Student profile: Stephan Spiller


Stephan Spiller came to the University of Auckland as a PhD exchange student from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). He studied in the Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory

A former PhD student at NTNU in Trondheim in Norway, Stephan got the opportunity to work as an exchange student, conducting research within the hydraulic engineering laboratory in the Faculty of Engineering. His research is into shear-stress and lift-force that acts on gravel riverbeds during rapid flow increases.

“This research helps us to understand the physical and ecological effects of Hydropower peaks on a river ecosystem,” Stephan explains.

He graduated from NTNU in 2014 and currently works as a Civil Engineer for Sweco Norge in Kristiansand, Norway. “This is a consultancy for civil engineering projects. I’m currently involved in hydropower and dam construction projects as well as dam break simulations,” he says.

He looks back on his time at the University of Auckland with fondness. “Many other labs generally are populated by people in white lab coats carrying test tubes and tiny samples. That’s not usually the case in the hydraulics lab. You will handle large pump and flume systems. So you should be prepared for some handyman work. Along with this you can look forward to using very advanced and complicated measurement equipment. It’s a playground for grown-ups!” Stephan says.

It all began with a fascination for water

“I studied Civil Engineering in Germany and just loved the idea of understanding how water flows down a river. So I drifted more and more into hydraulics as my field of study. Later on I found out that there are ways to measure and visualise flow fields through modern measurement equipment like a Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system. That’s where it gets really exciting,” he explains.

A hydraulic lab is only as good as its technicians

“The hydraulics lab in Auckland has brilliant technicians! Plus the atmosphere within the group is great. Lecturers and PhD students have a friendly and productive working relationship.

“The University itself offers great opportunities. They have internationally renowned researchers, high quality lab equipment, and now a brand new modern hydraulics lab,” Stephan says.

Hydraulic Engineering: A warm and welcoming research group

“As a guest PhD student at the University of Auckland, I always felt welcome there. Heide Friedrich especially helped me with organisation and guided me with my experiments. She contributed a great deal to my work in Auckland. Bruce Melville was also very welcoming and interested in the work I was doing. He often came by and asked me about my experiments. Also the lab technicians saved the day, not only once. Last but not least, the PhD students working in the lab became good friends of mine during my stay in Auckland,” he says.

Fun social activities

In addition to his research activities, Stephan blew off steam with social sporting activities. “I joined the ARH Auckland Handball group. They offer beach handball sessions during the summer and indoor handball during the winter. I had great fun there,” he says.

An exchange student’s thoughts on Auckland

“The city of Auckland is amazing! There is so much culture. If you ever get bored, there are countless opportunities for trips to other parts of New Zealand. My favourite place in the Auckland region is Waiheke Island,” he says. “If you have the chance to spend some time at the University of Auckland, grab it! It’s a great place to study,” he explains.

Comments are closed.