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Speakers's Science Forum 2019

View topics of the research presentations of the Speaker's Science Forum in 2019.

Research presentations are organised for Members of Parliament, in collaboration with the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament.

The topics are selected in collaboration with Forum partners Science New Zealand, Universities New Zealand and the Independent Research Association of New Zealand.

Addressing environmental plastic pollution in New Zealand - 26 June 2019

The circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy of take, make, use and dispose. It is a restorative system, where products, components and materials are kept in use for as long as possible, and the materials are recovered and regenerated at the end of a product's life. How is research helping address environmental plastic pollution in New Zealand?

Tackling plastic waste through a circular economy – Dr Florian Graichen (Science leader - Biopolymers and Chemicals, Scion)

Florian will talk about how by addressing plastic waste, science and innovation can create new value for businesses and protect and future-proof our planet.

Florian GraichenFlorian joined Scion from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research in Belgium. A key area of his research is how to make plastics from renewable sources and not from crude oil.

From research success to real word application – by Dr Kirsten Edgar (Advanced Materials, Callaghan Innovation)

Kirsten will talk about how companies are taking and applying research in order to tackle environmental plastic pollution. 

Kirsten EdgarKirsten works at the interface between business and science/technology at Callaghan Innovation, providing insights around the implications of advanced materials for New Zealand.

Addressing mental health and wellbeing - 22 May 2019

Why do people deliberately hurt themselves? – by Professor Marc Wilson (Professor of Psychology; Victoria University of Wellington)

Mark will talk about a decade of research showing that around half of our young people will hurt themselves at least once by the time they reach school-leaving age; the underlying psychological mechanisms of these behaviours; and what we can do about it.

Marc WilsonMarc’s main research programme in the last five years has focused on understanding why some people (particularly young people) deliberately hurt themselves, without suicidal intent. He writes a weekly psychology column in the New Zealand Listener.

Suicide: prevention in Aotearoa/New Zealand – by Dr Sarah Fortune (Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago)

Sarah will talk about suicidal behaviour in New Zealand, its risk factors and how we can go about prevention. 

Sarah FortuneSarah is the deputy chair of the Suicide Mortality Review Committee, for the Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand. Sarah is an academic clinical psychologist with a clinical and research interest in suicide prevention.

Artificial Intelligence and autonomous systems - 10 April 2019

Artificial Intelligence and autonomous systems provides us with new opportunities and potential. If responsibly developed, AI has the capacity to enhance wellbeing and provide benefits throughout society. Yet, as with most endeavours, AI and robotics carry risks for both individuals and societies and it is likely that the changes will shift the prosperity and competitiveness of nations.

Autonomous Animation for Human-Machine Collaboration – by Associate Professor Mark Sagar (Director, Laboratory for Animate Technologies, University of Auckland)

Mark SagarMark will talk about the work at Soul Machines, at the University of Auckland, to build intelligent autonomously animated digital humans to provide a natural intuitive interface to AI.

Mark Sagar, is a two time Academy Award Winner and Special Projects Supervisor at Weta Digital for movies such as Avatar & King Kong, as well as being Director of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies at the University of Auckland.

Five surprising things about the way artificial intelligence will change work by Professor James McLaurin (Co-director, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Public Policy, University of Otago)

James McLaurinJames will talk about how the likely effects of AI on work and jobs are both complex and surprising in ways not captured by debates about ‘disappearing jobs’. 

James is a philosopher with particular interest in artificial intelligence and its impact on humanity. He is a co-director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Public Policy at the University of Otago.

Mātauranga Māori – Matariki and Ngā Tipu - 13 March 2019

This forum discusses the approaches of Mātauranga Māori and western science, and how they have shaped our understanding of the world – and ourselves.

Matariki: The star of the year – by Professor Rangi Matamua (Associate Dean, Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Waikato)

Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster also known as the Pleiades. Rangi will show images, video and animations about Matariki and the connections between cultural knowledge and science in Aotearoa and the Pacific.

Professor Matamua is a leading expert on Māori astronomy from the University of Waikato, and as the author of the bestselling book, 'Matariki - the Star of the Year'.

Naku te rourou nau te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi (Acknowledging IP from both baskets: Mātauranga Māori and Western Science) – by Dr Rebekah Fuller (Research Scientist, Microbial Biotechnology group, Lincoln Agritech Ltd)

Rebekah will speak about how Mātauranga Māori can be applied to fungi and plants for sustainable resource use. For example, exploring disease resistance in traditional kumara cultivars and how a local fungi can be used to promote plant growth.

Dr Fuller’s passion is exploring the interface between Mātauranga Māori and science, and unlocking the potential of indigenous owned genetic resources in Aotearoa New Zealand.