Student profiles

Below are our current postgraduate researchers and their research projects.

Victoria Egli (nee Preece) (PhD Candidate)
Victoria holds a Bachelor of Nursing and a Master of International Public Health both from The University of Sydney, Australia. Her PhD research is associated with the Neighbourhoods for Active Kids Study and investigates the role of the built environment on the body size of children, considering also the possible mediating influences of physical activity and nutrition. Using the principals of effective knowledge translation a model explaining these relationships will be subsequently developed and tested. She is supervised by Associate Professor Melody Smith (nee Oliver) - The University of Auckland, Dr Caryn Zinn - AUT and Dr Karen Villanueva - The University of Melbourne.

Abelardo Gil-Sotomayor (PhD Candidate)
Abelardo was awarded a scholarship with the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico, and began his PhD looking at the effects of a novel combination of exercise (HIIT and RT) with carbohydrate restriction (LCHF) in individuals with MetS. Before coming to NZ, he was a clinical dietitian, actively involved in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes while he was also involved in academia. Abelardo is a member of the International Network Active in Diabetes Prevention, has MSc in Exercise and Nutrition Science from the University of Liverpool, UK. and a MA in Educational Media from Appalachian State University, USA.

Kristin Hamling (PhD Candidate)
Kristen developed an enduring interest in wellbeing throughout her 10 year employment as a trauma psychologist. She tired of seeing the 'ambulance at the bottom of the hill' approach to treating trauma and stress related disorders. This was particularly evident for her in the emergency services, whereby most staff support programs were reactive and centred around pathogenic models of health (i.e., prevention and treatment of trauma maladies such as PTSD). Kristen will apply evidence from the field of positive psychology to investigate whether saluogenic models of health (i.e., health promoting), to supplement existing models of health, result in better health outcomes for emergency service personnel. She is being supervised by Dr Aaron Jarden.

Cliff Harvey (PhD Candidate)
Cliff is a naturopath and clinical nutritionist. He was one of the first practitioners in New Zealand to begin working with and prescribing low-carbohydrate diets in the 1990s. His PhD research is focused on the induction of ketosis, ways to enhance this and reduce symptoms of 'keto-flu', and exploring the inter-individual variation in responses to lower carbohydrate diets. The overarching aim is to help practitioners to better customise dietary prescriptions. He is supervised by Professor Grant Schofield, Dr Caryn Zinn, and Dr Simon Thornley, all of AUT.

Erika Ikeda (PhD Candidate)
Erika completed her Bachelor of Sports Science in Japan and Master of Health Science at AUT in 2014. Her PhD research is part of the Neighbourhoods for Active Kids (NfAK) project, funded by Health Research Council of New Zealand. Using an innovative methodological approach, her current research explores associations between environmental attributes and children's active travel to school. She is supervised by Associate Professor Melody Smith (nee Oliver) at University of Auckland, Associate Professor Erica Hinckson at AUT, and Professor Karen Witten at Massey University.

Gazal Bharara (nee Kaur) (PhD Candidate)
Gazal is a second-year PhD student who is passionate about improving youth mental health. Her current research interests include holistic wellbeing, adolescent positive mental health, and school transition. Specifically, she is investigating the holistic aspects that facilitate adolescents' wellbeing during the transition between intermediate and secondary schools. With this research, she hopes to create evidence that can potentially be utilised by the counsellors, educators and policy makers for developing effective youth wellbeing programs. She is supported by the AUT Vice Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship. Prior to enrolling at AUT, Kaur worked for three years as a school counselling psychologist and a special educator. She holds a Master’s degree in Psychology and a BA Honours in Psychology from Panjab University (India). Among other things, she enjoys spending time with her lovely family, travelling and listening to music. After graduating, Gazal aspires to collaboratively improve the implementation of positive education in schools. She is being supervised by Dr Scott Duncan and Dr Erica Hinckson.

Adrian McPherson (Masters Candidate)
The relationship between physical activity (PA) and cognitive function is an exciting new field. But researchers are still identifying exactly how they interact. Adrian McPherson is a practicing paediatric occupational therapist completing his Masters in Health Science investigating the relationship between PA and cognition. Causation is the key thing he hopes to determine from his study: Do smart people exercise, or does exercise make you smart? The study is a secondary analysis of a previous AUT Healthy Homework project analysing a primary school health promotion programme, and being supervised by Dr Scott Duncan.

Geeta Sharma (PhD Candidate)
Geeta completed her M.Sc in Psychology from University of Mysore (India) and started her PhD journey in 2015. Having trained in dance from childhood, Geeta was curious to investigate the benefits of dance amongst schoolchildren. As an experimental study, she will be evaluating the feasibility of a dance-integrated curriculum in NZ primary schools. She is supervised by Dr Scott Duncan, Dr Jennifer Nikolai and Dr Nigel Harris. She is supported by the AUT Vice Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship.

Gayle Souter-Brown (PhD Candidate)
Gayle runs a global salutogenic landscape and urban design consultancy based in London. Her research is at the intersection of health, ecology and design. She is interested in applied environmental design to enhance human potential through improved health and well-being. Stress, mood and workplace productivity are some of the things currently under the spotlight. Her research journey has involved designing and developing a “living laboratory” on campus, sensory gardens based on Scandinavian social and therapeutic horticulture gardens. The research garden is funded by AUT, with support from the Vice Chancellor. A randomised controlled trial will assess the gardens’ effect as a self-help tool for staff and students. Primary supervisor is Assoc. Prof Erica Hinckson, Secondary is Assoc. Prof Scott Duncan, with Prof Kevin Gaston at University of Exeter as Tertiary and Dr Di Menzies, IFLA past president, as Research Advisor.

Ryan Weatherwax (PhD Candidate)
Ryan earned a Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University (United States) in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Clinical Exercise and a Master of Science from Northern Michigan University (United States) in Exercise Science. Ryan is currently a Lecturer of Exercise and Sport Science at Western State Colorado University (United States). His PhD research focuses on the individual differences in training responsiveness of two exercise prescription methods in a community exercise program. He is supervised by Dr Lance Dalleck, Dr Nigel Harris, and Dr Andrew Kilding.