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Major support from Marsden Fund for innovative Otago research


Friday 24 September 2010 2:57pm

University of Otago researchers have received major support from the prestigious Marsden Fund for a wide variety of innovative studies that will push the boundaries of current knowledge.

In the Fund’s latest round, researchers from across the University’s Divisions of Health Sciences, Humanities, and Sciences have gained $10.67M for 19 projects addressing unsolved questions in realms ranging from atomic physics to societal conflict resolution.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Harlene Hayne welcomed the Marsden Fund’s support for world-class research at Otago and warmly congratulated the University’s latest successful applicants.

“I am very proud of the researchers’ performance in this fiercely contested funding round. Nationally there was a record number of preliminary proposals submitted to the Marsden Fund. Less than one in ten of those proposals was eventually funded.”

Professor Hayne noted that for the sixth year running, the University of Otago has secured more Marsden funding than any other institution in New Zealand.

“Once again, our researchers have demonstrated the world-class nature of the research that is conducted at the University of Otago. Their success reflects Otago’s ongoing commitment to building and sustaining a strong research culture,” Professor Hayne says.

Among the new Otago projects are studies aimed at gaining new understandings of the world around us, including investigations into the bizarre behaviour of ultra-cold atoms, the effects of magnetic storms on polar air temperatures, mechanisms involved in plant photosynthesis, and genetic diversity in endangered bird populations.

Biomedically-focused projects include studies into mechanisms underlying the spread of bacterial infection between cells, deadly cardiac arrhythmias in heart disease, drug resistance, brain control of human fertility, and the hormone-related neural basis of mood disorders in some new mothers.

Projects in both science and humanities are designed to glean important new insights into facets of human behaviour and in society, both past and present. Included are investigations into decision-making when embryos show genetic anomalies, improving the reliability of children’s court testimony, and several studies focusing on gaining new knowledge about key aspects of societies and social interactions that are occurring now and in the past.

Professor Hayne says she is excited by the significant proportion of “Fast-Start” grants among the successful Otago projects.

“Fast-Start awards are designed to support outstanding researchers early in their careers. These staff members promise to become the University’s research leaders of tomorrow, and it is really exciting to see their potential recognised through these grants.”

Marsden grants are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and support research excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, social sciences and the humanities. This year, $60M was distributed among 13 institutions in New Zealand.

For more information, contact

Professor Harlene Hayne
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise)
Tel 64 3 479 8835

Otago’s Marsden recipients:

(Please note only principal investigators are listed)

Dr Ashton Bradley (Department of Physics)
The birth, life, and death of a quantum vortex dipole
$307,000 over three years (Fast-Start grant)

Dr Karen Brounéus (National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies)
Truth for peace - an evaluation of the outcomes and impacts of the Solomon Islands' TRC on attitudes towards peace
$296,000 over three years

Dr Rebecca Campbell (Department of Physiology)
Primary cilia and the central regulation of fertility
$575,000 over three years

Associate Professor Peter Dearden (Department of Biochemistry)
Constraining and Buffering Evolution: how do complex gene networks evolve?
$838,000 over three years

Dr Jacob Edmond (Department of English)
After the original: Iterative poetry and global culture
$416,155 over three years

Dr Ruth Fitzgerald (Department of Anthropology, Gender & Sociology) and Associate Professor Mike Legge (Department of Biochemistry)
Troubling choice: exploring and explaining techniques of moral reasoning for people living at the intersection of reproductive technologies, genetics, and disability
$735,000 over three years

Associate Professor Colin Fox (Department of Physics)
Sampling from probability distributions arising in inverse problems
$465,000 over three years

Professor Robert Hannah (Department of Classics)
Myth, cult and the cosmos: astronomy in ancient Greek religion
$590,000 over three years

Dr Martin Hohmann-Marriott (Department of Biochemistry)
Photosystem II - the enzyme that never sleeps
$307,000 over three years (Fast-Start grant)

Dr Keith Ireton (Department of Microbiology & Immunology)
Molecular mechanism of spreading of microbial pathogens: studies with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes
$785,000 over three years

Dr Chris Jacobson (to join Department of Geography)
Knowledge interfacing and power sharing in co-management: a comparative analysis
$307,000 over three years (Fast-Start grant)

Associate Professor Ian Jamieson (Department of Zoology)
Starting from scratch: the genetic fate of a recently established island population
$888,000 over three years

Dr Peter Jones (Department of Physiology)
Physiological and Pathological Regulation of the Cardiac Ryanodine Receptor (RyR2) by RyR2-Interacting Proteins
$307,000 over three years (Fast-Start grant)

Dr Caroline Larsen (Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology)
Neurogenesis and postpartum anxiety
$307,000 over three years (Fast-Start grant)

Dr Mark McCoy (Department of Anthropology, Gender & Sociology)
The archaeology of territoriality: trade, conflict, and agriculture in NZ before European contact
$307,000 over three years (Fast-Start grant)

Dr Brian Monk (Department of Oral Sciences)
Multifunctional azoles: A triple whammy designed to defeat drug resistance
$840,000 over three years

Dr Craig Rodger (Department of Physics)
Evaluating the Impact of Excess Ionization on the Atmosphere (EI EI A)
$805,000 over three years

Associate Professor Stephen Wing (Department of Marine Science) and Associate Professor Russell Frew (Department of Chemistry)
Does bioaccumulation of trace nutrients by seabirds enhance productivity around sub-Antarctic Islands?
$840,000 over three years

Dr Rachel Zajac (Department of Psychology)
Cross-examination on trial: Facilitating accurate testimony from child witnesses
$796,598 over three years

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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