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Current Members


Anna Garden  Group leader

Anna completed her B.Sc.(Hons) in Chemistry at the University of Otago in 2005 and her Ph.D. also from the University of Otago in 2011, under the supervision of Prof. Henrik G. Kjaergaard (now at the University of Copenhagen). She then moved to Iceland for a 2.5 year postdoctoral research fellowship with Assoc. Prof. Egill Skúlason and Prof. Hannes Jónsson. She then moved back to Dunedin to take up her current position as a lecturer in Chemistry in 2015.

Caitlin Casey-Stevens – PhD student

Caitlin completed her B.Sc. in Chemistry with a Mathematics Minor at the University of Otago in 2015, and added a First Class Honours to that in 2016. In addition, she won the P. K. Grant award for exceptional research skill. During her degree, she spent a semester abroad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and considers herself a proud Tar Heel. Caitlin returned to the Garden Group as a PhD student in September 2017.

Charlie Ruffman – PhD student

After completing his BSc(Hons) in Chemistry (2017), Charlie joined the Garden group as a PhD student working on novel electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction. Charlie primarily focuses on tuning and improving MoS2, an Earth-abundant material that has recently shown promise for hydrogen production. His research interests include heterogeneous catalysis, electronic structure methods, and molecular dynamics. Charlie will finish his PhD in early 2021, and is actively seeking a post-doc position in method development, machine learning, or catalysis.

Geoffrey Weal – PhD student

Geoff has completed two BSc (Hons) at the University of Otago, in Chemistry (2013) and Physics (2015), with a minor in Computer Science. Geoff started his PhD with the group in 2017. His main research topic is improving global optimisation techniques to work more efficiently to elucidate the geometric structure of metal-based nanoparticles, especially for medium and large sized nanoparticles containing more than 100 atoms.

Geoff is also a proud member of the Chemistry Outreach group since of 2011. Chemistry Outreach travels to schools around Otago, Southland and New Zealand, with the goal of using fun and exciting chemistry and science experiments to inspire the next generation of kiwis into learning the wonders of science. Geoff has been given the opportunely to lead a outreach program called “Science for Supper”, which travels to rural communities after school and after parents work hours. This program provides the chance for parents as well as their children to both participate in exciting experiments and be a part of their childrens education. Read more about this at and

Recently, Geoff has been given the privilage to join the Chemistry Outreach group on outreach in Taiwan and Malaysia. This allows Geoff to point at things while riding on a boat up a river to visit amazing rural communities with fantastic people. Learn more about Chemistry Outreach at

Ciaran Ward – M. Sc. Student

Ciaran completed his B.Sc. in Chemistry at the University of Otago (2019). He has begun studying for a M.Sc. in 2020. His work extends that of Charlie Ruffman by employing novel theoretical methods to the hydrogen evolution reaction on MoS2. Ciaran relishes the opportunity to develop new Computer Science skills in a Chemistry research setting.

Sam McIntyre – M. Sc. Student

Sam completed her B.Sc. in Chemistry and Genetics at the University of Otago in 2019. During her degree, she spent a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh. After completing a summer studentship with the Garden Group (2018) she returned to the group, beginning her M.Sc. at the beginning of 2020. Her research has an astrochemical context where she is investigating the relationship between NO and HNO on water-ice surfaces. Sam’s project is unique as the theoretical investigation forms only half of her research, being complemented by the use of astrochemistry lab techniques with Dr. Courtney Ennis. Through this combination of calculations and experiment she hopes to provide an insight into the observed differences in the relative abundances of these species detected in space.

Sam has also been actively involved with Chemistry Outreach since the start of 2016 where she has enjoyed engaging with a range of students both in and around Dunedin. She has also had the privilege to travel to Taiwan (2018) and Malaysia (2018 and 2019) taking science into rural communities, experiencing different cultures and meeting many incredible people.

Frankie Mackenzie – B. Sc. (Hons) student

Frank is an Honours student in the group, studying the application of a genetic algorithm to the structure of metallic clusters. He is interested in finding out factors affecting the algorithm’s performance and ways to improve it.

Lily Clague – summer student

Lily has completed her third year of a B.Sc majoring in Chemistry and has joined the Garden group as a summer student. Lily is currently working on extending some of her CHEM390 work on the integration of computational modelling to enhance understanding of nanotechnology in high school students. This works to improve upon a current Chemistry Outreach experiment on silver nanoprisms.

Nicholas Smith – summer student

Nicholas has completed his third year of a B. Sc majoring Chemistry and minoring in Computer Science. He has joined the Garden group for as a summer student; he will work with Frankie Mackenzie to extend Geoffrey Weal’s work in using a genetic algorithm as a global optimisation technique to determine the structure of metallic nanoparticles.

Past Members


Steph Lambie – M. Sc. student

Currently Ph.D. student in Physics at University of Auckland.

Calum Gordon – B. Sc. (Hons)

Currently Ph.D. student in Chemistry at Victoria University.

Mingrui (Ray) Yang – B. Sc. (Hons)

Currently Ph.D. student in Physics at Massey University.

Robert Tucker – summer student

Currently Ph.D. student in chemical Biology at the National University of Singapore.

Brianna Nally – summer student

Currently Ph.D. student in Physics at University of Otago.