Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

University of Otago Research Themes and Networks recognise many of the emerging innovative research collaborations happening within the Division of Health Sciences, and with collaborations with colleagues from other Divisions.

Research Themes and Networks make a valuable contribution to the University of Otago's well-established research reputation. Health Sciences researchers lead or contribute to the following formally recognised Research Themes and Networks:

Agriculture at Otago

New Zealand farm scenic landscapeOur theme uses three research planks that underpin the challenges for NZ's Primary Sector as a global producer of sustainable high value food products:

  • Enhancing agricultural productivity
  • Adding value to primary industry products
  • Sustainable and profitable environmental management

The overarching goal is to develop functional collaborative interactions between University of Otago researchers with disparate but complementary expertise, and the key funding agencies that support this research. Synergies between diverse research expertise involving all schools at the University will make the overall impact far greater than the sum of individual contributions.


Allan Wilson at Otago: Human evolutionary genomics

Allan Wilson banner tnOur theme unites world leading scientists across the University with leading international researchers in human evolutionary genomics. We seek to reconstruct the biological, linguistic and cultural history of humans using cutting-edge tools and technologies in genomics and bioinformatics.

Using a participatory science framework, we will investigate evolutionary factors impacting modern human genomic diversity and the implications for understanding the health and histories of New Zealanders.

We will continue to celebrate the legacy of Allan Wilson and the recognition of his impact on evolutionary research through our research outputs.


Asia-Pacific Biocultural Health: Past and present

AP Biocultural Health ceramic vessellWe are investigating fundamental questions of the human past that have pressing implications for human health today in Aotearoa, the Pacific and Southeast Asia. The University of Otago is the only institution internationally to house leaders in health research in these regions.

Through the melding of prehistoric health and current biomedical research (evolutionary medicine) our understanding of health issues, including non-communicable and infectious disease, social disparity and dietary and cultural change, can be assessed.

Drawing on multi-disciplinary approaches we will build new, and strengthen existing, research relationships. This will increase our research capacity and allow us to showcase our international leadership.


Centre for Bioengineering and Nanomedicine

Bioengineering cellular framework tnWe work to improve clinical health outcomes and to translate research into products and services. Our vision is to be an interdisciplinary, pure and applied research-led centre with an international reputation for excellence.

Our centre performs cutting-edge research and it also gives postgraduate students and industry the opportunity to conduct bioengineering and nanomedicine research with world-class scientists.

Our fields of expertise include: biomaterials, imaging, point-of-care technologies, and regenerative medicine.


Centre for Global Migrations

Woven kete The Centre for Global Migrations co-ordinates research, teaching, and activities relating to historical and contemporary global migration.

Our aims are to:

  • Advance and communicate knowledge and understanding of the causes, consequences, and legacies of migration
  • Facilitate national and international interdisciplinary research collaborations to develop new methodologies and frameworks for migration and inform public debate and policy development
  • Develop a vibrant research community encompassing the academy, policy makers, heritage professionals, and the general public


Centre for Health Systems and Technology

CHeST blue dot matrix thumbThe Centre for Health Systems facilitates and promotes research into health system improvement at the University of Otago, across local and national health systems, as well as internationally.

Our affiliates have expertise in economics, management, informatics, health services research, policy, planning, research methods, and clinical service delivery.

We aim to:

  • Facilitate and promote research into health systems improvement
  • Bring together and coordinate the activities of those with health systems interests, and build a multi-disciplinary, cross-campus grouping with national and international links
  • Partner with district health boards, primary health organisations, and other providers in projects of mutual interest that will benefit the health system and services


Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence (CARE)

CARE opening tnCARE conducts research in gerontology—the study of ageing in all its aspects. Gerontology is becoming increasingly important in developed countries, including New Zealand, because of our ageing populations.

The CARE network concentrates on three areas of research strength:

  • Physical health
  • Brain health
  • Social and policy development

Our network of CARE researchers have expertise in:

  • Biomedical sciences
  • Clinical practice
  • Population and community health
  • Indigenous health
  • Social sciences
  • Rural health
  • Health service provision

Researchers have comprehensive local, national, and international collaborative relationships. This will bring significant benefit to New Zealand in public policy, commerce, the health sector and local communities.


Microbiome Otago

Microbiome live Microbiome Otago is a leader of research on the microscopic inhabitants of the human body and their impact on health and disease. This highly topical research area has the potential to transform our understanding of how coexistence with trillions of microbial beings affects our lives.

Hosted by the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Microbiome Otago is a multidisciplinary research collaboration of 33 founding scientific and clinical researchers spanning a diversity of disciplines and institutes in New Zealand and overseas.


Pain at Otago

Volley ball tnChronic pain is the third largest cause of illness-related disability for New Zealanders. The prevalence of chronic pain makes it a major health issue and a critical public health problem internationally in terms of disability adjusted life years. Chronic pain creates a health care cost burden, loss of productivity in the workplace, and has a significant impact on daily wellbeing.

Pain at Otago research theme and its network of researchers will be the first of its kind in New Zealand. Our research will incorporate basic, clinical and population level research. Translational and clinical outcomes are ultimately designed to reduce the burden of chronic pain at an individual and national level.

The overall goal of Pain at Otago research theme will be the formation of an interdisciplinary team of researchers resulting in measurable outcomes in the form of externally funded research, key national and international research collaborations, and publications.

Research focus:

  • Understanding mechanisms of pain
  • Predictors of pain chronicity
  • Management of pain
  • Pain education and curriculum


Polar Environments

Polar environments tnThe Polar Environment Research Theme is a multidisciplinary network for scientists at the University of Otago with an interest in polar regions.

Due to its ideal location, the University has developed a particularly strong connection with Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and the theme members are actively involved in Antarctica New Zealand and the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute.

Our programme includes:

  • Polar ice-ocean physics and modelling
  • Glaciers
  • Marine environments
  • Cold adaptation in plants and animals
  • Antarctic geology
  • Polar atmosphere and ionosphere
  • Marine chemistry

Our goal is to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and research in polar studies at the University of Otago. In particular, we encourage the involvement of graduate students and young researchers. A key objective is to mentor emerging researchers with an interest in polar studies, and provide them with support to develop knowledge and networks nationally and internationally. This theme was established in 2011, and has been extended.


Poutama Ara Rau

Poutama Ara Rau imageThe Poutama Ara Rau Research Theme grew out of conversations among Māori academics following the outstanding accomplishments of Associate Professor Karyn Paringatai, Professor Suzanne Pitama, and Professor Jacinta Ruru, all of whom were awarded the Prime Minister's Supreme Award for Teaching Excellence – in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Our common research project will be dedicated to considering “How can mātauranga Māori and Māori pedagogies transform tertiary teaching and learning?”

We seek to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Expanded quality of Māori learning and teaching theory and methods for tertiary teaching
  • Enhanced access to ako in a tertiary context including technological devices
  • The Theme and Otago are nationally and internationally recognised and sought after for their expertise in Māori learning and teaching methods in a tertiary environment


Please visit Research in faculties and schools for information about other research groups within the Division.

Health Sciences Research Networks

The Division is also leading the following University funded Research Networks:

  • Osteoarthritis Research Network
  • Live Human Tissue Models Research Network
  • Menstrual Health Research Network - Contact Associate Professor Jane Girling
  • Otago Falls Research Network
  • Rural Health Research Network

Health Sciences Research Centres

In addition to the Research Themes above, Division of Health Sciences researchers lead or contribute to nine University of Otago Research Centres.

Back to top