Massey University Research Medals 2007

Distinguished Professor Neil PearceIndividual award

Professor Neil Pearce founded the Centre for Public Health Research in Wellington, when he joined Massey University in 2000, with the centre awarded the Massey Research Award for a team last year.

Professor Pearce has made significant discoveries relating to public health not only in New Zealand but also worldwide; his contribution spanning several decades. During the 1980s Professor Pearce showed there were strong socio-economic differences in mortality in New Zealand, leading to a number of confirmatory studies and incorporation of this knowledge into health policy. Also in the 1980s research led by Professor Pearce found that the high mortality rates for Mäori were not due solely to socio-economic factors but were also due to problems of access to health care. In 1988 Professor Pearce showed that meat workers have an increased risk of some types of cancer, work which has been confirmed overseas igniting interest in the likely aetiological mechanisms.

In 1990 and in 1995 Professor Pearce studied the role of Fenoterol in the New Zealand asthma mortality epidemic of the 1970s and 1980s, with the Government ultimately acknowledging the role of Fenoterol in many deaths and restricting its availability.

Asthma has been an area of sustained research, and Professor Pearce was one of the founders of the international Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, involving more than two million children in 250 centres in 100 countries. He also published a series of reviews and commentaries that have questioned the importance of allergic mechanisms for asthma, stimulating interest in non-allergic mechanisms.

In 1998 Professor Pearce was awarded a Silver Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand, and in 2005 he was elected a Fellow. He is serving as president-elect of the International Epidemiological Association from 2005 and will serve as president from next year until 2011.

Professor Pearce's first degree was a BSc in mathematics, followed by a DipSci mathematics and later a PhD in epidemiology, all at the University of Otago. A DipORS was completed at Victoria University in 1978 and in 2003 Professor Pearce completed a DSc in epidemiology at Massey. Prior to joining Massey, Professor Pearce was professor and director of the asthma research group at the Wellington School of Medicine. He is an honorary research fellow at the Ministry of Health's Public Health Intelligence Unit.

Professor Pearce was successful this year in applying for a Massey University technician's award for the project Balancing Innate Immunity in Asthma. The funding for a full-time technician will allow establishment of a research programme into the immunological mechanisms of asthma, which will be developed in collaboration with the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.

Professor Pearce also receives a University Technicians Award and a College of Sciences individual award.


Professor Barry ScottSupervisor award

Since his appointment as Professor of Molecular Genetics at Massey in 1985, Professor Barry Scott has supervised 21 doctorates and nine masterates, including 17 doctorates as first supervisor.

After completing a BSc (Hons) and a PhD in biochemistry at the University of Otago, professor Scott worked as a research scientist at DSIR before being appointed professor.

Professor Scott has set a high academic standard for research, with highlights including a PBRF A rating, many invited presentations at international conferences including the plenary lecture at the 2007 Fungal Genetics meeting, and six invited reviews. Much of his research has been collaborative, with New Zealand's AgResearch and overseas academics and organisations.

Recent scientific successes include molecular cloning and genetic analysis of the first gene cluster for the biosynthesis of indole-diterpenes, the molecular cloning and genetic analysis of two additional indole-diterpene gene clusters, new insights into the process of concerted evolution through the study of inter-specific hybrids of grass endophytes, important insights into the mechanisms of plasmid integration in fungal genomes and identification for the first time of the evolutionary origins of non-culturable fungal endophytes of grasses. Professor Scott has also demonstrated for the first time that a fungal metabolite can provide protection to a plant host from insect herbivory and identified a novel role for reactive oxygen species in maintaining a mutualistic interaction between a fungus and a plant.

The core of Professor Scott's success as a supervisor is two-fold: a passion and enjoyment for excellent research, and a careful and explicit management policy applied to all students. The passion for research means projects selected by Professor Scott are ambitious and always at the leading edge of the interface of microbiology, genetics and biochemistry. Professor Scott's approach includes requiring each student to write a research proposal, a schedule of regular meetings and a defence of their PhD topic at the end of year one.

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