Claudine Nalesu

Claudine Nalesu

Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Master of Creative Technologies
Bachelor of Creative Technologies

Through her research in creative technologies she can explore sustainable methods and materials, says PhD student Claudine Nalesu whose studies are supported by an AUT Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship.

“As a creative technologist who specialises in large art installations, the majority of my pieces would have to be destroyed due to the inability to store them. After reflection of my creative practice, I wanted to reduce the amount of waste I created as an artist.

“During the beginning of my master’s degree I learned about biomaterials and in particular about ‘bioleather’; a biomaterial made from drying kombucha SCOBY, which mimics the look and feel of traditional leather but can be home-composted. It was this material that I focused my master’s project on, exploring the material from a creative perspective and how to make eco-friendly art installations with it.”

She decided she wanted to take this research further and take on a PhD, supervised by Professor Frances Joseph and Dr Rachel Shearer from AUT, and Associate Professor Donna Cleveland from RMIT Vietnam.

“For my PhD, I’m looking into the local production of the biomaterial and the challenges it currently faces, including upscaling the size of production and waterproofing. Since kombucha, the liquid that produces the biomaterial, is made using tea and sugar which New Zealand predominantly imports from overseas, my PhD investigates what sources from New Zealand and the Pacific could be used as replacements, especially sources we consider food waste, like apple peels or bad crops.”

Taking her research to new heights
For Claudine, her AUT journey first started with enrolling in the Bachelor of Creative Technologies, soon followed by a Master of Creative Technologies and now her PhD.

“Coming to the end of my master’s degree, I realised that there was so much more that I wished to investigate and explore within my research topic. Choosing to go straight into the PhD meant that I not only had the time to research these questions, but also had the support from my supervisors and AUT. Doing the PhD also opens up the opportunity to teach at a tertiary level which is what I aspire to as a career.

“The biggest reasons for coming back to AUT for my doctoral studies were the staff, and AUT’s practical research approach and strong innovative, future-thinking mindset. I knew that at AUT I’d be surrounded by academics who would understand not only my mindset, but also be able to push the research to new innovative heights.”

Having the time to focus on her research topic is what she is enjoying the most about her PhD.

“I love having the time to really focus on what the problem or project is, and carefully think about what tools, questions or actions you need to solve that problem. And in that time, it’s the discussions you have with the academics and other PhD students that bring different perspectives and different ways to solve the problem that make it even more interesting and take your PhD journey to places you might not have thought of before.”

Advice for other students
Research what makes you excited to research, Claudine advises other students thinking about doctoral study.

“A PhD is a long time that will have many ups and downs, and it will make you question why you are here. But when you have a topic that gets you excited to research and excited to talk about your work, those downs don’t stay down for long.”

She says she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a PhD.

“With the ever-changing world and more complex problems arising, the ability to solve or explore solutions to these problems and create new knowledge becomes even more complex, and often crosses multiple disciplines. This programme allows you to draw on the knowledge from expert academics and push your research to different possibilities.”