Kaupapa Māori/Māori-centred research
  • Whanaungatanga and engagement in clinical psychology/mental health
  • Tamariki and rangatahi (child and adolescent) mental health and wellbeing
  • Mātauranga Māori and Māori focussed interventions for trauma and emotional distress
  • Māori approaches to Mindfulness Meditation

I am also open to co-supervision for Māori focussed and Kaupapa Māori research with Masters and Doctoral students.

Matthew Shepherd

Kia ora, I am looking to supervise Honors, Masters and Doctoral students in the following areas:

  • Tamariki and Rangatahi (child and adolescent) mental health
  • Computerised therapies
  • Application of Clinical Psychology practice
  • Child and Adolescent therapies
  • Family therapy

Matt Williams

My main research interests are in the areas of quantitative methodology, open science, and climate change. However, I have previously conducted research in a fairly wide range of areas, including forensic, clinical, and health psychology, so I could be tempted by a strong project outside of my main interest areas. I am a strong supporter of open science practices, and if you work with me I will generally expect you to preregister your study and make your data available in a suitable online repository. My background is primarily in quantitative research, although I am open to co-supervising mixed methods or qualitative projects provided you have an additional supervisor with strong qualitative expertise. In 2020 I will have relatively limited space for new students, but do feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in the possibility of working together.

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Manawatu campus

Health And Ageing Research Team (HART)

The Health and Ageing Research Team has a range of researchers and topics undertaking research in either quantative or qualitative methodologies as listed below.

Quantitative analysis of existing survey data

Students who choose to study one of these topics are expected to have good quantitative analysis skills, having completed 175.746 (multivariate data analysis) or equivalent.  They will be expected to develop a theoretical basis for the research question and conduct sophisticated multivariate and/or longitudinal data analysis.

Dr Joanne Allen

Social support and wellbeing
•    An investigation of the influence of pet ownership on health and wellbeing for older adults

Professor Christine Stephens

  • Social networks, housing, and health of older people across time.
  • Chronic health conditions and loneliness (mediated and moderated by environmental variables and depression).
  • The effects of housing and neighbourhood characteristics on social participation among older people.
  • Social participation and quality of life among older people.

Professor Fiona Alpass

Caregiving and Wellbeing

  • Combining work and caregiving: the impact on health and wealth over time.


  • Cross-country comparisons of reported loneliness in older adults.

Older Workers

  • The impact of work –family conflict on health.
  • Flexible work opportunities and job satisfaction

Dr Juliana Mansvelt

Place and Wellbeing

  • Geographical and place based differences in relation to loneliness, quality of life and wellbeing.

Leisure and Retirement

  • Changes in leisure experiences (recreational activities, life engagement, voluntary work) after retirement.       

Dr Joanne Taylor

  1. Clinical psychology, with a particular interest in anxiety disorders (e.g., driving phobia).
  2. Driving anxiety and behaviour in older adults (HART data).
  3. Recovery and consumer perspectives in clinical psycholog

Dr Polly Yeung

Aging and Disability

  • Using the ICF-based Framework to develop a model of Functional Components and Contextual Factors.
  • The relationship between visual impairment, mobility, loneliness, social/community engagement and quality of life

Dr Andy Towers

Drug and Alcohol Consumption

  • Factors predicting change in alcohol consumption in older New Zealanders.
  • The relationship between alcohol consumption, health, and healthcare utilisation in older New Zealanders.  
  • Drug use in older adults (medication use, illicit drug use)
  • International comparisons of older adults drinking patterns

Mr Brendan Stevenson (unavailable)

Students who choose to study one of these topics are expected to have good quantitative analysis skills, having completed 175.746 (multivariate data analysis) or equivalent.  They will be expected to develop a theoretical basis for the research question and conduct sophisticated multivariate and/or longitudinal data analysis. This team can provide access to a large sample of older Māori who have provided data on a range of aspects of general health and wellbeing, as well as an extensive set of Māori-specific identity, cultural-participation, marae roles, language, and whānau. The HART team are able to provide assistance in the development of research questions, analytical strategy, and writing supervision around these data.

Qualitative Research Topics

Students interested in pursuing these topics must have a sound background and interest in qualitative methodologies. They will be expected to develop a sophisticated methodological basis for their research question and may choose one of the following topics which are listed with potential supervisors.

Professor Christine Stephens

  • Loneliness and barriers to participation among older people (survey).
  • Neighbourhood quality and wellbeing (interviews).
  • Urban spaces used by young and old people (photographic).

Dr Juliana Mansvelt

Ageing in Place

  • The role of mundane commodities, objects, and commodity practices in shaping experiences and meanings of ageing in place (including through shifts in dwelling circumstance).
  • Experiences of dwelling in rural and other places


  • Contribution, productivity and pleasure in daily activities (including shopping).


  • The uptake and use of ICT technologies by older people

Dr Mary Breheny

Experiences of Ageing & Ageing in Place

  • Experiences of ageing
  • Social identity for older people
  • Working in older age – especially for financial necessity
  • Work and care for older people
  • Ageing in poverty

Don Baken

I am part of a team that is involved in applied psychological research in the health setting. Investigating both adults and children affected by illness as well as the health professionals associated. Our main illness groups include cancer, diabetes, cardiac, respiratory, and renal reflecting the clinical work carried out by the Health Conditions and/or Cancer Psychology Services.

Current specific projects for next year include:

1)      Look at DNA patterns in Clinic Database
The Psychology Clinic at the Manawatu campus runs a number of services for the MidCentral and Whanganui DHBs. As part of this our database collects a large amount of data on our activities. Anecdotally, we can see a lot of variation in our DNA rates. Obviously DNAs are an important factor in therapy and so it is important to understand causes so that we can reduce their rate. We have an honours project using this existing data to look for patterns in DNA. Factors that can be explored include location (rural vs urban), health condition (e.g. diabetes vs cancer, clinic vs home etc), distress level, time between sessions, rating of rapport with clinician.

2)      Validation of the DT for IBD
The Distress Thermometer is well validated and extensively used in cancer but it has not been used with other health conditions. This honours or masters project would look to adapt and validate the Distress Thermometer for used with people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

If you have other research ideas in similar areas we would be happy to discuss those with you.

Pete Cannon

My research focuses on the relationship between emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. I’m particularly interested in supervising projects relating to food or morality. I can train you to use a range of methods to measure emotion, such as facial muscle activity (electromyography). Happy to chat about potential projects.

Leigh Coombes

Full supervision load in 2019.

Aaron Drummond

I am a cognitive psychologist undertaking research in the area of media and communication psychology. I have a broad range of interests in this area, ranging from how various forms of interactive and passive media use influence people’s thoughts and emotions to the most effective methods for communicating information to others. I use both correlational and experimental methods coupled with a range of cognitive and behavioural measures in my research.

Currently I am undertaking research into the psychological effects of violent and non-violent videogames on cognition and behaviour, the effects of reinforcement structures in interactive media, and effective methods for the communication of science to the public.  I am happy to supervise students in these areas, or in media and communication psychology projects more broadly.

Ross Flett

If you can find an honours level topic in any of the following areas I will listen to it: 

  • gratitude, kindness, forgiveness.

(but multiple commitments in 2019 mean limited opportunities for supervision)

Dianne Gardner

I am interested in a range of topics related to industrial/organisational psychology, especially wellbeing at work. This can include the positive and negative outcomes of work demands, work-life balance, coping, resilience/ cognitive hardiness, the role of individual and organisational factors in work-related wellbeing, learning from errors, and the effective management of hazards at work. My overall approach is that of positive psychology: the focus on human strengths and resources in the workplace.

Jocelyn Handy

I am interested in supervising students researching organisational or health related issues using qualitative methodologies. I am currently interested in precarious labour and developing environmental sustainability in organisations.

Stephen Hill

There are two strands to my current research interests that I’d be happy to provide supervision in:

  1. Distributed cognition (with a particular focus on memory)
  2. The psychology of global climate change

I have the following ready-to-go projects available for research students (particularly for Honours or Masters). These projects will need to be conducted in the labs on the Manawatu campus. I’m happy to consider other projects in these areas.

Project 1: Dynamics of Distributed Remembering
Most memory research requires people to remember lists of words presented on a computer monitor. We’re interested in whether memory phenomena established using mainstream methods can be replicated when people are given the opportunity to exercise their memory capacities in a more ecologically valid context. We’ll use a mobile eyetracker to find out how people explore and use the environment whilst searching for remembered items.

Project 2: The Psychology of Global Climate Change
Lauren Hewitt and I have a research project ready to go that explores whether beliefs about climate change are influenced by how easily we can process climate information. This research forms part of a larger climate change cognition project we are carrying out with an international collaborator.

Barbara Kennedy

Unavailable in 2019.

Ute Kreplin

Not available in 2019.

Mandy Morgan

Unavailable for new supervision in 2019.

Tracy Morison

I am available to supervise (critical) qualitative projects, especially those using thematic, narrative, and discursive methods, to research topics such as (but not limited to):

  • sexual and reproductive health issues (e.g.,  pregnancy; contraception; abortion; sex education; decision-making)
  • gender, sexuality (especially LGBTI issues), and marginalised identities
  • gender-based violence (e.g. intimate partner violence, sexual violence)
  • LGBTI families and caregiving

Michael Philipp

I conduct research in the areas of:

  • social cognition (how the social world influences thoughts and perceptions)  and 
  • psychophysiology (understanding the physiological bases of psychological phenomena).

Students that I supervise tend to use experimental and correlational methods in conjunction with cognitive, behavioural, or physiological measurements. I am a strong proponent of open science practices including preregistration and replication studies – I am particularly happy to co-supervise such projects with Matt Williams.

I provide structured guidance throughout the research process, and I expect my students to attend regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year. My supervision focuses on professional development and growth rather than merely “surviving the degree”. Students should begin planning their projects with me well in advance of undertaking their research.

Kirsty Ross

My area of specialty is children, young people and families, with a focus on clinical psychological issues and the psychological impact of health conditions, including cancer. I am involved currently in a number of projects including the impact of high needs health conditions (such as diabetes, cancer, ASD) on families, parents and siblings, strengths based interventions with young people, and supporting parents to enhance their children's mental health.  I am involved in a national project for children with cancer and their families and there are likely to be opportunities in this area as part of this work in the future. I have a full supervision load for next year, but am open to be a clinical consultant on projects when appropriate.

Chris Stephens

Studies using existing longitudinal data with a large population sample (Quantitative). There is a range of possible topics in these data that I would be interested in supervising. For example:

  1. Social networks, housing, and health of older people across time.
  2. Chronic health conditions and loneliness (mediated and moderated by environmental variables and depression).
  3. The effects of housing and neighbourhood characteristics on social participation among older people.
  4. Social participation and quality of life among older people.

Studies involving data collection (qualitative or quantitative) supported by local organisations and councils. For example:

  1. Loneliness and barriers to participation among older people (survey).
  2. Neighbourhood quality and wellbeing (interviews).
  3. Urban spaces used by young and old people (photographic).

Natasha Tassell-Matamua

I have two projects, both with a Kaupapa Māori focus, available to co-supervise with staff from the psychology clinic:

  1. We have a qualitative Masters or Doctoral project to explore the acceptability of providing psychological assistance via skype type technologies for Māori. It can be difficult to get psychologists to remote areas but technology like skype can make this more achievable. International research has found this to be effective but little of this has been focused on indigenous people and none on Māori.
  1. Funders are increasingly requiring services to show that their interventions are effective. Research has shown that measuring outcomes is good for clients. Hua Oranga is a measure of Te Whare Tapa Whā developed by Professor Te Kani Kingi. This research project will involve interviewing clients who have used the Hua Oranga to explore its suitability as an outcome measure for Māori with physical health problems. The project would suit a Honours or Masters project.

Jo Taylor

  1. Clinical psychology, with a particular interest in anxiety disorders (e.g., driving phobia).
  2. Driving anxiety and behaviour in older adults (HART data).
  3. Recovery and consumer perspectives in clinical psychology.

Hukarere Valentine

Unavailable for new supervision in 2019.

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Wellington campus

Simon Bennett

John Fitzgerald

I am interested in supervising projects focusing on clinical psychology and professional practice. Specific areas of research interest include non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicide,  family psychology, and mental health and sensory impairment (particularly vision impairment), and men’s mental health. My professional practice interests include monitoring change and measuring outcomes in therapy, barriers to evidence-based assessment and practice, and professional ethics. I tend to employ a mixed-methods approach and have a particular interest Personal Construct Psychology.

Ella Kahu

I am a social psychologist and am interested in supervising keen students planning qualitative research projects. My current work is in higher education researching and theorising student engagement with a particular focus on the first year experience. I would be keen to supervise projects related to education but am also open to other social psychology topics.

Ruth Gammon

Emma Hudson-Doyle

Unavailable for PhD supervision (full supervision load). Available for undergraduate and Master's supervision.  Areas of interest include: decision making in disasters, uncertainty, science advice, science provision, understanding of science, risk communication, uncertainty communication. Particular undergraduate and Masters thesis topics available include: the relative understanding of probabilities and time windows in forecasts; the effect of advisory group vote proportions on decision making; visualising uncertainty for decision making.

David Johnston

Christine Kenney

I specialise in Qualitative research and supervise/co-supervise PhD and Masters students primarily in the, School of Psychology/Joint Centre for Disaster Research.

Topics of research interest include:

  1. Kaupapa Māori/Māori centred research in disasters, sustainability and resilience
  2. Indigenous Peoples and Disasters  
  3. Sociology of Disasters
  4. Disasters and Public Health
  5. Gender and Disasters
  6. Humanitarian concerns, Human Rights and Disasters

Janet Leathem

Raj Prasanna

Jane Rovins

I am interested to supervise/co-supervise (undergrad through PhD):

Wellington Campus @ the Disaster Hub / JCDR

Topics include (but open to others along this theme)

  1. International disaster risk management
  2. International emergency management
  3. Policy and planning for development and disasters
  4. Sustainable development, specifically links to disaster and emergency recovery
  5. Private Sector role in disasters
  6. Quality review of training and impacts on practice
  7. Role of military in disasters and development

Tatiana Tairi

My research is within the field of mental health, risk and well-being, with a particular interest on the associations between dysfunctional cognitive processing (e.g., cognitive errors; dysfunctional attitudes) and psychological well-being in youth, mental health literacy and adolescent suicide attempts. I am also interested in supervising projects focussing on professional ethics and practice. I am open to ideas in these areas, and willing to discuss potential projects (mainly applying quantitative analysis) with students.

Ruth Tarrant

Human responses to disasters or adverse life events. For example, community or school programmes for people who have experienced adverse events (e.g., earthquakes or floods). I’m interested in studies related to how people prepare for an adverse experience, cope with it, or recover from it.  I’ll also consider a range of topics related to children and schools. There will be other topics I’ll consider, so please feel free to ask.

Ian deTerte

Unavailable for new supervision in 2019.

Keith Tuffin

I have supervised a diverse range of topics in the area of social psychology including: the language of racism, emotion, leadership, sperm donors, recovered memories, occupational choice, coping, attitudes to aging, deviance, burglary, gay cops, friendship patterns, community care, premenstrual change, discrimination and trans-sexuality, grief, suicidal bereavement, clinical psychology, sex workers, retirement villages, adolescent fatherhood, cardiovascular reactivity, anger, male violence, political occupation, infanticide, disabled people online, understandings of alcohol and alcoholism, non-suicidal self-injury, media constructions of sexual abuse, sexuality and religion, social psychology of selecting flatmates, intergenerational debates about ageing and resources, accounting for terrorism, parental abuse, ritual abuse, men’s talk of separation, adolescent fatherhood, suicidal contagion, dialectical behaviour therapy groups, fears of fist time parents, shared custody and responsibility, and siblings of Down Syndrome children.

I will look at proposals to undertake qualitative research with students who are keen to work hard and complete high quality theses. In 2019 I am keen to discuss any ideas that may develop into a good thesis topic.

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