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Travel Reports

Travel Grant Reports 2004

11th International Symposium on Marine Natural Products
4th - 9th September, 2004
Sorrento, Italy

Sonia van der Sar
Third Year PhD Chemistry
University of Canterbury

In September, 2004 I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Italy for the 11th International Symposium on Marine Natural Products. This conference was held from the 4th-9th September in beautiful Sorrento, a small resort town on the Sorrento peninsula, an hour south of Naples.

The aim of the conference was to bring together people in the marine natural products field from all over the world. The research areas, therefore, were wide and included topics from ecology to nanotechnology. This also included the more traditional areas of marine chemistry, isolation and characterisation of natural products and synthesis.

I am in the third year of my PhD at the University of Canterbury. My PhD is in chemistry, but my specific area of research is in marine natural products. My research involves the isolation and structure elucidation of new biologically active compounds from both marine and terrestrial fungi. By biologically active I mean those compounds that show anti-cancer, antifungal, antibacterial or antiviral activity. On the grand scheme of things we are looking for lead compounds for the development of new and more effective drugs for treatment of disease.

Because I am at an advanced stage of my PhD I had an accumulation of work that my supervisors felt I should present, hence my contribution to the conference was three posters.

  1. From Antarctic Seabed to Canadian Foreshore: New Sources of Pseurotins.
  2. Simplifying Complexity: Generation of UV Libraries for the Dereplication of Natural Product Extracts.
  3. Simplifying Complexity: Enhanced Methods for the Dereplication of Natural Products.

On poster 1, I presented work on a class of compounds that show antiviral activity called pseurotins. In the poster I reported on the discovery and stereochemical elucidation of two previously unknown stereoisomers (same structure, different spatial arrangement of atoms) of Pseurotin A, which I named Pseurotin A2 and A3. The relevance of this poster to the conference was that A, A2 and A3 were isolated from a fungus found at a Canadian beach. This of course doesn’t necessarily indicate the fungus is marine in origin. However we also found pseuortin A in a marine fungus found living in association with a marine sponge. This connection was good enough for the “everything marine” nature of the conference.

Poster 2, outlined a natural product database based on HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) our group constructed. This database is used to dereplicate (to rapidly identify already known natural products) the extracts that we receive. These sorts of database are of the utmost importance when working with natural products. The reason for this is the large number of already known metabolites that exist in the area we work in, hence it makes sense to focus research and resources on only those natural products that will generate new lead compounds.

Poster 3, as with poster 2, this poster is about dereplication of natural products. This poster however, deals with the enhancements made to the MarinLit (Marine Literature) database developed by our group. As the name suggests, it is used to retrieve bibliographic and structural diversity information on compounds derived from marine organisms.
The modifications include the capability to search the database using chemical functional groups, such as –CH3 , -CH2O. Also there is now the capability to view NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) data for each structure in the database.

Attendance at the conference was a great experience for me. It made me appreciate the fantastic research resources we have as a group. I was prepared to feel a bit like the underdog when meeting my peers studying in other parts of the world. I thought of course, groups in Europe and the U.S in particular had a lot of money and hence resources to ‘throw round’ so to speak. I was genuinely surprised to discover that these large groups were most definitely in the minority. After just the first day of the conference I was thankful for the group I was in.

The conference also gave me the opportunity to network with other groups, not only were great friends made, but also potential postdoctoral positions were explored.

Australian Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference
8-10 December, 2004
Sydney, Australia

Priyan De Alwis
M.E Candidate
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Canterbury

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch (RSNZCB) for providing me the opportunity of presenting my research at the Australian Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (ATNAC 2004) in Sydney.

ATNAC 2004 is a major Australian conference bringing together telecommunications and research and development staff from universities and industrial research laboratories. Members of the ATNAC organizing Committee included representatives from Australia’s leading R&D institutions. ATNAC 2004 provided attendees with the latest developments in telecommunication networks and applications. The scope of the 2004 Conference included Ad-hoc and Sensor Networks, Addressing and Location Management, Broadband and Ultra-broadband Networks, Congestion Control and Resource Allocation, Content Distribution Networks, Cross-Layer Optimization, Multicast and Broadcast, Multimedia Communications, Network Security, Network Architectures, Optical Networking, Peer-to-Peer Communications, Routing, Voice over IP and Wireless LANs.

I am a Master of Engineering student at University of Canterbury and was one of only three presenters from New Zealand. The paper I presented was titled “Admission Control for WCDMA with High Bandwidth Services”. The rapid expansion of the mobile market over the past few years has seen cellular communications move away from just voice to a host of multimedia services and Wide Band Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) technology is seen as the solution to future generation cellular networks.

Call admission control (CAC) is a provisioning strategy to limit the number of call connections into the networks in order to reduce the network congestion and call dropping. In previous generation networks such as the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), the decision of accepting a new call was a relatively easy one, since the available number of channels in a cell is known. CDMA on the other hand is interference limited and the number of calls cannot specify the capacity of the system. A user will be granted access to the network only if this action will not cause the other users to experience a drop in quality or effect system stability. A good CAC scheme has to balance the call blocking and call dropping in order to provide the desired user requirements.

My paper investigated two existing CAC algorithms and identified its strengths and weaknesses. I then introduced a new algorithm using strengths of the two previous algorithms to improve the overall call admission and resource management process.

The first algorithm introduced a new quality of service (QoS) parameter called Service Degradation Descriptor (SDD) and the Non Real-time (NRT) overload strategy to minimize New Call blocking and Handoff dropping. Handoff is the ability of a handset to maintain the continuity and the quality of the connection while moving from one cell to another. SDD indicates a user’s willingness to degrade the quality of service and in NRT overload strategy a connection is accepted even if the total power required by all connections exceeds the available power up to a certain upper bound. The second scheme investigated was a received power based CAC algorithm. The algorithm I introduced used the receive power based concepts as an initial base and used the SDD and NRT overload schemes to reduces handoff losses and new call losses as specified in the existing schemes. But this introduced a greater dropping percentage of on going calls due previous researchers not considering certain aspects of a cellular system. A dropped call is considered to be far worse than a blocked call and the practicality of such a scheme is questionable. Therefore a scheme was required to reduce the dropping percentage and I was able to improve the algorithm by using the SDD and NRT overload scheme at the Power Control mechanism as well as at call admission. Simulation results produced far lower dropping percentages with my recommendations and the scheme was further optimized by adjusting parameters of the NRT overload scheme.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and the experience was invaluable. I would like to thank the RSNZCB again for their support in providing me this unique opportunity.

2004 Australasian Quaternary Association (AQUA) Biennial Conference
6th - 10th December, 2004
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.

Philip Burge
PhD Candidate
Department of Geological Sciences
University of Canterbury

I am a second year PhD candidate in the department of Geological Sciences at the University of Canterbury. My research is focused on reconstructing the palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironment of the West Coast, South Island, New Zealand using beetle fossils. This method has been used for many decades in the northern hemisphere but has only recently begun to be developed for use in the southern hemisphere. This method provides quantitative estimates of climatic change and supplements more commonly used environmental proxies, such as pollen records and ice cores.

Some early results from this research were presented at the conference under the title "A paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic reconstruction from the West Coast, South Island, NZ, using beetle fossils". This paper illustrated, at a site approximately 4km east of Westport, what is interpreted as the transition from the last interglacial to glacial period at approximately 71,000 years before present (although I am still waiting on pair of dates to confirm this age). This transition was shown by a change in the fossil beetle fauna representing a shift in vegetation from mature (probably Nothofagus) forest to a tree-line environment normally found at the forest-subalpine vegetation transition. This change in vegetation was accompanied by deterioration in the overall climate and an increased seasonal variance (from the present day) between winter and summer temperatures. At the time of the tree-line environment indicated by the fossil beetle assemblage, winter minimum temperatures were depressed by approximately 5.0°C below the modern day winter mean-minimum temperature (3.4°C) and summer mean temperatures by approximately 3.0°C below the modern summer mean temperature (16.5°C).

This paper continued to illustrate the potential of this proxy to the wider Australasian Quaternary community who attended the conference and will help to provide a greater understanding of past climatic change. Further work in the overall PhD project will also provide information that can be used in the Australasian INTIMATE (INTergration of Ice core, Marine And TErrestrial records) project which is intent upon producing an agreed Australasian model of the changing climate of the last 30,000 years.

Attending the conference was a great opportunity for a relatively new member of the Quaternary community such as myself. Quaternary science is multidisciplinary and includes researchers across a diverse range of fields including archaeology, biology, geology, chemistry and physics. This conference therefore provides opportunities to meet scientists from all these disciplines - something that is not normally possible at most conferences due to their focus on a particular scientific discipline. It also exposes attendees to a wide variety of approaches to answering related questions and can result in the researcher thinking of ways of examining data that they have not previous thought of.

I would like to thank the Royal Society (Canterbury Branch) and the Department of Geological Science's Mason Trust and the Australasian INTIMATE project, for making it possible for me to attend this conference.

18th Australasian Conference on the Mechanics of Structures and Materials
1-3 December 2004
Perth, Australia

Jeremy Chang
PhD Student
Fire Engineering
University of Canterbury

I am a first year PhD student in fire engineering in University of Canterbury. My research is using finite element analysis to look at the structural behaviour of hollowcore concrete slab flooring systems under fires. Thanks to the RSNZ travel award, I went to the 18th Australasian Conference on the Mechanics of Structures and Materials in Perth, Australia, on 1-3 December 2004. The conference was held by University of Western Australia this year. I presented a paper there titled “Effect of support stiffness on the behaviour of partially restrained composite beams in realistic fires”, basically the paper showed the analytical results of the interaction between steel beams and columns under fires. The paper is based on some results from the thesis of my master’s degree looking at steel frames under fires.

The conference was very interesting. There are at least 150 papers presented in the duration of three days. All the papers talk about structural engineering but from different perspectives, say from earthquake engineering to computational techniques. Principally, this conference was about structural or material mechanical researches carried out in different universities. My paper was one of the ten papers looking at fire engineering there. The study of structural behaviour under fires is relatively new, but there is a growing interest in this area in recent years. The wider acceptance of performance based designs and the awareness of fire related risks are some of the stimuli, and the September-11 event certainly helps a booming of researches regarding steel structures under fires. The paper I presented was rather basic, but it pointed out the possible huge axial forces in the steel members after fires. There are other people looking at steel structures or members under fires, and this conference gave us an opportunity to see how similar or different our results are using different assumptions or analysing tools.

Since I moved away from steel to concrete structures in my PhD research, to me the most exciting sessions during the conference were about the material properties of concrete, and how people from other universities incorporated these properties into their computational analyses. After knowing how other people carried out their research and what limitations each method they used, I became more confident about the program I am using and the theories behind them. After some sessions, I was also eager to look at the fire behaviour of some structures other people studied under the ambient temperature. (The problem with people studying fire engineering is that we want to burn everything.)

In the conference I was very glad to know some of the lecturers and professors from universities not only in Australia but also in other countries, especially those who are working with structural behaviour under fires. This conference was also the first time I presented a conference paper; even though my nerve dominated my performance from time to time, the audience’s reaction was quite positive; and this experience was really helpful.

I think I have said this like three times already, but I cannot stress this enough that this conference experience was very enjoyable. Besides, Perth is a beautiful city. I have to thank the civil engineering department for sponsoring some of my travel expenditures, and of course RSNZ Canterbury for the travel grant. Finally, I have to thank my supervisors, Prof. Buchanan and Dr. Moss, for helping me producing this paper, otherwise this trip would not be possible. This experience certainly motivates me to carry on my study and produce some results for the next conference.

Biannual 2004 International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earths Interior, (IAVCEI), General Assembly
November 19-24th
Pucon, Chile

Darryn Hitchcock
Department of Geological Sciences
University of Canterbury

IAVCEI was created to provide an association to represent those who study all facets of volcanism, bringing together international workers of similar fields to share their knowledge. IAVCEI represents different levels of those who study volcanism, ranging from university groups to industry and research based organisations. Topics covered at the conference included geochemistry, volcano-tectonic relationships, caldera formation and volcanic hazards and their related social impacts to name a few. This years conveyance was quoted as the largest to date with over 800 participants from over 30 countries with New Zealand having its fair quota of scientists, the majority being universities students.

The theme ‘Volcanism and its Impact on Society’ was appropriate for my Masters of Science research project investigating the 9.7 ka Poutu Lapilli eruption sourced from Tongariro Volcano and the hazards associated with a similar future large andesitic eruption on the surrounding region. To achieve this my project has two sections, the first is to understand the pre-historic Poutu eruption by using data gained from fieldwork to generate dispersal and isopach (thickness) maps, and from sampling to geochemically analyse samples and individual crystal that may alluded triggering mechanisms and assist in correlation of source vents for the multiple lobes. Eruption column heights and discharge rates of this sub-plinian styled eruption are achieved through mathematically modelling by testing for density and measuring erupted clast lengths and distances they have been dispersed.

The second part of my research is to assess the impact of a similar eruption on the infrastructure of the Central North Island. What makes the Poutu eruption different from known historic eruptions is the size of the eruption that will disperse a larger grain of material, lapilli (2mm to 64mm), closer to source where as all historic New Zealand eruptions has been ash, (2mm or less) in small quantities i.e. Ruapehu 1995/96 ~.07km³. A lapilli erupted deposit will of course eventually grade out to be ash further from source, but never the less, the Poutu eruption dispersed and deposited lapilli size martial in large quantities on areas established at the present time by infrastructure critical to the daily operation of the Central North Island and New Zealand. The Poutu Lapilli has not been the only lapilli styled eruption from the Tongariro Volcano, others are present in the tephra record of similar size and dispersal, the Poutu Lapilli has been the most recent. Calculations of this style of eruption, volume of material and thickness throughout the region has placed this eruption at a magnitude larger than the 1995/96 Ruapehu eruptions and with the deposits that are located in the Central North Island and the historic and pre-historic activity of Tongaririo there will always be the possibility of future similar styled Poutu eruptions.

The five day long conference consisted of four days of seminars with the middle day nominated for local fieldtrips. However a number of participants, including myself, missed the organised excursions choosing instead to climb the local and ominous volcano, Villarrica. Villarrica is the most active volcano in South America with the most recent large historic eruption in the mid 80’s that sent lava flows and lahars down the flanks disrupting local ski-field operation and causing concerns for Pucon township located 8km to the west. Villarrica is presently at a low but steady level of Strombolian activity, continuously venting gas that creates a bellowing plume from the summit. The 150 metre deep crater holds basaltic-andesite lava that occasionally burst and splatters part way up the crater walls from the lava lake below. In the perfect conditions hundreds conquered, mostly conference participants, taking in the views of the mighty Andes, hot sloshing lava and the other nearby picturesque volcanoes making perfect holiday snaps for every keen volcanologist.

For my personal knowledge and scientific development attending this meeting was a fantastic opportunity. The IAVCEI General Assembly is the biggest grouping of volcanological related disciplines in the world, the shear number of participants was over-whelming but allowed the chance to meet leaders/researchers in fields where a student usually only has the opportunity to read their scientific articles. I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand for supporting my travel to the IAVCEI General Assembly, Chile.

Singular spectrum analysis combined with an enhanced Fourier expansion (EFE) method for detecting underlying time series structures
– A case study of the impact of notable global and local weather events on the level of air pollution in Christchurch.

Kyoko Fukuda
Environmental Science (Dept. of Math and Stats)
University of Canterbury
Christchurch, NZ

I presented a poster on “Singular spectrum analysis combined with an enhanced Fourier expansion (EFE) method for detecting underlying time series structures” at the 2004 Computational Environmetrics Conference in Chicago (21 – 23 October). The aim of the conference was to exchange new ideas on computational statistical methods on various environmental problems.

Currently, I completed my MSc (Environmental Science) in October 2004, and I am going to pursue a PhD degree at the University of Canterbury. Attending the conference was a good opportunity to present my MSc thesis topic, the study of climate and air pollution in Christchurch between 1998-2002. I applied singular spectrum analysis (SSA) and a newly developed computational application of Fourier expansion method (called FastGrouping) from my MSc on the climate and air pollution data (sulphur dioxide and particulate matter). A combination of SSA and FastGrouping successfully indicated the pattern of how global and local climate impacted on the level of air pollutants in detail. SSA was used to examine the underlying structures of noisy time series, and the developed computational software, FastGrouping, was used to improve the further steps of constructing the underlying structures, so that the sensitive change of time series would not be missed. The examination of the detailed underlying structures showed that the change of El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle governed levels of air pollutants over the years, i.e. a low level of air pollution was found between 1999 and 2000, when a La Niña condition existed, bringing warm weather domestically. Distinctive peaks in the detailed analysis of the underlying structures corresponded with the occurrence of notable weather events. It was found that the levels of air pollutants were sensitively influenced by these events. For example, unusual warmth in wintertime (the high temperature of 20 ?C) strongly influenced a temporary sudden drop in air pollutant levels.

I have enjoyed sharing my research with various people from all over the world. Most other researchers who stopped for my presentation strongly encouraged me to publish my research, so I am now starting work on several publications. The location of the conference, Chicago, was a beautiful place, and I have met good researchers from the USA.

I appreciate the Royal Society’s support, which made it possible for me to attend the conference. The knowledge and connections with people that I gained from this conference will certainly be useful to further my career. I would also like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Irene Hudson at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who helped me to attend the conference.

New Zealand Psychological Society Annual Conference
August 27–30
Te Papa/Museum of New Zealand
New Zealand

Robbie Busch
PhD Candidate
School of Psychology
Massey University

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch (RSNZCB) for allowing me to travel to Wellington and present a paper at the New Zealand Psychological Society Annual Conference (August 27–30, 2004). Researching a PhD in psychology at a distance at Massey University (Palmerston North) while living in Christchurch can become a costly exercise.

The Conference was called ‘Psychologies for Aotearoa/New Zealand’ and presented a wide range of symposia (i.e., psychosocial issues in mental health, criminal justice, Maori psychology, prejudice and ideology, interpersonal relations and culture, cognitive-behavioural theory and therapy, developmental, clinical, community, and counselling psychology, and contemporary philosophical issues). The paper I presented was entitled ‘Evaluation and the Challenges of Evaluating Narrative Therapy.’ This topic was pertinent given the Conference focus on New Zealand psychologies, as narrative therapy was co-developed in the 1990s by a New Zealander, David Espton, and an Australian, Michael White.

Narrative therapy is a collaborative therapy, and it aims to empower the client and treat the client as the expert of their own life events. Narrate is from the Latin narrare, ‘to tell,’ which is akin to the Latin gnarus, ‘knowing, being acquainted with, expert in.’ So, narrative is a reflexive activity which seeks to know about precursor events and their meanings. The client comes to therapy with saturated or dominant meanings of their events and is invited to look for alternative meanings that are more meaningful to them. To take a concrete example, perfectionist body images are constantly being portrayed by the media whether it be in glossy magazine or a reality television programme. A person who does not fit with these perfectionistic images may feel inclined to try and be like them (e.g., by fad-dieting and over-rigorous exercise). In narrative therapy, the person is invited to use a process called externalisation, where the problem becomes the problem (instead of the person being the problem) and then looks at the problem’s relationship with the person (e.g., “Anorexia is getting the better of me” is far more helpful than “I am an anorexic”). The person is invited to look for unique outcomes when the problem did not affect the person (e.g., “I remember when the anorexia wanted me to avoid dinner, but I didn’t and I felt good.”) Eventually, new and more helpful stories/accounts of the person’s life emerge to dominate the picture, predominantly from the client’s point of view, not the therapist.

My paper examined the philosophies of science around evaluation and narrative therapy (which is fitting given that the RSNZCB used to be called the Philosophical Society of Canterbury). Evaluation is traditionally from a positivist philosophy of science (i.e., the verification and falsification paradigm). However, the problem is that narrative therapy is not positivist-based at all in philosophy. There is a theoretical mismatch between the bases of narrative therapy (e.g., social constructionism and post-structuralism) and those of mainstream psychotherapeutic practices (e.g., positivistic experimentalism and randomised controlled studies) as to how effective therapy evaluation might be done. Narrative therapy comes from different philosophies of science such as relational constructivism (i.e., our judgements do not exist as if they are fixed in some internal vacuum, reality arises from spontaneous social processes, and many realities are invented this way rather an individual discovering something in only one true real and stable form). So, I examined the varied ways in which evaluation is used and practised, and examined a range of methods that could be applied to examine narrative therapy outcomes. A combination of critical qualitative evaluative methods such as critical discourse analysis, conversation analysis, ethnography, auto-ethnography, participatory action research, and narrative analysis was mooted for further examination.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and thank you once again to RSNZCB for allowing me to present my research.

International Geographical Union
Pre-Congress Meeting: Tourism and Leisure
13-15th August
Loch Lomond

Jude Wilson
PhD Student
Environment, Society and Design Division
Lincoln University

For the last 6 months I have been based in London doing fieldwork for my PhD on the New Zealand OE. With funding from the Canterbury Branch of the RSNZ I was also able to attend the Tourism and Leisure Meeting of the International Geographical Union in Scotland in August. This meeting offered a specialised forum for tourism and leisure geographers from all over the world to come together to showcase and discuss their work. Over the three days 70 papers were presented covering many contemporary global issues in tourism and leisure. The key theme was tourism, migration and mobility: other sessions at the conference covered aspects of tourism and public policy; tourism, leisure, culture and identity; tourism policy and strategy; negotiating tourism spaces; tourism geopolitics and post-colonialism; and tourism, power and public policies.

I presented a paper from my research titled “The New Zealand ‘OE’: The oxymoron on the working holiday”. A phenomenon such as the OE questions many traditional conceptions of migration, tourism and leisure. OEs, while not involving permanent migration, normally entail extended residence overseas, certainly of longer duration than most definitions of tourism can accommodate. Additionally, for most, a significant portion of OE time is spent working, thus challenging definitions of tourism at a more fundamental level. Tourism is usually linked to leisure, the antithesis of work. Mt research has shown that most OE participants, despite working, do regard, and describe, the OE as a travel experience; the main reason for going is “to travel and see the world”. Whilst departures overseas on such journeys have become part of the accepted social norm in New Zealand, the temporary migration of young people around the world on working holidays is a phenomenon increasing in scale both numerically and geographically. Presenting a paper on the ‘OE’ outside New Zealand proved interesting as the term, and the experience it describes, is not well known, even to tourism practitioners. I found myself having to continually explain the ‘basics’ of the OE - from what it involves, the numbers going, where they go, as well as its status as a cultural icon in New Zealand.

My paper on the OE was very relevant to the main ‘mobility’ theme of the congress. The point was made that while mobility has emerged in recent years as a key concept in the social sciences its application in tourism studies has been relatively limited. By placing tourism within broader contexts of mobility, and leisure oriented mobility in particular, concepts of mobility can be used to connect understandings of broader patterns of tourist flows with individual life trajectories. Many other papers addressed this theme and I made some valuable contacts with other researchers studying similar phenomenon as the OE. In particular, the chance to meet others who were researching types of ‘working tourists’ proved interesting and valuable in terms of my own ongoing research. I thank the Canterbury Branch of the RSNZ for the financial support that enabled me to attend this meeting.

Work, Employment and Society Conference
Lesley Hunt
Environment, Society and Design Division and Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU), Lincoln University

Thanks to the financial support of the RSNZ Canterbury Branch, and the Environment, Society and Design Division and Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit of Lincoln University I was able to attend the Work, Employment and Society triennial conference (under the auspices of the British Sociological Association) in Manchester from 1 – 3 September 2004. Over 200 papers were presented and delegates came from 20 countries.

My paper was, ‘Compliance at work: Protecting identity and science practice under corporatisation’. It was the culmination of my PhD study at Lincoln University. The paper was about the impact the restructuring of the system for the public funding of research has had on scientists and scientific technicians in one of our Crown Research Institutes (CRIs). CRIs were established by the New Zealand Government as companies competing for Government funding and were expected to make a profit from scientific products and processes in a global, market-led economy. The CRI studied responded to this environment by corporatising and using a system of control of employees which, through strategic plans, vision and mission statements, and performance assessment processes, encouraged them to adhere to company goals.

By analysing interview and observational data, I was able to explore why the scientific employees in this organisation spent a lot of time moaning and what they did about it. I was interested in this because I was also aware of how passionate they were about their work and how important it was to New Zealand. I found that most scientific employees experienced estrangement because the contributions they wished to make were less valued both in society and in their work organisation. They were excluded from participation in both organisational and Government policy-making, and felt they did not ‘belong’ anymore. Scientists in particular also experienced alienation, as they were losing autonomy over the production of their work and its end use. Scientific employees developed tactics in order to resist these experiences and ostensibly comply with organisational and governmental goals while maintaining and protecting their self-identities, and ensuring that their work continued to be meaningful.

My paper outlined how I developed these tactics into two models of resistance, building on the work of others in the sociology of work. These models attempt to explicate how scientific employees try to resist the experiences of estrangement and how scientists try to resist the experience of alienation, in this context.

This research was very relevant to this conference. In fact it fitted into at least two conference themes: ‘Working identities’ and ‘Collective organisation, resistance and misbehaviour’. The conference as a whole was a place to present research and thinking on all forms of work and their relation to wider social processes and structures, and to quality of life.

Attending the conference encouraged me to position my work within the wider global framework of how Government policy impacts on ordinary working people. Listening to other papers made me realise the all-pervasiveness of the knowledge economy rhetoric of Governments! I was introduced to new ideas which will also be useful in my present research into how farmers and orchardists make meaning of their work and relating that to sustainable land use. The notions of professionals as disabling of ordinary people’s meanings and practices, and the implications of passion for work are some of the new ways of thinking about this subject that I gained from this conference.

12th Mediterranean Electrotechnical Conference (MELECON)
Dubrovnik, Croatia
12-15 May 2004
Volker Kuhlmann, PhD candidate
Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Canterbury

The topic of my research is the simultaneous collection of data in multiple places while maintaining an accurate timing relationship between locations. The Global Satellite System (GPS) is used for synchronisation. If the obtained data is then analysed before the next set of data comes in, the system is capable of continuous operation. This can be used for example by electricity companies to monitor the state of the supply network and to keep distribution losses to a minimum.

A system which is capable of all this was (and is) not commercially available, and one was designed and built at the university 10 years ago, using the latest technology available at the time. As part of my research I have investigated the redesign of such a system using currently available technology.

The most stringent applications in the power supply industry require a precision for the time synchronisation which can only be met in a cost-effective way by using satellite-based time sources such as the GPS. Furthermore, ensuring that the collected data has a similar precision needs the design of additional microchips at considerable expense. If the system is then to analyse rather a lot of data in permanent operation, a number of parallel processors of a certain type (signal processor) are typically used, also adding to the cost.

Microprocessor technology has hugely improved over the last decade. The first benefit of this is that the signal processors can be dispensed with, with the main processor performing all data analysis of multiple input channels by itself. The data analysis functions could be made more complex, but there still is an upper limit to the maximum computational throughput. The second benefit is that the time stamping of the sample data, previously implemented with custom-designed microchips, can also be performed by the main processor. Whenever hardware can be replaced by software there is a big reduction in cost. It is possible that the main processor is still a little bit too slow for the time stamping, especially when low-power chips are used, but no doubt forthcoming improvements in speed will make this possible in the near future. Other technological advances, for example networking, can also be employed to simplify the design of a measurement setup used in for example a switch yard. Flash memory can be used instead of hard disk drives, eliminating a sensitive mechanical component and making the system more robust for use in the field. The digital electronics can be purchased today as standard items on a low number of small cards which can easily be connected together, keeping the design of custom hardware to a minimum. General-purpose operating systems such as Linux, perhaps with some real-time extensions, provide all the necessary software features. I presented these possibilities in my talk "Impact of Processor Evolution on Synchronous Measurements for Power Quality Monitoring"[1] at the Mediterranean Electrotechnical Conference in Dubrovnik in May.

The conference included talks and posters on a very wide range of electrical engineering topics, and gave me the opportunity to meet and discuss my work with other European engineers. We were also introduced to the food and culture of Croatia's South Adriatic Coast. The old city of Dubrovnik with its white marble roads, palaces, monasteries, churches, incredibly narrow side streets and red clay roofs is an unforgettable sight, as are Krka National Park and the Plitvice Lakes.

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