Hybrid Polymers

Our team

Team leadership


Professor Ralph Cooney – Head of Hybrid Polymers team

Director, MSI Anti-microbial hybrid polymers
Also Director, MSI Materials Accelerator


  • Anti-microbial polymers (hybrid polymers)
  • Multi-material high-technology commercial products (Materials Accelerator)
  • Conducting polymer membranes
  • Actuating micro-pumps
  • Colloids, electro-spun fibres and zeolites/molecular sieves

Ralph has worked in research management and research for 40 years, publishing 250 papers. He has worked with innovative companies in Australia, the UK and USA. He recently surveyed strategies for industry-university partnerships in Europe, Canada and the USA. Ralph is a former director of ESR Ltd, a Crown Research Institute, and he was a government advisor in RST strategy, and international science and technology. He is a former Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean at the University.

Materials Accelerator 
This national network of 100 applied researchers works with New Zealand companies to develop high-value, multi-material exports across technology platforms including construction, aerospace, agri-technology, and air quality.

Read more about Ralph’s work

Materials Accelerator


Associate Professor Paul Kilmartin

BA, BSc(Hons) (Wellington), STB Angelicum (Rome), MTh (Sydney), PhD, MNZIC, MNZIFST


  • Sensor systems
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Sensory science

Paul works with beverages ranging from juice to wine. His sensor systems can tell what’s already present in beverages, particularly grapes/wine. His work in anti-oxidants then aims to prolong shelf-life. This expertise could also apply to pharma and cosmetics. Sensory science involves aroma where Paul is investigating the stability of Sauvignon blanc aromas. He works with local companies including Villa Maria, Delegats and Kumeu Rover Estate, and global giant Pernod Ricard on projects around wine quality and aroma.

More on Paul’s work


Dr Jianyong (Jackie) Jin - Senior Lecturer

BEng (Dalian), MS (Macromolecular Science) (Fudan, Shanghai), PhD (Polymer Chemistry (Clemson)


  • Novel fluorinated polymer synthesis
  • Novel high performance polymer synthesis via step growth polymerization
  • Thermosetting resin toughening
  • UV curable/photodefinable resin
  • Composite material
  • Sustainable materials

Jackie uses expertise in polymer structure-property relationships to discover new functional materials, applications and products.


Business Development and Project Management


Brian McMath – Business Development Manager

BSc (Hons)


  • Business opportunities
  • Investment

Brian works with the hybrid polymers team to develop business opportunities. His business acumen enables him to connect the team and industry on the basis of need, opportunity to investment. The objective is a mutually beneficial relationship where hybrid polymers deliver enhanced products or services and contributes to the bottom line of both partners. Brian is interested in new technologies and business development. He has a history of successful business relationships including Burkert Contromatic, BOC Gases and Ford Motor Company. He is currently a member of the Auckland-based Angel Investment Group.


Stephen Flint – Commercialisation Manager

MSc (Waikato)
Auckland UniServices Ltd


  • Securing and managing investments in hybrid polymers
  • Managing and commercialising hybrid polymers IP

Stephen has broad industry experience in New Zealand and internationally including four years in London in financial roles across recruitment, chemicals and pharma. He returned to New Zealand as a finance analyst at NZ Post. He spent five years at the Foundation of Research Science and Technology (FRST) in industry-facing roles and was also a global expert specialist, connecting local businesses to experts with the knowledge and/or technology to help solve technical or market-related challenges. UniServices manages the University’s intellectual property and is responsible for all research-based consultancy partnerships and commercialisation


Dr Karnika de Silva – Industry Materials Specialist

BSc(Hons) (Colombo), MPhil (Sri Jay), PhD (Aston), FIChemC, FPRI


  • Evaluating potential commercial applications of conducting polymer
  • Building commercial links with industrial partners here and overseas

She’s working on a range of conductive polymer (CP) projects with commercial interests:

  • Bioactive CPs for wound dressings, air filtration, biocompatible scaffolds for tissue engineering, etc
  • Laser deposition technology to coat micro needles used in drug delivery
  • Applying CPs to produce bioactive wood and metal surfaces in hospitals
  • Use of CPs in water filter membranes and plant fibres used in effluent disposal plants as bioactive anti-fouling and anti-odour agents

Karnika splits her time between the Hybrid Polymers and Materials Accelerator teams.


Anthony Meyer - Project Manager

BSc Mech Eng (Natal), MBA (Wits)

Anthony is responsible for project management within the hybrid polymers commercialisation programme and the Materials Accelerator. His is particularly interested in the development of synergistic supplier-client relationships.

Anthony held technical and general management positions in the South African domestic and commercial refrigerator manufacturing industries roles for 25 years, including start-up ventures. On moving to New Zealand he fulfilled a senior project management role in asphalt plant manufacture.


Research Fellows


Dr Marija Gizdavic-Nikolaidis

- Research Fellow
BSc(Hons) (Belgrade), PhD (Auckland), MNZIC


  • Conducting polymers
  • Microwave technology
  • Zeolites
  • Biomedical applications

Marija manages joint research programmes on conducting polymers between academia and industry across New Zealand, the USA and Europe. With conducting polymers, she focuses on the novel synthesis of nano structures using microwave technology which is environmentally friendly, clean and fast. It is ideal for large-scale production methods, delivering high yield and high quality. Microwave technology delivers in five minutes what would otherwise take five hours. Marija has worked with European companies on zeolites and is currently is investigating their potential to absorb and filter. In the biomedical area, she works collaboratively with Simon Swift at the Faculty of Medical Health and Sciences to understand the mechanism of action – the how and why of anti-microbials – and how they work as coatings, surfaces, sprays, films, and nanofibres.

More on Marija’s work


Dr Sudip Ray – Research Fellow

BSc(Hons), MTech, PhD (IIT Kharagpur)


  • Macromolecular engineering
  • Sustainable/green polymer chemistry
  • Polymers for biomedical applications
  • Organic-inorganic multifunctional hybrid materials
  • Polymer nanostructures and nanocomposites

Sudip actively researches, teaches and reviews for international journals in polymer science and engineering. He is working on efficient methods of synthesis of bioactive conducting polymers, and scalable, high-precision synthesis to meet commercial needs in nanosicence and nanotechnologies. In conducting polymers he is researching bioactivity, free-radical scavenging and functionalised materials. Sudip is also fabricating polymer nanofibres and nanomats for biomedical applications. Sudip was a visiting researcher at the University of New South Wales (Australia) and he has also worked on industrial projects in India and Switzerland.

Principal Investigators

Jadranka Travas-Sejdic- Associate Professor

BSc, MSc (Zagreb), PhD, MNZIC


  • Advanced polymeric materials, particularly those based on conducting polymers
  • Their application in health and bioelectronics, and polymer electronics devices
  • Nan-structured conducting polymers 

Current projects

In collaboration with the research groups from Chemistry Department, School of Medicine and Engineering:

  • Developing of novel gene sensors based on conducting polymers
  • Conducting polymers-based actuators
  • Conducting polymer self-assembled nanostructures
  • Poly(p-phenyl vinylene)-based electroluminescent polymers
  • Spectroscopy, EPR and NMR studies on polyaniline

Jadranka has also spent time as a scientist with Genesis Research and Development Corporation.

More about Jadranka’s work


Dr Grant Searchfield – Head of Audiology

BSc(Hons), PhD (Auckland)


  • Hearing disorders
  • Hearing protection
  • Consumer devices

The ability of hybrid polymers to protect surfaces offers huge potential with hearing devices from medical and media to protective. This is the world of biocompatibility. Grant is actively working with hybrid polymers for semi-implanted or fully-implanted hearing aids. He’s currently involved in New Zealand clinical trials for international aid manufacturers. Consumer devices, such as mp3 players, cellphones and headsets, as well as protective devices, can cause ear infections and anti-microbials have significant potential in this area. Grant’s expertise includes proof-of-concept, in-house engineering design and development, physical resources, equipment, testing booths and clinical trials for hearing aids

More on Grant’s work

Dr Simon Swift

BSc(Hons) (Nottingham), PhD


  • Biofilms in infection
  • Antimicrobial surfaces
  • Water contaminants
  • Bioremediation

Simon’s research interests include anti-microbial polymers used in the development of contamination-resistant surfaces for food and healthcare applications. He is investigating the mode of action of antimicrobial polymers as part of interdisciplinary studies aimed at improving the activity of existing materials. He has a continuing interest in the development and refinement of laboratory models to test the antimicrobial efficacy of contaminant resistant materials, while maintaining biocompatibility. Simon is also associated with The University of Auckland’s Centre for Microbial Innovation (http://www.cmi.ac.nz/index.html) providing expertise in biomedical applications of microbiology.

More about Simon’s work


PhD students

  • Walt Wheelwright
    Research topic: How polyaniline links to oxides and protein particles
  • Xiao Wang
    Research topic: Polyoxymethylaniline blends
  • Teresa To
    Research topic: Polyaniline on alumninium surfaces
  • James Wu
    Research topic: Polyaniline, electrospun fibres, colloids and coatings
  • Ashveen Nand
    Research topic: Polyaniline coatings on PET

Technical support

  • Adeline Le Cocq (Microbiology/Materials)
    MSc (Auckland)
  • Shane Crump