Lakshmi Priya Muthe

Lakshmi Priya Muthe

The pressure is on to find new and sustainable replacements for petrochemical-based plastics, and Lakshmi is one of the students working on viable solutions, focusing on bio-derived materials.

University of Waikato 2022 3MT Doctoral Final winner, Professor John D McCraw Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Oratory Presentation of Doctoral Research

Lakshmi Priya Muthe

Lakshmi Priya Muthe, from the School of Engineering PhD topic is 3D and 4D printing of bio-derived fibre reinforced PLA (Poly lactic acid) composites.

“My research is focused on developing strong bio-derived materials that can respond to changes in their environment in a useful manner,” Lakshmi says. “Using bio-derived materials also opens possibilities for bio-mimicking, where we can expand the applications of the materials to involve shape-morphing technology.”

Her background is in aeronautical engineering and she has a Masters in Aerospace Materials from the UK.

“During all my masters lectures, the ones that focused on sustainable materials stuck with me, and I couldn’t wait to understand more about the possibilities these materials had in high technology demanding industries like the automobile and aerospace industries. That’s what’s driven me to my PhD. It’s the best-case scenario I could’ve asked for.”

Studying during a pandemic caused Lakshmi a few headaches. She completed her first year remotely at home in India, then, because she needed to be in a lab, she put her study on hold for a year until she could get to New Zealand. So it was with some relief that she arrived in Hamilton in January this year to continue her PhD study in Materials and Processing.

“It was great to finally meet my supervisors Professor Kim Pickering and Dr Christian Gauss in person and to work as part of the polymer composites group on campus. That group’s one of the most supportive research groups I’ve been part of,” Lakshmi says.

She thinks there are two things people should ensure they get before starting high-level research degrees: the right project and the right supervisor.

“In my experience, these two things make all the difference.”

She gets some relief from her doctoral study by working as a lab demonstrator for first- and third-year Engineering students, and she also works as a student ambassador for student outreach activities that the University runs.

Lakshmi outlined her PhD research at the recent University of Waikato’s 3MT (three-minute thesis competition), which she entered to gain more confidence when talking about her research. She was thrilled to be judged the winner, awarded the Professor John D McCraw Memorial Trophy for Outstanding Oratory Presentation of Doctoral Research and a cash prize of $1000.

On September 26, she’ll be representing Waikato University at the 2022 Virtual Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition semi-finals.

Lakshmi Priya Muthe