Birdsong and sheep embryos among top PhDs


(from left) Dr Fermin’s supervisors Professor Paul Kenyon and Dr Sarah Pain; Associate Professor Tracy Riley; Dean’s List recipients Dr Lisanne Fermin and Dr Nirosha Priyadarshani; Dr Priyadarshani’s supervisors Associate Professor Isabel Castro and Professor Stephen Marsland.


Birdsong recognition and sheep embryo growth are the topics of the latest Massey University PhD theses to be awarded prestigious Dean’s List recognition.

Dean’s List certificates were awarded at a Doctoral Research Committee meeting last week and presented by Associate Professor Tracy Riley to Dr Nirosha Priyadarshani, for her thesis: Wavelet-Based Birdsong Recognition for Conservation; and to Dr Lisanne Fermin for her thesis: Pre-implantation maternal uterine effects on embryo growth and development: An investigation using models of maternal constraint in sheep.

Dr Riley, who is Dean of Research and Chair of the Doctoral Research Committee, told the recipients their work represented “the crème de la crème” of Massey’s doctoral graduates and is rated as top in its field in order to gain a Dean’s List award recommended unanimously by all three of each candidate’s examiners.

Dr Elizabeth Daly was unable to attend, but was also named a recipient in the List for her thesis: Fine scale population structure through space and time.

Dr Priyadarshani, who is from Sri Lanka, is continuing her research on song recognition of native species including kiwi, morepork, tui, kakapo and bittern. She studied with the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology. Dr Fermin is from Trinidad and Tobago, and studied with the Institute of Veterninary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences.

Dr Julia Rayner, manager of the Graduate Research School, says Dean’s List recipients represent the top 10 per cent of PhD candidates at Massey University, with between 10 and 15 awarded each year.

She says examiners nominate candidates for Deans’ Awards if the work is exceptional and considered to be in the top 10 per cent of theses they have examined. They consider all aspects of the research including the originality, and the quality of expression and presentation as well as the performance in the oral defence. It would also be required to have little or no emendations and have been completed without any extension requests.

Dean’s Awards recipients so far in 2017:

  • Tahlia Jane Fisher: Cleared to Disconnect? A Study of the Interaction between Airline Pilots and Line Maintenance Engineers
  • Jane Ann Hurst: It's all about relationships: Women managing women and the impact on their careers
  • Heather Christine Nunns: The practice of evaluative reasoning in the Aotearoa New Zealand public sector
  • Silvia Schwartz: Investigating the role of Histone Deacetylase HDAC4 in long-term memory formation

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