Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Pulse 43: March / April 2014

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

PVC's welcome

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton

Kia ora koutou

Welcome to this edition of Pulse.

A number of our staff have been successful in various areas.

Congratulations to those who were successful in receiving funding in the latest round of Lottery Health Grants.

Congratulations also to Dr Suzanne Pitama for her Kaupapa Māori Award for Teaching Excellence. Suzanne has long been recognised as a highly effective teacher, and this award is well deserved. We wish her well for the national awards.

Professor Robin Gauld’s naming as 2014 NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor is a testament to the respect that his work garners not only in New Zealand, but also overseas.

The Division continues to be a leader in research within New Zealand and more widely with the addition of three new pieces of equipment. The Multiphoton Microscope, the NanoString nCounter Analysis system and a Triple TOF 5600+ mass spectrometer, which were recently launched, are New Zealand’s only examples. This equipment will strengthen our research capabilities and provide New Zealand with services not previously available.

As Semester One rapidly progresses, I wish you well for the second half of the semester.

Professor Peter Crampton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences,

^ Top of Page

General news

Lottery Health Grants

Congratulations to staff who were successful in receiving funding in the latest round of Lottery Health Grants.  University researchers gained just over half of the $3.89m of grants distributed nationally.
A full list of recipients can be found in the University of Otago press release.
ODT article.

^ Top of Page

Otago Teaching Excellence Awards

Congratulations to Dr Suzanne Pitama (Māori/Indigenous Health Institute, MIHI) who was awarded a Kaupapa Māori Award for Teaching Excellence.  Suzanne along with the other four winners will go forward to the national teaching awards which will be held later in the year.
University of Otago press release.
ODT article.

^ Top of Page

Visiting professorship

Robin Gauld
Professor Robin Gauld

Congratulations to Professor Robin Gauld who has been named 2014 NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor. As part of his professorship Prof Gauld will present four IPL-style lectures at London universities, including King's and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
University of Otago press release.
University of London press release.
ODT article.

^ Top of Page

Multiphoton microscope opening

Professor Richard Blaikie

Associate Professor Ruth Empson of the Department of Physiology hosted the official opening of New Zealand’s only Multiphoton Health Research Microscope on 15th April. Professor Richard Blaikie spoke at the function and cut the ribbon to officially “open” the microscope.
The $1 million microscope will allow scientists to peer into living brain cells for the first time, and to study the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. There are only a handful of these microscopes in the world. The microscope was funded by New Zealand Lottery Health and several University of Otago sources.
University of Otago press release.
ODT article.
New Zealand Herald article.

^ Top of Page

NanoString nCounter Analysis System launch

Dr Aaron Jeffs

The Otago Genomics and Bioinformatics Facility launched their new NanoString nCounter on 26th March.  This is the first instrument of its kind to be installed in New Zealand, and offers researchers in New Zealand and abroad a powerful new genomics tool.
University of Otago press release.
ODT article.

^ Top of Page

Departmental news


Congratulations to the following staff and students on their recent achievements.

  • Ms Fieke Neuman (Teaching Lab Manager) who recently received a Rotary Pride of Workmanship Award. The award, presented by the Rotary Club of Dunedin North in conjunction with the University of Otago, recognises staff who show a distinct quality in their approach, attitude, and dedication to their job. Ms Neuman coordinates the undergraduate science teaching support in the department, and plays a major role in developing undergraduate science laboratory classes.
  • Wieteke Zuure who was recently announced the winner of the Department's inaugural Postgraduate Paper Prize. The prize was awarded for the best first-authored paper published during 2013 by a postgraduate student of the Department of Anatomy. Wieteke's paper, "Leptin signalling in GABA neurons, but not glutamate neurons, is required for reproductive function" was published in The Journal of Neuroscience in 2013. BBiomedSci(Hons) student Amy Roberts, Dr Janette Quennell and Associate Professor Greg Anderson from the Centre for Neuroendocrinology and the Department of Anatomy were co-authors.
  • Dr Angela Clark who has been awarded an international prize from the Société d'Anthropologie de Paris in recognition of the best dissertation in Biological Anthropology in French or English for 2013.  "Human sexual dimorphism and health during the intensification of agriculture in prehistoric Thailand".
  • Dr Phil Blyth whose app "Bonedoc" has been reviewed (and scored 4.5/5) on iMedicalApps.
    See the app in detail here.

Anatomy staff in publications

  • PhD candidate Mr Steve Seo and Senior Lecturer Dr Beulah Leitch whose images of the GABAA receptor subunits in the thalamus featured on the cover of the February edition of the journal Epilepsia (impact factor 4.0).
  • Senior Lecturer Dr Ming Zhang and co-researchers from the Capital Medical University in Beijing, China, have recently published a paper in the prestigious research journal PLOS One. The article, "Configuration of fibrous and adipose tissues in the cavernous sinus", looks at the nature, architecture and localisation of the fine and dural trabecular networks ("matrix") in the cavernous sinus.
    Read more.

Anatomy staff out and about

  • Members of the Department's Biological Anthropology Research Group have been involved in exciting excavation work in Northeast Thailand. Dr Siân Halcrow says the site is significant as it has the potential to answer important archaeological questions of health change in late prehistoric Southeast Asia. The site of Non Ban Jak in Northeast Thailand (Nong Sung District) was originally only supposed to be excavated over one season, as part of a larger project funded by an Australian Council Research Grant (Chief Investigators Drs Dougald O'Reilly and Louise Shewan). However, because the site was deemed to be of such significance, four seasons of excavation have been undertaken since 2011. Dr Halcrow has been assisted by Assistant Research Fellow Nathan Harris and students in the field, and last season Associate Professor Nancy Tayles visited the site.
    Read more.
  • In March Mr John Dennison was the special guest of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) at the presentation of a book he translated from German to English. The original text, Admiralitäts-Inseln, was published in German in 1934 and chronicles a scientific expedition to Manus Island from 1908-1910, and the daily lives of those living on the island at that time. Mr Dennison spent two years, part-time, translating the book into English, and he was thrilled to be the guest at the book presentation in Port Moresby, along with Professor Glenn Summerhayes of the Department of Anthropology who has spent many years undertaking archaeological research in Papua New Guinea.
  • ^ Top of Page


New Zealand Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Travel Awards

Oliver SinothaiRomanNicoleMatilda[2]_edited-1
Matilda Newton, Roman Mortuza, Sinothai Poen, Oliver Watkins and Nicole Neverman

Five of the ten awards were given to Otago students.
Congratulations to Matilda Newton who will attend the Gordon Research Conference on Biocatalysis in Rhode Island USA; Oliver Watkins who is going to the The 18th International Symposium on Bioluminescence and Chemiluminescence in Sweden; Roman Mortuza and Sinothai Poen who are going to the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Washington DC, USA; and Nicole Neverman who will travel to Argentina to attend the biennial 14th International Conference on Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (Batten Disease) & Patient Organization Meeting.

Gout research

Congratulations to Tony Merriman who has received a Health Research Council International Relationship Fund grant to support his gout research.
The grant supports a collaboration between Tony and a network of clinical researchers throughout Europe with the aim of conducting a genome-wide association study in gout to identify genes immune genes causing gout attacks. Specifically it will support recruitment of >2000 clinically confirmed cases of gout from France, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Support includes funding for writing and submitting ethics applications, exchange of researchers, shipping of blood samples and DNA extraction, and collection and management of clinical data.

Tony, Lisa Matissoo-Smith (Anatomy) and their PhD student Anna Gosling's research on gout in early Māori featured in the New Zealand Herald.
Read the New Zealand Herald article.

Bee genome

Peter Dearden discusses his work on studying the bee genome in order to develop an insecticide that doesn’t affect them.
Listen to the Radio New Zealand Our Changing World interview.

Mass spectrometer

Mass Spec.jpg_edited-1
TripleTOF 5600+

A new TripleTOF 5600+ mass spectrometer has recently been installed in the Centre for Protein Research.

It is the first TripleTOF mass spectrometer in New Zealand and allows researchers to perform novel high throughput targeted protein quantification using SWATH (Sequential Window Acquisition of all Theoretical fragment-ion Spectra).

Kina research

Dr Chris Brown has led a team that have recently published the transcriptome of the NZ sea urchin Kina in the international peer reviewed journal BMC Genomics.

The marine sea urchin species Evechinus chloroticus more commonly known by its Maori name, kina, is only found in New Zealand.

It is a culinary delicacy in New Zealand but difficult to obtain elsewhere, most of the catch is retained domestically. In 2013, about 875,000 kg of Kina was caught, much of it off the south coast of the South Island and around Stewart Island (475,000 kg). Previous work has investigated its unique properties and potential for increased export. The sustainable commerical quota for NZ is set at 1,147,000 kg. There is also a large allowance for customary and recreational fishing.

This study extends studies of the economic properties of Kina, and was done with collaboration of local Maori and fishermen.

Read more.

^ Top of Page

Microbiology and Immunology

Relay for Life

Our Team Micro was very successful at the Relay for Life Friday 4th and Saturday 5th April and we have won 2nd prize for the team with most money raised out of the 43 teams that participated. In total we have raised $2654.

Thanks to everyone who has supported our team, we really appreciated it. We had a great time during the relay despite the rather awful weather conditions.

^ Top of Page


John Brady, Masters student, awarded scholarship

Congratulations to John Brady (supervisor Assoc Prof Phil Sheard) who is the recipient of a $6,000 Hope-Selwyn Foundation Scholarship to support research he is undertaking on the role of nerve degeneration in the decline of muscle mass.
ODT article.

Brain Health Research Centre (BHRC) Young Investigator 2014

Congratulations to Dr Andrea Kwakowsky, a Research Fellow in the Department presented the annual Young Investigator seminar on 2nd April. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of neurodegenerative dementia. Dr Kwakowsky is researching the effect of estren treatment on Aβ1-42-induced cholinergic neurotoxicity and behavioural deficit using an in vivo AD mouse model.

William Evans Fellow

Dr Rebecca Campbell recently hosted Professor Lynn W. Enquist from Princeton University. Prof Enquist is an international research leader in understanding the genetics and molecular biology of DNA virses. He gave a public lecture on 10th April as well as a departmental seminar. He also met with people in the departments of Physiology, Microbiology & Immunology and Anatomy during his visit.

Other Physiology Department successes

• Team Physiology, a group of 18 staff and students, who took part in the University’s Cancer Society NZ Relay for Life recently. The Department raised over $1,200.
Ruth Empson who received a Lottery Health Research grant for a Tablet Computer App for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
Rajesh Katare who has been awarded funding from ManukaMed; and who was a co-applicant on a successful Lottery Health Research grant (project leader Michael Williams).

^ Top of Page

Other news

PhD Bootcamp

A course to inspire and equip PhD students to be entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs to translate and/or commercialise their research will be held for the first time in 2014. It is designed especially for 1st and 2nd year PhD students, but there may be spaces available for 3rd year students.

4th and 5th of July at Glenfalloch.
Applications close 16 May.
Register here.

^ Top of Page

New IT services

High Capacity Storage and Sync and Share

These new storage systems are provided with no charge to staff and offer a number of benefits including:

  • no maximum file size - particularly useful for researchers with very large data sets
  • easily accessible files from the folder mounted on your hard drive
  • automatic back up of files
  • secure storage and file sharing with other staff and organisations around the globe
  • sharing research data securely, no matter where researchers are located
  • storing and sharing medical and health sciences data (can be certified as secure from end to end)
  • storing and sharing sensitive financial, commercial or human resources files
  • ensuring that all versions of a file on different systems and devices are always identical and up to date.

These services will be set up individually to meet each person's needs.
For further information please contact the ITS Service Desk.
Phone: 8888

^ Top of Page