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Published 11 November 2009

Top scientists elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand

2009: Ten top New Zealand scientists have been elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand at the annual general meeting of the Society’s Academy in Christchurch today.

Four researchers working at overseas institutions were also elected as Honorary Fellows.

Academy chairperson Professor David Thorns said the high calibre of the nominees made the selection process challenging.

“Being elected as a Fellow is an honour given to our top scientists for showing distinction in pure or applied research or in the advancement of science and technology.

“The research of these new Fellows reflects the wide range of work that scientists are undertaking in research institutions around New Zealand. I am very pleased to announce their election today.”

The new Fellows are:

  • Dr Philip Boyd, NIWA/University of Otago – internationally recognised for his work in the field of oceanography and the productivity of the global ocean.
  • Professor Philippa Gander, Massey University – recognised internationally for innovative research on the science of sleep and fatigue risk management.
  • Professor Alistair Gunn, University of Auckland – his innovative research has targeted major causes of death and disability in early childhood and prevention of life threatening events in infancy.
  • Professor Andrew Mercer, University of Otago – widely recognised as New Zealand’s most eminent virologist working on understanding viruses at the molecular level to help with the development of vaccines.
  • Professor Edwin Mitchell, University of Auckland – has played a leading role in child health research particularly the identification of risk factors for SIDS and the promotion of prevention strategies.
  • Professor Eamonn O’Brien, University of Auckland – a leading international algebraist focussing on computational algebra and group theory.
  • Professor Andrew Pullan, University of Auckland – a leading bioengineer recognised for his work on modelling current flow in the torso for clinical applications in electrocardiography.
  • Professor Allen Rodrigo, University of Auckland – he has an international reputation in bioinformatics and the development of computational methods to infer evolutionary patterns and processes, including for viruses like HIV, SARS and influenza.
  • Professor Hamish Spencer, University of Otago – a world renowned theoretical population geneticist best known for his work on genomic imprinting.
  • Professor David Williams, University of Auckland – a leading figure in the international electrochemistry community with his most notable work being about the pitting corrosion of stainless steels and the successful commercialisation of gas sensor devices.
  • The four new Honorary Fellows who were elected are carrying out research at universities overseas. Honorary Fellowships are aimed at encouraging liaison between scientists of different nations and promoting communication and links with them. The new Honorary Fellows are:
  • Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS– an internationally respected behavioural biologist at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
  • Professor Timothy Burstein – a graduate of the University of Auckland, who works in the field of electrochemistry and corrosion science and is now at the University of Cambridge UK.
  • Professor Donald Cowan – a New Zealander who is now Director of the Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics at the University of Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Professor Wendy Larner – a graduate from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who works in the field of international human geography and sociology, and is now at the University of Bristol in the UK.

The Royal Society of New Zealand now has 347 Fellows and 54 Honorary Fellows. Fellows are involved in providing expert advice, promoting scientific best practice and disseminating scientific information.