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2017 Rutherford Discovery Fellows

Recipients and summary information on the 2017 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship selection round.

The 2017 Fellows, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Dr Emma Carroll, The University of Auckland, for research entitled: Family matters: developing close kin mark recapture methods to estimate key demographic parameters in natural populations
  • Associate Professor Claire Charters, The University of Auckland, for research entitled: Constitutional Transformation to Accommodate Māori in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Lessons from Around the Globe
  • Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee, University of Otago, for research entitled: Investigating the origin and consequences of epigenetic alterations in cancer metastasis
  • Dr Christopher Cornwall, Victoria University of Wellington, for research entitled: Physiological and environmental controls of coralline algal calcification under climate change
  • Dr Alex Gavryushkin, University of Otago, for research entitled: Online algorithms in evolutionary biology
  • Dr David Hayman, Massey University, for research entitled: From individuals to populations: multi-scale approaches to pathogen emergence
  • Dr Marwan Katurji, University of Canterbury, for research entitled: The invisible realm of atmospheric coherent turbulent structures: Resolving their dynamics and interaction with Earth's surface
  • Dr Yvette Perrott, Victoria University of Wellington, for research entitled: Realising the potential of galaxy clusters as cosmological probes
  • Dr Max Petrov, The University of Auckland, for research entitled: Deciphering the metabolic pathways underlying post-pancreatitis diabetes
  • Associate Professor Melinda Webber, The University of Auckland, for research entitled: Kia tu rangatira ai nga iwi Maori: Living, succeeding, and thriving as iwi Maori

Carroll potraitDr Emma Carroll

The University of Auckland

Family matters: developing close kin mark recapture methods to estimate key demographic parameters in natural populations

 

Biography

Dr Emma Carroll is a molecular ecologist and statistical modeller who combines micro-chemical markers, genomics, and life history data to investigate and monitor natural populations. After completing a PhD, and subsequently a postdoctoral fellowship, in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, Dr Carroll moved to the Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, Scotland. As a Research Fellow, with first a  Newton International Research Fellowship and then a Marie Curie Research Fellowship, she investigates the influence of migratory culture on connectivity in the southern right whale (Eubalaena australis).

Dr Carroll was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland, and became an Editorial Board member of Scientific Reports in 2016. Having succeeded at bringing together cross-disciplinary and trans-university collaborations on the international stage, Dr Carroll intends to advance and facilitate integration of ideas from the fields of statistical and molecular ecology in the New Zealand research community. With this Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, Dr Carroll will return to New Zealand to continue her research at the University of Auckland.

 

Research summary

Climate change, direct hunting, and loss of suitable living areas (habitat loss), all contribute to an era of accelerating extinction rates. To mitigate this mounting loss of species, effective conservation management is paramount. This, in turn, requires a good understanding of key population parameters such as abundance, survival, and growth rates of affected species.

Traditionally, these parameters were estimated by following individuals throughout their lifespan, often requiring several decades to produce meaningful results. Recently, a new statistical technique, Close-Kin Mark-Recapture (CKMR), has been developed that provides key population parameters from a short-term sample. This method is based on the simple idea that every offspring has two parents. How often you capture the parents can tell you about the size of the adult population and how fast the population is growing.

Dr Carroll will combine the CKMR method with genetic biomarkers to identify parent-offspring pairs, and estimate age to determine who is the parent and who is the offspring. This information will then be used to estimate abundance, survival, and growth rates of the New Zealand southern right whale (Eubalaena australis), which is still recovering from over a century of whaling. Published estimates of these parameters, along with ample archived genetic material, makes this population of whales the perfect model to validate Dr Carroll’s new statistical framework. This work will also increase the information available for conservation management of this population. The framework will be refined to provide a generalised way to use CKMR in other hard-to-study species.

Once validated, Dr Carroll will apply her method to the under-studied South Georgia population of southern right whales in the sub-Antarctic South Atlantic. Her findings will provide valuable information on an endangered species and generate new methodologies that can be applied more broadly in the field of ecology.

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20161004 Claire Charters 005Associate Professor Claire Charters

University of Auckland, Faculty of Law

Constitutional Transformation to Accommodate Maori in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Lessons from Around the Globe

 

Biography

Dr Claire Charters (Ngāti Whakaue, Tūwharetoa, Ngā Puhi, Tainui) is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland Faculty of Law, specialising in Indigenous peoples’ rights in international and constitutional law. She studied at the University of Otago and at New York University as a Fulbright Graduate Scholar, before undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her thesis focused on the legitimacy of Indigenous peoples’ norms under international law. She has published and spoken widely on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, comparative indigenous constitutional rights in New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and tino rangatiratanga and tikanga Māori in New Zealand. She combines her research with advocacy for Indigenous rights nationally and internationally. She has represented her iwi in treaty negotiations and worked in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition, she was recently an advisor to the President of the UN General Assembly on enhancing indigenous people’s participation at the United Nations.

 

Research summary

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, calls for greater constitutional accommodation of Māori have been persistent since 1840. Justifications include concerns about the legitimacy of the New Zealand state, the puzzle of reconciling state jurisdiction with recognition of Māori authority, the need to ensure equality between Māori and non-Māori, and addressing the ongoing impacts of economic, social and cultural marginalization of Māori. The political and legal appetite for constitutional transformation appears to be growing, supported by the government-initiated Constitutional Advisory Panel’s 2013 Report on New Zealand’s Constitution as well as years of flax-roots research on Māori visions for a New Zealand Constitution by Matike Mai Aotearoa. Around the globe, there have also been recent and ongoing attempts to provide greater recognition and accommodation of Indigenous peoples under domestic, and often constitutional, law. Such developments have been inspired and supported by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted in 2007, reflecting an appreciation that Indigenous peoples should be accommodated in the constituting laws of the nation state.

However, states and Indigenous peoples continue to face questions about the “how”. What might be the best means to accommodate Indigenous peoples’ claims and rights? What options are on the table? What works? How do we move from broad and principled objective to practical and effective legal tools? How might a constitution fairly balance Indigenous peoples’ rights and non-Indigenous peoples’ rights? In this Fellowship, Associate Charters will evaluate various existing and proposed methods of constitutionally recognizing and accommodating Indigenous peoples’ rights around the globe, with the aim of informing potential reform in Aotearoa. Drawing on case studies from as far apart as Bolivia, Mexico and Canada, Australia and the Pacific, and Norway, Finland and Sweden, she will focus on the recognition of Indigenous jurisdiction and autonomy, protection of treaty and aboriginal rights, rights to lands, rights to culture and access to political power. She hopes to provide pragmatic recommendations that will lead to better constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples in New Zealand and internationally.

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Chatterjee 3Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee

University of Otago, Department of Pathology

Investigating the origin and consequences of epigenetic alterations in cancer metastasis

 

Biography

Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee is an expert in epigenetics and analysis of next generation sequencing data.  During his PhD research (awarded in 2013 from the University of Otago), he pioneered the first analytical pipeline for large-scale DNA methylation analysis in Australasia and documented some of the first DNA methylation maps in human tissues and zebrafish. At the time of being awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, he is working as a New Zealand Institute for Cancer Research Trust funded Research Fellow in Department of Pathology at the University of Otago, where his work has enabled the detection of aberrant methylation and microRNA patterns in melanomas and hepatoblastomas. Dr Chatterjee is also an affiliate investigator for the Maurice Wilkins Centre, China-New Zealand Health Research Centre and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.  He was the recipient of the prestigious Illumina Emerging Researcher Award in 2015 and a young investigator award from the Australian Genomic Research Facility in 2011.  Dr Chatterjee is excited to be part of the ‘next generation’ of Kiwi scientists that are able to use their skills, networks and the unique advantages of New Zealand to lead a world-class research programme.

 

Research summary

Cancer is a leading cause of illness and death worldwide. Metastasis (the spread of cancers to distant organs) is responsible for about 90% of cancer-related deaths, yet the question of what causes primary cancer cells to become metastatic is still unsolved. 

While we have now identified many genetic causes of primary cancers, genetic mutations does not appear to be a causal factor for metastasis. This indicates that DNA modifications that do not directly alter the DNA sequence but instead changes the frequency by which a cell uses specific genes (termed epigenetic modifications), are important in influencing how metastatic cancer cells behave.

In this research programme, using a “Discovery to Function approach”, Dr Chatterjee proposes to identify the mechanism by which specific modifications of DNA alter primary cancer cells to become metastatic.  He will identify changes in DNA modifications (e.g., methylation of DNA) and gene expression patterns between primary tumour cells, tumour cells circulating in the blood, and metastatic tumour cells from the same individuals to work out the epigenetic origin of cancer metastasis. Using state of the art epigenomic tools such as single cell level analysis of tumour cells and new epigenetic editing, he will identify drivers of tumour metastasis and specifically engineer these “epigenetic drivers” in model laboratory systems to determine how these changes alter the behaviour of cancer cells.

This research will establish new methods and capability in New Zealand to investigate epigenetic patterns in cancer.  The research will furthermore help to answer fundamental questions about the mechanisms responsible for the development of cancer metastasis. In the long term, this work has the potential to improve the way we diagnose, prognose and treat cancer.

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Cornwall croppedDr Christopher Cornwall

Victoria University of Wellington

Physiological and environmental controls of coralline algal calcification under climate change

 

Biography

Dr Christopher Cornwall is a marine botanist who specialises in understanding the impacts of environmental variability and global change on organism calcification and photophysiology. He is originally from New Zealand and attained a PhD in Marine Botany from the University of Otago in 2013, during which he discovered that metabolic activity at the surface of temperate coralline algae could mediate their response to ocean acidification.

Following his PhD, Dr Cornwall accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania. From there, he moved to the School of Earth and Environment and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Western Australia, investigating how organism physiology and the environment will interact to influence the response of coralline algae to ocean acidification and warming.

Dr Cornwall has attained several early career awards and is an Associate Editor of the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. With this Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, Dr Cornwall will continue this important work at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

 

Research summary

The increasing acidification of the world’s oceans from the absorption of human-derived atmospheric CO2 is known to negatively impact the growth and internal chemistry of many marine species. Because of their highly soluble calcium carbonate skeletons, reef-building algae are considered to be among the species most at risk from ocean acidification. However, Dr Cornwall challenges this idea, postulating that certain species or populations of calcifying algae may have the physiological machinery to cope with ocean acidification.

Dr Cornwall aims to investigate whether the greater tolerance observed in some populations of the New Zealand coralline algae is due to them having evolved in more variable pH environments. Coralline algae are ecologically important calcifying algae that create and bind together rocky reefs and act as nurseries for species important to fisheries in New Zealand and worldwide. New Zealand’s underwater kelp forests are a common habitat for coralline algae. Here, the algae are exposed to large daily shifts in pH as a result of fluctuating CO2 concentrations in the surrounding seawater. This fluctuation is created by the kelp taking up CO2 during daytime photosynthesis and releasing it at night during respiration. The variability in sea water pH in these forests can be extreme, with pH dropping at night to levels often lower than those estimated to occur by the end of this century due to ocean acidification.

Dr Cornwall will use cutting-edge geochemical techniques, in-depth physiological assessments, and multi-generational experiments to determine if and how physiological and environmental controls impart tolerance to ocean acidification in multiple coralline algae species. In addition, he aims to determine if any tolerance is maintained after successive generations in constant pH conditions. The findings from this research will greatly enhance our understanding of how climate change will impact coralline algae, and hence future rocky reefs. It will also enable us to understand if kelp forest habitats will protect resident organisms from ocean acidification, or harbour more tolerant populations. The outcomes of this research programme will aid in planning for shallow reef systems in the years to come.

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Gavryuskin 2

Photo credit: Lena Revenko

Dr Alex Gavryushkin

University of Otago

Online algorithms in evolutionary biology

 

Biography

Dr Alex Gavryushkin conducts research within the area of mathematical and computational genomics. In 2009 he completed a PhD in mathematics at Novosibirsk University (Russia). Alex’s subsequent research in theoretical computer science, focused on computational methods and online algorithms, was funded by a Government of Russia Doctor of Science Fellowship and a research grant from the University of Auckland. Alex used these prestigious awards to develop the mathematical and algorithmic fundamentals necessary for the online evolutionary analysis of large molecular sequence data, while at the University of Auckland. This work led Alex to Switzerland, where he took up a Research Fellow position in the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich (2016). Alex will now return to found a research group working on data-scalable computational methods in biology and biomedicine at the University of Otago, the heart of New Zealand’s biomedical community.

 

Research summary

Evolutionary analysis of large molecular sequence data is widely employed throughout modern biology, medicine, and pharmacology. Thanks to next generation sequencing technologies, thousands of whole genome sequences are constantly produced at low cost. Today's computational methods and technologies are barely prepared to analyse the huge amount of data produced and answer basic biological questions in a statistically sound way. As a result many big data sets are analysed with simple and inappropriate models, or using approximations that may produce inaccurate inferences. The roots of the problem lie in our lack of understanding of fundamental mathematical principles that form the grounds for evolutionary analysis of data.

The pressing need to develop effective computational methods that can accurately analyse big data under appropriately complex evolutionary models constantly requires new algorithmic ideas as well as solutions of standing computational challenges. The ever-accelerating pace at which molecular sequence data is produced in the modern world makes it impractical to rerun all analyses every time new data arrives or existing data is refined. This motivates research on so-called "online" computational biology algorithms capable of integrating new data as it appears. Such algorithm enable data-scalable methods in evolutionary analyses of molecular data.

In this research programme Dr Alex Gavryushkin will develop mathematical, statistical, and computational machinery for evolutionary analysis of ‘omics’ data, with a specific focus of enabling such online algorithms. He and his research team will apply methods from modern branches of computational geometry, data science, and computer science to enhance statistical and computational performance of evolutionary approaches used in epidemiology, cancer research, ecology, and pharmacology. Specifically, they will develop efficient online methods and algorithms for several classes of inference problems that arise in evolutionary biology.

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hayman david 2015 011 BW3Dr David Hayman

Massey University, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences

From individuals to populations: multi-scale approaches to pathogen emergence

 

Biography

David is a veterinary epidemiologist working at the interface between human, animal and environmental health. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 2002 from Edinburgh University, UK, and subsequently mixed general veterinary practice in the UK with wildlife work, largely in the tropics. He completed an MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Kent, UK, in 2005, to complement this work. In 2007 he was awarded a Cambridge Infectious Diseases Consortium Fellowship at Cambridge University, UK, and initiated a research project on bat viral infections with zoonotic potential in West Africa. Two further fellowships, one a Welcome Trust Research Training Fellowship (PhD) at Cambridge and the other a David H Smith Conservation Research Fellowship (post-doctoral) at Colorado State University and University of Florida, USA, allowed him to continue his research on infection dynamics. He joined Massey in 2014 and is now Co-Director of the mEpiLab and Director of IDReC, two large multi-disciplinary infectious disease research groups.

 

Research summary

Many infectious diseases of people, including Ebola virus, HIV/AIDS, and pandemic influenza, are of animal origin. Animal infectious diseases that can naturally transfer to humans are called ‘zoonoses’. They can have devastating impacts on human health but predicting when, where, and why the disease jumps from the animal host to humans (aka ‘spillover’) has remained elusive.

Rather than focusing on how we treat infected individuals, Dr Hayman is interested in trying to understand when and why the pathogen jumps to humans. To do this, he studies how pathogens persist, adapt and diversify within the animal host and how animal host characteristics, such as seasonal birthing and death rates, affect the persistence of the pathogen in the hosts and ultimately the emergence of the pathogen in new hosts. For example, in Africa bats are thought to be the reservoir hosts for Ebola virus and rodents for Lassa virus, both of which cause serious disease in people. Bats are typically long-lived with stable adult population sizes and strong, synchronous birthing, whereas rodents are short-lived and prone to rapid population size changes. However, Ebola virus outbreaks are more unpredictable than Lassa virus. By using mathematical models that integrate data from different sources to model infection dynamics within these populations Dr Hayman aims to understand why these dynamics differ.

Dr Hayman is applying these and other techniques to highly pathogenic or infectious pathogens in North America, Africa, and here in New Zealand. By employing cutting-edge molecular and epidemiological techniques to study infections common to people, wildlife and livestock, the research programme will help to answer fundamental, real-world questions concerning when and why novel, globally important pathogens emerge and cause disease, and provide advice on how to prevent the spread to humans.

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katurjiDr Marwan Katurji

University of Canterbury, Department of Geography

The invisible realm of atmospheric coherent turbulent structures: Resolving their dynamics and interaction with Earth's surface

 

Biography

Dr. Marwan Katurji received his PhD from the University of Canterbury and specialises in atmospheric boundary-layer science, a branch of meteorology that aims to understand how the lower atmosphere interacts with Earth’s surfaces. Marwan’s research interest revolves around measuring, modelling, simulating and analysing surface-atmospheric energy and moisture flux that control Earth’s microclimates. Before his PhD, Marwan’s undergraduate and graduate academic background was in mechanical engineering, during which his core academic training was in thermal and fluid sciences at the American University of Beirut. He is particularly interested in developing new approaches to tackle fundamental research questions in the field of atmospheric boundary-layer turbulence that leverages on a multidisciplinary approach of engineering and science. Marwan has undertaken numerous research projects in New Zealand, Antarctica, and the United States and has developed peer reviewed publications contributing to the fields of numerical weather and climate modelling, agricultural and forest meteorology, renewable wind energy and mountain meteorology.

 

Research summary  

Global, regional, and local climate and weather models provide vital information to keep our communities safe from  weather hazards, maintain high water and energy efficiency for food production and predict our renewable energy resource. It is therefore important to develop reliable and accurate models that give better estimates of surface-atmosphere thermodynamic fluxes, which are essential components for accurate surface wind, temperature and humidity predictions that define our microclimates. The dynamics of the lowest 2 kms of Earth’s atmosphere, or the atmospheric boundary-layer, are poorly represented in weather and climate models due to inadequate representation of process  such as turbulence,  or rapid air fluctuations controlling energy and moisture exchanges at the surface-atmosphere interface. This lack of knowledge is mainly due to the complex and unpredictable nature of turbulence and the limitations of our observational systems that hinder a comprehensive dynamic representation of the physical processes, which results in poor model performance. This research programme will address the principles behind surface-atmosphere interactions by critically reassessing current measurement techniques and designing new measurement methods for near-surface atmospheric turbulence, thereby testing and developing both existing and new theoretical formulations of land-atmosphere turbulent interactions. It is critical to develop a comprehensive approach to investigating coherent turbulence structures that involves tracking their downward propagation towards the surface, and then observing their impacts on surface temperature and velocity fields. Our approach will be based on utilising state-of-the-art far- infrared cameras employed in field experiments and lab-based physical models to develop a new improved spatial model of surface-atmospheric turbulent interactions.

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Perrott

Photo credit: Eugenio Polgovsky-Ezcurra

Dr Yvette Perrott

 Victoria University of Wellington

Realising the potential of galaxy clusters as cosmological probes

 

Biography

Dr Yvette Perrott is an astrophysicist who studies centimetre-wave radio astronomical observations of galaxy clusters in order to understand the origin and evolution of the Universe. She completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science at the University of Auckland in 2008, majoring in Italian, Spanish and Physics, followed by a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Physics. In 2010, she was awarded a Rutherford Foundation Trust PhD scholarship to undertake a PhD in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, and has since continued her research as a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College in Cambridge.

Dr Perrott is the Science Committee Chair of the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager (AMI) telescope operated jointly by Cambridge, Manchester and Oxford Universities.  She leads two large science projects using AMI to observe detected galaxy clusters and to survey previously undiscovered clusters. 

 

Research summary

Scientists have shown that the Universe emerged from a combination of gradual accretion and violent collisions after the Big Bang. The culmination of such processes is the emergence of galaxy clusters - the largest multicomponent and gravitationally bound structures in the universe.

The distribution of galaxy clusters in space, time and mass is a unique feature that may provide sensitive constraints on the parameters describing the origin and evolution of the Universe. Aside from galaxies, the clusters consist of dark matter and hot intracluster gas. These sub-components of the clusters can be observed in different ways. For example, gravitational lensing can be used to observe how the large dark-matter mass is bending light that travels towards the observer, and the combination of X-ray emission and its interactions (known as Sunyaev-Zel’dovich (SZ) effect) with the Cosmic Microwave Background can be used to study the hot intracluster gas. However, translating these observations into physical quantities of interest for cosmological analyses is challenging.

The SZ effect is a particularly promising method of studying clusters since simulations predict a strong correlation between the observable signal (SZ intensity) and mass. However, the current models for translating the SZ observable to mass are over-simplistic and do not account for the disturbed structure of clusters undergoing merger events.

Dr Perrott aims to broaden the understanding of galaxy clusters with the goal of realising their potential as cosmological probes. She will use state-of-art radio telescopes to identify and observe merging clusters and explore robust methods to model their SZ signal. In conjunction with gravitational lensing data and numerical simulations, she will investigate how to accurately translate their SZ signal into mass constraints.

In addition, Dr Perrott will use simulations to prepare analysis techniques for SZ data collected from the new Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, which is scheduled to start operating in 2020. 

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Max PetrovDr Max Petrov

The University of Auckland, Department of Surgery

Deciphering the metabolic pathways underlying post-pancreatitis diabetes

 

Biography

Dr Max Petrov is an expert in diseases of the pancreas, metabolism, and nutrition. After completing medical school and training in general surgery, he had opportunities for training in diseases of the pancreas on both sides of the Atlantic - Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard University (USA) and University Medical Center Utrecht/Utrecht University (The Netherlands). He began his academic career with a Masters degree in clinical epidemiology from Maastricht University (The Netherlands), followed by a PhD in diseases of the pancreas from the University of Auckland. In 2012, Dr Petrov established an independent research group at the University of Auckland, called COSMOS. His group is now recognised nationally and internationally for cutting-edge research into diseases of the pancreas, metabolism, and nutrition. COSMOS is also a leading provider of translational, clinical, and epidemiological research training in the field for both domestic and international students. In addition, Dr Petrov has leadership roles in a number of University’s committees, national boards, and international societies.

 

Research summary

Diabetes is a growing epidemic in New Zealand and worldwide, increasing the demand for new approaches to its prevention and treatment.  Diabetes is not a single homogeneous disease but is rather composed of several disorders, with high blood sugar as a common feature. Diabetes following inflammatory diseases of the pancreas - post-pancreatitis diabetes - is a type of diabetes that currently affects up to 10,000 New Zealanders and its rates are expected to rise due to population ageing. Furthermore, it disproportionally affects Maori and Pacific people, who are 2.8 times more likely to develop post-pancreatitis diabetes than other New Zealanders.

It is therefore critical to understand the complicated metabolic pathways involved in the development of post-pancreatitis diabetes. Dr Petrov will lead the field by investigating the metabolic pathways that underlie specifically post-pancreatitis diabetes. The Rutherford Discovery Fellowship will enable him to carefully tease out the mechanisms by which pancreatitis results in derangements of sugar metabolism. In doing so, he hopes to identify key biochemical messengers as targets for the development of specific treatments against this disorder.

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Melinda Webber copyAssociate Professor Melinda Webber

University of Auckland, Faculty of Education and Social Work

Kia tū rangatira ai ngā iwi Māori: Living, succeeding, and thriving as iwi Māori

 

Biography

Dr Melinda Webber (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whakaue) is an Associate Professor in the University of Auckland Faculty of Education and Social Work, specialising in Māori identity and the ways in which race, ethnicity and culture impact on young people. She is also the current Director of The Starpath Project for Tertiary Participation and Success, which aims to improve educational achievement of Māori, Pacific and students from low socio-economic communities through research and evidence-based school interventions. After her Bachelor of Education and working as a teacher, Dr Webber returned to the University of Auckland to complete her PhD on the racial-ethnic identity of Māori, Pākehā, Samoan and Chinese secondary school students in Auckland. Her subsequent research and publications combine social psychology, identity development and Māori perspectives on education and methodology. She previously received a Marsden Fast Start grant and a Fulbright Scholarship to expand her research and international collaborations.

Research summary

Iwi identity can be a powerful and enduring aspect of self in te ao Māori and every iwi has its own distinct whakapapa, history, aspirations, and reputation. Consequently, pan-Māori approaches are insufficient when it comes to implementing targeted programmes to accelerate Māori innovation, science, and knowledge creation. Also, many educational policies stipulate that Māori students must have their cultural identity affirmed to be successful in educational contexts, yet none has explained what ‘success’ might look like from diverse iwi perspectives and few schools and universities have made iwi knowledge a priority in the education of Māori students. This Rutherford Discovery Fellowship will fill this knowledge gap by producing powerful narratives of iwi success, identity, and thriving that are unique and inspirational. This project will define and test models of success that put iwi role models/icons at the centre of that conceptualisation.

In this Fellowship, Dr Webber will explore what constitutes success and aspiration from unique iwi perspectives. In doing so, her research will tackle an important question facing educators – ‘How can we foster cultural pride and academic aspiration among Māori students?’ – using culturally informed and iwi-determined research methods. She will examine the historical and contemporary icons of five iwi groups to discover what this tells us about enduring identity traits, iwi aspirations, and the tribal educational research programmes that support Māori student success. By accentuating iwi knowledge and agency, Dr Webber seeks to revitalize iwi knowledge bases and world views and make it a priority in the teaching of all New Zealand students.

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Summary Information

Panel

The proportion of applicants who applied and the successful Fellows with detail of the panels:

 

% Applicants

% Fellows

HSS

30

20

LFS

36

50

PEM

34

30

 

Institutions

The number of applications for the Funding round as defined by the various New Zealand Research, Science and Technology Institutions:

 

All

Longlist

Interview

Fellows

Crown Research Institutes

0

0

0 0

Universities

82

41

21

10

Other

1

0

0

0

Grand Total

83

40

21

10

 

Country of Origin

The percentage of applicants who applied and the successful Fellows with detail of their country from which they applied:

 

% Applications

% Fellows

New Zealand

77

60

International

23

40

 

Ethnicity

The percentage of applicants who applied with detail of their ethnicity:

 

% Applicants

Non-Maori

93

Maori

7

Not declared

0

 

Research experience

The percentage of applicants who applied and the successful Fellows with detail of their research experience [year since PhD]:

Years post PhD

% Applicants

% Fellows

R3

11

20

R4

10

20

R5

16

30

R6

33

20

R7

12

0

R8

19

10

 

Gender

The percentage of male and female applicants:

 

% Applicants

% Fellows

Female

37

40

Male

63

60

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