Immerse yourself in a week of intellectual stimulation and social enjoyment designed to expand your mind and brighten your winter.

Monday 6 – Friday 10 July 2015

winter-week-talkWinter Week is an award winning event which opens a fascinating window into some of the world-class research carried out at the University of Auckland.

Morning and afternoon sessions feature lectures by distinguished University of Auckland faculty members, chosen for both their subject expertise and their passion for teaching adult students.

You’ll join a group of enthusiastic adults who not only have a love of learning but also enjoy the opportunity to debate current issues and meet new people.

Your enrolment in Winter Week entitles you to attend all three lectures per day Monday – Friday (15 lectures in total) and includes morning tea.

Your Winter Week enrolment also includes membership of Old Government House, which is home to the University of Auckland Staff Common Room Club. So when you’re not in a lecture you can relax in the comfortable lounges, purchase refreshments and soak up the ambience of this classical heritage building.


* Tea, coffee and muffins are provided for morning tea each morning


Select a tab below to view the programme for that day.

  • Anatomy of the Eye: Adaptation in the Animal Kingdom

    visioresearch2 10:00 – 11:00am  Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin

    The anatomy of the eye is crucial for vision yet small changes in the physical properties of the eye can lead to vision problems such as short sightedness. Some changes in eye anatomy have enabled different species of animals to adopt specialist properties of vision which are highly adapted to the needs of their environment. This talk will look at a few of these vision specialisations and address why eagles have the most acute vision in all the animal kingdom, which animals have the best colour vision, which features of eye anatomy denote whether the species is likely to be a predator or prey, why the human retina is actually back to front and why cat’s eyes shine at night.

    Trevor Sherwin gained a PhD in Cell Biology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, in 1989. He took up an academic position at the University of Manchester where he specialised in molecular parasitology. Trevor moved to the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Auckland in 1998, where he now specialises in cornea with research interests varying from ocular stem cells and corneal engineering to the pathogenesis of corneal dystrophies. Trevor has published 80 papers in top ranking journals including the premier journals Nature, Science and Cell and has presented his work at many international venues including a prestigious open lecture at the Natural History Museum, London. 

    Nationalism: Scourge or Salvation?

    nationalism-scourge-or-salvation 11:30am – 12:30pm Associate Professor Kathy Smits, BA (Hons), MPhil, MA, PhD

    On September 18, 2014, the residents of Scotland voted in a referendum on independence. Although the result was no, by 55% to 44%, the vote reflected a great wave of Scottish nationalism that had emerged over the past decade. The decision in Scotland was peaceful, but nationalism has led to flash points and conflict in many areas of the world in the 21st century: Ukraine, Palestine and Iraq, to name a few. Western countries, by contrast, are skeptical of nationalism, associating it with militarism, jingoism and the bloody past of the previous two centuries. This lecture examines the ideological and philosophical bases of nationalism, and the different forms it has taken, in Europe, Asia and in settler societies like New Zealand.

    Kathy taught at Miami University in the USA before joining the Political Studies Department at Auckland in 2004. She is the author of several articles on liberalism and identity politics, and of Reconstructing Post-Nationalist Liberal Pluralism: From Interest to Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). She has recently been engaged in research on reconciliation, apology for historical injustice and democratic deliberation. She is now working on new projects on multiculturalism, biculturalism and national identity in New Zealand, and imperial race relations and violence, and the development of liberal thought.

    Geothermal Energy

    geothermal-area 1:30am – 2:30pm  Proffessor Rosalind Archer, BE, MS, PhD

    New Zealand is a world leader in geothermal energy, and it contributes 16% of our national electricity supply. How do we find geothermal resources? Can they be produced sustainably? What natural advantages does New Zealand have compared to other countries who aim to produce geothermal energy? This lecture will introduce participants to the scientific and engineering principles involved in the production of geothermal energy (without a white board full of equations being presented!)

    Prof. Rosalind Archer holds the Mighty River Power Chair in Geothermal Reservoir Engineering. She is Head of the Department of Engineering Science and Director of the University of Auckland Geothermal Institute. Rosalind holds a PhD in Petroleum Engineering from Stanford University and has been on staff at the University of Auckland since 2002. She enjoys presenting to diverse audiences on range of energy related topics.

  • The New Zealand Electricity Market: From Inception to Maturity

    electricity 10:00 – 11:00am Dr. Golbon Zakeri, BSc(Hons), PhD

    This lecture is intended to walk the audience through the development of the NZ electricity sector and its eventual transformation into a market. We will discuss the market operations as of today and time permitting some related markets such as the swap and financial transmission rights markets.

    Dr. Golbon Zakeri. Golbon directs the Electric Power Optimization Centre at the University of Auckland and is the deputy director of the UoA Energy Centre. She is a senior lecturer in the department of Engineering Science and has a long and distinguished record in energy economics with particular emphasis on economics of electricity markets.

    Adventures in Sound: Dave Brubeck’s New Zealand Tours

    daveburbeck 11:30am – 12:30pm  Aleisha Ward, PhD

    In the 1960s the Dave Brubeck Quartet made two tours of New Zealand. Although quite short these tours were significant to the New Zealand jazz scene and the wider music scene. Of particular significance was Brubeck’s 1961 composition ‘Maori Blues’ (from the album Time Further Out), which was inspired by interactions Brubeck had with Maori performers on the Quartet’s 1960 tour. In this seminar I will examine the tours, the local reception, interactions Brubeck and the other Quartet members had with local musicians and fans, and the evolution and creation of ‘Maori Blues’.

    Aleisha Ward holds a PhD in music from the University of Auckland where her thesis was on jazz in New Zealand 1920-1955. She writes about jazz in New Zealand for New Zealand Musician,

    Empire: New Kingdom Egypt

    egypt 1:30am – 2:30pm  Anthony Spalinger

    This first in a series of four lectures by members of the Department of Classics and Ancient History explores New Kingdom Egypt. In the later Bronze Age Egypt ruled over much of western Asia and parts of Africa to the south. Its power extended into the eastern Mediterranean. This lecture will examine how one of the world’s earliest empire’s managed the political, social, military and economic challenges of imperial domination and assess what empire meant to ordinary Egyptians and those whom they ruled.

    Anthony Spalinger is Professor of Egyptology at the University of Auckland in the Department of Classics and Ancient History. He holds a PhD from Yale University. Professor Spalinger is a world-renowned scholar and the author of numerous articles and chapters on ancient Egyptian history and monographs including War in Ancient Egypt (Blackwell: Malden, MA. and Oxford, 2005) and The Transformation of an Ancient Egyptian Narrative: P. Sallier III and the Battle of Kadesh (Otto Harrassovitz: Wiesbaden, 2002). An expert on New Kingdom history he is currently working on several projects including aspects of the history and culture of the later Egyptian history.

  • War in Pursuit of Empire

    maritime-war 10:00 – 11:00am  Chris Barber, MA

    In the nineteenth century, increased opportunities for overseas emigration, trade, and investment for western nations gradually entangled the rest of the world into the economic and political hegemony of the maritime powers of Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. Alongside the anciens régimes of Austria-Hungary and Russia, these countries collectively symbolized the powerbase of the western international system. Much of these one-sided relations came down to the twin drivers of industrialization and capitalism, delivering those maritime powers a vast material and technological advantage and an impetus to build commercial and colonial empires. This lecture considers how war was used in support of empire and imperial policy during the period.

    Chris Barber is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His doctoral research focuses on international arbitration in the nineteenth century. He has previously tutored and guest lectured undergraduate history courses for the School of Humanities.

    Predator Free New Zealand: Conservation Country

    conservation 11:30am – 12:30pm  James Russell , PhD

    In fifty years New Zealand has increased mammal-free island area from 0.5% to 10%, by eradication or natural die-off of mammals from over 100 islands. The size of islands from which rodents have been eradicated increased by an order of magnitude every decade but has plateaued. This is not due to a lack of islands to eradicate introduced mammals from, instead the ‘wall’ appears to be the challenge of pest management on inhabited islands. Attitudes to pests and their control is playing an ever more important role in conservation decision-making. Eradication of invasive predatory mammals from Aotea and Rakiura would increase offshore island predator-free area to over 50%. We have undertaken about 30% of all attempts worldwide, over twice as many as our neighbour Australia, and six times that of the United States, Mexico, or the Falkland Islands. On the ‘mainland’ (though also islands) some level of invasive mammal management occurs over 45% of land area, for both agricultural and conservation goals. However, intensive management only currently occurs across 0.25% of the principal islands (56 eco-santuaries). The Predator-Free New Zealand concept aspires towards removal of eight species of invasive mammal across the whole of New Zealand. This bold goal would require up-scaling island eradication technology from islands, to fenced sites, to peninsulas, and finally to non-fenced sites. As we move towards such a goal, the distinction between a one-off island eradication and management to zero-density becomes less and less clear.

    James Russell is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Auckland School of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistics, Strategic Advisor to the Predator Free New Zealand trust, Associate Editor of the journal Biological Invasions and member of the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group. His work brings together diverse scientific approaches to solve contemporary conservation problems such as achieving and maintaining pest-free status on islands and reserves, and restoring terrestrial animal communities. Results from this work have been used both for conservation, and testing ecological theory, on islands around the world. In particular he has worked closely with the Department of Conservation for twelve years developing and testing tools to detect and monitor rodents at low densities, and keep islands rodent-free.  His recent work additionally focuses on environmental attitudes to pest management and tools, and scaling the application of eradication technologies to very large and inhabited islands. James was the 2012 Prime Ministers Emerging Scientist prize winner, and from 2015 is an MBIE Rutherford Discovery Fellow. James lives in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges in the shadow of the Ark in the Park.

    Empire: Persia

    persian-soldier 1:30am – 2:30pm  Matthew Trundle, BA (Hons), MA, PhD

    The Persian Empire emerged in the mid-sixth century BCE when Cyrus overthrew the Median Empire and one by one subdued Lydia, Babylonia and parts of Bactria. His son Cambyses added Egypt c.525 BCE.  Under Darius (521-486 BCE) the empire achieved political, economic and military stability. It was arguably the first durable world empire that succeeded in stitching together countless disparate peoples across a vast territorial expanse from India to the Mediterranean under the rule of a single Great King.  This lecture explores the nature of the Persian Empire and seeks to explain its success before Alexander destroyed it 330 BCE.

    Matthew is Chair and Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Auckland. He holds degrees from Nottingham and McMaster Universities and has published widely on military and social-economic aspects of the ancient world.

  • Ripples in Space

    einstein_newsletter 10:00 – 11:00am  Professor Richard Easther, PhD

    This year marks the centenary of Albert Einstein’s formulation of the General Theory of Relativity. One hundred years later, physicists are still trying to understand all the consequences of Einstein’s theory and test its predictions. The theory has survived many experimental challenges, but over the next few years physicists and astronomers are gearing up to look for gravitational waves, tiny ripples in space itself which Einstein’s theory says are generated by most moving objects. Extremely violent events, like colliding black holes, hopefully produce gravitational wave signals that can be detected by new experiments that are now being commissioned. If all goes well, sometime in the next few years the discovery of gravitational waves will be front page news, and this lecture will let you get a jump on the headlines.

    Richard Easther grew up in Hamilton and attended university in Christchurch.  After graduating with his PhD from the University of Canterbury in 1994, Richard worked at Waseda University in Tokyo for two years, before moving to the United States. Richard held research positions at Brown and Columbia Universities and taught at Yale University for eight years. After moving home to New Zealand at the end of 2011, Richard is now a professor and Head of Department of Physics at the University of Auckland. His research focuses on the origin and evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day. It’s great to be home, but Richard misses really good bagels and taxi drivers that honk at each other after midnight.

    Biological Glass: The Structure and Function of the Normal and Cataractic Lens

    visionresearch 11:30am – 12:30pm  Professor Paul Donaldson BSc, PhD

    Our sense of sight is critically dependent on the optical properties of the ocular lens that enable it to focus light onto the retina. Like a glass window, the lens allows light rays that enter the eye to pass through it with minimal scattering. However, the lens is more than a simple pane of glass, since its curved surfaces enable it to focus light and change the point of focus. However, the lens is not a passive optical element, but a dynamic living biological tissue whose unique cellular structure and function contributes to its overall optical properties. This lecture will summarise how the cellular properties of the lens contribute to its overall optical properties and how dysfunction of its cellular function contribute to the age-dependent loss of near sight (presbyopia) and the loss of transparency that leads to lens cataract formation, the leading form of blindness in the world today.

    Professor Paul Donaldson is the Director of the Molecular Vision Laboratory and is currently the Head of the School of Medical Sciences.He obtained his PhD in field of epithelial transport from the Department of Physiology at the University of Otago in 1987, and this was followed by Post Doctoral Fellowships at Yale University and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. In 1990 he returned to New Zealand to take up a research position in the then Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology at The University of Auckland. In 2008 he was appointed to the Chair in Optometry and Vision Science and assumed the leadership of the Department of Optometry and Vision Science. In 2012 Paul was appointed as the Head of the School of Medical Sciences.

    Empire: Athens

    aegean-sea 1:30am – 2:30pm  Matthew Trundle, BA (Hons), MA, PhD

    The Athenian Empire dominated the Aegean Basin in the middle of the fifth century BCE. This empire of the Aegean Sea harnessed the power of the Athenian navy to subjugate island and coastal states. The Athenian navy, imperialism and radical democracy went hand-in-hand in the period. The wealth from tribute paid in coinage enabled professionalization in military and political spheres, and beautified Athens in the process. The Athenian imperial experiment differed from those of Egypt and the Near East in its naval and monetized nature as well as the fact that a Democracy rather than a monarchy managed the imperial machine. These each created specific challenges for imperial management and the sustainability of imperial power.

    Matthew is Chair and Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Auckland. He holds degrees from Nottingham and McMaster Universities and has published widely on military and social-economic aspects of the ancient world.

  • How Understanding the Brain Helps Us Diagnose and Treat Visual Disorders

    eyebrain 10:00 – 11:00am   Professor Steven Dakin, PhD

    Vision relies on the brain to make sense of the complex patchwork of retinal activity that arises when we view a scene. Although we constantly use visual information to guide our actions it takes half of the human cerebral cortex to allow this to feel effortless. I’ll talk about how understanding the visual brain translates into benefits for patients. For example, the early stages of age related macular degeneration (AMD) lead to images appearing spatially distorted but these distortions often go unnoticed (leading to later diagnosis/treatment and poorer outcomes). Understanding when the brain ignores distortion helps us improve the  diagnosis of AMD and even to minimise the disruptive effects of distortion in the later stages of the disease. I will also talk about our work with children and how (a) we can use their eye-movements to diagnose visual and neurodevelopmental disorders and (b)  an improved understanding of brain plasticity is improving the treatment of amblyopia (“lazy eye”) which affects 1/30 children in New Zealand.

    Professor Steven Dakin is Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science – the only Optometry school in New Zealand. His current research interests include visual neuroscience exploring the extensive brain systems that support vision by combining diverse but complementary techniques such as physiology, human psychophysics and computational modelling. He has published extensively on metamorphopsia and age-related macular degeneration.

    Empire: Rome

    roman-empire 11:30am – 12:30pm  Dr Jeremy Armstrong, BA (Hons), MLitt, PhD

    The Roman Empire emerged rapidly in the third and second centuries BCE with the defeat of Carthage in the west and Alexander’s successor kingdoms in the east.  By the end of the first century BCE  the empire spanned most of Europe, North African and western Asia, and an emperor ruled alone. This last lecture explores what made the Roman Empire tick, its political system of senators, governors and legates, its movement towards a universal citizenship and what that meant for the peoples of the empire, and imperial taxation, which paid for the legions stationed on the Empire’s borders.  It asks the question, what made the empire successful and briefly what conditions meant it could not last forever?

    Jeremy is Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History and holds degrees from New Mexico and St Andrews Universities. His  interests are in the history and archaeology of the Roman world, especially early Rome, but also include the archaeology of Roman Britain. 

    New Zealand’s Energy Futures

    climate_change_politics 1:30am – 2:30pm   Professor Basil Sharp

    Research at The Energy centre focuses on energy-related issues important to New Zealand’s future. Located in the Department of Economics, research is typically cross disciplinary working with the Faculties of Engineering and Science. Basil’s has applied a wide range of topics within energy and environmental economic. His presentation will provide an overview of New Zealand’s energy profile, policy, contemporary challenges and the role of technology in our energy futures.

    Basil Sharp is Professor of Energy and Resource Economics and Director of The Energy Centre. He joined the department in 1991. His research interests span the field of environmental economics and law and economics. He has a specific interest in developing microeconomic foundations for analysing mechanisms for allocating natural resources, treaties and institutional structures in general. He has also applied non-market valuation methods to a range of environmental problems in New Zealand. His current research focuses on contracting and international treaties.

 University of Auckland City Campus

All lectures will be held on City Campus at the University of Auckland’s General Library lecture theatres.

Old Government House

Your Winter Week enrolment also includes membership of Old Government House, which is home to The University of Auckland Staff Common Room Club. So when you’re not in a lecture you can relax in the comfortable lounges, purchase refreshments and soak up the ambience of this classical heritage building.

old-government-houseOld Government House (1856), corner of Princes Street and Waterloo Quadrant, was the first mansion of its kind built in New Zealand. Classical in style with much of the timber façade cut to resemble stone, it was the seat of government until 1865 when the capital was moved to Wellington.

For the next century it was Auckland’s vice-regal residence. Royalty stayed there six times and the present Queen broadcast her Christmas speech to the Commonwealth from upstairs in 1953.

Since being transferred to the University in 1969, the house has been the Staff Common Room Club. It contains a Council reception suite, flats for visiting academics, rooms for the Federation of Graduate Women and a lecture theatre.

Comments from past participants

“Winter Week is an experience not to be missed. New ways of thinking, new ideas being kept up to date with new research is enlightening and rejuvenating. Totally recommended.”

“The week provides an excellent way to ‘shake the cobwebs’, to meet and interesting collection of people and see just what the academics of Auckland University have achieved.”

“Worthwhile taking a week off work to attend.”

“Winter Week is a good breath of fresh air – excellent lectures, good company, lively discussions. Winter Week gives one the opportunity to learn about subjects one has never previously explored.”

“The Winter Week on Campus is a great way to spend a week for young or older participants. There are interesting people you meet in and out of the lectures. High quality of lectures, the majority of whom had excellent presentation skills.”

“Winter Week is something to look forward too each year where we not only learn, but also appreciate the courses and enjoy each others company and the unique University atmosphere and grounds.”