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Published 17 November 2004

Royal Society elects 12 new Fellows

2004: The Royal Society of New Zealand elected 12 new Fellows to its prestigious science academy today, at a gathering of its Academy Council in Christchurch.

Royal Society Academy Council President, Professor Carolyn Burns, said, “This year’s new Fellows highlight areas of impressive strength and excellence in science and technology in New Zealand across a wide range of disciplines, from mathematical physics to medical ethics.

“Concerns have been expressed over the past decade about declining mathematical skills among young New Zealanders. Therefore, it is very pleasing to see the importance of pure and applied mathematics to research, industry, and the advancement of knowledge that is highlighted in the election of four of this year’s new Fellows (Collins, Oxley, Pavlov, Wake).

“Although most of the 2004 Fellows are based at universities, many of them carry out their research in collaboration with others in New Zealand and overseas, and several new Fellows direct, or have leadership roles in, centres of research focus for the development and application of science and technology to the benefit of New Zealand, for example, the Natural Hazards Research Centre, Bioethics Çentre, and the Mathematics in Industry Study Group.”

The Fellowship selection process is rigorous, involving discipline-specific selection panels and independent international review. Only a small number from those nominated are ultimately selected. There are now 322 Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Full details on each of the Fellows are given after this summary list.

  • Dr Ross E. Beever, Senior Scientist, Landcare Research, Auckland
  • Professor Ian F. Collins, Department of Engineering Science, The University of Auckland
  • Professor John D. Fraser, Department of Molecular Medicine and Director of the School of Medical Sciences, The University of Auckland
  • Professor Boris S. Pavlov, Department of Mathematics, The University of Auckland
  • Professor James (Jim) Cole, Department of Geological Sciences, and Director, Natural Hazards Research Centre, University of Canterbury
  • Professor Peter R. Joyce, Department of Psychological Medicine, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago
  • Professor Leslie T. Oxley, Department of Economics, University of Canterbury
  • Professor Graeme C. Wake, Professor of Industrial Mathematics and Centre for Mathematics in Industry, Massey University at Albany, and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, University of Canterbury
  • Professor Stephen D. Wratten, Professor of Ecology, Lincoln University
  • Professor C. Gerald (Gerry) Carrington, Department of Physics, University of Otago
  • Professor Grant R. Gillett, Professor of Medical Ethics at the Bioethics Centre and Professor of Neurosurgery at the Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago
  • Professor Helen M. Leach, Department of Anthropology, University of Otago

Dr Ross E. Beever, Senior Scientist, Landcare Research, Auckland, has made outstanding contributions to mycology, plant pathology and New Zealand botany over 33 years of active research. In his painstaking and innovative research on fungi from the subcellular level through to the ecosystem level he has collaborated widely with colleagues having complementary skills, and combined applied work with more fundamental studies.

In this way, his research has significantly advanced our knowledge of fungal behaviour and the physiology of plant diseases. He has developed methods to manage the problems of fungicide resistance in economically important fungi such as Botrytis, and he led the team that identified flax yellow leaf phytoplasma as the organism responsible for the widespread death of cabbage trees throughout northern New Zealand.

Dr Beever is a skilled field observer with an extensive knowledge of native plants and fungi, and an inspiring leader of his younger colleagues.

Professor C. Gerald (Gerry) Carrington, Department of Physics, University of Otago, has a distinguished reputation, initially in fundamental contributions to atomic physics and spectroscopy and, for the past 25 years, in the application of principles and techniques from physics to thermodynamic processes and efficient energy usage. An impressive output of patents, industry reports and refereed papers in international journals testify to the scientific rigour of his research.

He has been outstandingly successful in performing research of the highest quality and bridging the gap between applied science and commercial applications. He has taken his research findings through to successful commercial application that include: setting up a successful spin-off company which implemented energy efficiencies for large industries, developing a domestic hot water heat pump system that went into local production, and leading a sophisticated thermodynamic analysis to improve the operating efficiency of the Huntly power station. His creativity and originality have led to significant advances in the development of heat pump drying technology for use in the timber and food industries.

Since the 1980s, Gerry Carrington’s far-sighted view of the energy problems looming ahead for New Zealand has provided objective, measured analyses for the public and government.

Professor James (Jim) Cole, Department of Geological Sciences and Director, Natural Hazards Research Centre, University of Canterbury, is best known nationally and internationally for his major contributions to understanding the origin and evolution of the Taupo Volcanic Zone of New Zealand – arguably, the world’s most significant natural volcanic laboratory.

He has written seminal papers on virtually all geological aspects of the Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) that have helped to clarify aspects of physical volcanology, volcanic stratigraphy, structure and tectonics, petrogenesis of magmas, identification and formation of calderas, geochemical aspects of magma chamber processes, volcano monitoring and volcano hazard assessment. He pioneered in New Zealand the study of lithic blocks in ignimbrites as a window through which to see the development of caldera complexes and assess the composition of the sub volcanic crust. The extraordinary breadth and excellence of his research is impressive.

In the course more than 35 years research in the TVZ, Jim Cole has inspired numerous colleagues, and guided and nurtured the research of more than 100 postgraduate students. He has been a catalyst for much geological research on volcanic processes and products.

Professor Ian F. Collins, Department of Engineering Science, University of Auckland, has distinguished himself in the areas of mechanical engineering and applied mathematics, with contributions in solid mechanics and thermo-mechanics, and their applications to aspects of glaciology, metal-forming, friction and wear, structural mechanics, composite materials, geomechanics and geotechnical engineering. He has developed rigorous models of engineering processes which are also workable from an engineering perspective.

Ian Collins is one of the world’s foremost experts on fundamental plasticity theory and its application to mechanical and geotechnical problems. As an international expert on geomaterials he has applied the basic laws of thermodynamics to develop a completely new procedure for developing constitutive models for soils, sand, and other geomaterials. His pioneering work on the application of “shakedown theory” to predict the performance of layered road pavements has been taken up by engineering groups in the United Kingdom and Australia. He is a profoundly original thinker whose work pushes the subject in a new direction.

Professor John D. Fraser, Department of Molecular Medicine and Director of the School of Medical Sciences, University of Auckland, is renowned for the quality of his research in the regulation of the immune system and the mechanism by which superantigens function at the cellular and molecular level. Since his pioneering discovery of the molecular mechanisms by which these microbial enterotoxins stimulate the immune system, John Fraser has gone on to define molecular details of the interactions involved in the binding of superantigens to MHC class II and the T cell receptor — work that has attracted world attention. In collaboration with outstanding crystallographers based in New Zealand, he has defined the molecular architecture of the superantigen interaction, thereby further enhancing his international reputation for research on these proteins.

John Fraser recognised, early on, the possibilities for his research that would be provided by the burgeoning availability of new bacterial genome sequences, and he has used bioinformatics to elucidate the evolutionary origins of superantigens and the pathogenic islands that contain the genes for these proteins. He is widely acknowledged as an international leader in the field of molecular pathogenesis.

Grant R. Gillett is Professor of Medical Ethics at the Bioethics Centre and Professor of Neurosurgery at the Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago. He is an impressively prolific and creative philosophical researcher, especially in those areas of philosophy of mind and language that intersect with bioethics and with the brain and behavioural sciences. His work in bioethics is impressive for its intellectual creativity and range, and has resulted in leading contributions to the literature on euthanasia, clinical ethics, neurosurgery, philosophy and psychiatry, and the intersections of bioethics with philosophy of mind and language. In every one of these areas, he has made substantial and significant contributions in the New Zealand context and in leading international journals and books.

Grant Gillett has been one of the founders of the study of medical ethics in New Zealand. Not only has he made important practical contributions to study and debate concerning medical issues in New Zealand and the teaching of biomedical ethics, he has also made substantial professional contributions, for example as a member of the Editorial Boards of seven scientific journals. Grant Gillett is an extraordinarily energetic, creative, and innovative philosopher whose work is world class.

Professor Peter R. Joyce, Department of Psychological Medicine, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has established an international reputation for his significant contributions to psychiatric epidemiology and to untangling the complex relationships between personality, genetics and depression, particularly in relation to treatment response. His research has focused on depression and bipolar disorder, with important contributions on individual responses to antidepressant drugs, and the effects of age and personality. His acclaimed research on suicide in young people has been recognised in an international award; currently, he is using molecular genetics to assess variations in disease susceptibility and in drug responses between individuals.

Peter Joyce is a highly productive researcher, much of whose work is published in the top psychiatric journals. His international standing is reflected in his being the only New Zealander to have contributed to a leading textbook in psychiatry and twice being awarded the pre-eminent senior research award by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. He has built up and leads a strong research active department of psychiatry and has inspired and trained an unusually large number of medically qualified PhD students.

Professor Helen M. Leach, Department of Anthropology, University of Otago, has achieved world class status for her scholarly contributions in the fields of: Polynesian stone technology and its development in which she pioneered innovative research methodologies; the social history and anthropology of horticulture and related fields of diet; culinary practice and plant foods; and the documentation and critical assessment of the history of archaeology and anthropology in Oceania.

Her work is published in the leading international anthropological and archaeological journals, and constantly cited. She is the author of more than 27 book chapters and 13 books, most notably, Subsistence Patterns in Prehistoric New Zealand (1969), 1,000 years of Gardening in New Zealand (1984) that includes both Maori and European practices, and Cultivating Myths: Fiction, Fact and Fashion in Garden History (2000) that explores, from an anthropological perspective, the ‘historical’ justifications for the emergence of several different gardening types in the Western horticultural tradition. Helen Leach’s commitment to the communication of her science is evident in a steady stream of popular books and articles on the history and archaeology of gardens, traditional foods and cookery that have made her a household name in New Zealand.

Professor Leslie T. Oxley, Department of Economics, University of Canterbury, and Adjunct Professor, University of Western Australia, is recognised internationally for the advances he has made in econometric modelling and testing, particularly as applied to studies of industrialization, economic growth and the measurement of human capital. His work is at the forefront of research using modern time-series econometric methods to advance understanding of both unique historical events – for example, the British Industrial Revolution – and current issues of central importance, including the determinants of economic growth and the measurement of human capital.

Leslie Oxley has used novel statistical methods to substantiate and refine measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and his outstanding combinations of statistical, mathematical, economic and historiographical skills to create major resources of new time series data for Australia and New Zealand. A unique characteristic of his research, which is published in the leading international journals in economics, economic history and econometrics, is the ability to create advanced research methods derived from econometrics, statistics and mathematics to resolve important controversial issues in economics and economic history.

Leslie Oxley is an outstanding scholar whose innovative research has had a significant impact on his profession.

Professor Boris S. Pavlov, Department of Mathematics, University of Auckland, has an exceptional international reputation for his mathematical analyses. His penetrating investigations in mathematical physics, published in more than 170 papers in top international journals, have led to significant advances in wide areas of mathematics that include Spectral and Functional analysis and the theory of Riesz bases. His more recent work concerns the discovery of a quantitatively consistent method of modelling quantum networks based on connections with scattering theory and the solvable models of quantum field theory.

Boris Pavlov’s research is original and deep; his international standing is recognised by many fellowships and prestigious visiting positions at institutions in Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Austria, Israel and Japan, as well as numerous conference invitations. His contributions to mathematics are also evidenced by the more than 20 PhD students he has supervised.

Graeme C. Wake, Professor of Industrial Mathematics and Centre for Mathematics in Industry, Massey University at Albany, and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, University of Canterbury, is a talented and versatile applied mathematician who has been instrumental in focussing applied mathematics on issues of specific relevance to New Zealand, particularly in modelling biological systems in the agricultural, health and industrial sectors. He has applied ingenious mathematics to develop models for the spontaneous combustion of wool, hay and lignite, the growth of pasture for optimum production, population dynamics and control of unwanted animals and plants, and in minimizing the effects of epidemics and environmental damage by pests. In collaboration with biologists and clinical oncologists, he has developed innovative models of tumour cell growth with applications to cancer therapy. His world-class work is reported in more than 165 refereed publications.

Graeme Wake has significantly advanced the teaching and application of mathematics in New Zealand. His enthusiasm and energy have inspired numerous research students and collaborators. He currently directs the Mathematics in Industry Study Group and is a founding member, former President (twice), and Fellow of the New Zealand Mathematics Society; he is the first New Zealander to be elected President of Australian and New Zealand Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Stephen D. Wratten, Professor of Ecology, Lincoln University, has achieved international recognition for his research on plant-insect interactions and the biological control of agricultural pests by parasites and predators. His innovative studies have revealed chemical responses in plants to insect herbivores, and how rapidly-changing plant chemistry can affect the population dynamics of these insects. Much of his research has centred on understanding and modelling the complex feeding interactions between plants and insects, and between insects and their parasites, that exist in agricultural ecosystems; it has revealed the importance of providing refuges in fields and hedgerows to enhance the populations of parasites and predators that control the insect pests, and in doing so has led to the recognition of “conservation biological control.” His work, and that of his research groups has greatly advanced our understanding of the dynamics of insect communities in agricultural landscapes.

Stephen Wratten is an outstandingly productive ecological entomologist and a gifted communicator. He collaborates widely and is the author or co-author of 5 books, more than 60 book chapters and reviews, and over 230 research papers. Through his research, the establishment of research and teaching facilities at Lincoln, and the training of over 60 PhD students, he has made a substantial impact on agricultural entomology and plant protection in New Zealand.