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Published 20 November 2013

Top researchers and scholars elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand

2013: Thirteen top New Zealand researchers and scholars in basic and applied science and the humanities have been elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand

The Society also announced the election of two Honorary Fellows at the Annual General Meeting of the Society’s Academy in Wellington today.

Academy Chairperson Professor Geoff Austin said: “Being elected as a Fellow is an honour given to our top researchers for showing exceptional distinction in research or in the advancement of science, technology or the humanities.

“These newly elected Fellows are leaders in fields as diverse as linguistics, mathematics, computer interfaces, housing and health, and anthropology. They reflect the wide range of work being undertaken by researchers in science, the social sciences and humanities in New Zealand. It gives me great pleasure to announce their election today.”

The new Fellows are:

  • Marti Anderson, Professor in the NZ Institute for Advanced Study at Massey University-Albany, who is an ecological statistician specialising in the development of new quantitative methods for community ecology.
  • Mark Billinghurst, Director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand and Professor at the University of Canterbury, who is a researcher developing innovative computer interfaces that explore how virtual and real worlds can be merged together.
  • Antony Braithwaite, Professor in the Department of Pathology, University of Otago, who has established himself as one of the world’s authorities on a protein called p53, which is a central molecular player in the processes by which the body resists virus infection and the development of cancer.
  • Gregory Cook, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago, who is a world-leading authority on the metabolism and energetics of microbial growth.
  • Rod Ellis, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics at the University of Auckland, who is a world-renowned expert in the field of second language acquisition and language teacher education.
  • Jörg Frauendiener, Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Otago, who is an international expert in Einstein’s theory of general relativity, working mainly on mathematical issues and numerical simulation techniques.
  • Robert Hannah, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Waikato, who is the current leading international authority on the measurement of time and calendar systems in ancient Greece and Rome.
  • Philippa Howden-Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, who leads two internationally recognised research programmes– housing and health (He Kainga Oranga) and sustainable cities (NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities).
  • Philip Hulme, Professor of Plant Biosecurity, Lincoln University, who is recognised worldwide for his scholarship and scientific achievements that have significantly progressed global understanding of the causes and consequences of biological invasions.
  • Lisa Matisoo-Smith, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, who is a biological anthropologist who has made huge contributions to knowledge about the human settlement of the Pacific.
  • Charles Semple, Professor in the Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury, who is a world-leading researcher in two quite different fields –matroid theory (a branch of pure mathematics) and phylogenetics (an applied area at the interface of computer science, discrete mathematics and evolution biology).
  • Rupert Sutherland, GNS Science, Wellington, who is one of New Zealand’s leading earth science researchers with an international reputation in the area of plate motions of the SW Pacific, kinematics of the Alpine fault, structure of petroleum bearing basins of New Zealand and flow and processes in the mantle that control surface topography.
  • Richard Walter, who holds a Personal Chair in the Anthropology Department, University of Otago, and is an internationally renowned scholar of Pacific archaeology and indigenous tradition.

The new Honorary Fellows elected are: 

  • Nobel Prize Winner Professor Sir John Walker FRS, from the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom, who has used protein chemical methods to gain critical insights into the function of the key enzyme involved in cellular energy production, the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase.
  • New Zealander Professor Andrew Roberts from the Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian  National University, who is a world leader in environmental magnetism, rock magnetism and paleomagnetism.

Honorary Fellowships are aimed at encouraging liaison and collaboration between outstanding scientists and scholars of different nations with established and new initiatives in the New Zealand knowledge community.

The Royal Society of New Zealand now has 391 Fellows and 60 Honorary Fellows. Fellows are involved in providing expert advice, promoting best and innovative research practice and disseminating information on the sciences and humanities.