Alert Newsletter 685

Ten researchers awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships

Ten top researchers have been awarded highly sought after fellowships to help them develop their research careers in New Zealand. The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships will provide financial support of $160,000 to $200,000 per year to these researchers over a five-year period. This funding goes towards both their salary and programme of work.

These researchers will receive funding totalling more than $8 million over the next five years. When the scheme is fully operational in 2015/16, more than $9 million a year will fund about 50 fellows at any one time.

This year’s successful recipients work in research fields ranging from microbiology and mathematics, to law and psychology. Their research programmes include control mechanisms for space rockets, Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise, solar materials, privacy issues and the law, and sedimentation in coastal environments. More …

1. Marie Curie Lecture Series – Napier, Christchurch, Auckland

The next lecture in this year-long Marie Curie lecture series being run by the Royal Society of New Zealand is by Professor by Professor Alison Downard, 7.30pm, Wed 26 October, Exhibition Hall, Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, 48 Marine Parade, Napier.

This lecture is titled “From the Bottom Up”. Take electrochemistry, materials chemistry and surface chemistry, and mix in some nanotechnology and biology and the possibilities are endless. In electrochemistry, electrical energy is used to force oxidation and reduction (redox) reactions to occur at electrodes. The materials and surfaces of electrodes are the starting point and with the techniques of nanotechnology, we can get right down to the surface to see what is happening and maybe even take control. The lecture will showcase some of the ways we make electrodes, enzymes and bugs work together for us, how we can use carbon nanotubes to give us new electrical devices and how electrochemistry may play a role in a future world of nanoscale devices.

Alison Downard Alison is a Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and leader of the Institute’s Molecular Materials theme. She is currently the chair-elect of the Analytical Electrochemistry Division of the International Society of Electrochemistry.

Here is the rest of the Marie Curie Lecture Series programme for 2011:

  • Christchurch – “The Light Fantastic” by Dr Cather Simpson, 7.30pm, Tues 8 November, Room 108, Law Building, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
  • Auckland – “The Wonderful World of Enzymes – insights into drug design, catalysis and molecular evolution”, by Associate Professor Emily Parker, Wed 9 Nov, 6.30pm, The Auditorium, Auckland Museum, The Domain, Parnell, Auckland

Find out more

2. Book now for lectures next week by Rutherford Medal winner, Professor Warren Tate – Palmerston North, Rotorua and Christchurch

Have you booked to hear Professor Warren Tate, the 2010 Rutherford Medal winner? He is continuing his tour of New Zealand delivering a free lecture looking at one of the biggest questions in life “How did we get here?” His lecture is entitled – How to Make Life from the Primordial Soup.

Professor Tate is an expert in RNA and how understanding the history of this molecule can help with the development of therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In his lecture, ‘How to make life from the primordial soup’, he will explain RNA’s role 3-4 billion years ago in the origin of genetic code and protein synthesis, and how this knowledge is benefiting modern medical research.

The 2011 New Zealand Rutherford Lectures from the Royal Society of New Zealand are free and open to the general public. Bookings are advised.

  • Rotorua – Tuesday 13 September, 7.30pm, Concert Chamber, Rotorua Convention Centre, 1170 Fenton Street
  • Palmerston North – Wednesday 14 September, 7.30pm,Speirs Centre, Palmerston North Boys High School, Featherston Street
  • Christchurch – Thursday 15 September, 6.30pm, University of Canterbury, Lecture theatre C1 (directions on website).

3. Free school resources from TVNZ 7 for science teaching

TVNZ 7 and The Science Learning Hub through the University of Waikato have again collaborated to provide schools, teachers and students with resources for the current curriculum based on two local series on TVNZ 7, ‘Ever Wondered?’ and ‘Innovation Stories’. The resources are targeted at Years 5 to 10, but can be used for younger or older students. If you are a teacher you can register now to receive these resources.

TVNZ 7’s ‘Spotlight on Science + Innovation’ has ended on television, but some of the special programmes produced in New Zealand for the August focus can still be viewed on line. The ‘Ever Wondered?’ series about New Zealand science continues throughout September and into early October with a further 6 new episodes coming up. Watch it on Thursdays at 7.05pm or online later at

4. FUSIONZ website for science, technology, humanities jobs

This week, Fusionz has 1 job vacancy:

  • Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Cardiovascular & Respiratory Physiology and Membrane Physiology & Ion Transport (Confirmation Path Position): University of Otago, Dunedin

For more information and to list your vacancy visit

5. NZ Climate Change Research Institute – Seminar Series, 15 September, 12.30 pm, Wellington

The next lecture in this series is “Climate Change: The Long View” by Professor Tim Naish, Director, Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, and Principal Scientist, GNS Science, Lower Hutt.

This will be held from 12.30 – 1.30 at the Pipitea Campus in the Railway West Wing, Room 501, Wellington.

One of the key questions being addressed by the scientific community for the IPCC 5th Assessment Report is improving estimates of future sea level. This talk will outline progress in the use of past temperature, ice sheet reconstructions and sea level records in addressing this issue. More information at

6. Earthquake risk in Wellington, Hochstetter lecture, 28 Sept, University of Waikato

The University of Waikato will host lecturer Russ Van Dissen from GNS Science on Wednesday 28 September as part of a lecture series given around the country. The lecture titled ‘It’s Our Fault – Better Defining Earthquake Risk in Wellington’, is a comprehensive study of Wellington’s earthquake risk. The objective of the study is to position the capital city of New Zealand to become more resilient through an encompassing study of the likelihood of large earthquakes, the effects of these earthquakes, and their impacts on humans and the built environment. The free public lecture takes place at 7.30pm in MSB.1.01 at the University of Waikato.

7. Social Science Research Methods Courses – New Zealand Social Statistics Network, February 2012, Wellington

The New Zealand Social Statistics Network (NZSSN) is offering 5-day courses, a 3-day course and a 2-day course under the banner of Social Science Research Methods, 13-24 February 2012. The courses take place at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Government.

The NZSSN Summer programme is designed to serve a wide variety of needs for training and professional development within the academic, public and private sectors. Courses cater not only to researchers in the social and political sciences, but also those in areas such as the behavioural sciences, medical and health sciences, epidemiology, policy research, education, economics, law, management, marketing, public relations and human resource management. Full details at

8. Call for Abstracts for SPS 2012 conference, Wellington, Feb 2012

The Inaugural Asia Pacific Science Policy Studies (SPS) Research Conference is being held in Wellington 8-10 February 2012. Conference details can be found at The Call for Abstracts has been extended to 15 October 2011. The conference organising committee invites you and your colleagues to consider how you might be involved in this Inaugural Asia Pacific Science Policy Studies Research Conference.  Online early bird registration period will commence late September

9. World Space Week, 4-10 October

KiwiSpace is the national coordinator for World Space Week. They have launched a new site dedicated for New Zealand events and activities. KiwiSpace is planning some webinars that people can attend (including hopefully an astronaut to speak).

10. National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee appointments

The Minister of Agriculture recently appointed Dr Penny Fisher to NAWAC. She replaces Dr Philip Cowan. The Minister also appointed Dr Karen Phillips for a second term.

11. Our Changing World, Thursday 9.00 pm, Radio New Zealand National

Alison Ballance, Veronika Meduna and Ruth Beran email Tel (04) 474 1910.

Auckland University PhD student Kate Lomas is investigating the anatomy and physical properties of tree weta ears, and she tells Alison Ballance about the sounds that weta make and hear.

Wellington-based biotechnology company Mesynthes is turning sheep fore-stomachs into wound-healing products. Scientific director Barnaby May takes Ruth Beran through the lab, and explains how the biomaterial they have developed works as a scaffold for tissue regeneration.

Veronika Meduna meets Victoria University marine biologist Simon Davy to discuss the ecological importance of coral reefs, why they are expected to vanish within the next century or less, and whether there is still time to avert their extinction.

Alison Ballance catches up with Massey University biochemist Wayne Patrick and PhD student Valerie Soo, who have been ‘speeding’ up microbial evolution to show how protein promiscuity can result in the unexpected development of antibiotic resistance.

Shorter science, health and environment features also air during Afternoons with Jim Mora at 3.35 p.m., Monday to Thursday. The programme is repeated at 1.10 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

You can download a podcast or listen to streaming audio of programmes you’ve missed in the complete programme archive at:

12. Follow the Royal Society of New Zealand on Facebook and Twitter

Get timely updates from the Royal Society of New Zealand team via our Facebook and Twitter channels.