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Published 11 August 2006

Royal Society elects 12 scientists to prestigious science academy

2006: Ten new Fellows and two Honorary Fellows were formally accepted at a gathering of the Royal Society Academy Council in Dunedin this week.

An expert in mimicking gravity and a scientist known as “Mr White Clover” are among the 12 new scientists elected to the Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand this year.

Professor Carolyn Burns, President of the Academy Council of the Royal Society, said “the twelve scientists elected this year really demonstrate the breadth of excellent research being carried out in New Zealand today. Among the new Fellows are the scientist who first described the effects of the contraceptive Depo Provera on bone density; an international expert on “bridge scour” – the effect structures have on river sediment transfer; a leader in quantum optics; and a researcher who, through studying the heat-loving microorganisms that live in our hot springs, has placed New Zealand at the forefront of modern research on extremophiles.

“I’d like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to each of the new Fellows. These are people who have dedicated years of hard work and exceptional thinking to their respective fields. A lot of world class science is being conducted in New Zealand, but the selection process for Fellows involves such exhaustive selection with discipline-specific panels and independent international reviews that only a small number of those nominated ever get through.”

The Royal Society now has 332 Fellows and 46 Honorary Fellows (scientists living overseas, but who have connections to New Zealand). Fellows are involved in providing expert advice, promoting scientific best practice, and disseminating scientific information.

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

Fellows

  • Dr John R. Caradus, Chief Executive Officer, GrasslanzTM, AgResearch
  • Professor Howard J. Carmichael, Dan Walls Professor in Theoretical Physics, The University of Auckland
  • Professor Timothy F. Cundy, Professor of Medicine, The University of Auckland,
  • Professor David M. Fergusson, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago
  • Dr Stephen L. Goldson, Chief Science Strategist, AgResearch Ltd and Professorial Fellow, Lincoln University
  • Professor Peter E. Lobie, Associate Director, The Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland
  • Professor Bruce W. Melville, Professor and Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland
  • Dr Peter E. H. Minchin, Senior Scientist, HortResearch
  • Professor Hugh W. Morgan, Department of Biological Sciences and co-Director of the Thermophile Research Unit, University of Waikato
  • Matthew J. Visser, Professor of Mathematics, Victoria University of Wellington

Honorary Fellows

  • Richard D. Bardgett, Professor of Ecology, Lancaster University, UK
  • Stephen B. H. Kent, Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago, USA,

Dr John R. Caradus, Chief Executive Officer, GrasslanzTM, AgResearch, is acknowledged as the world’s expert on the breeding and development of white clover cultivars, and the use of white clover in agriculture. Through his work on the genetic control and heritability of characteristics that affect persistence and performance of white clover he has produced 13 new cultivars that have led to his recognition by peers and colleagues around the world as “Mr White Clover.” The cultivar, Grasslands Sustain is now the premier proprietary white clover in Australasia; in March 2006, Crusader was awarded the prestigious Gold Cup of the UK National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

In a rare dual achievement of technological outputs such as cultivars, and scientific publication, John Caradus has also excelled in publishing his research. He is the author of more than 90 papers in refereed scientific journals, 6 book chapters, and more than 100 conference papers, and other reports. For his contributions to agricultural science and leadership in plant improvement and breeding John has been elected to Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Science and to Fellow of the Agronomy Society of New Zealand.

Howard J. Carmichael, Dan Walls Professor in Theoretical Physics, University of Auckland, has made seminal contributions to the field of quantum optics over more than three decades. He is known particularly for his development of quantum trajectory theory, although he has contributed also to advances in the theory of non classical light and quantum correlation, quantum optical measurements, quantum fluctuations and noise in radiative processes, non linear physics and multi-photon processes, cavity quantum electrodynamics and quantum statistical methods.

Howard Carmichael’s work is noted for its originality and depth. He is the author of two highly acclaimed books, An Open Systems Approach to Quantum Optics (1993) and Statistical Methods in Quantum Optics 1 (1999), which are already classics in the field. He has authored more than 90 articles in high impact journals, approximately 30 refereed conference proceedings, and has given more than 100 invited lectures. He is, or has been, on the editorial boards of five top journals in physics and optics. His outstanding contributions to theoretical quantum optics and quantum mechanics of open systems have been acknowledged in his Fellowships of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America; in 2003 he was awarded the highly prestigious Max Born Award of the Optical Society of America.

Timothy F. Cundy, Professor of Medicine, University of Auckland, is known internationally for his original contributions in the area of metabolic bone disease. He first described the effects of the contraceptive Depo Provera on bone density, documented trends in the incidence of Paget’s disease and contributed to elucidation of the genetic basis of osteoporosis, pseudoglioma syndrome and idiopathic hyperphosphatasia. His work spans the range from molecular to applied clinical studies and involves leadership of large international collaborative networks.

Timothy Cundy is author of 27 book chapters and more than 125 articles with hallmark publications in the very prestigious journals, Cell, New England Journal of Medicine, British Medical Journal and Bone. He has published extensively on pregnancy in women with type 2 diabetes – now emerging as a major medical and obstetric issue. He is regularly invited to address major international meetings and referee for international journals and granting bodies.

Professor David M. Fergusson,University of Otago, is founder and Director of the Christchurch Health and Development Study, a longitudinal study of 1,265 children born in the Christchurch urban region in mid-1977. This cohort has been studied to the age of 25 years.

David Fergusson is the author of 3 books and over 300 publications dealing with issues such as lead and childhood behaviour; breast-feeding and intelligence; childhood sexual abuse and mental health; cannabis and mental health; mental health and suicidal behaviours, and early intervention. His enormous contribution to the international literature is matched by a high degree of local policy relevance and impact. He is on the editorial boards of 4 journals in psychology and psychiatry, and a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. He is co-founder and Chair of Christchurch’s Early Start Ltd programme. In 2006, he was awarded the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences Gold Medal for Research Excellence. His findings in this ground-breaking longitudinal study have been described overseas as “a lasting contribution from New Zealand to world science.”

Dr Stephen L. Goldson, Chief Science Strategist, AgResearch Ltd and Professorial Fellow, Lincoln University, has led programmes to explore mechanisms of biological suppression of two severe pasture pests in New Zealand, the clover root weevil (Sitona lepidus) and Argentine stem weevil (Listronotus bonariensis), and identified the critical importance of subspecies in biological control. His fundamental research into insect behaviours and the ecological and genetic components of biological pest suppression have informed crop management. He has authored more than 140 papers in scientific journals and conference proceedings, and has made a seminal contribution to the potential of sensor technologies to improve New Zealand’s border biosecurity through the invention of SniffertechTM, a device to identify risk biological material in shipping containers.

Stephen Goldson is an original thinker who has made outstanding contributions in New Zealand to the development of policy related to pasture management, biological control of insect pests, biosecurity and biotechnology through his service on numerous national advisory committees. He was Adviser to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, 1996-1997, and President of the New Zealand Plant Protection Society (2001-2003). He is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Science and the Royal Entomological Society of London, and a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Professor Peter E. Lobie, Associate Director, The Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, is a world-class molecular endocrinologist in the field of growth hormone and cancer research. As an international expert on the mode of action of peptide hormones and growth hormone, particularly at the cellular level, he has defined the signal transduction pathways and revealed a level of complexity not previously considered. He has shown that tumours such as breast cancer secrete a locally produced hormone (autocrine) GH, that acts in a very distinct manner from endocrine circulating growth hormone.

Since 1990, Peter Lobie has authored more than 66 experimental papers, a third of them in the leading Journal of Biological Chemistry, and 16 outstanding reviews and book chapters; he holds 4 patents. He is on the editorial board of Endocrinology, the premier journal in the field. The seminal, critical and novel observations by Peter Lobie and his colleagues open up potential new approaches to the treatment of invasive human breast cancer.

Bruce W. Melville, Professor and Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland, is recognised internationally for his leading edge research on sediment transport mechanisms in streams and rivers contributing to structure-induced sediment scour, or bridge scour, a field of considerable significance in New Zealand because of our many, large, braided rivers. The methodologies he has developed and described in his authoritative textbook, Bridge Scour (2000) have become widely used in design in New Zealand and overseas.

Bruce Melville’s research is described also in more than 150 refereed journal and conference papers and book chapters; he is a frequent invited keynote speaker at international conferences and workshops, and is Associate Editor of the top-ranked Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, the most widely read journal in his field. He is an elected Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand, and in 2002 he was awarded the prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers Hydraulic Structures Medal for lifetime contributions to the field.

Dr Peter E. H. Minchin, Senior Scientist, HortResearch, is recognised internationally for his elegant, innovative experiments and scholarly contributions to theoretical understanding of the mechanisms that control solute flow in plants. He has combined his skills in medical physics, biology and mathematics to pioneer the measurement and interpretation of phloem transport in living plants using the short-lived isotope 11C as a tracer. He and his colleagues have produced important new models of plant function and he is now leading the development of mechanistic models to explain the partitioning of photosynthate between competing plant organs.

Peter Minchin is author of more than 99 highly cited (>1400 citations) scientific papers, reports and book chapters, and he is on the Advisory Editorial Board of the international Journal of Experimental Botany. By developing models of fruit growth that are widely used to predict crop volumes and harvest maturity, he has made significant contributions to New Zealand horticulture, particularly our apple and kiwifruit industries. The calibre of his research is acknowledged in a Ministerial Award for Excellence in Scientific Research (1989) and in awards from the New Zealand Society of Physiologists (inaugural Outstanding Physiologist Award, 2001, with M. R. Thorpe), and a ‘best paper’ award from the journal, Functional Biology (2005).

Professor Hugh W. Morgan, Department of Biological Sciences and co-Director of the Thermophile Research Unit, University of Waikato, initiated the study of thermophiles sourced in our hot springs, in the early 1970’s. Since then, he has made outstanding national and international contributions to the isolation, characterisation, ecology, physiology and biochemistry of thermophilic microorganisms, and has placed New Zealand at the forefront of modern research on extremophiles. His fundamental research has led to the discovery of novel energetic processes.

Hugh Morgan and his group have isolated and named at least 10 new species of thermophilic bacteria. He is an author of more than 130 papers in international journals and has been on the organising committee, or a plenary speaker, at every international meeting on thermophiles since 1980; he is on the editorial boards of FEMS Microbial Ecology, Extremophiles, and Biochemical Journal.

In addition, Hugh Morgan has pioneered industrial applications of microbiology and enzymology. With others he established the biotechnology company ZyGEM, based on thermophilic enzymes. Our dairy industry has benefited from his innovative application of molecular fingerprinting techniques to identify sources of microbial contaminants in milk powder.

Matthew J. Visser, Professor of Mathematics, Victoria University of Wellington, is a highly creative mathematical physicist who has made significant contributions to general relativity, the theory of black holes, cosmology, and quantum field theory. Scientifically, he is best known for his work in two areas: Lorentzian worm holes (hypothetical objects allowing short cuts through space and time), and analogue spacetimes (ways of mimicking gravity using simpler physical systems).

Matthew Visser is extraordinarily productive in publishing his research; he is author of more than 120 papers in the best scientific journals, 30 reports, articles and conference proceedings, 5 book chapters and 2 books, Lorentzian Wormholes from Einstein to Hawking (1995) which has been reprinted four times and is now regarded as a modern classic, and Artificial Black Holes (2002). He is a superb teacher and an excellent communicator of science to the public as exemplified by his contributions to the popular BBC documentary, The Time Lords, and in 2005 to E = mc2 via Radio New Zealand.

HONORARY FRSNZ

Richard D. Bardgett, Professor of Ecology, Lancaster University, UK, conducts leading edge research on the linkages between plant and soil communities, especially how soil organisms and their interactions influence soil nutrient cycling and the productivity and structure of grazed plant communities. His work is published in more than 110 book chapters and papers in the top ecological journals; seven papers have appeared in Nature and Science. His highly praised book, The Biology of Soil: A Community and Ecosystem Approach, published by Oxford University Press (2005) is already being widely used throughout the world. He is on the editorial boards of four international journals in ecology and soil biology, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Ecosystems, Journal of Ecology, and Applied Soil Ecology. Since 2000, he has delivered 15 keynote lectures at international conferences and 20 invited seminars at universities in Europe, North America and New Zealand.

Richard Bardgett’s research career in soil ecology has been strongly influenced by his long-term and ongoing links with New Zealand researchers at Landcare Research including Drs David Wardle FRSNZ, Gregor Yeates FRSNZ, Tom Speir and Laurie Greenfield. He is actively involved in current long-term, FRST-funded research projects in New Zealand and co-supervises a doctoral student’s research in New Zealand.

Stephen B. H. Kent, Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago, USA, is one of the world’s leading researchers in biological chemistry. A principal focus of his research is to understand the chemical basis of protein function, particularly enzyme catalysis, and to design and build protein molecules with novel properties.

Stephen Kent is the author of more than 180 papers in high impact journals, many of them in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He has founded two companies, Ciphergen Biosystems, and Gryphon Therapeutics (President and Chief Scientist 1997-2001), and holds 30 US patents. Several prestigious international awards include the Vincent du Vigneaud Award (American Peptide Society), Kaiser Award (The Protein Society), and Hirschmann National Award in Peptide Chemistry (American Chemical Society), and he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Kent maintains close links with New Zealand through his appointments to the Board of the Centre for Functional Genomics, Victoria University, and as Adjunct Professor, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Auckland. He has provided training and advice on recent technology that is underpinning interdisciplinary research at The University of Auckland on the development of vaccines to treat cancer.