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Pulse 44: May / June 2014

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

PVC's welcome

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton

Tēnā koutou katoa

This edition of Pulse is dedicated to the memory of Professor Jules Kieser, who died on 10 June. Jules was an exceptional academic leader, colleague, friend, teacher and mentor to the many, many people who knew him.

While we mourn this loss we should also take this opportunity to celebrate the life of one of the University’s truly inspiring academics.

On behalf of the University, the Division of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Dentistry I would like to extend our most heartfelt sympathy to Jules’ wife Glynny, their daughter, three sons, and their families.

An obituary for Jules follows below.

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

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General news

Professor Jules Kieser
Professor Jules Kieser

Professor Jules Kieser

The Division of Health Sciences would like to acknowledge the exceptional contribution of Professor Jules Kieser who died on June 10. Jules was a major academic figure and a universally popular world expert in forensic dentistry.

In his role as a leading expert on forensic dentistry Jules was seconded to help with identification of victims following the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, as well as the identification of victims as a result of the Christchurch earthquake.

He won numerous awards for his work, both as a researcher and for public duty, including a 2005 Commissioner of Police Commendation for Forensic Identification in Operation Phuket – involving the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

For his academic work, in 2008 he won the prestigious Alan Docking Award of the International Association of Dental Research, and in 2004 he was awarded an ad hominem Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

South African by birth, Jules qualified as a dentist and forensic anthropologist, working primarily at the University of The Witwatersrand in Johannesburg before moving to New Zealand in 1996 to take up the role of Chairman of the Department of Oral Sciences and Orthodontics at the University of Otago.

As well as his research projects, for which he received extensive external funding, Jules had a great love of teaching dentistry at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His love of teaching was reciprocated by his students who deeply valued him as a teacher and mentor.

His death represents a huge loss to the University, the dental school and to his colleagues. His network of friends, colleagues and admirers extends far and wide. He will be very deeply missed. Our sympathy is with his wife Glynny, their daughter and three sons, and their families.

Health Research Council's funding round

Congratulations to researchers in the Division who were successful in gaining funds in the latest HRC funding round.  Successful applicants come from Otago's Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington campuses.  The University of Otago gained the largest share of funding of any institution in this round.

The full list of recipients can be viewed here at the University of Otago press release
Otago Daily Times article

CALT Award

Congratulations to Dr Steve Gallagher (Psychological Medicine, DSM) who was awarded the 2014 CALT Award for Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Technology for his project "Using an online video annotation to develop communication and self-reflection skills in medical and dental students".  The project came from the need to address the issues with the current approach and promotes opportunities for reflection.  This new approach will give an online environment for students to review filmed clinical consultations, annotate the video and share comments for feedback. 

This system will be rolled-out to all 80 4th year medical students at the Dunedin School of Medicine and will be trialled in the University of Otago, Wellington for 5th year General Practice formative assessments.

There were two other finalists for this award both from the Division of Health Sciences.

  • Mr Hesham Al-Sallami (Pharmacy) "Using a coagulation simulation software to learn a complex dose-response relationship".
  • Mr Vivekanandan Perumal (Anatomy, OSMS) "Clinical anatomy e-cases: a useful supplement to medical teaching".

Early Career Award

Congratulations to Dr Anita Dunbier (Biochemistry), Dr Khaled Greish (Pharmacology and Toxicology), Dr Jason Gurney (Public Health, Wellington), and Dr Anna Pilbrow (Medicine, Christchurch) who are recipients of University of Otago Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research.  These researchers are now members of the University's O-Zone Group of early-to-mid-career researchers and will participate in the interdisciplinary thinking and collaborations that this group promotes.

University of Otago press release
Otago Bulletin Board article
Otago Daily Times article

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Departmental news


Brain CoRE

Six academic staff members of the Department of Anatomy and the Brain Health Research Centre will play key research roles in the newly established Brain Research New Zealand (Rangahau Roro Aotearoa) Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE). The CoRE will be co-hosted by the University of Otago and the University of Auckland, and brings together New Zealand's top neuroscience researchers and clinicians from the Otago and Auckland Universities as well as AUT University and the NZ Brain Research Institute in Christchurch.

Visit the Brain Health Research Centre's website
Read more about Anatomy's involvement in the CoRE

HRC grant success

Congratulations to Dr Michael Pankhurst, Professor Ian McLennan, Professor Dave Grattan and Dr Christine Jasoni who have received funding from the Health Research Council (HRC) for new research projects. Dr Michael Pankhurst and Professor Ian McLennan have been awarded a $1.17m project grant for their research looking at the regulation of AMH and female reproduction. Professor Dave Grattan and Dr Christine Jasoni, along with Associate Professor Colin Brown of the Department of Physiology, have been awarded nearly $5m for their Programme Grant entitled "Healthy pregnancy, healthy babies".

Read more about the project "AMH Regulation of Female Reproduction"
Read more about the programme "Healthy pregnancy, healthy babies"

HRC Explorer Grant

Congratulations to Associate Professor John Reynolds who was one of only three recipients of an HRC Explorer Grant in the entire country. Project title: "Temporal and spatial control of drugs for improved treatment of brain disotders". The vision of the Reynolds research team is to revolutionise treatment for neurological diseases, using a novel system they have designed to mimic normal neuro-chemical signalling in the brain. The team will reinstate the missing dopamine signal in Parkinson’s disease (PD) by activating the release of dopamine-like drugs from biological carriers in targeted brain areas at natural timing. Their system holds the promise of lifelong PD treatment without some of the current side effects, because dopamine replacement can be customised to mimic the natural dopamine signal in targeted brain areas.

Listen to John Reynold's interview on understanding the brain chemical dopamine

Genetic markers used to identify ancestral origins

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith, along with co-researchers and the Genographic Consortium, has recently published a paper in Nature Communications. The paper, entitled "Geographic population structure analysis of worldwide human populations infers their biogeographical origins" uses genetic diversity as an 'app' to trace ancestry.

Read more

Staff retirements

Three long serving members of the Department of Anatomy retired recently; Mr John Dennison (Research Fellow), Professor David Green, and Mrs Maureen Buchan (Cell Biology Technician). We wish them well in their retirement. 


HRC success

Associate Professors Sally McCormick and Tony Merriman

Congratulations to Associate Professors Tony Merriman and Sally McCormick who have been awarded HRC Programme and Project grants respectively. A/P Tony Merriman will receive $4,999,512 over five years for his project "Urate and gout: genetic control, environmental and drug interactions", while A/P Sally McCormick will get $1,044,053 over three years for her work on Restoring HDL levels.
Read more about Tony Merriman's programme
Read more about Sally McCormick's project

Early Career Award

Dr Anita Dunbier

Congratulations to Dr Anita Dunbier, who is the recipient of a University of Otago Early Career Award for Distinction in Research.  Dr Dunbier's research focuses on the causes of breast cancer.

Read more about Dr Dunbier's research
University of Otago press release

Study in the Lancet

Congratulations to Associate Professor Tony Merriman who is part of a consortium that has published a study on obesity in New Zealand in the Lancet recently.

University of Otago press release

Professor Petersen honoured at luncheon

Emeritus Professor George Peterson was honoured as the special guest at the New Zealand International Science Festival launch held at Knox College late in May.  Professor Warren Tate and Dr Stephen Sowerby spoke of their experiences as Professor Peterson's students, with Professor Tate his first PhD student, and Dr Sowerby his last.

Otago Daily Times article

Three Minute Thesis 2014

Left to right: Manda Safavi, Tyler McInnes, Hannah Best

On 3rd June the Department held its fourth annual Three Minute Thesis competition. PhD and Masters thesis students had three minutes and one slide in which to describe their research.
Manda Safavi won the event with her talk entitled "To flower or not to flower, that is the question!”. Manda is a PhD student in the Macknight lab.
Two people jointly won second prize, Tyler McInnes from the Cancer Genetics lab and Hannah Best from Hughes lab.

Faculty of Dentistry

Murray Thomson
Professor Murray Thomson

Congratulations to Professor Murray Thomson who has been awarded with the 2014 IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Geriatric Oral Research.  This is the second of these awards that Murray has won, making him the first New Zealander to receive two of these prestigious awards.

His success was recognised at the Opening Ceremonies of the 92nd IADR General Session & Exhibition held in Cape Town, South Africa.

University of Otago press release
Otago Bulletin Board article
Otago Daily Times article

Pharmacology and Toxicology

CoRE Successes

We were delighted to receive the news that two CoREs, which include two of our researchers and their research groups were successful.
Professor Paul Smith with Brain Research New Zealand (co-hosted by University of Otago and University of Auckland) and Dr Khaled Greish with MedTech (hosted by University of Auckland) are our included researchers.

Internationalisation of the curriculum

Congratulations to Associate Professor Rhonda J Rosengren who has secured funding from the Internationalisation Committee to commence collaboration with the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Centre and the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research (University of Wisconsin) to develop a collaborative strategy for e-teaching for toxicology courses. This strategy is expected to build on the new interdisciplinary MSc in Toxicology that was launched in 2014, that spans three divisions of the University of Otago (Sciences, Health Sciences and Humanities).

Staff Achievements

Professor Paul Smith is to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Science for his published work entitled Vestibular Contributions to Spatial Memory and Hippocampal Function.
Dr Khaled Greish received a University of Otago Early Career Award for Distinction in Research. This award also admits Dr Greish as a member of the O-Zone Group.
Associate Professor Cynthia Darlington has been appointed Chair of the Ministry of Health’s Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD).

Student achievements

PhD student Hayley Nehoff (supervisor Dr Khaled Greish), was awarded the 2014 Kainic Medical Communications Travel Scholarship to attend the 42nd Annual Meeting & Exposition of the Controlled Release Society that will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in July 2015. 

The Kainic Medical Communications Travel Scholarship has been set up by one of our alumni, Dr Blair Hesp. Kainic Medical Communications was a winner (marketing and communications category) in the New Zealand Innovators Awards 2013 for implementing this international travel scholarship for PhD students from Pharmacology and Toxicology.


HRC programme funding

Congratulations to Colin Brown who is a co-PI with Dave Grattan and Christine Jasoni from Anatomy, on a successful Health Research Council of NZ (HRC) Programme. The 5-year programme, worth nearly $5 million, is entitled “Healthy pregnancy, healthy babies”. The study will examine how the hormonal changes responsible for helping women’s brains adapt to pregnancy operate, and the serious complications that can occur for both mother and baby when these changes go awry.

Other department successes

Congratulations to the following on their recent successes.

  • Emmet Power (PhD student supervised by Ruth Empson and Andrew Bahn) who recently attended the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience (ACAN). While at the course, Emmet won the inaugural “Bert Sakmann Prize” for dendritic patching which was presented by the Nobel Prize winner himself. 

Bert Sakmann shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Erwin Neher in 1991 for their work on the function of single ion channels in cells, and invention of the patch clamp.
  • Ivor Malahay and Chris Marshall who were co-winners at the Otago Medical School Research Society (OMSRS) Summer Student Speaker Awards held on 14th May.
  • Katie Hoeksema (BSc (Hons) and summer student supervised by Pete Jones) who was awarded joint winner of the OMRF Summer Research Renshaw Prize for best report submitted by an OMRF-funded summer research student.
  • Dr Rajesh Katare who was awarded an HS and JC Anderson Charitable Trust grant.
  • Tim McLennan (BSc (Hons) student supervised by Allan Herbison) who has been awarded the prize for the best Summer Studentship Report from the Dean. Tim did his summer studentship with Rebecca Campbell.

University of Otago, Christchurch

Congratulations to the UO,C staff who were successful in the latest round of HRC grants.

  • Professor Mark Richards (Medicine, Christchurch) Heart Failure: markers and management, 60 months, $4,980,858
  • Professor Tim Anderson (Medicine, Christchurch) Genetics, brain imaging, and cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease, 36 months, $1,178,803
  • Dr Ben Hudson (General Practice, Christchurch) A randomised controlled trial of Nortriptyline in knee osteoarthritis, 36 months, $1,190,921
  • Professor David Murdoch (Pathology, Christchurch) Legionnaires’ disease in New Zealand: improving diagnostics and treatment, 30 months, $999,467
  • Dr Tracy Melzer (Medicine, Christchurch) Imaging markers of imminent cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease, 36 months, $149,943

University of Otago press release

Staff appointments

From 1st July Associate Professor Anthony Butler takes over from Dr Mike Hurrell as HOD Radiology. Anthony will also continue as Director of Bioengineering for the ChCh hub.
From the same date Mr Kiki Maoate, a paediatric surgeon, will begin as the UOC Associate Dean - Pacific.

University of Otago, Wellington

Congratulations to the following staff members on their recent successes:

  • Jason Gurney, Department of Public Health, has won the University of Otago’s Early Career Award for Distinction in Research.
  • Dr Gabrielle Jenkin has been appointed Deputy Director of the Social Psychiatry & Population Mental Health Research Unit (SoPop).
  • Di Sarfati, (Department of Public Health) whose thesis “Developing new comorbidity indices for cancer populations using administrative data” has been placed on the Health Sciences Divisional List of Exceptional PhD theses. Di’s primary supervisor was Professor Peter Crampton.
  • Professor Pete Ellis has just completed 20 years as Head of the Department of Psychological Medicine – congratulations on this exceptional milestone.

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Other news

Health Sciences Divisional Research Forum

Learning Different Research Languages
Focus on interdisciplinarity, featuring mid-career researchers.

Tuesday 16 September, Dunedin Public Art Gallery
8.30am - 5.00pm

Confirmed Divisional speakers include:
Dr Suetonia Palmer (Medicine, UOC)
Dr Peter Fineran (Microbiology & Immunology, OSMS)
Dr Julia Horsfield (Pathology, DSM)
Dr Khaled Greish (Pharmacology & Immunology, OSMS)
Dr Debra Waters (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
Dr Jeremy Krebs (Medicine, UOW)
Dr Liz Ledgerwood (Biochemistry, OSMS)
Dr Antony Butler (Centre for Bioengineering, UOC)

A student poster competition with generous prizes will be held 15th September. Updates to come shortly:

There are a number of travel grants available for those in Christchurch and Wellington. If you are interested in attending please contact your Dean.

Register by 31 August to:

University of Otago Science Expo

University Science Expo mascot

The University of Otago is again supporting the New Zealand International Science Festival by hosting a Science Expo to be held in St David Lecture Theatre complex on Saturday 5 July and Sunday 6 July.  The event is open to the public and free of charge. Departments from Health Sciences and Sciences will have interactive stands at the Expo and look forward to engaging with the public about their science.

University of Otago Science Expo website
New Zealand International Science Festival website

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