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Published 21 October 2015

2015 New Fellows

Twelve top New Zealand researchers and scholars have been elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand at the Annual General Meeting of the Society’s Academy in Wellington today.

The Society also announced the election of an Honorary Fellow.

Academy Chairperson Professor Richard Le Heron FRSNZ said that being elected as a Fellow is an honour given to New Zealand’s 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, statistics, medicine, sustainable agriculture, electrical engineering and ancient ecology. They reflect the wide range of ground-breaking work being undertaken by researchers in science and technology, 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 Richard Beasley, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, is an internationally-recognised academic whose translational research has had a major impact on clinical practice and public health, primarily in respiratory medicine in New Zealand and overseas.  His research identified the asthma drug fenoterol as the major cause of an epidemic of asthma deaths in New Zealand and, with its regulatory restriction, the epidemic was brought to an end.
  • Professor Keith Cameron, Centre for Soil & Environmental Research, Lincoln University, is recognised internationally for his research to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. His publications on nitrate leaching from soil and his development of on-farm technologies to measure and mitigate nitrogen losses have been utilised internationally.
  • Professor Grant Covic, Dept of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Auckland, works principally in power electronics and electromagnetics and is a pioneer of inductive power transfer technology (IPT), now used globally to charge electronic devices wirelessly. Professor Covic is currently working on the electrification of roads for wirelessly charging electric vehicles. Professor Covic was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2013 with his colleague Professor John Boys FRSNZ.
  • Professor Alexei Drummond, Dept of Computer Science, University of Auckland, specialises in probabilistic models at the intersection of computational biology, phylogenetics, population genetics, epidemiology and evolution. He is a world leader in Bayesian inference for phylogenetics and population genetics and is a leader in the development of the internationally renowned open scientific software package BEAST and related statistical methodology. He is founder of scientific software company Biomatters Ltd, which has won awards for its commercial software Geneious.
  • Professor Edward Gane, New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit/University of Auckland, has led world-class clinical research in viral liver disease that underpins new curative drugs to treat chronic liver infections such as hepatitis, giving new hope to thousands of patients worldwide.  Professor Gane has improved awareness and testing for both hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus infections in New Zealand and, as Chief Transplant Physician, Professor Gane has overseen 600 liver transplants with outcomes comparable to the largest units in Europe or the US.
  • Professor Jennifer Hay, Dept of Linguistics, University of Canterbury, is one of the world’s leading linguists with a diverse range of specialisations including phonology, morphology, sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. She is founding Director of the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour with over 30 faculty members across 11 disciplines.
  • Professor Thomas Lumley, Dept of Statistics, University of Auckland, has made outstanding contributions both to statistical theory and to statistical practice. He has developed new statistical methodology, most notably network meta-analysis and case-crossover designs, and developed specialist software packages. He is a member of the international core development team of the R Project: a software environment for statistical computing and graphics. He has collaborated in major studies investigating the effects of genetics and air pollution on heart and lung disease. 
  • Professor Keith Petrie, Dept of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, has made significant contributions to health, medicine and psycho-immunology. His Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ) is widely cited, and its use has advanced the understanding of how people perceive and respond to illness, with implications for recovery. He is also a leader in the study of "modern health worries" – the public perception of risks associated with modern technology, often creating a nocebo effect and leading people to resort to alternative therapies.
  • Professor Nicolas Smith, Faculty of Engineering, University of Auckland, is a world-leading researcher in computational biology, with a focus on models of heart function. His research is focussed on electrophysiology and muscle contraction at the cellular level and the translation of these models to simulate blood flow and cardiac function at the tissue level.
  • Professor Colleen Ward, Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington, has made substantial contributions to the psychological study of immigration, acculturation and intercultural relations. Her research has been systematically and widely applied and she is recognised internationally for her sustained leadership in capacity. In New Zealand Professor Ward has received a number of government contracts aimed at understanding and improving relationships amongst the many cultures that call New Zealand home.
  • Professor Jonathan Waters, Dept of Zoology, University of Otago, is an outstanding mid-career evolutionary biologist working at the interface between previously distinct fields: genetics and geology; marine ecology and oceanography; and ancient-DNA and archaeology. He has received international media attention for his ancient-DNA research highlighting numerous extinction events in New Zealand’s coastal prehistoric record and his marine biological research on Southern Hemisphere ecosystems and climate change.
  • Associate Professor Janet Wilmshurst, Landcare Research/University of Auckland, is at the leading edge of New Zealand and global research in fields of pre-historic plant and animal ecology, climate change, fire disturbance, archaeology and restoration ecology. She uses a wide range of fossil types in her research, including pollen, seeds, charcoal, coprolites, bird bones, ancient DNA, dung fungi and amoebae. Her work on rats has provided deep insights into the Polynesian settlement of New Zealand and the Pacific, resolving long-standing controversies over its timing and impacts.

One new Honorary Fellow was also elected:

  • Professor Jeffry Simpson, Dept of Psychology, University of Minnesota, is one of the leading social psychologists in the world, specialising in the scientific study of romantic relationships at the intersection of three major areas: evolutionary psychology, social psychology and personality psychology. He has maintained extensive contact with New Zealand academics for over 20 years, with many personal visits to New Zealand, reciprocal student visits, and ongoing research collaborations. He has been a major influence in the establishment of an internationally-recognised group of academics studying romantic relationships in New Zealand.

Honorary Fellowships are aimed at encouraging 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 404 Fellows and 59 Honorary Fellows. Fellows are involved in providing expert advice, promoting best and innovative research practice and disseminating information on the sciences, technology and humanities.