Associate Professor Johan Verbeek: Taking materials that would otherwise be thrown away and turning them into useful products has become the research focus for Dr Johan Verbeek. It covers several topics, mostly related the polymers or plastics: reactive extrusion, rheology, protein analysis and nano-composites. Since his tertiary days in South Africa, Johan’s wealth of knowledge in the engineering field of sustainable products has skyrocketed, which has led to a number of innovative developments in the engineering industry. Johan began his engineering study with a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. His enthusiasm for engineering led him to a Masters of Engineering, also in Chemical Engineering. His masters topic looked at biodegradable polymers and using plastic soft drink bottles to make bio-friendly materials. It was at this point that Johan discovered his passion for working in the field of sustainability. He followed his ME with a PhD in Engineering, also at the University of Pretoria and this time looked at polymer composites and using mining waste to make materials such as gib board. Two decades later, Johan is now the Director of the Plastics Centre of Excellence, within Mechanical Engineering, University of Auckland. Johan has joined The University of Auckland after several years at Waikato University where he was the convener of the Chemical & Biological Engineering programme. He has also won and been nominated for various awards, including the Kudos Science Entrepreneur Award, the Bayer Innovators Award in the Agriculture & Environment as well as the University of Waikato’s Research Excellence award for Commercial Research. Johan biggest impact has been in developing protein-based thermoplastics, for which his research group is internationally respected. My work led to the establishment of the company Aduro Biopolymers, which produces Novatein, the only commercially available protein-based thermoplastic and is a joint venture between Wallace Corporation and the Maisey Group. Their flagship product, made of Novatein, significantly reduces faecal contamination during meat processing, and because it is made from blood meal, meat processors need not separate it from other waste before rendering which offered a significant process improvement. While at Waikato, Johan has been the Research and Development Manager for Aduro Biopolymers and was actively involved in Product Development. Other research involved using chicken feather fibres to reinforce thermoplastics as well as other topics such as the recovery of proteins from wastewater using nano-clay, protein oxidation and collagen recovery from waste sources.
Professor Debes Bhattacharyya is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and has been the founding Director of the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials at the University of Auckland. In 2016, he was felicitated as the Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Professor by SRM University in Chennai, India. He also holds an Adjunct Professor position at Washington State University, Pullman, USA. Professor Bhattacharyya was the Head of Mechanical Engineering Department from 1999 to early 2005. His research interest includes the mechanics and manufacturing of composite materials. He has held visiting positions at various universities in Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and the US, and has been awarded a number of international awards. He has delivered > 60 keynote/plenary/invited lectures at international conferences. He is currently the Editor (2) and Associate Editor (1) of three international journals and has served/is serving on the Editorial Advisory Boards of eight journals. Prof. Bhattacharyya has more than 450 scientific/technical publications including several edited/authored books and a number of book chapters. He has successfully implemented several international patents. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, NZ and a Distinguished Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers NZ (IPENZ). He is a life member of ASME. For his international academic achievements, he has been awarded an honorary ‘Doctor of Engineering’ (honoris causa) by the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. In 2012, he was awarded by IPENZ the Supreme Technical (John Cranko) Award for his professional contributions. He is a member of the Executive Council and past President of the Asian-Australasian Association of Composite Materials. He has done extensive consulting in New Zealand and overseas, and has chaired or served on many panels in New Zealand and Australia. He has been involved in the supervision of more than 110 postgraduate students including about 62 PhD candidates. He has overseen 18 postdoctoral fellows/research associates. He has served as the Reviewer/Assessor for more than 35 international journals and organisations in Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Hong Kong, Poland, Singapore & NZ. He has been the founding Director of Centre for Advanced Composite Materials (CACM) until recently and has raised as The Principal Investigator about $45M from both private and public sources in NZ and overseas – has established collaborative partnerships with several organisations in Australia, Canada, China, Germany and the US. He served on three government panels (one as Chair and two as Member) in Australia to evaluate the performances of major research centres.