2007: Ten new Fellows and three Honorary Fellows were formally elected at the Fellows’ Annual General Meeting in Palmerston North this week.
One of the world’s outstanding contributors to the study of human intelligence and the author of one of the most highly-cited soil science articles worldwide are just two of the 13 new scientists elected this year to the Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Ten new Fellows were formally elected at the Fellows’ Annual General Meeting in Palmerston North this week, and three new Honorary Fellows (scientists living overseas, but who have connections to New Zealand) were announced at the meeting.
Professor Marston Conder, President of the Academy of the Royal Society, said “election as a Fellow is a mark of high distinction, reflecting many years of dedication, creative thinking, and world-class research and innovation. The Fellowship selection process is comprehensive, involving discipline-specific selection panels and independent international review, and only a small number of those nominated ever get through.”
The Royal Society now has 340 Fellows and 48 Honorary Fellows. 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.
Sally Brooker, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Otago, is a leading expert in the rational design and synthesis of libraries of acyclic and macrocyclic ligands, incorporating bridging groups which facilitate communication between paramagnetic metal ions. The resulting metal compounds set a precedent in combining the spin-crossover phenomenon with magnetic exchange, and are important for the development of candidates for incorporation into nano-devices for information storage and processing, as they may be switched between two or more different electronic states.
Publications featuring her work during the 1990s have led to many fruitful collaborative ties, with over 20 leading laboratories around the world. Her strong international reputation and peer esteem have been reflected in over 60 invited presentations in New Zealand and overseas. The ground-breaking work of her research group has featured six times on the front covers of top journals (such as Angewandte Chemie, Chemical Communications, and the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry).
She has consistently demonstrated her qualities as a scholar and research leader, and has supervised and mentored more than 35 students and postdoctoral fellows.
James Flynn, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Otago, is regarded as one of the outstanding contributors to the study of human intelligence in the past 50 years.
His research in the 1970s and 1980s refuted arguments made about a significant genetic influence in differences in IQ between races, and confirmed environment as a more significant influence of these differences. His international reputation was later cemented with his discovery that scores on most standard IQ tests showed astonishingly large increases over the course of the 20th century; this is now known as the ‘Flynn Effect’.
Professor Flynn has published six books, which have made path-breaking contributions, and over 80 refereed papers and chapters. His findings have influenced numerous social policies in the USA (including the death penalty for criminal defendants, social security benefits, military eligibility, and special education). The international impact of Professor Flynn’s work has led to a series of awards and invitations to present keynote addresses (to bodies such as the American Psychological Association, the Hoover Institution, and the Novartis Foundation Symposium on Intelligence). One of his most recent honours was his selection as the Distinguished Scientist for 2007 by the International Society for Intelligence Research.
Allan Herbison, Professorial Research Fellow in Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at the University of Otago, is an outstanding scientist in the field of reproductive neurobiology.
His pioneering work in developing transgenic methodologies for examining the molecular and cellular properties of specific neuronal cell types have led to a paradigm shift in the understanding of the neural control of fertility. The key neurons responsible for controlling fertility are the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. Through the ingenious use of promoter transgenic strategies, Professor Herbison has developed technologies that have enabled the first molecular and cellular investigations of GnRH neurons to be undertaken, and has become a leader in this field.
His work at the prestigious Babraham Institute in the UK and his highly cited research in the top journals in his field (such as Endocrinology, Journal of Neuroscience, and Neuron) have been recognised in numerous awards including the highly prestigious Jenner Fellowship from the Lister Institute. After 15 years in Cambridge, Allan returned to New Zealand in 2002 on a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship, and he was invited to give the Inaugural Australia – New Zealand Physiological Society lecture last year.
Peter Lockhart, a Professor and principal investigator in the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution at Massey University, is regarded as one of the rising stars of New Zealand science.
He is arguably New Zealand’s leading young plant biologist, and is already an international leader in developing new molecular techniques for identifying genetic diversity in closely related plant species, developing new mathematical and computational methods for the evolutionary analysis of DNA sequences, identifying and resolving research programmes for the New Zealand flora, and studying the origin of chloroplasts.
Dr Lockhart’s work, which is published in high impact journals (such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Molecular Biology and Evolution) and is highly cited, has led to major improvements in DNA sequence analysis, the understanding of early photosynthesis, and the study of processes in New Zealand flora. His honours include a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and leadership of a symposium (on New Zealand flora) at the most recent International Botanical Congress in Vienna in 2005.
Ron McLaren, Professor of Environmental Soil Science at Lincoln University, is an internationally respected expert on environmental trace element and heavy metal biogeochemistry.
His scientific career has incorporated both fundamental aspects of soil and environmental chemistry and their application to the challenges of waste disposal to land and the remediation of contaminated soils. One of his research papers, on the fractionation of soil copper, is the most highly cited of all articles on soil science worldwide, and he is noted for similar work on sulphur, cadmium and cobalt. Professor McLaren has also applied his expertise to issues of contamination of soils by atmosphere, urban waste, arsenic and lead shot.
Professor McLaren has over 320 publications, including a widely used textbook on soil science (reprinted five times since 2000) and chapters in books on topics ranging from environmental arsenic chemistry to waste management and disposal issues, and has supervised 38 postgraduate research students. He was invited to present the Norman Taylor Memorial Lecture in 2005 (in recognition of his outstanding contributions to New Zealand soil science).
Paul Rainey, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at Massey University, is internationally regarded for his research on evolutionary process and on theory and concepts relating to the origin and maintenance of patterns of biological diversity.
Central to his work are simple microbial populations, which, by virtue of the fact that they evolve in real-time, have permitted direct insight into processes that take millions of years for higher life forms. Professor Rainey published a landmark paper in Nature in 1998 in which he described a highly original experimental system using Pseudomonas populations, to demonstrate how spatial structure promotes speciation; this system is now widely used as a tool in experimental evolution, and subsequent insights feature in mainstream undergraduate textbooks. His most recent work links ecological and evolutionary process to molecular genetic mechanisms.
Professor Rainey’s work has been extensively featured in both popular and scientific literature, and is highly cited, and he has given various media interviews about his work. He has served on the editorial boards of a range of major journals, and is an Editor of the Proceedings of the Royal Society London Series B. He was invited to chair the 2007 Gordon Research Conference on Microbial Population Biology, which is a rare honour for a scientist from outside the USA.
Clive Ronson, Professor of Genetics at the University of Otago, is an international authority on Rhizobium genetics.
His early study (at the DSIR) of mutants of dicarboxylate transport genes focused attention on 4-carbon dicarboxylic acids as the energy source that plants supply to the bacterium in rhizobial nitrogen fixation, and significantly altered understanding of the molecular events occurring during symbiosis. Stemming from this work (and perhaps his most important discovery) was the first two-component regulatory system in bacteria. These systems, in which an environmental stimulus is sensed by one component in the bacterial cell and passed on to a second component, are now recognised as the major way in which bacteria sense their environments. More recently, Professor Ronson and his students discovered and made an extended study of ‘symbiosis islands’ in Rhizobium bacteria, demonstrating the horizontal transfer of these genetic elements during the evolution of plant-bacterial symbiotic systems.
All of these were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and have been both highly cited and recognised as major contributions to their field.
He has also made significant contributions, nationally and internationally, as a consultant and advisor, for example as a member of the former Interim Assessment Group on field trials and release of genetically modified organisms, and as a scientific adviser to ERMA New Zealand.
Zoran Salcic, Professor of Computer Systems Engineering at the University of Auckland, has established an international reputation in computer systems engineering. His particular expertise is in embedded systems, which involve the use and integration of ICT (both hardware and software) with sensing, signal processing and automation technologies.
Professor Salcic has pioneered work on the use of the newest semiconductor technologies and reconfigurable systems in the form of customisable microprocessors, and on linking electronic semiconductor systems with optical and micromechanical systems. His contributions bridge the gap between digital systems theory and practice, enabling researchers and engineers to develop new, high-performance modern integrated circuits, and resulting in substantial improvements over traditional software approaches, and increased productivity.
Professor Salcic is active in industrial collaboration, and in catalysing numerous research projects with his colleagues. He has supervised over 60 postgraduate students, and his work has been published in almost 200 refereed papers, seven books, 20 book chapters, and numerous technical reports. His international reputation has been acknowledged recently with his appointment by the European Association of Signal, Speech and Image Processing (EURASIP) as Editor-in-chief of the new Journal on Embedded Systems.
Timothy Stern, Professor of Geophysics and Geology at Victoria University of Wellington, is internationally recognised for the insights he has developed on Earth structure and processes, derived through the careful and rigorous application of physical principles to an inhomogeneous medium: the planet Earth.
His research has involved the quantitative modelling of geophysical data, with the broadly based application of physical principles including flexure, rheology, thermal properties, and buoyancy. Two of his most significant discoveries have been the accommodation of plate convergence in the lithospheric mantle by down-warping, indicated by a region of anomalously high-seismic-velocity upper mantle material under the central Southern Alps, and the existence of anomalously low seismic velocities associated with raised fluid pressure within the lower crust beneath the western margin of the Southern Alps. Professor Stern has applied these and developed similar new concepts (such as asymmetric spreading) in studies of the western North Island, the Central Volcanic Region, and the Transantarctic Mountains.
The quality of his work has been acknowledged by his peers through the Hochstetter Lectureship, the New Zealand Geophysics Prize (twice), and frequent invitations to give lectures and to join international collaborative projects.
Chris Wild, Professor of Statistics at the University of Auckland, has earned a very high international reputation for his work in several areas of statistics, and the important contribution that he has made to research in other disciplines.
One strand of his work is concerned with developing methodology for the design and analysis of medical studies. The methods in his landmark paper “Fitting prospective models to case-control data” (the lead paper in the 1991 issue of Biometrika) have been further developed to enable researchers to use a whole range of new study designs. His current work draws on his combined expertise in response-based sampling and in frailty modeling, to produce efficient methods for handling data from retrospective family studies that are used widely in genetic epidemiology. A second strand is his work on nonstandard regression methodology, a subject on which his encyclopaedic book “Nonlinear Regression” with George Seber is the authoritative reference. A third strand of his work with broad international recognition is his research into the philosophy of statistics and modes of statistical thinking.
The respect that he commands worldwide is illustrated by his being invited as Opening Plenary Speaker at the 2004 conference of the Royal Statistical Society, and the ten invited addresses he has given at meetings of the International Statistical Institute and the American Statistical Association.
Curtis Lively, a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, has an outstanding research record and a very strong affiliation with New Zealand, where much of his field and experimental work has been, and continues to be, undertaken.
A primary goal of his research has been to the test the Red Queen Hypothesis, proposed to explain the advantage of sex (over asexual reproduction) and why evolutionary change may be required to prevent extinction in tightly co-evolved interactions. Central to this work are his studies on the New Zealand freshwater snail Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a remarkable (yet common) gastropod that reproduces both sexually and by parthenogenesis, displays a high degree of phenotypic plasticity in shell form, and is used as an intermediate host by many parasitic trematodes.
Curtis Lively came to New Zealand on a 4-year post-doctoral fellowship in 1984, and has returned to New Zealand every year since 1991 to carry out further research and fieldwork. His work, published in top journals (such Nature, Evolution, Ecology, and The American Naturalist) and highly cited, has earned him several invitations to give keynote addresses, as well as the R.A Fisher Prize of the Society for the Study of Evolution in 2006.
Bradley Pillans, a Professor in the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University, holds a pre-eminent position in the discipline of Quaternary stratigraphy (the study of sedimentary strata of the last 2.6 million years of Earth’s history).
His major contributions have combined detailed field studies with laboratory-based dating techniques, to provide new insights into palaeoclimate, past sea level changes, earth deformation, long-term erosion rates, natural hazards, and landform evolution. His published work on the Wanganui Basin has resulted in the basin being recognised as a national and international reference site for Quaternary stratigraphy.
Professor Pillans has (uniquely) won four awards from the Geological Society of New Zealand, including the McKay Hammer Award (1993), the Hochstetter Lecturer Award (1990) and the W.A. Pullar Prize (2006). He also plays a leading role within the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA), and is credited for the establishment of a joint INQUA-ICS Task Force in 2005 that has made recommendations for the reinstatement of the Quaternary, with likely ratification at the International Geological Congress in Oslo in 2008.
Michael Saunders, a Research Professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, is a world expert in the development of mathematical optimisation software, for solving decision problems in large interconnected systems.
Professor Saunders began his work in this field while working for the DSIR in the 1970s, producing (in joint work with fellow New Zealander Bruce Murtagh) the MINOS system, which is now one of the best known optimisation packages worldwide, used by economists, engineers, physicists, and operations researchers. In more recent years he has developed a collection of optimisation tools (NPSOL, SNOPT, QPOPT, LSSOL) tailored to solve problems having certain structural features, with wide application in the engineering and aerospace communities. In particular, NPSOL is a key ingredient in the mesh-fitting routines used by the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, and in the optimising yacht velocity prediction program used by Team New Zealand in the successful 1995 America’s Cup challenge.
He is a member of the International Scientific Advisory Board of the New Zealand Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and is a leading supporter of the Operational Research Society of New Zealand, and a mentor for its members. His published work is very highly cited, and in 1985 he was awarded the inaugural Beale-Orchard Hays prize by the Mathematical Programming Society for his contributions to computational optimisation.