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Source: Massey University

Dr Mabel Costa.

Dr Mabel Costa is a lecturer at the School of Accountancy who has been has been teaching at tertiary level since 2011. Before joining Massey, she taught at North South University, Bangladesh and at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom.

Her PhD research at the School of Accountancy looked at cost stickiness, which occurs when costs rise more with an increase in activity than they decrease with a proportionate decrease in activity.

Her findings suggest that financial constraint leads to less cost stickiness. By extending credit to customers, suppliers undertake risk that customers might default on payment. Owing to the monitoring role of suppliers, Dr Costa found that trade credit lowers cost stickiness and her evidence suggests that such cost stickiness can have a significant detrimental impact on a firm’s value.

She says undertaking the PhD was “an emotionally overwhelming experience. I am ecstatic that I have been through this life changing journey.”


Dr Janice Lim is a researcher and tutor at the School of Health Sciences, whose PhD research involved a study investigating the blood glucose response to antioxidant-rich plant extracts inpeople aged between 40-60 years old, to see if it helps lower the blood sugar levels in prediabetics.

 Previous research has shown type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed if lifestyle interventions are available in the prediabetes stage. Dr Lim investigated one potential intervention for individuals with a ‘less healthy’ metabolic glucose profile.

Using two acute human studies, she demonstrated that antioxidant-rich plant extracts, from New Zealand pine bark, grape seed, rooibos tea, and olive leaf, have the potential to help improve people’s glucose and insulin responses. These plant extracts may improve individuals’ overall health outcomes, and reduce the chances of prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes.

As the valedictorian at her ceremony, Dr Lim told fellow graduands that Massey has taught her how “to think critically, work creatively, and to embrace and thrive in challenges.”

 “Most importantly, it has taught me to always be mindful that my accomplishments are never my own but attributed to the people placed in my life, and I would like to specially thank my supervisors for always being present and bringing the best out of me.  

She said as a lifelong researcher in nutrition, she has formulated her own nutritious recipe for success in life: “The first secret ingredient being: Attention, especially to the small things; the second ingredient: Persistence; and the third ingredient: Balance.” 


Lecturer at the School of Economics and Finance, Dr Alan Pope has significant property industry experience. He teaches courses in Property Market Principles, Property Valuation and  Applied Property Valuation.

His thesis investigated ground leaseholds (where rent is paid for the land) through 25 semi-structured interviews with ground leaseholders.

When purchasing a ground leasehold, these participants indicated that there was insufficient consideration of higher ground rents when reviewed. Ground leaseholds may appear inexpensive compared to freeholds. But due to ground rents being commonly set as a percentage of freehold value, an increase in ground rent leads to a lower ground leasehold value during rent review time.

This value relationship was explored in an experiment with 40 property investors. Results showed that the freehold value growth information was too available to investors, which led to over-estimation of ground leasehold values. With ground leaseholder misunderstanding being genuine, ground rent review clauses may not be fit for purpose, warranting review where possible.


Dr Feng Hou is a Research Officer at the School of Natural and Computational Sciences, whose thesis developed novel deep learning methods to improve the computer programs for three sub-tasks of entity analysis.

Natural (human) language texts have many mentions of entities which can be a person, location, or organisation. Entity analysis identifies and analyses different aspects of entity mentions for understanding natural language.

Dr Hou developed novel deep learning methods to improve the computer programs for three sub-tasks of entity analysis: classifying entity mentions into fine-grained types, linking entity mentions to concrete entities in a knowledge base, and clustering co-referent entity mentions.

He is currently conducting research on machine translation between Māori and English, so that people can interact with a computer by asking questions in Māori and English.

“I feel so happy to have completed my PhD. It made my supervisors and I feel that the hard work paid off.”


Dr Sophia Jia is a teaching and research assistant at the School of Natural and Computational Sciences who teaches research methods.

She investigated the phenomenon of live streaming, which has become globally popular. As live streaming has grown, it has become a new social commerce venue and lucrative business.

Dr Jia conducted two qualitative studies and two quantitative studies to investigate streamers’ and viewers’ online behaviour and behavioural intentions and explored how streamers interact with viewers when live streaming. 

She developed two conceptual models to investigate why viewers continue to watch live streams. These models can explain and predict continuance behaviours and can be used in broad online and technology-related contexts. Dr Jia’s research improves our understanding of user behaviour and behavioural intentions in live streaming and insights from her research could improve the design, functions, and marketing of live streaming platforms.

She says it is fantastic and a huge relief to have completed her doctoral studies.


 PhD Research Associate at the School of Food and Advanced Technology in Auckland, Dr Swapna Jaywant works on the development of different sensor technologies. She recently completed a six month research project funded by Wine Grenade Ltd., NZ Product Accelerator, and Callaghan Innovation. 

Dr Jaywant created a solution to the issue of metal arsenic contamination in water. Metal arsenic contamination is concerning as it is mutagenic and carcinogenic. While lab-based arsenic detection is possible, it requires expensive equipment so is not considered portable, which limits its use in the field, yet current kit-based methods are unsafe due to toxic by-products.

Dr Jaywant aimed to develop a portable and sensitive arsenic sensor with high throughput. Her creatively-designed sensor can detect dissolved arsenic in water at concentrations of up to 10 μgm/L using a microcontact printing procedure. She explored 3D printing for the production of the devices. Her research also provides a guide towards microcontact printing of a particular compound, dithiothreitol, on a gold coated substrate. 

She says being a mother of two lovely children, it was a challenging task being a full-time mum and a PhD student. “However, with endless support and constant encouragement from my husband and kids, I have been able to complete my PhD in exactly three years. My parents and in-laws aren’t able to attend the ceremony due to the current pandemic situation, but were able to virtually attend the ceremony via live stream. I am content as I could make all of them feel proud. This is the beginning of another journey in my life. I feel very excited and happy.” 


Dr Nicola McDowell is a Lecturer at the Institute of Education whose area of interest is in the field of education and rehabilitation for learners who are blind or who have low vision and disability rights, which stemmed from her own experience of living with a vision impairment.

“As such, I am passionate about ensuring that students with disabilities have equal access and equal opportunities for success within their educational environment. I also believe children need to be empowered so they are able to become self-advocates.”

Dr McDowell’s thesis looked at Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI), the most common cause of visual impairment affecting children in the developed world. To help meet the needs of children with CVI, she proposed a practice framework that can be used within an education or rehabilitation context, based on her experience of developing a successful rehabilitation programme to improve her own visual and overall functioning.

Dr McDowell identified three main components that led to her improvements in this previous programme. These were: developing an individual CVI profile, creating an individualised programme, and empowerment through increasing knowledge. Her research on each component of the framework, and on the framework as a whole, showed that it may be an effective approach for supporting children with CVI.


Senior Tutor at the School of People, Environment and Planning Dr Stella Pennell’s thesis investigated the digital homestay accommodation platform, Airbnb.

Airbnb has quickly became the world’s largest accommodation provider, yet there is little research into the effects of this on the lived experiences of those who host their homes with Airbnb.  Airbnb’s growth is particularly noticeable in small regional tourist towns. Dr Pennell investigated the impact of Airbnb through contradictions between the capitalist imperatives of the platform, the demands of tourism, and hosts’ daily practices of social life at personal, family, and community levels.

Using lenses of commodification of the home and self, biopolitics, and the intensification of time and space, Mrs Pennell demonstrated the operation of surplus across the field. The model of surplus – both as an analytical tool and a methodological imperative – was used to understand the ways in which surplus-meanings between notions of “home” and of “business” and the use of surplus enjoyment ensure Airbnb hosts remained committed to the platform.

She says she “absolutely loved” doing her PhD at Massey. “I felt so privileged to be able to have the time and space to do this research.” She says she had great support from her supervisors Dr Warwick Tie and Dr Trudie Cain, and Head of School Professor Glenn Banks, who supported her to take up a guest fellowship at Wageningen University in the Netherlands for a few months.

“A PhD is never a solo affair; there’s a team aspect to it, and that’s an approach I’ve taken with me into my teaching philosophy. Completing my PhD gave me a really deep sense of satisfaction, as well as a feeling of confidence in my abilities to take a research project from start to completion, and do that well. Post completion, I’m now enjoying teaching as well as disseminating my work in the form of journal articles and conference presentations. It feels really good to be using the skills I learnt during my PhD and feels brilliant to be an active part of the academic community!”


Dr Lynsey Ellis, Professional Clinician at the School of Social Work is a registered social worker and has been involved in Field Education with the School of Social Work for eleven years. Field Education is “essentially applied learning for students who go out into community and statutory agencies to practice their skills during their degree. I coordinate placements for the Auckland and Northland regions as well as the Field Education team. It’s a busy role but very rewarding as I get to support our students into the real world of social work practice. It’s also wonderful to keep contact with our alumni in the field, many of whom now support students into practice.”

Her thesis “Sustainable social work: a response to the impacts of climate emergency from social work education and practice in Aotearoa, New Zealand”, which was acknowledged in the Dean’s list of exceptional theses, is an action research into Sustainable Social Work and the role social workers can have in response to the climate crisis in Aotearoa. “This is relevant to social work as the people most exposed to the impacts of climate change are also the users of social work services.”

The thesis has developed a Sustainable Action Model for social workers to use in practice. “The findings will contribute to a new paper, designed for the Bachelor of Social Work, called Environmental Sustainability in Social and Community Work Practice, which I am very excited to be teaching from next year. This paper will educate future generations of social workers, preparing them for the climate emergency as it unfolds.”

“I am delighted to have completed my PhD! It was a challenging six years journey, part time alongside my teaching and coordinating roles. I’m especially delighted as my thesis has been acknowledged in the ‘Dean’s list of exceptional theses’. What an honour!”

A keen gardener, Dr Ellis says it’s great having the time now to do her garden. “I am currently mid-way through a permaculture design certificate which teaches food security, systems of sustainable design and implementation that I am applying to my home systems, creating resilience for my family.” 

MIL OSI