Breadcrumbs

Chair role enables Engineering to advance at the University of Waikato

29 April 2021

mike-duke-in-lab
Professor Mike Duke is the Dr John Gallagher Chair in Engineering at the University of Waikato.

Thanks to a philanthropically-funded position at the University of Waikato, Professor in Engineering Mike Duke has been able to advance capability and industry connections to enable the next generation of Waikato engineers to come through.

Professor Duke is the Dr John Gallagher Chair in Engineering, a role he has had for five years and the first in the role since it was established in 2016.

The Chair in Engineering is fully funded by the Glenice and John Gallagher Foundation and named after Dr John Gallagher in recognition of the Gallagher’s long history of support for the University. The establishment of the Chair coincided with the University’s appointment of an inaugural Dean of Engineering, and the creation of a standalone School of Engineering (previously it was part of the Faculty of Science and Engineering).

Professor Duke says one of the main advantages of the Chair role is that it helps facilitate industry and research networks, providing opportunities for engineering staff and students and generating research critical to advancing the sector.

“The Chair role is very much a strategic one in that it can help open doors, enable new research, and nurture relationships with key industry and Government players.”

Professor Duke’s own research focus is in agricultural robotics, where he works with growers and machine manufacturers to undertake applied research into automating agricultural processes such as harvesting. His main industry research partner is leading agri-robotics company Robotics Plus, and he works with them on a range of projects including kiwifruit, apple and asparagus harvesting, autonomous agricultural vehicles, robotic log scaling, and kiwifruit yield estimation.

He believes we are at a tipping point for a digital agriculture revolution, and that New Zealand is well-placed to lead it.

“Nationally, agricultural robotics has taken off. The expertise we have, particularly at Waikato, is exceptional and we are working with our partners creating innovative solutions to some of industry’s biggest issues,” says Professor Duke.

“The Chair in Engineering role has allowed me, with Dr John Gallagher’s full support, to progress engineering in the region by helping develop emerging engineers who have the freedom to create innovative, applicable solutions – those are the people who will drive our industry further.”

He does this through co-leading the Waikato Robotics Automation and Sensing (WaiRAS) research group. His agri-robotics research has received over $6 million in Government and industry funding. This has led to fully operational machines such as the Robotic Dibbler, which has so far precision drilled over 20 million holes for a forestry nursery and given young researchers the opportunity to develop into outstanding engineers.

Professor Duke says it is progress that probably wouldn’t have happened as quickly as it has, if not for the support of the Gallaghers and the Chair in Engineering role.

“A philanthropically-funded Chair is really the ultimate,” says Professor Duke. “It gives whoever is in the role the freedom and autonomy to advance an area of research without any prescribed outcomes.

“In the case of Engineering at Waikato, developing our future researchers to come through and lead the way is crucial for progression, and that’s also what the Chair in Engineering has helped facilitate.”

Philanthropic Chairs

A Professorial Chair is a philanthropically-funded position for an academic with excellence in teaching and research. Established chairs often exist independently of the person who holds them, and are a tool for advancing research of significant impact.

Dr John Gallagher believes it’s important for philanthropists to consider carefully how they can make a difference and how their gift could impact a wide range of people.

“In my case, my ancestors and family have been farming for well over 100 years in the Waikato (from 1907), and our family business has been helping people, particularly farmers, become more efficient for the past 80 years.

“I have supported the University, and the School of Engineering for many years. Engineering is often about solving problems and making the world a better place, and by supporting the Chair in Engineering, it’s helping the University, the students of tomorrow, and New Zealand as a whole.”

Dr Gallagher encourages philanthropists and potential donors to determine an area in which they are keen to make a difference and have a conversation with the University about their options.


Latest stories

Related stories

kaitlin-headshot

Creativity and technical know-how a winning combination for engineer

While some of us might think engineering is all about technical know-how, Kaitlin Te Rito…

University of Waikato launches new artificial intelligence research institute

The University of Waikato is bringing data to life, positioning New Zealand as an international…

Image of Earth at night

University of Waikato study means better economic and disaster modelling

A University of Waikato study has found a way to help economists better detect economic…

Students outside Tauranga Campus

Waikato ranked top 60 in the world for research that impacts economic growth and reducing inequality

The University of Waikato has been ranked in the top 60 universities in the world…

AI story

University of Waikato installs the world’s most advanced AI System

New Zealand’s most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence applications has been installed at the University…

Professor Craig Cary

Waikato scientist part of team awarded prestigious Human Frontier grant

Professor Craig Cary has travelled to volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean and…

Carma Maisey

Teachers get boost into Masters study thanks to University of Waikato Programme

Matamata Primary School teacher Carma Maisey credits the University of Waikato’s Poutama Pounamu Blended Learning…

Professor Linda Johnston

Sustainability focus for new Assistant Vice-Chancellor

The University of Waikato has appointed Professor Lynda Johnston in the new role of Assistant…

“It’s a race against time”: Tauranga marine science expert advocates for sustainable approach to protect our ocean biodiversity

World-leading Tauranga marine scientist, Professor Chris Battershill, will be speaking about the importance of ocean…

TAIAO workshop

Artificial intelligence used to tackle environmental challenges

Scientists and researchers from across New Zealand are being encouraged to use a new software…

Keri Adamson

Novel high temperature heat pumps to slash carbon emissions in industrial drying

A University of Waikato Masters of Engineering student is developing a simulated digital twin prototype…

Professor Vincent Reid and Dr Aleea Devitt

Waikato psychologists receive international honours

Two University of Waikato academics have been recognised by the Association for Psychological Science (APS),…