Heide Friedrich

My research fuses blue sky and applied themes, focusing on studying the physical processes in natural aquatic environments, such as rivers, and how water interacts with and shapes its surroundings. My work is originating from experimental laboratory work, which is informed by field work, whilst experimental results in turn inform advanced computational modelling of physical processes. I pursue the majority of my research by combining the development of innovative visualisation techniques with advanced analytical techniques. My research has combined a range of sensor technologies, including photogrammetry, stereo photogrammetry, structure from motion, particle image velocimetry and doppler velocimetry, to generate new insights into physical hydraulic processes, such as bedform dynamics, cluster evolution, gravel-bed roughness, turbulent entrainment and the accumulation of woody debris.

Besides leading my research team, I was the Deputy Head of Department (Research) in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department from 2017-2020. I was President of the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) in 2019 and am currently Chair of the NZ Rivers Group. I was chair of the 11th River, Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics Symposium (RCEM2019), which took place November 16-21, 2019 in Auckland and I am presently chair of the 14th Hydraulics in Water Engineering Conference (HIWE2020), which was planned to take place November 16-19, 2020 in Auckland, yet is postponed due to COVID-19.

I have published over 100 research journals and conference papers and have successfully supervised 2 PostDocs, 8 PhD and 10 Masters students. My research team is currently home to 1 PostDoc, 2 PhD students and several undergraduate students, I co-supervise another 2 PhD students. I have collaborations in place within the University, as well as on a national and international level.


I obtained my Diplom Ing. in 2002 from the ‎Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. Before following the academic pathway, I worked in industry in the design office for two leading international providers of construction related services:

I spent considerable time studying outside Germany (‎University of Melbourne, Australia and Heriot-Watt University, Scotland), before coming to NZ in 2003 to undertake my PhD studies. Since 2006 I’m lecturing at the University of Auckland.

Until 2012, I was mainly involved in teaching an engineering-wide professional development course to all final year engineering students, with class sizes of over 600 students. In 2011, I was an integral member of the team that delivered the inaugural and highly successful Systems Week to 535 students. 88% of the students recommended to include a similar scenario-based systems approach for the following year. The success of the inaugural Systems Week provided the momentum for changes in the undergraduate engineering curriculum. Students strongly believed that the experiences taken away from the Systems Week will help them in their future professional career, with feedback such as “Best project at uni to date.”


The diverse experiences I gained (industry, professional development, systems thinking, academic research) uniquely position me to guide my students to become true 21st century engineers and future decision makers, not only excelling at the highest technical level, but also understanding the importance of and mastering non-technical challenges. For students interested to know more about PhD opportunities under my supervision, please continue reading here.

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