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2009 University Research Awards

Massey University’s annual research medals and awards pay tribute to the individuals and teams of researchers who continue to define Massey’s capability as world-class. This year they have continued to stamp their mark on the national and international stage with projects that have been recognised as having the potential to impact on our future. Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Nigel Long says the Massey Medals and awards are recognition of the excellent research under way.

“I congratulate each of the medal and award winners, and this year am particularly pleased to see the diverse range of disciplines represented, Professor Long says. “Massey is committed to excellent research, with strong foundations already laid set to be enhanced by the research pathway highlighted in The Road to 2020.

“A  number of initiatives are under way to nurture our research environment, with the intention of providing a research community dedicated to making a difference to New Zealand and the world, and ensuring every researcher feels a valued part of that community. Recipients of the Massey Medals are acknowledged as among the best, both here at Massey and externally: It is extremely pleasing to celebrate their achievement.”


College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Research Award (Individual)

Professor Steve La Grow

Professor of Rehabilitation and director of Health, Disability and Rehabilitation Studies in the School of Health and Social Services Steve La Grow has built an international reputation as an author and researcher specialising in the rehabilitation of those who are blind or visually impaired.

Professor La Grow’s research has addressed most issues that affect the quality of life of persons who are blind or visually impaired, and he is best known for his work in the field of orientation and mobility.

In 2003, Professor La Grow was inducted into the Western Michigan University’s Blindness and Low Vision Studies Outstanding Alumni Academy.

In 2006, he was presented with the Lawrence E Blaha Memorial Award from Division Nine of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the largest professional organisation in the field of blindness in the world.

Emeritus Professor Warwick Slinn, who nominated Professor La Grow, says his output is prodigious, numbering more than 140 publications, including two books, and 75 peer-reviewed articles.

“But it is the recognised quality of his work which is important,” Professor Slinn says.

Professor La Grow also serves on numerous editorial boards of journals, is regularly asked to write and review articles and to review research proposals, and he takes a full part in the administration of his professional societies, having served on the organising committees of six international mobility conferences.


College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Research Award (Supervisor)

Professor Cynthia White

Professor of Applied Linguistics Cynthia White is a regular contributor to workshops, seminars and staff development sessions on research, supervision and academic career management within Massey University, the Centre for Academic Development and e-Learning, and the Graduate Research School.

As college representative on the Doctoral Research Committee (2002-2005), Professor White made an active contribution to doctoral studies in the University, contributed to the successful resolution of difficult supervisory relationships, and acted as a mentor for three chief supervisors in different schools.

Professor White serves on the review boards of seven international journals and two national journals, regularly reviews research proposals for funding bodies such as the British Academy, and has been an active researcher and co-leader in collaborative projects with Oxford University, Britain's Open University and Nottingham University.

In the past five years she has given eight international plenary addresses at major conferences in Hawaii, Germany, Britain, China, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.


Maori awards

Maori awards enable researchers to take time away from administrative and teaching duties to write up research results or to collect and analyse further data. This year’s recipients are:

  • Kura Puke, a lecturer in the School of Design, will create a new artwork, Hinatore. The artwork and associated project will build on her earlier artwork series Muramura of 2008, which formed part of work for her Master in Maori Visual Arts. In Muramura tukutuku panels were created with illuminated optical fibres, creating animated pattern configurations through timing, colour and intensity. Hinatore will refine the techniques used in Muramura, consolidating the hardware and software into a standardised format for streamlined production.
  • Artists Ngataiharuru Taepa and Hemi Macgregor from Te Putahi a Toi will research and explore the many facets of Tanenuiarangi and create a collaborative art installation that gives visual form to these findings.  The installation will be exhibited at Te Manawa public art gallery in Palmerston North.
  • Amanda Yates of the Institute of Design for Industry and Environment intends to write a book, Oceanic architectures: between sea, sky and land. The book will explicate Yates’ own work, which  explores the Maori pa as an architectural form, as well as incorporating her research into Maori architect John Scott’s buildings.


Pasifika awards

Pasifika awards enable researchers to take time away from administrative and teaching duties to write up research results or to collect and analyse further data. This year’s recipients are:

  • Ridvan Firestone, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Centre for Public Health Research, will establish lung function reference values for Pacific school-aged children using a sample of healthy Pacific school-aged children residing in the Wellington region. Until now, the lack of reference values for lung function in Pacific children has hampered efforts to identify potential causes and effective interventions to reduce respiratory morbidity.
  • Lesieli MacIntyre, a senior lecturer in the School of Educational Studies, will look at how boys and girls (aged four to six years and of Tongan, Samoan or Fijian origin) think bilingually in English and their respective Pasifika language/s in social contexts.


Postdoctoral fellows

Appointment of a postdoctoral fellow who has worked in a multi-disciplinary research environment means that the project can be progressed quickly to make significant advances and publish, laying claim to very fertile research territory. This year’s recipients of postdoctoral fellowships are:

  • Professor Elwyn Firth was successful in gaining a postdoctoral fellowship for the project Bare Bones: Crystal Structure in Bone. The multidisciplinary project is the first large study of bone involving collaboration between the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Science and the Institute of Fundamental Science. Relatively little work has been done to characterise the chemical composition of bone at the micro or nano-structural level, though variations at this scale may profoundly influence bone solubility and hardness. The project aims to add new capability to a well-established programme in bone biology to enhance understanding of bone health and disease mechanisms.
  • Senior Lecturer Gill Norris of the Institute of Molecular Biosciences has been funded a postdoctoral fellowship to complete a project investigating unusual post translational modifications of a small antibacterial protein found to be glycosylated twice. Findings have stimulated the development of catabolically stable glycopeptide mimetics as fundamental tools for biological research and as potential agents for therapeutic intervention.
  • Dr Jennifer Tate has received funding for a postdoctoral fellow for the Sex Determination in Ribbonwood project at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences. The project addresses an outstanding question of international interest about the evolution of New Zealand flora. A hallmark of New Zealand flora is the presence of distinct male and female flowers in a high percentage cases. Ribbonwood is an ideal plant in which to examine the genetic control of male and female floral development. The postdoctoral fellow will carry out fieldwork throughout the country as well as lab work.
  • Associate Professor Christine Thomson has secured a postdoctoral fellowship for the project Brain Cell Culture Models at the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences. Dr Thomson, with support from Cell Culture Central staff, has established an in vitro model for the mammalian spinal cord, and is now working on a similar model for the brain. Research into neurological conditions affecting the brain is hampered by a lack of suitable cell culture models that replicate the brain. The project aims to identify conditions required for brain cultures, and test the robustness and suitability for studying neurological disease. Models would have uses in neuroscience for conditions such as alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.


Research Fellowship – Associate Professor Margaret Walshaw

Associate Professor Margaret Walshaw of the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy has been funded a research fellowship to investigate what contributes to a productive experience and timely completion in the College of Education’s doctoral programmes. Dr Walshaw will look at a range of areas including: student background and circumstances; institutional structures and culture; organisation and practice; and support measures. Findings of the study will inform a projected strategic initiative to improve tertiary education offered at the doctoral level within the college.


Technician’s awards

Technician’s awards enable an annual salary 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:

  • Professor Anne Noble receives a technician’s award to manage the processing, proofing and digitisation of Antarctic photographs as part of the White Lantern project. The work also involves the development of a digital archive, exhibition printing, and the preparation of analogue and digital marquettes for publishers and curators. White Lantern concludes a five-year investigation of Antarctic representation. Professor Noble has two books in development with publishers and distribution secured.
  • Dr Mark Patchett receives funding for his project Glycogens, the next antibiotics in the Institute of Molecular Biosciences. Glycogens are a new class of peptide antibiotics, with the first and only verified glycopeptides bacteriocin recently characterised by staff at the University. Staff have identified related gene clusters in other bacteria, each capable of producing at least one novel glycogen. These glycogens need to be characterised as soon as possible.
  • Dr Bill Williams receives a technician’s award for his project Single Molecule Stretching in the Institute of Fundamental Sciences. The technician will use the institute’s optical tweezers setup to stretch single molecules of DNA and other biopolymers. A specific objective is seeking to understand the control and possible role of force-driven conformational transitions in polysaccharides. The technician will synthesise specific nucleotide sequences and attach biological macromolecules of interest to beads.


Women’s Awards

Women’s 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.

  • Dr Ngaio Beausoleil, lecturer in physiology, completed her PhD in animal behaviour and welfare in 2007. With her award she intends submitting six or more papers for publication, a number of them consequent on work completed during her PhD. The topics include the analysis of stress responses in sheep, the lateral biases expressed by individual sheep in a Y maze, and whether it is possible to select sheep for domain-general temperament traits.
  • Dr Avril Bell, senior lecturer in sociology, intends to complete her book Identity Politics in Settler-Indigene Relations: The “New” Pacific. The book will extend her doctoral research into indigenous-settler relations in New Zealand to the identity politics of three other British settle colonies: the United States, Canada and Australia.
  • Dr Angie Farrow, well-established playwright and senior lecturer in the School of English and Media Studies, intends to complete her second volume of plays, More Plays for Physical Theatre: Seven Plays for Young Adults with Notes for their Production.
  • Dr Elizabeth Gray, senior lecturer in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, intends to pursue the publication of a volume of critical essays addressing the work of Alice Meynell, an important literary figure in Britain at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
  • Dr Kate Lewis, lecturer in the Department of Management and Enterprise Development, intends to extend the work of her PhD thesis, which examined the meaning young New Zealand entrepreneurs attach to being in business. Youth entrepreneurship is a phenomenon attracting international interest, but other than in Dr Lewis’ own work has received little empirical attention in New Zealand.
  • Dr Elspeth Tilley, senior lecturer in the Department of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, intends to rework and extend her PhD thesis into a proposed book, On Vanishing. This will explicate a powerful colonial narrative trope: the settler disappearance narrative or ‘white vanishing myth’. On Vanishing will critically examine disappearance tales across literature, cinema, theatre, poetry, media and other cultural forms produced by non-indigenous Australian authors


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