Massey University Research Medal Winners

Massey’s University Research Medals are awarded on an annual basis to recognise and reward research excellence and impact.  They are one of the ways for Massey to acknowledge and honour our colleagues who have delivered high quality outcomes and whose work assists the University in giving back to the many communities we serve. 

We are proud to celebrate the work of our finest researchers, across a broad range of disciplines and academic fields.  Here we highlight the latest winners of Massey University Research Medals, for:

  • Individual (outstanding research contributions in a particular discipline)
  • Early Career (research potential and leadership of the highest calibre)
  • Supervisor (excellence in research supervision practice)
  • Team (outstanding research contributions by a research team)
  • Exceptional Research Citizenship Whaowhia Ngā Kete o te Wānanga (researchers and creative practitioners whose work has a high public engagement and impact value, and those who enable the creation and dissemination of knowledge through demonstrating exceptional research citizenship).

Individual Research Medal

Professor Murray Cox

College of Sciences | School of Fundamental Sciences

Professor Cox is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the genetic history of South East Asia and the Pacific. His landmark research has triggered major advances in our understanding of human prehistory across the Pacific region, particularly the effects of contact, interaction and adaptation, the nature and extent of genetic mixing between archaic and modern hominins, and the dynamics of social behaviour, language, kinship and genetics. Some of his major breakthroughs have included finding that Asia was at the heart of archaic human diversity, identifying sex biases in the genetic ancestry of the first settlers to reach the remote Pacific, reconstructing the migration processes by which Indonesians initially settled Madagascar, and quantifying for the first time how genetics, kinship and language interact and co-evolve. His work involves the reconstruction of the history of species, not from archaeology or language but from DNA, using complex statistical methods, computational tools and a highly mathematical body of population genetic theory. 

He has been an investigator for four New Zealand centres of research excellence and is currently incoming co-director and a principal investigator of Te Pūnaha Matatini (hosted by the University of Auckland), a principal investigator at the BioProtection Research Centre (hosted by Lincoln University) and associate investigator at the Maurice Wilkins Centre (hosted by the University of Auckland). Since 2009 he has been awarded more than $10 million in external funding, including three back-to-back Marsden Grants. He was the Early Career Research Medal winner in 2010.


Early Career Research Medal

Associate Professor Kathryn Beck

College of Health | School of Sport Exercise and Nutrition

Dr Beck is a registered dietitian and senior lecturer in human nutrition and dietetics based at the Auckland campus. Her research focusses on optimising health through nutrition, specifically iron deficiency, sports nutrition, dietary assessment, and dietary patterns and health outcomes.

She has received more than $2.2 million in competitive external research funding, has published 39 manuscripts in international peer-reviewed journals and has published two book chapters, where she was first author in both. Her research has been referred to in World Health Organisation policy documents, and she has co-authored New Zealand Ministry of Health Food and Nutrition Guidelines.

Dr Libby Liggins

College of Sciences | School of Natural and Computation Sciences

Dr Liggins is an evolutionary ecologist who primarily uses molecular genomic methods to address fundamental questions in biodiversity and ecosystem science, and to support local communities. Her main academic research contributions have been in the field of ‘seascape genetics’, drawing on population genetics, spatial statistics, and marine ecology.

Within five years of completing her PhD she has contributed 24 peer-reviewed publications, nearly half her publications are in the top 10 per cent most-cited worldwide and she has given 41 research presentations.

Dr Liggins serves on several international working groups intended to advance theoretical and applied molecular ecology via multidisciplinary collaboration, and leads New Zealand’s participation in the Diversity of the Indo-Pacific Network and coordinates the Ira Moana – Genes of the Sea project, for which she won an international data stewardship award last year.

Supervisor Research Medal

Distinguished Professor Nigel French

College of Sciences | School of Veterinary Science

Distinguished Professor French is described as a supervisor of the highest calibre for his dedication, integrity, warmth and supportiveness. He has supervised 41 PhD students and is currently co-supervising a further seven. He is dedicated to providing ongoing mentorship and career development for emerging scientists, many of whom have gone on to impressive careers in academia, international health and government bodies. Three of his previous PhD students are now full professors and three are associate professors. As one former student said: “Our university education system needs more supervisors like him”. The chief scientist at the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre, he was made a distinguished professor at Massey in 2018 and was the individual research medal winner in 2012.

Professor Patrick Morel

College of Sciences | School of Agriculture and Environment

Professor Morel is a national and international expert on pig growth and nutrition and was chief editor of the Journal and Animal Feed Science and Technology.  His combined expertise in biological animal systems and statistics attracts researchers at both junior post doctoral and doctoral research funding as project leader from governmental agencies, producer boards and commercial companies both in New Zealand and overseas. He has supervised 20 PhD and 39 other postgraduate students, a high proportion of them international students. Since joining Massey in 1990 he has obtained research funding of more than $5.3 million that has supported the research projects of those students, many of whom have become successful academics or researchers in New Zealand and overseas.

Team Research Medal

Joint Centre for Disaster Research

College of Humanities and Social Sciences | School of Psychology

The Joint Centre for Disaster Research team is part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ School of Psychology. The medal recognises the centre as “a multi-disciplinary team with an outstanding national and international reputation” and for its “commitment of all team members to research excellence that connects with the wider society.” Highlights for the team this year included facilitating the first of a national series of workshops following the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva at the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi in Wellington. The workshops are aimed at connecting New Zealanders to global disaster risk reduction research.

The award entitles the team to a $25,000 grant for research this year. The team comprises team leader Professor David Johnston, Associate Professor Christine Kenney, Dr Raj Prasanna, Dr Emma Hudson-Doyle, Dr Denise Blake, Dr Jane Rovins, Dr Julia Becker, research officers Lucy Kaiser, Emily Lambie and Emily Campbell from the School of Psychology, and Associate Professor Carol Stewart and Dr Suzanne Phibbs from the School of Health Sciences.


Medal for Exceptional Research Citizenship Whaowhia Ngā Kete o te Wānanga

Associate Professor Karen Stockin

College of Sciences | Institute of Natural and Computational Sciences

Based in the school of Natural and Computational Sciences, Dr Stockin has acted as a change agent in matters concerning marine mammals. Her national and international engagement and capacity-building in emergency response and investigation with Project Jonah, the Department of Conservation and the International Whaling Commission, respectively, alongside her research impact and advocacy with Aotearoa Plastics Pollution Alliance, made her an obvious and deserving nominee for this new medal category based on research citizenship.

In her role as critic and conscience on matters relating to marine mammal welfare and conservation, and in the meaningful relationships with external partnerships she forms, Dr Stockin has developed exceptional skills in public engagement. She is not only a strong conservation leader and welfare advocate of demonstratable impact nationally, but a true international ambassador for New Zealand.

Her sustained research service to the University extends to mentorship of prospective Rutherford Discovery Fellows and Early Career researchers (she won the Early Career research medal herself in 2012), as well as her academic sponsorship of postgraduate students via the Australia-New Zealand Student Chapter of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.


Previous winners

Individual Research Medal

Recipients of the Individual Research Medal

2019 | Professor Murray Cox

2018 | Professor Robert Jahnke

2017 | Professor Velmurugu Ravindran

2016 | Professor Marlena Kruger and Professor Tony Parker

2015 | Professor Glyn Harper

2014 | Distinguished Professor Paul Rainey

2013 | Distinguished Professor Sally Morgan

2012 | Professor Nigel French

2011 | Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan

2010 | Professor Geoff Jameson

2009 | Distinguished Professors Anne Noble and Peter Schwerdtfeger

Early Career Research Medal

Recipients of the Early Career Research Medal

2019 | Associate Professor Kathryn Beck and Dr Libby Liggins

2018 | Dr Krushil Watene

2017 | Dr Alexander Melnikov

2016 | Dr David Aguirre, Dr Jodie Hunter and Shannon Te Ao

2015 | David Hayman, Tanya Marriott and Natasha Tassell-Matamua

2014 | Lee Stoner, Philip Steer, Jane Allison and Jason Wargent

2013 | Mary Breheny

2012 | Karen Stockin, Sarah-Jane Paine and Max Schleser

2011 | Lara Shepherd

2010 | Murray Cox and Wayne Patrick

2009 | Aiqian Ye, Leigh Signal and Matthias Lein

Supervisor Research Medal

Recipients of the Supervisor Research Medal

2019 | Distinguished Professor Nigel French and Professor Patrick Morel

2018 | Professor Peter Kemp

2017 | Professor Dianne Brunton

2016 | Professor Kevin Stafford - Institute of Vet, Animal and Biomedical Sciences

2015 | Professors Regina Scheyvens, Martin Young and Nicolas Lopez-Villalobos

2014 | Professor Cord Heuer

2013 | Professor Steve Morris

2012 | Professor John O'Neill

2011 | Professor Emeritus Mike McManus

2010 | Professor Emeritus Ian Evans

2009 | Professor Hugh Blair

Team Research Medal

Recipients of the Team Research Medal

2019 | Joint Centre for Disaster Research

2018 | First World War Centenary History Research Team

2017 | Food Microbiology Research Team

2016 | Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre

2015 | Bioprotection Research Team

2014 | Centre for Postharvest Refrigeration

2013 | Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health

2012 | Health and Ageing Research Team

2011 | Sleep/Wake Research Centre

2010 | Sheep Research Group

2009 | Volcanic Risk Solutions

Medal for Exceptional Research Citizenship Whaowhia Ngā Kete o te Wānanga

Recipients of the Exceptional Research Citizenship Whaowhia Ngā Kete o te Wānanga Medal

2019 | Associate Professor Karen Stockin

2018 | Professor Barry Scott