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Thursday 30 August 2018 1:24pm

PVC's welcome

Professor Paul Brunton image
Professor Paul Brunton.

Tēnā koutou katoa,

I am delighted to be able to welcome you to this edition of Pulse.

I have been the PVC now for nearly two months and am enjoying the new role immensely. I am slowly working my way around the Division to meet with groups and look forward to meeting as many of you as I can in due course.

The Division is both very strong and successful, and this is very much due to the leadership of Professor Peter Crampton and the senior leadership team. Peter will shortly step down as the Dean of the Otago Medical School, at the end of September, and we are working through options to ensure the Medical School has continuing strong leadership and governance into the future.

My current focus is getting up to speed with all the things that comprise such a large portfolio. As you can imagine infrastructure and buildings are occupying a lot of my time at the moment.

We have just had our Divisional Executive planning day where we looked at developing a shared vision for the next 5-10 years. We will be in touch, seeking broader input, in due course. It's important in my view to get the strategy right particularly in light of the challenges we potentially might face over this period.

I look forward to working with you.

Professor Paul Brunton
Division of Health Sciences

General news

New dental teaching facility in Manukau

Dental facility image
An artist's impression of the University of Otago dental teaching facility and patient treatment clinic which will be built in South Auckland later this year. Photo: Jasmax Architecture.

The new dental teaching facility and patient treatment clinic in South Auckland will help meet high health needs, while providing students with wide-ranging learning opportunities in a diverse community. The $28.2 million, two-storey, 32-chair building will be built upon land owned by the Counties Manukau District Health Board at its Manukau Super Clinic on Great South Road.

“Patients are contributing to the education of the country's future dentists and, in exchange, they have access to high-quality dental care", says Professor Paul Brunton.

The Faculty of Dentistry will regularly consult the community to find out what it needs from the clinics then work to deliver that, the Faculty will also provide a wide range of outreach activities.

Read more in the media release:
University of Otago to build new dental teaching facility in South Auckland

Emeritus professorships awarded to Wayne Gillett and Andrew Mercer

The University of Otago Council awarded the status of Emeritus Professor, in recognition of distinguished and long service to the University, to Professor Wayne Gillett and Professor Andrew Mercer, at its July meeting.

Wayne Gillett thumbnailProfessor Gillett's contribution to the University in addition to the important contributions made with regard to infertility both nationally and internationally, and his leadership in teaching of evidence-based medicine at the Dunedin School of Medicine was noted with appreciation

Andy Mercer thumbnailProfessor Mercer's contribution to the University as the inaugural Webster Family Chair in Viral Pathogenesis along with research contributions both nationally and internationally was noted with appreciation.

Otago Medical School news

Associate Professor Geoff Cutfield

Dr Geoff Cutfield
Associate Professor Geoff Cutfield.

I would like to acknowledge the very sad passing of our colleague Associate Professor Geoff Cutfield who died unexpectedly on 6 August. Geoff's professional experience included, amongst other things, anaesthetics, intensive care, and medical education. His career and contributions spanned several countries including Australia, the UK and New Zealand. At the time of his death he was working for the Otago Medical School as a clinical skills tutor with the Early Learning in Medicine programme.

We will all miss his cheerful good humour, his love of music, and his skill, care and devotion as a teacher. Our thoughts and love are with his family.

Professor Peter Crampton,
Dean of Otago Medical School

Australian Medical Council (AMC) accreditation visit

Peter Crampton tnProfessor Peter Crampton reports on this significant accreditation process.

One of the Medical School's major preoccupations over the past 18 months has been the ten-year accreditation process carried out by the AMC on behalf of the Medical Council of New Zealand. As many will be aware, this year the MBChB programme was due for an accreditation visit by the Australian Medical Council acting on behalf of the Medical Council of New Zealand. This is a high-stakes exercise for the University and is significant for our reputation and for our graduates. The maximum period of accreditation is ten years. Otago first achieved this in 2008 and we would very much like to repeat this.

An AMC Accreditation Review assesses our performance against a set of standards. It differs from the University Quality Audit review, which focuses on quality improvement, and how this can be achieved. The AMC assessment is summative rather than formative.

The AMC accreditation panel visited all our campuses during the week of 6 August. The feedback from the accreditation team was encouraging and positive, and their suggestions and recommendations are without exception helpful and pertinent.

I would like to express my great gratitude to everyone for the work, commitment and goodwill in both preparing for and managing the AMC accreditation visit. Many hours of work were devoted to preparing the written submission, preparing for meetings, and in logistics. We won't hear full details on outcomes for several weeks but the informal feedback we have had has highlighted both our collegiality and enthusiasm—attributes we value and are needed to create an effective and joined-up curriculum. The Panel's findings are testament to a very strong team effort, but in particular the positive tone of the findings is a tribute to Professor Tim Wilkinson's exceptional leadership of the programme in his role as MBChB Programme Director.

Our thanks go as well to the AMC team for their incredibly hard work before and during the week and for the friendly, professional and collegial way in which they managed their numerous meetings during the week.

Healthier Lives National Science Challenge

Healthier Lives introduces new research themes

Family enjoying a beach walk thumbnailMBIE is currently undertaking a mid-way review of New Zealand's 11 national science challenges.  The review panels will make recommendations to the MBIE Science Board and the final outcomes of this process will be known in November this year.

The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge, hosted in the Department of Medicine, has spent many months consulting about and developing our research strategy for 2019-2024, which was recently submitted to the MBIE review panel. We listened closely to the views of our partners, stakeholders and all those who contributed to our consultation.

Our vision is of Aotearoa with equitable health outcomes and a substantially reduced burden of non-communicable diseases. To work towards this, our new strategy proposes three themes for future research:

  • Healthy food and physical activity environments
  • Culturally centred health interventions for Māori and Pacific Peoples
  • Precision medicine tailored for New Zealand's unique population

Healthier Lives themes graphic

We are excited about the next phase of work and will be developing our approach within each theme over the coming months.  There are several ways to stay in touch with developments:

Upcoming Healthier Lives events

Tackling Diet-related Disease in New Zealand – the need, the evidence, the priorities
Tuesday 4 September 2018, 9am - 4.30pm
Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, Wellington

He ora te whakapiri:  Unleashing the potential of New Zealand life-course research
Thursday 18 October 2018
Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington

MacGibbon Fellowships

The MacGibbon Fellowships are funded by a bequest to the University from our Alumni in America.  They are awarded annually to students in any area related to human health and/or related animal vectors, to spend time working in a research group in the United States as part of their research towards their PhD or DClinDent.   In 2019 three students will be travelling to the US:

  • Carrie Falling, School of Physiotherapy, will visit Dr Corey Siegel, Darthmouth Medical School New Hampshire (supervisor Dr Ramakrishnan Mani)
  • Emma Deeney, Department of Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, will visit Professor Jennifer Raymond of Stanford University (supervisor Professor Ruth Empson)
  • India Sawyer, Department of Anatomy, School of Biomedical Sciences, will visit Associate Professor  Alexander Kauffman at the  Univeristy  of Califormnia San Diego (supervisor Professor Greg Anderson)

We would like to thank the Alumni in America for making these valuable opportunities for our students  to gain experience and  to strengthen collaborations with our colleagues in the US.

Chaffer Visiting Fellowships

This fellowship supports visits to Otago Medical School by distinguished overseas scientists or clinicians.

2018 Chaffer Fellows: Dr Kelly Lee Rogers and Dr Juanita Haagsma

Dr Kelly Lee Rogers will visit in first week of October 2018

Dr Kelly Lee Rogers is the Laboratory Head and Manager of the Dynamic Imaging Centre at from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.  She will visit Dr Adele Woolley in the Pathology Department of  the Dunedin School of Medicine and Otago Nanoscale and Micro Imaging (OMNI).

The Dynamic Imaging Centre at WEHI is a core facility that supports their biomedical researchers. Their facilities include confocal microscopy, live cell imaging (widefield and high-speed confocal), widefield deconvolution microscopy, small animal imaging using both bioluminescence and fluorescence techniques, high-content screening systems, and image processing and analysis.

During her visit, Dr Rogers has agreed to give two lectures, one on advanced imaging techniques, the other on managing a core facility (dates and venues to be arranged). She will also be involved in a Microscopy Workshop with a focus on Live Cell Imaging.  Both the lectures and workshops will be available for researchers and postgraduate students from across the University.

Dr Juanita Haagsma's visit is 29 Oct – 9 Nov 2018

Dr Juanita Haagsma from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam will visit Professor Sarah Derrett in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.

Dr Haagsma's career has evolved around injury epidemiology, outcome measurement and burden of disease methods research. She was the PI of the European disability weights project - disability weights from this study have been applied in many burden of disease studies. Currently, she leads four projects on measurement and methodology of health-related quality of life of injury patients, and supervises several junior researchers working on these projects.

Dr Haagsma will give a public lecture titled: Individual and population burden of injury: optimizing the measurement of outcomes and efficiency and will separately present about her research career to postgraduate students.

2019 Chaffer Fellows: Professor Jason Burdick and Dr Vinicius Tragante

Professor Jason Burdick will visit in the first two weeks of February 2019

Professor Jason Burdick is currently the Robert D Bent Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.  In 2019 he will visit Dr Khoon Lim at the Centre for Biogineering and Nanomedicine in the Department of Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Medicine at our Christchurch campus.

His research involves the development of smart hydrogels through techniques such as photo-crosslinking and self-assembly with specific research targets including: scaffolding for cell and growth factor delivery in the regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues; controlling stem cell differentiation through material cues; and injectable hydrogels for the repair of cardiac tissue.

Professor Burdick has pioneered the development of photo-polymerisable self-healing polymers.

He will contribute to a number of training events to be held in Christchurch. It is also envisaged that he will present a public seminar on the Dunedin campus.

Dr Vinicius Tragante will visit for 3 weeks in December 2019

Dr Vinicius Tragante (deCODE genetics, Reykjavík) will visit Dr Anna Pilbrow from the Christchurch Heart Institute.

Dr Tragante is a world-class career bioinformatician who specialises in cardiovascular genetics and genomics. He has published more than 40 research papers in top international journals, including Nature, Nature Genetics and the European Heart Journal.

He recently joined deCODE, an internationally renowned team who have led the discovery of genetic risk factors for common diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Previously, he was the lead analyst for the international GENIUS-CHD consortium, which includes more than 260,000 heart patients from 61 cohorts across Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, and Dr Tragante continues to have major input in on-going analyses from this consortium.

He will present a scientific talk and/or workshop on large scale data analysis to staff and postgraduate students, and hold a public lecture at the Christchurch campus.

November 2018 round for Postdoctoral Fellowships

There will be a funding round closing on 6 November 2018.

In line with the Division's strategic objectives, one of the two  fellowships  in this round will be for recent PhD graduates who identify as Māori or Pacific Islanders and there will be a modified form for these applicants.  The other fellowship will  be awarded as usual.

Documentation and the updated guidelines will be distributed in the next couple of weeks and will be available on our Postdoctoral Fellowships page.
Enquiries to Dr Michele Coleman:

Otago Micro and Nanoscale Imaging (OMNI)

A matrix of red connected pins on a blue background thumbnailFour well-established and highly respected research-expertise providers have been joined together under one umbrella:
Otago Micro and Nanoscale Imaging (OMNI)

OMNI includes:

  • Confocal Microscopy (formerly OCCM)
  • Electron Microscopy (formerly OCEM)
  • Flow Cytometry (formerly Flow Cytology Facility)
  • Histology (formerly Otago Histology Services Unit)

All the expertise, highly sophisticated instrumentation, and stellar support remains in place, as do the existing locations of services.

While work is continuing on the integration of the underpinning systems and user-charges that support the operation of the services, the four units have collaborated on a new website as a central repository of their capabilities and achievements.

For all you need to know about what can be offered, who can help, what services, training, and specialist expertise and advice is available, please visit our website:

If you've used OMNI's services and have a publication, research news story, or an image you'd like to share on our website, please let us know.

Research impact fellowship

Introducing Maria Larcombe

Maria Larcombe thumbnailI am excited to hold a Research Fellowship in research impact for the Divisional Office in the Division of Health Sciences, and within the Department of General Practice and Rural Health. My position here is a new one and I will be designing a research impact framework for the Division as well as producing case study examples.

My clinical background is in physiotherapy and I have recently completed a master's degree in Health Leadership. My previous position was a Research Fellowship at Ko Awatea at Counties Manukau Health in Auckland where I looked at how we could increase the translation of research evidence into project and programme management in the DHB. It is good to now be involved in the support of researchers, and aiming to articulate how the research in the Division is making a difference in the world.

Research impact is a 'hot topic' in academia, with funding bodies and organisations both nationally and internationally focusing on how to convey the impact of research. In the 2015 National Statement of Science Investment research impact is defined as 'the ways in which scientific research benefits individuals, whanau, communities, organisations, New Zealand and the world' (1). Research impact measures exceed traditional measures of publication and citation, and, in the health setting, may include advancing knowledge, capacity building, informing decision-making, health, economic, cultural, environmental as well as social impacts (2, 3).

I am enjoying getting to know about all the great research that is happening in the Division and am looking forward to getting started with the case study work. I will also be doing some workshops about impact towards the end of the year, and in 2019.


1.Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. National Statement of Science Investment 2015. (PDF 1.9 MB)
2.Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Making an Impact 2009 (PDF 2.5 MB)
3.Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The impact of science: discussion paper Wellington: MBIE; 2017 Available from: The Impact of Science (MBIE website)
4.Fast Track Impact. What is impact? 2017

Otago Spotlight Series: Infectious Disease Research forum

OSS Infectious Disease Research programme image
Download our Infectious Disease Research programme (PDF 2.1MB)

  • Tuesday 11 September 2018
  • Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, University of Otago, Wellington
  • 9am-3.30pm

For more event information please visit:
Otago Spotlight Series: Infectious Disease Research forum page

A range of agencies have confirmed their attendance along with many of our own researchers and postgraduate students. If you are able to join us on the day in Wellington but are not yet registered please email:

Dunedin School of Medicine

DSM TweCon

Twitter-based conference participantsPostgraduate students from the Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM) recently had the opportunity to take part in a Twitter-based conference.

Organised by DSM's social media coordinator Sarah Gallagher, this event was a chance for students across 6 departments from DSM to use Twitter as a tool for scholarly communication by tweeting their research and engaging in academic discussion. This conference was the culmination of a series of clinics in the use of social media for scholarly communication that several of the students had undertaken and a great opportunity for students to put their learning into practice.

Keynote speaker Associate Professor Siân Halcrow, bio-archaeologist in the Department of Anatomy, spoke about how Twitter has revolutionised her research.

From left in the photo: Sarah Donald (Preventive and Social Medicine), Associate Professor Sian Halcrow (Anatomy), Jessica Young (General Practice and Rural Health), Jayde Flett (Psychological Medicine), Lara Vlietstra (Medicine), Angie Greenman (Medicine), Ciara Lee (General Practice and Rural Health), Amarni Thomas (Pathology), Nabila Tahsin (Pathology), Sarah Gallagher (Office of the Dean). Absent from photo: Amy Dowdle (Pathology), Luke Barker (Medicine) and Saurab Sharma (Surgical Sciences).

The proceedings of DSM TweCon can be read on Wakelet

CHeST Winter Symposium

CHeST winter symposium health system review discussionOn 30th July, the Centre for Health Systems and Technology (CHeST) held its Winter Symposium at the Otago Business School.

This symposium featured updates on the Affordable Care Act ('Obamacare'), including impacts of President Trump's policies, reforms in the EU and other countries, and a discussion of what the NZ Labour-led government's forthcoming health system review should focus on.

Attended by a breadth of academics and researchers, health managers and experts from District Health Boards and non-governmental organisations, the symposium included keynote talks followed by a panel discussion.

From the right in the photo: Professor Peter Crampton, Dean, Otago Medical School, Dr Carol Atmore, GP at Mornington Health Centre, chairwoman of Alliance South and Professor Tim Stokes, Co-Director, CHeST, Head of Department, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, discuss the NZ health system review.

Epigenetics User Group inaugural symposium

EUG symposium attendeesOn Friday 27th July, the inaugural Epigenetics User Group (EUG) Symposium was held at the Otago Museum. Founded by Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee of the Department of Pathology, the purpose of the group is to bring together Otago researchers in epigenetics from Dunedin and Christchurch, to provide a forum for sharing their research. It was well attended with over 60 delegates taking part in the day.

A keynote address was delivered by Dr Heather Lee from the The University of Newcastle, Australia, about single-cell epigenetic techniques. Sessions presented over the course of the day covered topics such as cancer epigenetics, disease and population epigenetics, and epigenetics of model organisms and tool sets, while a plenary discussed emerging technologies.

Students and postdoctoral fellows had an opportunity to present posters and briefly describe their research through a bus-stop talk (3 minute talks). Congratulations to Antonio Ahn (Eccles / Chatterjee lab) who received first prize ($300) and Brooke Williams (Tim Hore's lab) who took second place ($200).

Dr Judith Marsman, one of the team involved in coordinating the symposium said, “Overall the conference brought the local epigenetic community closer together by knowing better what people are working on, and led to a lot of new contacts being formed.”

Visit the Chatterjee lab for more information.

New Section of Rural Health

The University of Otago has reiterated its commitment to training and education in rural health with the establishment of a new Section of Rural Health, believed to be the first dedicated rural health unit currently operating within a New Zealand tertiary institution.

The new group will sit within the Department of General Practice and Rural Health at the Dunedin School of Medicine. The current Rural Postgraduate Programme, the Rural Medical Immersion Programme and rural research will all come together to form the new Section.

Current Director of the Rural Postgraduate Programme, Dr Garry Nixon, who lives in Central Otago and works as a rural hospital generalist at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde, will take up the new role of Head of the Section of Rural Health.
Read more on the new Section of Rural Health

Faculty of Dentistry

Research Day 2018

The Faculty of Dentistry's Sir John Walsh Research Institute Research Day will take place on Thursday, 30 August, 9.00 am - 5.30 pm in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

The meeting will feature keynote presentations from leading local and international researchers, including Professor Marco Peres, Director, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, University of Adelaide, and Professor Paul Cooper, Oral Biology, School of Dentistry and Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham.

Sessions will explore research in the areas of clinical and translational research, epidemiology and public health, molecular microbiology, craniofacial biology and clinical oral physiology, dental education, oral molecular and immunopathology, and biomechanics and oral implantology. The programme will feature presentations from academic researchers, invited keynote speakers and postgraduate students, and include a research poster competition, and the presentation of the 2018 SJWRI Awards.

PhD student awarded prestigious scholarship

Golnoush Madani image

PhD student Golnoush Madani has been awarded a short-term research grant by the DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service) to spend 6 months in a research laboratory in Dortmund, Germany. Golnoush is a PhD student in the Sir John Walsh Research Institute who is investigating the structure and function of fungal efflux pump Cdr1, responsible for drug resistance in the human pathogen Candida albicans.

Golnoush will join the laboratory of Professor Stefan Raunser at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology where she will apply the latest cryo-electron microscopy techniques to Cdr1.

Funding success

The New Zealand Dental Association and Ministry of Health (MoH) are key supporters of our research, through the NZ Dental Research Foundation (NZDRF) and MoH Oral Health Research funding rounds. Funding from these grants supports the research of our academic and research staff, as well as training of our postgraduate students. In the 2018 NZDRF funding round, a total of $133,432 has been awarded for research projects led by our staff, PhD and DClinDent students. SJWRI researchers were also principal or key named investigators on projects awarded $95,742 in MoH funding. As always, we thank the NZDRF and the Ministry of Health for their continued support.

Read more at:
SJWRI research supported by 2018 NZ Dental Research Foundation and Ministry of Health oral health funding

Operation Te Auraki

Group of army personnel and forensic experts gathered in a cemetery

Professors Warwick Duncan and Darryl Tong of the SJWRI and NZ Defence Force, and Dr Angela Clark of the SJWRI, were part of a University of Otago team of archaeologists and forensics experts who helped identify and repatriate the remains of NZ Army personnel buried in South East Asia, as part of NZDF Operation Te Auraki.

Read more in Bulletin:
Otago scientists have challenging but rewarding role in repatriation mission

Bone regeneration research

Dr Jithendra Ratnayake from the SJWRI was in the Otago Daily Times with a story about a novel material derived from bovine bone which could support bone regeneration in dental applications. This work came out of his PhD research in collaboration with the Department of Anatomy.

Read more in the ODT website:
New dental product may slash treatment costs

Conference attendance and achievements

The Faculty has had strong involvement in the 96th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, which was held in London in late July, where the Faculty and SJWRI had an exhibitor booth staffed by Nicole Summerfield and Sarah Shepherd, along with many of our researchers presenting their work at the biggest dental and oral health research conference in the world.

At the meeting, Professor Murray Thomson was awarded the Robin Heath Award for the most downloaded paper in the journal Gerodontology during the previous five years.

For the first time, we also had an exhibitor booth at the NZ Dental Association annual Conference in Auckland, as a way of building stronger connections with the profession. Our display of research posters, many of which were funded by the NZ Dental Research Foundation (itself funded by NZDA member contributions and proceeds from their annual conference), was well patronised by the attending NZDA members.

Moving complexities

As the new building progresses a very large proportion of the Faculty of Dentistry are moving or have moved office / workspace as part of the decant process.

Read more in our news story:
Dental decant a complex affair

School of Biomedical Sciences

Department of Anatomy

Congratulations to Dr Rosie Brown and Dr Kristina Smiley from the Grattan Research Lab who have each received prestigious awards for their research work at recent international meetings.  Rosie received the Michael Harbour Prize for Young Investigators from the British Society for Neuroendocrinology, and Kristina received a Young Investigators Award at the Society of Behavioural Neuroendocrinology young investigator symposium.

Kristina and Rosie in the lab
From left: Young investigator award winners Dr Kristina Smiley and Dr Rosie Brown.

Department of Biochemistry

Three minute thesis success

Yasmin Nouri, of Professor Parry Guilford's Cancer Genetics Lab, has won the Master's category of Otago's 2018 Three Minute Thesis competition. She beat five other masters' finalists from across the University's campuses and Divisions in the exciting event held at the Castle 2 Lecture Theatre.

Her research into developing a preventative treatment for Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) includes making a new model for the disease called a gastric organoid. This is a miniature stomach, which is grown by extracting stem cells from a mouse stomach and directing their growth into small, 3D stomach-like structures.

Yasmin has since attended the 2018 Master's Inter-University Challenge hosted by University of Canterbury, and won the national title:
Otago student takes out national 3MT glory

Science expo exhibit

The Department of Biochemistry, and Genetics Otago, jointly ran an exhibit at the University of Otago Science Expo during the July school holidays, giving the public a chance to try hands-on techniques that are used by scientists to investigate the molecular details of life.

Activities offered varied from looking at zebrafish with microscopes, to making 'molecule' pom poms, plastic tube necklaces, and rubber glove animals.  Learning how to pipette DNA was particularly popular with old and young alike, who were keen to find out how the devices they see on TV forensics shows actually work.

Thanks to Annika Bokor, Amarni Thomas and Gillian McKay for planning the successful display, and to the 29 volunteers from Biochemistry and Genetics who looked after the display and taught the public a little about our science over the weekend.

Children take part in Science Expo activities image

Donation for gastric cancer research made in memory of Louis Fouchault

The Centre for Translational Cancer Research (CTCR), housed within the Department of Biochemistry, recently received a generous donation to help research into the role of mutations in the CDH1 gene in familial gastric cancer.

Personal tragedy motivated Paris-based Julie Vandingenen to donate NZ$34,000; the funds were raised via crowdfunding after her fiancé Louis Fouchault succumbed to aggressive gastric cancer, (which is related to having a mutation in the CDH1 gene). She said that making the donation to the CTCR honoured his memory and his wish to support scientific inquiry that would benefit many.

Twitter and facebook accounts

The Department of Biochemistry now has an active Twitter account as well as a Facebook page. New publications, news items, and events are automatically posted to both using IFTTT (If This Then That). If anyone is interested in how to set up something similar, contact Bronwyn or Miriam on x7704.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Illumina Emerging Researcher Award

Congratulations to Dr Htin Lin Aung (Cook Lab), who is this year's recipient of the Illumina Emerging Researcher Award. The award recognises and acknowledges an emerging researcher (less than 5 years post-PhD), who uses molecular biology tools in New Zealand, and is accompanied by a recipient presentation at the Queenstown Molecular Biology (QMB) meeting.

Htin will give a talk entitled Next-generation sequencing as a molecular weapon to combat tuberculosis.

Read more in our news story:
Dr Htin Lin Aung receives 2018 QMB Illumina Emerging Researcher Award

Otago Medical Research Foundation Grant

Congratulations to Dr Kiel Hards, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cook Lab, who has been awarded a grant-in-aid of $35,000 from the Otago Medical Research Foundation (OMRF).

The funding grant will be used to support Kiel's research project How do proton-motion forces correlate with anti-microbial efficacy?

Read more in our news story:
OMRF grant-in-aid awarded to Dr Kiel Hards

Augmented reality journal cover

A recent paper authored by Dr Mihnea Bostina features on the cover of the latest issue of the Journal of Virology, illustrated by a specially-designed augmented reality image showing the structure of the Seneca Valley Virus.

Mihnea and his team worked with Dunedin's BurningFish Productions to create the image, which is believed to be the first augmented reality image to be used on the cover of a scientific journal.

Read more in our news story:
World first augmented reality imagery on journal cover

Emeritus Professorship awarded

As acknowledged in the General news section Professor Andy Mercer has been awarded the status of Emeritus Professor by the University Council.

Andy has had a long association with the Department, since his time as an undergraduate student. In 1984, after a period overseas, he returned to take up a position as Postdoctoral Fellow in the Virus Research Unit (VRU), based within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (then known as Department of Microbiology).

He was appointed director of the VRU in 1993, a position he will continue to hold until he officially retires at the end of August.

Read more in our news story:
Andrew Mercer, Emeritus Professor

Science Expo promotes gut heroes

Microbiome Otago's The heroes of our gut augmented reality experience featured at the Science Expo, held as part of the International Science Festival.

Especially designed to bring the gut microbiome to life for primary school-aged children, the mobile app-driven augmented reality feature caught the attention of Expo attendees of all ages, introducing the human microbiome to toddlers through to octogenarians.

By downloading an augmented reality viewer to a mobile device and using it to view a printed sheet, users can view stories and activities about common microbes that reside in the gut, interacting with the microbes as characters. More than 350 sheets were taken away, with school students encouraged to share the activity with their friends, family and classmates.

Read more in our story:
"The heroes of our gut" star in Science Expo

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology


Michelle Glass in the lab imageProfessor Michelle Glass is the new Head of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Michelle is a molecular pharmacologist who has most recently been working at the University of Auckland for 18 years. She has now returned to the department where her working career began 23 years ago, as an Assistant Lecturer.

Michelle's research focuses on the expression, function and molecular pharmacology of the cannabinoid receptors and their potential role in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Her recent research interests have extended to identifying the mechanism by which synthetic cannabinoids are resulting in high levels of toxicity in the community and advising on the development of clinical trials for medicinal cannabis products.

Dr David Finlay has joined Michelle in Otago as a Postdoctoral Fellow and is helping Michelle set up her new lab.

Colorado State University (CSU) Collaboration

Visitors from Colorado State University enjoy a presentationDr Marie Legare and five postgraduate students visited the Department for 12 days in July, as part of the collaboration between the University of Otago and Colorado State University, to teach environmental toxicology.

Marie and the CSU students took part in a series of organised events, including 3-Minute Talk presentations, a science quiz, seminars and journal clubs.

Professor Rhonda Rosengren is currently working at CSU as part of her Research and Study leave, continuing to grow toxicology teaching and postgraduate research between our two institutions.

Department of Physiology

HRC success

We would like to congratulate the following:
Assoc Prof Rebecca Campbell, (with Christine Jasoni and Greg Anderson) has been awarded a HRC Programme grant of $4,999,604 over five years and Dr Pete Jones has been awarded a Project grant of $1,133,211 over three years.

Associate Professor Rajesh Katare was awarded $77,976 Catalyst seed funding, for travel and consumables for a project titled The non-neuronal cholinergic system of the heart: a novel mechanism for regulating heart metabolism, and $35,000 from the HS and JC Anderson Charitable Trust for a project titled A novel based biomarker to predict heart disease in children with type-1 diabetes.

Other news

Dr Phil Heyward was awarded partial funding, ($20,000) from the Division for a project titled Can plants help diabetes.

Professor Brian Hyland has been appointed the new Deputy Dean of the BMS as of 1 June 2018.

Dr Elodie Desroziers won the BHRC poster presentation prize.

Jason Lew was selected as one of the top 6 finalists for the prestigious Young Investigator Award (YIA) at the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology conference, Vienna, April 2018, and has been invited to contribute to the latest editorial, (see Cardiac Biology section). Jason was also awarded an exceptional thesis, and has accepted a postdoctoral position with Oxford University.

The Annual Science Expo ran from 6 – 8 July, huge thanks to Dr Karl Iremonger and his team from the Publicity Committee for representing Physiology at this event and also at the International Science Festival.

Dr Martin Fronius was interviewed for a podcast by the American Physiological Society regarding an article that was recently accepted in their journal (Am J Physiol Heart. Ashley et al.)

Eulalia Countinho (supervisor Rebecca Campbell) received the Margaret L Bailey Award from the New Horizons for Women Trust. ($5,000 towards research expenses).

School of Biomedical Sciences photo competition

Collage of 6 winning photos image
Some of the winning images from the Biomedical Sciences Photo Competition. The centre bottom image is Liz Girvan's Winter is Coming.

“This one looked to me like some kind of frozen waterfall, it really stood out amongst a sea of mineral crystals. It's pretty small – about the width of a human hair.”

Liz Girvan named the resulting photo Winter is Coming – and won the Professional Staff category of the competition, which was open to staff and students from Departments and Units which make up the School of Biomedical Sciences.

With 10 categories and being run as part of the New Zealand International Science Festival, the competition attracted an incredible array of entries from the quirky to the deeply intriguing.

Other winners were:

  • Brian Hyland of Physiology who won the Academic Staff category
  • Chris Smith, the Curator of the Anatomy Museum, who won both the the Webster Centre for Infectious Diseases Best Photo category and the Best Photo with a “Go Beyond” Theme category
  • Kate McDonald of Anatomy who won the Student category
  • Ruth Topless of Biochemistry who won the Te Ao Maori category
  • Neil Gemmell of Anatomy who won the Gene Theme category
  • Aimee Chu of Anatomy who won the Neuroscience Theme category
  • Safina Gadeock of Physiology who won the Gut Theme category
  • Jackie Spencer of Microbiology and Immunology who won the People's Choice Award.

Read more in Bulletin:
Science Festival: Biomedical Sciences Photo Competition impresses

School of Pharmacy

An innovative pharmacy idea

Four members of the ENDO team image
From left: Yasaman Mohammadi, Phuong Huynh Bao Le, Josephine Sithole and Jacky Tsao. Photo by Adrianne Mirabueno.

Pharmacy students will represent Otago at The Pharmacy Guild of Australia's National Student Business Plan Competition (NSBPC), in Sydney next month. Students Yasaman Mohammadi, Phuong Huynh Bao Le, Josephine Sithole and Jacky Tsao, developed the Education, Networking, Development and Opportunities (ENDO), programme.

The Executive summary in the ENDO Programme Business Plan describes the Programme as being designed for community pharmacists to work at the top of their scope by spearheading a collaborative and multidisciplinary health initiative. Working in tandem with the local public hospital, the ENDO Programme is a home-visit service that monitors patients who are discharged from hospital and are deemed to be at a high risk of readmission.

“The programme aims to prevent readmissions and to make a profit from providing a service that current hospitals are unable to provide as they [are] short staffed,” says Josephine Sithole.

“Last year, close to 40,000 patients were discharged from the Southern District Health Board, 3,000 of these were readmitted costing the local hospitals approximately NZ$50 million. Most readmissions were due to medicines mismanagement. The ENDO pharmacists will provide periodical home visits in the first month, post discharge, and be able to provide real time monitoring to relevant health professionals through our ENDO portal. "


Volume 3 Issue 2 of the School of Pharmacy newsletter is now available.

Congratulations to our staff and students

  • Dr Ailsa McGregor who received $197,195 from the Neurological Foundation of NZ for her research focusing on pharmacological enhancement of motor recovery after stroke.
  • Congratulations to Renee Spriggs (the President of the Māori Students Association – Te Puna Kaitaka) who won Future Pharmacist of the Year award at the 2018 Pharmacy Awards ceremony.
  • Congratulations to Sophie Mason who was runner-up for the Future Pharmacist of the Year award at the 2018 Pharmacy Awards ceremony.
  • Congratulations to Yasaman Mohammadi, Phuong Huynh Bao Le, Josephine Sithole and Jacky Tsao who are finalists in the 2018 NSBPC, as above, in Australia in September.


It is with regret that we say farewell to our staff:

  • Rewa Pene, our Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Rewa is joining the corporate Marketing team in the position of Coordinator Marketing.
  • Shaz Clark, our receptionist / administrator of undergraduate admissions, who has secured a role in the Science Division as Lead Administrator.


It is with great pleasure we welcome Danielle Maulder as a Professional Practice Fellow, Hauora Māori Support on a 0.5FTE basis.

Welcome to Andy Coburn, who joins the Client Services administration team in Pharmacy on a permanent basis.  Thanks Andy for staying with us!

School of Physiotherapy

Awards and recognitions

Miranda Buhler was awarded best presentation at the Hand Surgeons' and Therapists' conference in Queenstown.

Dr Hemakumar Devan (PI) was awarded the Pain@Otago Small Project award for 2018. Project: Māori health providers' and kaiāwhina (community workers) perspectives on recommending online resources for persistent pain management.  Research team: Dr Hemakumar Devan (PI), Mrs Bernadette Jones, Dr Tristram Ingham, Dr Meredith Perry, Dr Rebecca Grainger, Professor Leigh Hale.

Kelsi Parker a recent graduate of the School has won gold recently in Switzerland in the Women's rowing 8s. She will be off to the next round of world competitions later in the year.


Congratulations to Ricky Bell (The School of Physiotherapy's first Māori PhD) and Mandeep Kaur (international PhD).  Both graduated in August.


We bid a sad farewell to Trish Didham our Operations Manager. Trish retired after providing 22 years of wonderful service to the School.


We welcome Kaye Jeffries to the School as our Client Services Manager for both the School of Physiotherapy, and Pharmacy.

We also welcome Glenda Paterson as our Financial Manager for both the School of Physiotherapy, and Pharmacy.

Southland Campus

Free public lectures big hit in Southland

Michael Vincent presenting on prostate cancer at a public lecture image
Southland-based Urologist Mr Michael Vincent discussing prostate cancer screening with the audience in the Southland Campus Education Center.

Members of the public and health professionals packed the venue to hear a public lecture on prostate cancer held at the New Education Centre of the Southland Hospital Campus.

Invercargill-based Urologists Mr Michael Stotzer and Mr Michael Vincent, and Dunedin-based Radiation Oncologist Dr Shaun Costello presented and discussed the latest prostate cancer findings including diagnosis, screening, and modern treatment options. Invercargill-based Colorectal Surgeon and Associate Professor, Konrad Richter, who inaugurated these lectures, chaired the evening.

Konrad Richter said "We're excited to provide another opportunity for individuals to engage in vibrant discussions, ask questions and seek advice from highly trained professionals. For us clinicians and hospital staff; teaching is twice, which means that the speakers not only want to educate the public but also learn from the audience, learn of their daily problems and concerns, engage and actively try to improve their health and environment”.

The next public lecture will be by Southland-based orthopaedic surgeon Mr Pierre Navarre: Modern Joint Replacement Surgery—Everything You Need to Know.

  • Wednesday 7 November 2018
  • Doors open 6pm for 7pm lecture start
  • Southland Hospital Education Centre, Invercargill
  • Register by email

University of Otago, Christchurch

UOC Simulation Centre Debriefing Workshop, 1–2 November 2018

Registrations are now open for the Debriefing Workshop to be held in Christchurch on 1–2 November 2018.

The Workshop is for any health professionals participating in simulation-based education and who have previously completed simulation instructor training (UOCSC simulation instructor workshop or similar).
More information can be found at the Debrief Workshop webpage or by email:

Health and Research Showcase

Health and Research Showcase  poster thumbnailThe Christchurch campus is preparing for its annual Health and Research Showcase on Sunday 23 September, when we invite the public to visit us and see what we do. The event this year features a debate on 'You are what you eat', and a health science quiz for teams of secondary science students.

  • Sunday 23 September 12 - 5pm
  • UOC Building, 2 Riccarton Ave, Christchurch Hospital
  • All welcome

3D human scanning

Wrist scan thumbnailUniversity of Otago, Christchurch, Professor Anthony Butler invented the MARS 3D colour scanner with his father Phil, a physicist from the University of Canterbury. The long-running project recently celebrated a milestone with the first human scanned by the technology. The news was picked up around the world with millions of people tweeting it, and key media such as the New York times reporting on it. The image on the right was produced by the MARS scanner.

Here's a TVNZ item on the invention and its potential to save lives:
Christchurch father and son make medical breakthrough that could save millions of lives

Bowel cancer bug

Professor Frank Frizelle is one of the country's leading bowel cancer surgeons and researchers. He was recently in the news for his ground-breaking research on the disease, and a toxic bug that is likely to cause it.

Watch a TVNZ news item on the research findings:
Exclusive: Christchurch researchers make major breakthrough in bowel cancer prevention

Toiletries drive for City Mission

Centre for Postgraduate Nursing Studies administrator Amanda Clifford organised a toiletries drive on campus for the City Mission. University of Otago, Christchurch staff and students donated more than 40 bags of toiletries items to the charity.

University of Otago, Wellington

Research news from Wellington campus

Researching the impact of drops in the oxygen levels of preterm babies

Conway Nui thumbnailFriends of international PhD student, Dr Conway Niu, jokes that his current research project – monitoring the oxygen levels of preterm babies – is taking him back to the comfort zone of his early days.

Closing NZ's border in severe pandemics cost-effective – New study

Michael Baker and Nick Wilson thumbnailClosing the border may make sense for New Zealand in some extreme pandemic situations, according to a newly published study of the costs and benefits of taking this step.

3MT finals showcase up-and-coming talent

3MT competition winners thumbnailA PhD candidate who is investigating the emotional responses of clinicians who deal with suicidal patients has won the PhD category of Otago's 2018 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Opinion: Healthy environment the foundation of suicide prevention

John Adams and Sunny Collings thumbnailDr John Adams and Professor Sunny Collings take a look at student mental health and suicide prevention.

Otago researcher secures funding for therapy to help prevent disorders in preterm babies

Max Berry thumbnailDr Max Berry has received funding from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand to investigate a new therapy which could potentially prevent disorders developing in children born prematurely.

Anywhere, anytime: New Zealand children's exposure to alcohol marketing

Wearable camera view of a liquor store thumbnailInnovative camera research has revealed New Zealand children are exposed to alcohol marketing on average 4.5 times per day.

Opinion: Smokefree 2025 - An opportunity for Government

Smokefree aotearoa road sign thumbnailBold  Government action is needed to achieve the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal  writes a group of staff from the Wellington campus and the Cancer  Society.

Major fundamental changes required to achieve health equity

Paula King thumbnailIn  comparing efforts to address health inequities, researchers in  Aotearoa / New Zealand and the United States have found that  both countries are failing to align policy with evidence-based  approaches that could help achieve equity.

Junk food dominates NZ sport

Playing sport on a field thumbnailJunk food dominates New Zealand sport venues, according to new research led by the University of Otago, Wellington.

Upcoming UOW events

4 September: Tackling diet-related disease in New Zealand: The need, the evidence, the priorities

A day of presentations and discussion on population diets in New Zealand and priorities for action.

Visit Tackling diet-related disease in New Zealand for the programme and registration.

11 September: 2018 Otago Spotlight Series: Infectious Disease Research

A day of short, accessible presentations from international leaders and emerging investigators in infectious disease research in the Nordmeyer Lecture  Theatre, University of Otago Wellington.

10 October:  An Anthropologist at Home

Congratulations to Louise Signal, (Department of Public Health) who has been promoted to Professor this year. She will give her Inaugural Professorial Lecture (IPL) on 10 Oct at 5pm in the Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, University of Otago Wellington.

Va'a o Tautai

Appointment of Associate Dean Pacific for Biomedical Sciences

Daryl Schwenke thumbnailAssociate Professor Daryl Schwenke, Physiology, has been appointed Associate Dean (Pacific), for the School of Biomedical Sciences. Daryl joins the other Pacific Associate Deans and Pacific leaders on the Takiala Pacific Leadership Network, which provides Pacific strategic leadership, guidance, oversight and support for the Division of Health Sciences' Pacific and Pacific-related developments, aspirations and activities, to ensure alignment with the Pacific Strategic Framework.

UOC Pacific Immersion Programme

Tongan community members and medical students enjoy a meal copy
Tongan community members and UOC fourth-year medical students during the Pacific Immersion Programme in Christchurch. Photo by Paea Fifita.

Over the weekend of the 30 June – 1 July, fourth-year medical students at UOC participated in the Pacific Immersion Programme (PIP), a unique learning opportunity for University of Otago medical students to gain first-hand experience of Pacific family life in the New Zealand context and learn about how culture, values and beliefs intersect with health.

The PIP has been part of the ALM 4 curriculum at the Dunedin School of Medicine since 2010, and was extended to students at UOC for the first time in 2018. Around 80 families from the Samoan, Cook Islands and Tongan communities around Christchurch each hosted a student.

Pacific community leaders from Dunedin and Christchurch and staff from across the three campuses were involved in the development and implementation of the programme, with support provided by health navigators from Etu Pasifika. There are now discussions about rolling out the Pacific Immersion Programme to fourth-year medical students at UOW in 2019.

Pacific Health Sciences Information Evenings

Oral health Simulation Clinic copy
Working in the Simulation Clinic during the information evening for Oral Health.

Pacific students interested in learning more about the various Health Professional Programmes on offer have had the opportunity to participate in a series of interactive Information Evenings. These sessions are organised by staff from the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU) and hosted by staff, Pacific students and alumni from each of the programmes.

Information Evenings have been held for Pharmacy, Research (BMS), Physiotherapy, Oral Health, and Radiation Therapy, and the series will conclude with Medical Laboratory Science on September 6.

Highlights of the Information Evenings include hearing from senior students and alumni about their academic journeys, presentations by staff, tours of various facilities, and participating in hands-on activities. PIRSSU staff are grateful to the many staff, students and alumni who have contributed to the successful running of these sessions.

Students making aqueous cream 650
Students try their hand at making aqueous cream, one of the School of Pharmacy Information Evening activities.

Pacific International Health Symposium 2018

Planning for the Pacific International Health Symposium (PIHS), a two-day symposium being held at the Otago Museum on 29-30 November focused on Strengthening Partnerships for Pacific Health, is well underway and a draft programme will be available via the PIHS website very soon.

Planned sessions will showcase research on a wide range of Pacific health-related topics, including communicable diseases, mental health and well-being, non-communicable diseases, and capacity building, research and evaluation. Parallel sessions on Day 2 (Friday 30 November) will provide an opportunity for Pacific students and other students working on Pacific health-related projects to present their research in a student-friendly space.

Students who are interested in presenting should contact the PIHS 2018 organisers by email to

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