Thesis topics and supervisors available in 2021

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.

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, wellbeing in informal carers.  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

Andrea Lamarre

I have limited remaining supervision capacity for 2021. I am interested in supervising projects related to eating disorders, body image, embodiment, and weight stigma. I tend to approach these topics from a critical feminist & health psychology lens, looking at how eating distress and recoveries are lived, experienced, and represented in relation to broader societal understandings, messages, and representations of “health” and “well-being.” I am also able to supervise critical health psychology research that includes a focus on co-designed, lived experience-led health and healthcare research and treatment more generally. I typically use qualitative and arts-based (e.g. digital storytelling, photovoice, dance-based research, etc.) approaches in my work. I would be particularly keen to work with students who have an interest in trying out novel ways of working with participants to understand health, healthcare, and embodiment.

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.

Kathryn McGuigan

My research interests include critical health psychology including: health and space, understandings and use of medicines/medications, social construction of food, and gendered experiences of health and illness. I am primarily interested in qualitative projects.

Paul Merrick

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

Clifford Van Ommen

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

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

In 2021 I am primarily interested in studies on the following topics:  

  • Beliefs about conspiracies and scientific issues (e.g., climate change)
  • Meta-psychology (e.g., detecting statistical errors in the published literature)
  • Reliability and validity of psychometric measures

I could, however, be tempted by a strong project outside of these areas. Methodologically, my background is primarily in quantitative research (especially online surveys and archival research). 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 openly available. You can find information about my past research on my website. In 2021 I will have limited space for new students, but do 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

Inequalities, population ageing and work in later life

  • Impacts of ability to work and negative age-related stereotypes on work engagement and retention for adults 55+
  • Impact of serious illness in mid-life on labour force participation

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 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.
  3. The Wellness Budget has brought funding for ultra brief interventions for people with mild to moderate mental health needs but there has been very little research done in this area. Some initial research we have done has shown that there can be some benefit but it is a very different way of working for therapists and nobody has yet looked at what impact this will have on them. This Masters project will explore with there therapists about their experience delivering therapy in this manner including its impact on them.

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

Pete Cannon

Unavailable for new supervision in 2020.

Leigh Coombes

Full supervision load in 2021.

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

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

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

My current research interest is in distributed and collaborative cognition (with a particular focus on memory). This work examines how people strategically use their environments and work with others when remembering, planning, and thinking about things. This work has potential application to areas such as ageing and cognition, occupational expertise, cognitive development, and eyewitness memory, in addition to basic research in cognitive psychology.

I have a couple of ready-to-go projects available for research students (particularly for Honours or Masters). Some of our work is lab-based on the Manawatū campus but there are opportunities to do studies in other ways if you are based elsewhere.

Barbara Kennedy

Unavailable in 2021.

Ute Kreplin

Unavailable in 2021.

Mandy Morgan

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

Tracy Morison

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

Michael Philipp

I primarily supervise research in the area of social cognition – investigating the mental processes underlying our social perceptions and social judgements. This year I am looking to supervising projects that investigate how we perceive minds (for an example, see Gray, Gray, & Wegner, 2007, Science). Projects of particular interest to me include investigating cues that affect how we perceive other minds and how different perceptions of mind affect our moral commitments to nonhuman animals.

Honours and Masters students should begin planning their projects with me well before starting the research semester – your specific topic and methodology will develop from our discussions. 

My supervision focuses on professional development and growth. I provide structured guidance throughout the research process, and I expect students I supervise to attend regular lab meetings throughout the year. I am a strong proponent of open, transparent research practices (including preregistration and replication), and I expect these practices in the research I supervise.

Kirsty Ross

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

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

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.

Jo Taylor

I am available to supervise in 2021, in areas broadly related to clinical psychology, and from a quantitative paradigm. I am developing a new research track regarding recovery-oriented and service user-led teaching in clinical psychology training, and am particularly interested in supervision of research that aligns with this research area. In addition, I have the following specific projects available:

  • Psychometric analysis of two measures of mental health attitudes (Recovery Attitudes Questionnaire, Opening Minds Scale for Health Providers): This project has existing data and requires a student who can demonstrate competence for quantitative research, and familiarity and comfort with SPSS.
  • Student perspectives of recovery-oriented and service user-led teaching in psychology training programmes
  • Psychologists’ use of personal recovery in their work
  • A topic on driving anxiety in older people could be developed from existing data in the NZPATHS longitudinal study of older drivers and family members (New Zealand Prospective Older Adult Transport and Health Study of older drivers and family members; NZPATHS), funded by HRC and based at the University of Otago. This study investigates how older adults modify their driving, meet their transport needs and adapt to driving cessation, and the role families play. It builds on baseline data collected in 2016-2017, with follow-up data collected in 2019 and 2021. This project requires strength in quantitative research design and analysis.

Hukarere Valentine

Unavailable for new supervision in 2020.

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Wellington campus

Julia Becker

I am interested in supervising student projects on natural hazard and society issues.  Subject areas may include perceptions of natural hazards, preparedness for emergencies, community resilience, response and recovery for events, and warnings.  Focuses may be cross-peril and include earthquakes, flooding, coastal issues, volcanoes and landslides.

Simon Bennett

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 have some availability for 2021 and would be keen to supervise projects related to higher education and/or student experiences (including wellbeing).

Emma Hudson-Doyle

Unavailable for new supervisions in 2021

Josh Faulkner

I am a clinical neuropsychologist undertaking research into the assessment and rehabilitation of cognitive and psychosocial factors in neurological conditions. I am particularly interested in the relationship between neuropsychological factors and recovery following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and the application of psychotherapeutic interventions for this population. I have the following specific projects for honours and masters students:

  1. The psychosocial and mental health characteristics of mTBI patients referred to concussion services
  2. Psychological trauma and mTBI - exploring measures and characteristics of PTSD in mTBI
  3. Executive function and mTBI - this project aims to identify the impact of mTBI on specific executive function skills (i.e. reward-based processing, cognitive flexibility, social cognition) and their influence on outcomes
  4. The long term cognitive and psychosocial outcomes of patients treated for Cerebral Venous Thrombosis (CVT) (a blood clot to the brain)

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

Raj Prasanna

I would like to hear from potential Masters & PhD students who are interested in conducting   research on 1) Disaster Management Information Systems 2) Application of Internet of Things (IoT) for Disaster Management,3) Use of Big Data & Deep Learning to enhance Disaster Management Situation Arness & Decision Making 4) Designing Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) for Emergency Response, and 5) Situation Awareness & Cognitive Requirements Capturing Techniques for Emergencies.

Sarah Riley

Unavailable for new supervisions in 2021.

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.

Ian deTerte

Unavailable for new supervision in 2021.