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Published 29 October 2014

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

2014: Twelve 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 Dr John Caradus FRSNZ 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 surgery, mathematics, psychology, law, climate science and biochemistry. 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 as follows:

  • Professor Stuart Carr, Dept of Psychology, Massey University, Albany, has spent over 25 years showing how everyday workplace dynamics impact global and local poverty, and poverty reduction.  His work has led to major international organisations to change their remuneration systems for international and local workers to improve motivation and decrease aid dependence.
  • Professor Catherine Day, Dept of Biochemistry, University of Otago, is a highly innovative protein biochemist and structural biologist who has made advances in understanding protein interactions that occur in programmed cell death and survival – critical in normal human development and cancer.
  • Professor Alison Downard, Dept of Chemistry, University of Canterbury, is an internationally acclaimed scientist working in the fields of electrochemistry, materials chemistry and surface science. She has made pioneering discoveries involving the chemical modification of surfaces at the nanoscale, leading to new electrodes with applications in energy storage and conversion.
  • Professor Ewan Fordyce, Dept of Geology, University of Otago, is New Zealand’s leading vertebrate paleontologist and a world leader in research on the evolution of whales, dolphins and penguins and has shown that the Southern Ocean was a critical location for the evolution of these animals.
  • Professor Nigel French, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, has made a major contribution to our understanding of the epidemiology and control of zoonotic diseases of national and global importance. His research into probable sources of food-borne human campylobacteriosis in New Zealand has greatly assisted efforts to reduce the incidence of this disease.
  • Professor Neil McNaughton, Dept of Psychology, University of Otago, is an internationally acclaimed behavioural neuroscientist who has developed a neuropsychological theory of anxiety.  His research covers widespread areas, from drug-screening models of anxiety and the biological basis of human personality to learning and emotion. His ‘brain by-pass’ technique is being used in a clinical trial of therapeutic treatment for brain trauma in the United States.
  • Professor Alan Merry, Dept of Anaesthesiology, University of Auckland, has researched patient safety (particularly in anaesthetics) and the influence of the law on medical practice. His work on the conceptual basis of negligence and medical manslaughter has contributed to changes in clinical practice internationally and to legislative changes in New Zealand.
  • Professor Tim Naish, Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, has advanced our knowledge of Antarctica’s response to past and present climate changes and their effects on the Earth system. He has shown that Antarctica is highly sensitive to small increases in temperatures that can cause marked responses such as rises in global sea level and loss of the vast Ross Ice Shelf. He has been a key contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Professor Iain Raeburn, Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Otago, specialises in functional analysis: analysis is the part of mathematics which deals with limiting processes, and functional analysis is the part of analysis which deals with problems that are intrinsically infinite-dimensional. Such problems arise in quantum mechanics. Raeburn’s main areas of research involve operator algebras.
  • Professor David Schiel, Dept of Biological  Sciences, University of  Canterbury,  is a marine ecologist and one of New Zealand’s top marine scientists. His marine research covers aquaculture, fisheries, and the diversity and functioning of coastal ecosystems. He is a world expert on kelp forests and temperate reefs, such as those in New Zealand and overseas environmental assessments of coastal developments.
  • Professor Peter Watts, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, has a high international standing in the general area of commercial law, more especially in agency law, company law, and the law of restitution. In agency law, which has connections to most branches of private law, he is one of the Commonwealth’s most distinguished researchers.
  • Professor John Windsor, Dept of Surgery, University of Auckland, is a pre-eminent academic surgeon and research scientist and a pioneer in laparoscopic or keyhole surgery. He is acknowledged as a leading New Zealand specialist in pancreatic surgery and has developed innovative surgical skills training methods and centres.

The new Honorary Fellows elected are: 

  • Professor Michael Fellows, School of Engineering and IT, Charles Darwin University, is one of the world’s leading computer scientists and has long-lasting, deep connections with New Zealand science. With Professor Rod Downey of Victoria University of Wellington, he co-founded the field parameterised complexity theory which is now a major area of computer science.
  • Professor David Paterson, Dept of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, was born and educated in New Zealand, graduating from the University of Otago.  He is now a leading cardiorespiratory physiologist and a world authority in cardiac-neural control. His work focuses on the relationship between cellular and molecular mechanisms in cardio-respiratory control during physiological stress.

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 399 Fellows and 59 Honorary Fellows. Fellows are involved in providing expert advice, promoting best and innovative research practice and disseminating information on the sciences and humanities.