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Eleven Massey staff receive doctorates


Massey doctoral staff 2020
From top left: Dr Martin Garcia Cartagena, Dr Geneva Connor, Dr Kate Griffiths. From midle left: Dr Kazunori Kobayashi, Dr Daniel Konings, Dr Sarah Malthus. From bottom left: Dr Marion Tan, Dr Wesley Webb.


Eleven Massey University staff are among the graduands to have received doctoral degrees this autumn.

Dr Geneva Connor

The speed at which technologised violence against women can proliferate online has serious implications for the safety of women, girls and associated ‘others,’ both online and offline.

Dr Geneva Connor

Dr Geneva Connor, a research officer in the School of Psychology, re-conceptualised psychological research through the science fiction genre. She utilised Donna Haraway’s feminist figure of the cyborg to build a technologised methodology for the analysis of the multiple and contradictory ways women experience technologised embodiment, including the proliferating forms of violence against women online.

Through trialling a cyborg research methodology, new understandings of networked gendered power relationships emerged, including how to politicise the proliferating connections between women, their bodies and technology.

Dr Martin Garcia Cartagena

Dr Martin García Cartagena graduated with a PhD in Resource and Environmental Planning. He examined the Waimakariri district, which was affected by the red-zoning process that unfolded after the 2011 Canterbury quakes. Using the Community Resilience Capital Framework as the basis for his research, he explored the “underlying power dynamics that underpin the evolving and always changing field of community resilience”.

His study encompassed a broad view of what community resilience means, to include a range of ‘capitals’ (meaning assets or resources) such as cultural, symbolic, political, and moral as well as human, natural and economic.

He hopes his research will help to inform the importance of long-term, holistic planning for community recovery in the aftermath of a natural disaster for the re-building and balancing of social, environmental and civic well-being.

Dr Garcia Cartagena is currently helping deliver a course at Massey, via online lectures, into the Bachelor of Resource and Environmental Planning on building natural hazard-resilient communities. He is about to take up a post-doctoral position until the end of 2021, which includes both lecturing and research activities.

Read Dr Garcia Cartagena's story here

Dr Kate Griffiths

 Dr Kate Griffiths

Dr Kate Griffiths researched ewe wastage and strategies for improving flock productivity and profitability. Her study reports both lifetime wastage and detailed annual wastage in a sample of New Zealand commercial flocks, while also identifying factors associated with increased risk of wastage.

Dr Griffiths, a lecturer in Pastoral Livestock Health in the School of Veterinary Science, says commercial sheep farmers could use the information presented in the research to identify ewes within their flocks that have increased risk of wastage or poor productivity. Farmers may then be able to alter management of these at-risk ewes to both improve ewe productivity and reduce likelihood of wastage.

Dr Kazunori Kobayashi

Dr Kazunori Kobayashi

Dr Kazunori Kobayashi investigated how large Japanese companies seek to resolve emerging issues affecting workforce wellbeing and human sustainability, including long working hours, lack of work-life balance and gender inequality.

Dr Kobayashi, a lecturer in Management, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the School of Management, interviewed managers about their organisations’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies and their stakeholders. He found that companies seek to implement workforce wellbeing and human sustainability initiatives as part of their CSR strategies. He also found that these initiatives are constrained by an institutionalised workstyle, which consists of core business practices and existing stakeholder pressure.

His findings indicate that companies need to develop coherence between the CSR initiatives, business strategy, core business practices, and emerging stakeholder pressure, while working through an institutionalised workstyle. Kazunori‘s findings have implications for managers and policy makers promoting CSR and workforce wellbeing.

Dr Daniel Konings

Dr Daniel Konings

Dr Daniel Konings explored an indoor positioning system solution for the elderly that could detect whether a person has been immobile for an extended period, and alert medical personnel.

A lecturer in electronics and embedded systems engineering in the School of Food and Advance Technology, Dr Konings developed several localisation algorithms that could use the existing lighting or wireless infrastructure to track an individual’s motion through a Smart Home.

His research has provided valuable insight into understanding the calibration requirements for device-free localisation, how node density affects the localisation effort, and how the concept of energy minimisation can be used to formulate device-free localisation algorithms.

Dr Sarah Malthus

Dr Sarah Malthus

Dr Sarah Malthus’ PhD thesis explored whether psychological interventions are an effective way of addressing barriers to making lifestyle changes for people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a potentially debilitating condition and rising prevalence rates have made prevention an important research focus. Early studies found dramatic reductions in diabetes risk through the provision of lifestyle interventions for those with pre-diabetes. However, these interventions were time and resource intensive, presenting challenges for implementation, and studies looking at the effectiveness of briefer interventions produced diluted results.

Health and cancer psychology service coordinator and practitioner in the School of Psychology, Dr Malthus compared the effectiveness of three intervention approaches; standard care, lifestyle education, and lifestyle education combined with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. These approaches produced equivalent outcomes. Future research is recommended to identify patient factors that determine appropriate intervention pathways.

Dr Barirah Nazir

English language teacher in Professional and Continuing Education Dr Barirah Nazir’s research considered the reception of contemporary Pakistani Anglophone fiction in the current global literary marketplace. She argued that these texts are embedded in transnational networks and structures in ways that significantly impact on their reception both in South Asia (Pakistan and India) and in “the West” (the UK and the US).

Via the comparative analysis of initial reviews of selected Pakistani novels, she discussed the commonalities and differences between their reception in various locations.

Dr Nazir’s work involved a discussion of how Pakistani literature is branded for an international market and addresses the frequently-cited concern that globally-focused Pakistani authors “sell-out” or even betray the nation and its people in their literary representations, pandering to international market demands in search of commercial success and literary recognition.

Dr Kay Pilkington

New Zealand plants are considered unique because of their high frequency of divarication, a plant growth form where branches are interlaced with wide branch angles and small, widely-spaced leaves giving the appearance of a densely tangled shrub. Dr Kay Pilkington’s PhD thesis researched the genetic basis of the divarication of New Zealand plants for the first time.

Dr Pilkington a graduate assistant in the School of Fundamental Sciences, used a quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping approach to investigate the genetic basis of the divaricating growth form in the genus Sophora (Fabaceae).

The first linkage maps for Sophora were developed and the genetic basis of divarication was shown to be complex, involving many regions of the genome. This research contributes to our understanding of the genetic basis of divarication, and of plant architecture generally.

Dr Marion Tan

Marion Tan

Dr Marion Tan began researching disaster response after Typhoon Haiyan devastated her home country, the Philippines. She has now completed a doctoral degree in emergency management.

Dr Tan, a research office at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research looked at the use of mobile applications for disaster preparedness and response. She used a mixed-methods approach, collecting and analysing data from app stores, questionnaires, usability inquiries, and focus group discussions. Her research showed that while many disaster apps are available on the market, they are only effective if people find them usable.

Read Dr Tan’s story here

Dr Wesley Webb

Wesley Webb at his surprise home graduation

Dr Wesley Webb’s research a looked at female song evolution across songbirds, and involved a detailed field study on song cultures in New Zealand bellbirds.

A research officer at the School of Natural and Computational Sciences, Dr Webb found that female song presence and colourful plumage have evolved in concert, suggesting overlapping functions. His research showed that female bellbird song can be as elaborate as that of males. While there are some song syllables shared between sexes, males and females are largely singing “two different languages”. Further research is needed to explain the song culture differences between sexes.

Read Dr Webb’s story here

Dr Cong Yao

Dr Cong Yao’s research exploited novel connections between minimisation of distortion functionals and harmonic mappings. A junior research officer in the New Zealand Institute of Advanced Studies, Dr Yao investigated the explicit duality between the harmonic maps approach to Teichmüller theory and the classical theory via minimisers of mean distortion and posits interpolation between these cases via Lp- minimisers.

The results find applications to theoretical materials science and critical phase phenomena, as distortion functionals are natural measures of change in a system and address fundamental questions relating to microstructure and length scales.

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