2006 Research Medal winners announced

This year's winners of the University's most prestigious research awards, the Massey University Research Medals, have been announced by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Nigel Long (pictured, right).

The 2006 Medals and Teaching Awards will be presented at a gala dinner to be held in Palmerston North on 5 October to pay tribute to research and teaching excellence.

A highlight of the dinner will be guest speaker Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty. Professor Doherty, an

immunologist from St Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, who was jointly awarded a Nobel prize in physiology/medicine in 1996 with Rolf Zinkernagel

for their discoveries concerning "the specificity of the cell mediated immune defence" research undertaken while employed at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, Australia.

The Research Medal winners are:
Professor David Lambert Individual, Professor Robyn Munford Supervisor, Dr Barbara Holland and Dr Sara Ross Early Career, and the Centre for Public Health Research the Research Team medal.

Other research awards include Mäori awards, women's awards, post-doctoral fellowships, research fellowships, and technicians' awards.

Many of the winners will be recognised from previous years and a large number were also recipients of the recent Marsden and Fast-Start awards from the Royal Society of New Zealand. See earlier release: http://masseynews.massey.ac.nz/2006/Press_Releases/09-07-06a.html

Massey Vice-Chancellor Professor Judith Kinnear says this is a tribute to their sustained excellence in their fields and their abilities to collaborate with others nationally and internationally to remain at the cutting edge of knowledge and discovery. Equally exciting, Professor Kinnear says, is the crop of young and emerging researchers. This is an area Massey prides itself in. An example of that future potential is that Massey had the second highest number of Marsden Fast-Start awards of all New Zealand tertiary organisations, as well as the third largest number of overall grants and the third highest value of total grants.

Outstanding Individual Researcher

Professor David Lambert is a Distinguished Professor and Professor of Molecular Ecology and Evolution based in Auckland, whose successes in ancient DNA research, and those of his research group, feature frequently in leading publications and attract international attention.

A principal investigator in the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution one of the centres of research excellence established by the Government, Professor Lambert has published more than 130 research papers and made a major contribution to evolutionary genetics.

Most recently, through his work with DNA analysis, he has made news with revelations on the New Zealand moa and his evolution study with Adelie penguins.

In the decade that he has been at the University he has been awarded approximately $26.4 million in research funding including nine Marsden grants. The award is worth $20,000 to the centre.

Team Research Medal

The Centre for Public Health Research
In the six years since the establishment of the Centre, Professor Neil Pearce and his team have produced an extensive track record in public health research, workforce development and team-based research.
The Centre is a multi-disciplinary team of researchers based on the University's Wellington campus. Its research programme covers all aspects of public health research, with a focus on
• non-communicable diseases (respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes)
• occupational health
• environmental health
• socio-economic determinants of health
• Mäori and Pacific health research.

Research findings have major implications for prevention and treatment of asthma and cancer, provision of health services to Mäori and Pacific people, and managing occupational health and safety.

Associate Director Jeroen Douwes says the centre was delighted to win the Research Medal. It is wonderful to receive recognition for the centre's work. It is a great pleasure to be able to work with a team of highly motivated and talented researchers.

The continuous support of Massey's Research Services, our international collaborators, and funding agencies such as the Health Research Council, Marsden and Lotteries has of course also been crucial. Finally, Neil Pearce's vision to bring together an international group of researchers the Centre includes people from Tonga, England, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and of course New Zealand has been paramount in the group's success. I am looking forward to celebrating this recognition with all of those who have made this happen."

The principal investigators on the centre's research projects are Professor Neil Pearce, Associate Professor Jeroen Douwes, Dr Mona Jeffreys, Dr Lis Ellison-Loschmann, Dr Andrea 't Mannetje, Dr Dave McLean, Dr Ate Moala, Dr Sunia Foliaki, and Dr Christine van Dalen. The team also includes researchers, biostatisticians, field workers and support staff. The award is worth $25,000 to the centre.

Supervisor

Professor Robyn Munford graduated with New Zealand's first social work degree, from Massey University in 1979. She achieved first-class honours. She ran an Intellectually Handicapped Children residential home for two and a half years then studied at the University of Calgary in Alberta for her masterate, returned to Massey in Palmerston North to complete her PhD and, in 1991, took up a position as a lecturer.

In 1998 she became head of the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, a position she vacated at the end of August this year to devote more time to research, the mentoring of new researchers, and her work on international boards.

Since 1991 Professor Munford has supervised 20 doctorates and 15 masterates, mostly as leading supervisor. All of her masterate students received distinction or honours and many have gone on to become respected researchers in their own right or to occupy important managerial positions in New Zealand and overseas.

She has also made a substantial contribution to staff development by encouraging staff (particularly Mäori and Pacific Islanders) to complete higher degrees. The support of Mäori research and the completion of postgraduate qualifications by Maori researchers is a key goal in the school's research strategy, she says.

Professor Munford's PhD research on women caregivers of disabled children led her to further research into families. She is co-director of a project funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, looking at people's experience as teenagers and raising teenagers. She also works with the Italian-based International Association for Outcome-based Evaluation and Research on Families and Children's Services. The project brings together researchers from New Zealand Australia, Europe, North America and Israel.

In 2002 the value of Professor Munford's contribution to social progress was further recognised when she became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to social work education and policy. The award is worth $10,000.

Early Career Medalists ($10,000 each)

Dr Barbara Holland is a research fellow in the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution who has moved rapidly from her position as a PhD student to a researcher of international reputation.

Centre co-director Professor Mike Hendy says Dr Holland has achieved more in research output than any other graduate he has known, and cites her success in winning research grants as a particular highlight for the centre.

Dr Holland was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand Hamilton Memorial Prize last year for her mathematical research in evolutionary biology, described by the society's academy council as pioneering work.

After a one-year post-doctoral position at the University of Bochum in Germany, she was awarded another at the Allan Wilson Centre, returning to Massey in 2002. Last year she was awarded a Foundation of Research, Science and Technology Bridge to Employment grant and received a full Marsden grant as the project's principal investigator.

Her research focuses on phylogenetics the study of evolutionary relatedness among various groups of organisms. An evolutionary tree, or a phylogenetic tree, maps the evolutionary interrelationships among various species. She says biologists seeking to estimate evolutionary trees are often forced to use inadequate mathematical models.

Dr Sarah Ross is a scholar of early modern English literature who joined the School of English and Media Studies in 2003 and is rapidly building a reputation as a significant contributor to the academic field of women's renaissance poetry.

In addition to her individual research focus on poetry, women's writing, literature in relation to poetry and society, manuscript studies and bibliography, Dr Ross has contributed to two major British projects specialising in 17th century literary history.

While completing her DPhil thesis at St Hilda's College, Oxford, on women and religious verse in English manuscript culture (1600-1668), Dr Ross was awarded the Margaret Roper Prize for graduate research. From there she was appointed to the prestigious post-doctoral post of John Nichols Research Fellow at the University of Warwick.

Since 2001 she has published major articles on renaissance religious manuscripts and the poetry of Katherine Austen, four items in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, two articles on Hester Pulter in a collection of essays on early modern women for Routledge, several reviews, and a co-edited edition of essays on contemporary British novelists.

Professor Warwick Slinn, head of the School of English and Media Studies, says Dr Ross' work has quickly drawn the attention of established scholars in her field. He says the sustained quality and volume of her work places Dr Ross on a par with early career researchers in any field.

It is unusual for humanities scholars to produce this level and quality of work so early in their career, since research success for them usually follows a lengthy apprenticeship.

Technicians' Awards

These awards provide for an annual salary of up to $35,000 to be paid for two years to provide technical support and assistance for a specific research project undertaken by the recipients. This year's recipients are:

Dr Armaz Aschrafi and Dr Evelyn Sattlegger, Institute of Molecular BioSciences, are studying the role of protein synthesis regulators in the formation of long-term memory in the brain. In particular they will focus on the involvement of two translation regulators, IMPACT and GCN2, in the formation of memory. Drs Aschrafi and Sattlegger are experts in protein synthesis and Dr Aschrafi has expertise in investigating protein synthesis in neurons. Their study requires a steady supply of neuronal cultures, which due to their short life span, will have to be generated freshly and regularly from rat embryos. Dissociated neurons prepared from the rat brains will exhibit mature neuronal architecture and physiological properties necessary for the experiments. The award will fund a technician who is specialised in brain tissue culture techniques skills which could not be acquired by a PhD student while producing results within the three year thesis period.

Professor Bob Hodgson, Institute of Information Sciences and Technology, aims to develop an intelligent digital microscope to be used in the automation of palynology the process of pollen counting and recognition. Palynology is an important tool in areas such as climate change research and health related studies, and a recent European-centred register of palynologists listed 6000 practitioners. Professor Hodgson, an expert on digital image processing, has been part of a multidisciplinary group who have worked for more than six years towards an automated system. The other team members are: Professor John Flenley, an Oxford DSc who is internationally recognised for his applied palynology on Easter Island; Dr David Fountain, an expert on live pollen; Dr Steve Marsland, a 2005 Massey medallist and specialist in intelligent classifier design; Greg Arnold, an applied statistician, and Gary Allen, a masterate student. The award will fund a technician to refine the system and to run a number of research trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system and generate research results.

Dr Max Scott, Institute of Molecular BioSciences, leads a project supported by the Australian wool industry to study gene function in the Australian sheep blowfly. His team is developing a system for making transgenic or genetically modified blowflies, and collaborates with the University of Melbourne who are determining the DNA sequences of fragments of most of the blowfly genes. The genome project will underpin further new projects studying the unique biology of blowflies. Unlike microbes, blowflies cannot be stored frozen, and therefore all flies must be maintained in a labour-intensive regime of feeding (fresh water, protein-rich cookies and fresh liver). The award will fund a technician to assist with this project and with a proposed study of the genes expressed in the salivary glands of blowfly larvae. Sterile maggots are being increasingly used to treat inoperable wounds and stimulate wound healing in humans. The proposed project will determine which genes are most active in the larvae.

Massey University Postdoctoral Fellowships

These fellowships recognise researchers with established records, allowing them to employ a young postdoctoral student for two years to carry out research on their behalf or to conduct the research themselves, with an additional $15,000 available for research expenses.

Dr Fiona Alpass from the School of Psychology for her project, Cultural Pathways to Retirement, which will investigate the cultural and ethnic influences on the retirement process.

It will complement a Health Research Council-funded project on the health of older people in the transition from work to retirement. Analysing data from that project will enable the research team to make comparisons with longitudinal data from the United States and 11 European countries.

The project will study the factors influencing continued labour force participation decisions, such as the ability to work, financial need, and the desire to continue working. Comparisons will be made across Mäori, European, Pacific and Asian groups in New Zealand and internationally, with a focus on indigenous people and new immigrant groups.

Dr Isabel Castro from the Institute of Natural Resources (Ecology) for her project, Predator-prey Interactions in New Zealand, which aims to study the ecology of predators and their prey in order to develop better management of introduced mammalian pest populations.

The traditional response to predation has been to been to kill the predators. This has backfired on many occasions because of the consequent ecological responses by other predators and prey. For example, eradicating feral cats may cause an increase in other pest populations such as rats, which are preyed on by cats.

The project will establish baseline data about the numerical and functional relationships between vertebrate predators and prey in a defined New Zealand ecosystem. This will enable future experiments leading to more effective pest management.

The two-year project will study feral cats, ship rats, kiwi, ruru (morepork) and other forest bird species on a Hauraki Gulf island.

Professor Martin Hazelton from the Institute of Information Sciences and Technology, and Professor Nigel French from EpiCentre for their project, Spatial Models of Animal Diseases.

The fellowship will fund the appointment of a postdoctoral fellow, to improve collaboration and productivity of statisticians and epidemiologists.

The project aims to develop new statistical methods for analysing spatial data on the determinants of veterinary diseases. It aims to apply these methods to designing better disease surveillance. Better surveillance systems would improve our preparedness for infectious diseases, such as foot and mouth disease or bird flu.

The project will benefit veterinary public health, biosecurity and disease control organisations.

Professor Janina Mazierska from the Institute of Information Sciences and Technology for her project on Cellular Low Temperature Co-fired Ceramic-based Filters.

The project could lead to smaller and lighter wireless communication devices such as cell phones.

Progress in electronic systems has been achieved through the miniaturisation of active components and circuits, such as transistors and silicon chips; however passive components such as capacitors and inductors have only halved in size over the past 50 years.

The size and capability of cell phones is determined by passive circuits, so new technologies aimed at their miniaturisation are required. Low temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC) based filters are emerging as the most efficient and powerful way of achieving this.

The fellowship will fund the appointment of a postdoctoral fellow to develop advanced microwave filters for wireless telephone handsets based on new LTCC technologies. Results are expected to have a significant potential for commercialisation. Dr Jasna Rakonjac from the Institute of Molecular BioSciences for her project, Unlocking the Gate of a Giant Channel.

The project has two aims: To determine the structure of pIV secretin at atomic resolution and to investigate how opening the secretin is triggered by its payload.

Secretins are gigantic outer membrane channels of bacteria. They can be open or closed, like a gate. When open, genetic material or disease-causing toxins can exit the bacteria, including those that lead to cholera, salmonella or gastric ulcers.

The project will identify and characterise the gate of secretin pIV, a safe and easily amenable model secretin channel that exports filamentous bacteriophage from non-pathogenic Escherichia coli strain K12.

If successful, high resolution studies of the structure of the protein pIV will significantly increase understanding of how an important group of bacterial proteins work. Understanding the secretin gate will help combat bacterial diseases.

Massey University Research Fellowship

Professor Klaus-Dieter Schewe is based in the Department of Information Systems at Palmerston North. He receives his Research Fellowship for his project, Design and Development of Web Information Systems. These are databased-backed information systems that are realised and distributed over the web.

Professor Schewe says a web information system is a series of abstract locations between which users navigate in a story space .

Data can be manipulated by the user or adapted by the system. Web information systems have been a focus of an international research collaboration for Professor Schewe for many years. The research has led to a sophisticated methodology for the design and development of systems capturing various levels of abstraction, modelling techniques for each level, mathematical foundations of these models, and pragmatic guidelines for their use.

The fellowship, worth up to $20,000, will enable Professor Schewe to focus on completing a 600-page research monograph on the project next year.

Mäori Awards

The awards provide up to $10,000 to enable each recipient to work on a specified project.

Nick Roskruge (Te Ätiawa ki Taranaki, Ngäti Tama), a lecturer in horticulture and Mäori resource studies in Palmerston North, for his doctoral project Hokia ki te whenua, which aims to produce a decision-making model for the return to economic horticultural development of Mäori land, based on tikanga Mäori and modern technology.

Hokia ki te whenua aims to empower Mäori to utilize their own land in a fully economic sense, Mr Roskruge says. Tino rangatiratanga [self-determination] is an important part of the empowerment process. So issues such as ownership of the knowledge gathered and access to that knowledge and its continued management are key issues for this project.

The project involves case studies with Mäori groups including Wakatü Incorporation(Te Tau Ihu), Ngäti Parewahawaha (Bulls), Waioturi Marae (Patea), Tänehopuwai Marae (Te Kuiti)and Tui Tuia Trust (Te Tai Tokerau). Each group offers a unique approach to land assessment and utility that will contribute to the overall study.

Dr Fiona Te Momo (Ngäti Raukawa, Ngäti Konohi, Ngäti Porou, Ngäti Kahungunu), from the School of Social and Cultural Studies in Auckland, to assist the university in understanding why there are low numbers of Mäori enrolled in social work degrees.

Mäori have a high rate of participation in voluntary services such as the Mäori Womens' Welfare League and the Mäori Wardens Association. In comparison, we have much lower numbers enrolled at Massey University in our social work programmes, or taking up social work as a career, Dr Te Momo says.

Her research among Mäori in North Shore and Waitakere will also focus on possible pathways to build a relationship between Mäori communities working in social services and the university.

The data gathered will highlight reasons for falling numbers of Mäori enrolments in social work degrees and provide recommendations on ways to remedy this.

Kura Puke (Te Ati Awa), a Mäori Visual Arts masters student and lecturer at Massey's Auckland School of Design, to assist in the completion of a set of illuminating animated tukutuku panels.

The project, entitled Muramura: Twinkling Mnemonics in the CBD, features a series of panels built from polished aluminium and acrylic. The main features are the animated patterns created by fibre optic points illuminated by software driven LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Other features include variable timing, colour spectrum and intensity and pattern options that can be varied by remote control.

In some ways, these works are a radical departure from customary tukutuku patterns we see in wharenui [meeting houses], says Ms Puke. While they are constructed from modern materials and have a commercial and contemporary appearance, the concepts draw on Mäori knowledge and values. The panels revitalise customary knowledge and call for a reconfiguration of our changing perception of environment, time, space and notions of reality.

Jhanitra Gavala (Ngäpuhi), a lecturer and registered psychologist at the School of Psychology in Palmerston North, for his doctoral research aimed at identifying the tensions, problems and issues around the formation of contemporary Mäori identity.

Mr Gavala says identity is an important issue for Mäori because it is a cornerstone of psychological well-being and given the diversity of Mäori lifestyles in today's world, an analysis is warranted.

The research will initially focus on personal identity. I am interested in the factors and influences that shape the individual. The latter part of the research will examine social identity, place attachment, and identity formation.

His thesis entitled 'Ngä Take o Te Tuakiri Mäori: Issues Surrounding Contemporary Identity Formation' will also assist Mäori psychologists and practitioners to gain a better understanding about the tensions, problems and issues for Mäori within contemporary society and how they affect Mäori in their everyday lives.

This research also contributes to the body of research on the need for a greater understanding of national identity, which the Government has identified as a priority, he says.

University Women's Awards

These awards enable staff involved in teaching or administrative work to take time out to write up research results for publication, or to collect and analyse further data. Each award is worth up to $10,000.

Dr Karen Jillings is working on a research project that involves the translation, annotation and critical analysis of Scotland's earliest printed vernacular medical treatise, Ane Breve Descriptoun of the Pest. The treatise on the plague, by Aberdeen physician Gilbert Skene, was published during an outbreak in 1568.

Dr Jillings, a lecturer in the School of History, Philosophy and Politics, at Palmerston North, will make a research visit to Scotland where the only extant copy of the treatise is preserved in the National Library. Her project will result in a book containing a reprint of the original manuscript, with annotations and a commentary.

This critical edition is expected to be of interest to historians of medicine, of Scotland and of early print culture. She says while the significance of Gilbert Skene's treatise has been acknowledged by historians of Scottish medicine, it has never been the subject of focused academic study.

Aiqun Li is a lecturer in the School of Language Studies, in Wellington, whose PhD research is titled A Study of Chinese Students' Learning Strategies in English Language Learning in New Zealand and China. She observes that for many Chinese students studying in New Zealand, their language competence and learning styles may affect their ability to achieve their learning goals.

Her longitudinal study focuses on the learning strategies of a group of seven students who enrolled in a project jointly operated by the Auckland University of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology in China. The students first study at Harbin before transferring to AUT.

Ms Li's research will establish how these students prepare themselves for their overseas study and how they adapt after they arrive in New Zealand. Next year she will interview the participants in Auckland and will transcribe the interviews, translating from Chinese to English.

Dr Regina Scheyvens, a senior lecturer in the School of People, Environment and Planning at Palmerston North, specialises in research on tourism, particularly as it relates to poverty issues. Her new project is the re-working of her 2002 book, Tourism for Development: Empowering Communities, following an approach by Stirling University in Britain.

She intends to turn her earlier book into more of a research monograph by removing some case study material and providing a more comprehensive review of writing on tourism and development. In particular, this will require drawing on recent writing on the relationship between tourism and poverty alleviation, sometimes described as pro-poor tourism . Her new book will be titled Progress in Tourism and Development.

Dr Kimberley Powel
l, a lecturer with the School of Arts, Development and Health Studies in the College of Education based at Palmerston North, recently completed a research project funded by the New Zealand Playcentre Federation titled The Effect of Adult Playcentre Participation on the Creation of Social Capital in Local Communities. She intends to use her award to provide a break from teaching to write up the research for journal publication and conference submissions.

The research, for which Dr Powell was director, was an innovative project in New Zealand's early childhood research and took two years to complete. It involved two stages: A national survey that targeted all playcentres in New Zealand, and a case study phase which looked at the perspectives of playcentre members in two rural and two urban communities.

Dr Penelope Shino, a lecturer in the School of Language Studies in Palmerston North, has a project arising from her PhD research on the poetry of Shotetsu, a Zen monk of medieval Japan. She has undertaken a fully annotated translation, with an interpretive introduction, of Shotetsu's travel diary Nagusamegusa.

She says Nagusamegusa is normally described as a travel work but is an intriguing composite of travel diary, love story and literary treatise, the art of poetry, and aesthetics. It is also a vivid social and historical document of life in fifteenth century Japan.

Dr Shino says Shotetsu records the lives of the provincial military elite as well as the lives of the common people he saw on his travels. The book provides a firsthand account of the transformation of Japan in the medieval era, as artists and intellectuals began to instruct the military, allowing them to rule through the prestige of cultural refinement as well as by the sword.

Thomasin (Tammy) Smith, a lecturer in the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Palmerston North, has a research project is called Modelling Hydrothermal Eruptions.

It will use laboratory, field, conceptual and mathematical models, as well as numerical simulation, to contribute significant new knowledge to the field. She says this will help provide a better assessment of risk conditions so they can be avoided to provide a safer environment.

Ms Smith describes hydrothermal eruptions as naturally occurring violent events that are particularly common in New Zealand. Without warning, they can result in the eruption of large volumes of rock particles mixed with liquid water, water vapour and other gases. These events alter the immediate surroundings, sometimes felling trees, scorching foliage, damaging property and in injuring or killing people.

She says the problem of understanding the phenomenon has become increasingly important, with the need to reduce the risks to lives and property.

To view the earlier release on Massey's Tertiary Teaching Excellence awards, see: http://masseynews.massey.ac.nz/2006/Massey_News/issue-06/stories/01-06-06.html
For the release on the national awards: http://masseynews.massey.ac.nz/2006/Press_Releases/06-27-06.html

 

Created: 25 September, 2006

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