Studying is just the start.

Getting to know Ashley Stewart
PhD Mechanical Engineering

Ashley Stewart

Tell us about your PhD topic!

I'm developing an exoskeleton for stroke rehabilitation. It's a mechanism designed to help rebuild neural pathways and improve muscle strength using electrical stimulation.

How did you get to where you are now?

I did my undergrad in electrical engineering and then worked for two years in power distribution. I realised I preferred small electronics and bionics, so I decided to come back to do my PhD. I’ve always loved engineering because you get to use science and maths to build really creative things.

Favourite part of your studies?

I love the hands-on aspect. In a PhD you get to work on a whole project from start to finish. I want to continue that style of working when I graduate. I also love the mix of people. There’s a huge range of ages and backgrounds in PhD study. You’re all different but you all feel like you belong.

Best thing about the UC student experience?

Being in Christchurch is great for an outdoorsy person like me. You can go skiing and swimming in the same day, if you don't mind the cold! There are a ton of clubs here, which are a great way to meet people.

What clubs are you in?

My main ones are the Wine Tasting Club and the Canyoning Club. Canyoning involves going down rivers by any means possible. I've done a few waterfall first descents, including a 120 m high waterfall in Arthur's pass. As part of the Wine Tasting Club I went to France for the world blind wine tasting competition. We came fourth... beating France!

And you’ve done some community work too?

I did the 21-Day Challenge, which is where you get put into a cross disciplinary team to work on a global community project. Our task was to create a self-sustaining project to help a community in the Philippines recover from the tsunami. We got to travel there and help locals at a village school build a permaculture bed and rainwater collection system. It an amazing experience.

Best piece of advice for others coming back to study?

Get involved. There are more clubs than you think and they’re for all ages and levels of study. Have a look on the website – if you don't think there’s a club for you, then start one! It's actually pretty easy to do.