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Otago announces professorial promotions

Sun striking the Clocktower

Thursday 29 January 2015 8:36am

Fifteen leading University of Otago academics are being promoted to full professorships.

Announcing the promotions, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne warmly congratulated the new professors on their well-earned promotions which take effect from 1 February.

“The success of these candidates is a reflection of their proven records of excellence not just in terms of their fields of research but also as leaders in teaching and service to the University and community.”

To ensure the world class calibre of the candidates’ research contributions, Otago requires candidates to undergo a rigorous selection process that includes advice from international experts.

Otago’s new professors are: Lutz Beckert (Medicine, Christchurch), David Bryant (Mathematics and Statistics), Lisette Burrows (Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences), Warwick Duncan (Oral Sciences), Christopher Frampton (Medicine, Christchurch), Richard Gearry (Medicine, Christchurch), Leigh Hale (Physiotherapy), David Hutchinson (Physics), David Larsen (Chemistry), Rhonda Rosengren (Pharmacology and Toxicology), Katherine Scott (Psychological Medicine), Geoffrey Shaw (Anaesthesia), Takashi Shogimen (History and Art History), Elisabeth Slooten (Zoology), and Stuart Young (Theatre Studies Programme, Music).

A further 39 University of Otago academics were promoted to Associate Professor level (full list below).

Professor profiles:

Lutz Beckert

Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch

Lutz Beckert’s research endeavours to improve the health of patients with respiratory illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, pulmonary vascular disease and interstitial lung disease. Some of his research explores standards in lung function testing and intra-tracheal measurements of oxygen concentrations. Lutz’s research also examines more efficient application of clinical testing. A blood test to exclude pulmonary embolism is implemented at Christchurch Hospital. Research is ongoing to find a biomarker to identify patients who can be safely discharged home when presenting with COPD. He also participates in international studies trialling new therapies for illnesses such as emphysema, asthma, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Currently he is participating in investigations to ascertain whether beta-blockers may save lives in patients with emphysema. He is the Head of Department of Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

David Bryant

Department of Mathematics & Statistics

David Bryant is an applied mathematician, best known for his work developing computational and statistical tools for evolutionary genetics. His research is highly cited and has been applied to a wide range of subject areas. These include phylogenetics, early microbial evolution, genetic tracking of endangered species, pathogen identification, and even the comparative analysis of fairy tales. In addition to his ongoing phylogenetics research, he is currently working on a wide range of projects in the fields of population genetics, pure mathematics, computational statistics and the development of smart agricultural technology. David is director of the Computational Modelling programme and a lead researcher in a major Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funded project on agricultural sensors. He has been a principal investigator of the Allan Wilson Centre since 2010.

Lisette Burrows

School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences

Lisette Burrows’ research focuses on young people’s understandings of health and physical culture in Aotearoa. She has worked with colleagues in the UK, Australia and Canada to investigate how children, teachers and families engage with contemporary health imperatives, particularly those focused on obesity prevention. She has an abiding interest in issues of equity and social justice in relation to physical education and health. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Travel Award to present lectures/seminars to colleagues in the US, an invited keynote presenter at nursing, physical education, adapted physical activity, health, and children’s issues conferences both here and abroad, and has over 100 research outputs. She is president of Physical Education New Zealand, has twice received an OUSA Supervisor of the Year award, and serves on several international editorial boards dealing with the cultural politics of education and sociological studies in physical education and health.

Warwick Duncan

Department of Oral Sciences, School of Dentistry

Dunedin-born Warwick Duncan is the first University of Otago-qualified periodontist to be promoted to Professor at Otago. His primary research focus involves his clinical specialty of periodontics (treatment of gum diseases), including the replacement of missing teeth with titanium dental implants. This work has extended from preliminary trials in animal disease models, to validation in human clinical trials. Significant themes have included the development of new bone replacement grafting materials, new metals and surfaces for "osseointegration" of oral implants, stem-cell therapy for bone regeneration, novel approaches to the treatment of periodontal and peri-implant diseases, and diagnostic imaging of gum and bone around teeth and implants. His major international research collaborations have included the Universities of Bern and Zürich (Switzerland), University of Washington (USA) and Chonbuk National University (Korea). He has research relationships with multinational dental companies in South Africa, USA, Switzerland, Sweden, Korea, Germany and Australia. His emerging secondary research area involves forensic research and victim identification.

Christopher Frampton

Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch

Chris Frampton’s primary research focus is the statistical conduct and analysis leading to publication of phase III randomised clinical trials, with a particular focus on cardiology, anaesthesiology, oncology and psychology trials. In this role, he provides statistical design and analysis input into trial protocol development, is involved in data safety monitoring meetings as the trial is undertaken and then analyses the data and contributes to the research publications from the trial. Currently there are approximately 25 national and international trials that he is directly involved with. He is a member of three of the national medical regulatory committees (SCOTT, MARC and MAAC) and provides statistical oversight and analysis for three Australasian medical registries – The NZ Joint registry, the NZ Cystic Fibrosis registry, and the Pulmonary Hypertension Society ANZ registry.

Richard Gearry

Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch

In addition to his academic role, Richard Gearry is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Christchurch Hospital. His research interests centre on luminal gastroenterology, specifically inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, and broad aspects of nutrition. His work has included landmark epidemiological and clinical studies of IBD in New Zealand and collaboration on international IBD genetics projects. Current research interests include the gut microbiota and its role in health and disease with specific reference to nutritional modulation. He has a number of advisory roles including being Medical Director of the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, Medical Advisor to Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand, a Trustee of the Bowel and Liver Trust, Board member of the National Intestinal Failure Service Clinical Governance Board and is one of 60 worldwide members of the International Organisation for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Leigh Hale

School of Physiotherapy

Leigh Hale primarily researches in the area of community-based physiotherapeutic rehabilitation for people living with disability and with neurological conditions, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Her research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and focuses on how physiotherapists can enable people to optimally live healthy and engaging lives. Current research projects include evaluating community-based fall prevention programmes for older adults and for adults with intellectual disability; interventions to assist people living with disability and/or chronic conditions to sustain physical activity participation; evaluation of the Bridges Self-Management Programme for people post-stroke; accessibility of health and disability services for hauā (disabled) Māori; and the use of virtual reality and other technologies in upper limb stroke rehabilitation. This work has been funded both by University of Otago internal grants and external funding bodies, primarily the Health Research Council of New Zealand, ACC, Lottery Health and Physiotherapy New Zealand.

David Hutchinson

Department of Physics

David Hutchinson’s research is primarily in the field of theoretical quantum physics. He has made contributions in the modelling of semiconductors, plasma physics, strongly correlated electron systems and ultracold atomic physics. It is in the understanding of the effects of the low, but finite, temperature in these cold gases that his work has had its largest impact. At absolute zero, an unachievable theoretical limit, ideally, all atoms occupy the lowest possible energy configuration. However, temperature and interactions between atoms in the real world mean some are not really in this lowest state, but are in excited states. These atoms are like the white light from a light bulb compared to the coherent atoms in the ground state which are analogous to laser light. These thermal and quantum fluctuations have important impact on the utility of ultracold gases to realise devices, such as rotation sensors and gravitometers. David has also been interested in the intimate connection between mathematics and physics.

David Larsen

Department of Chemistry

David Larsen's research develops chemical methodology for the synthesis of complex organic molecules that have potential for the treatment of human disease. He uses compounds found in nature, especially those that contain carbohydrates, as a template for chemical design for collaborative research projects with biologists and immunologists. The compounds include synthetic vaccines that provide insight into immunity against tumours and the synthesis of small molecules based upon cell wall components from mycobacterium tuberculosis for use against allergic diseases such as asthma. Another part of his research is aimed at developing molecules that can improve the viability of organs during storage for transport prior to transplantation. This involves the design and synthesis of compounds that release low levels of carbon monoxide gas under physiological conditions to the storage solution that results in protection of tissue. Success in this project could result in an increased number of organs available for transplant.

Rhonda Rosengren

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Rhonda Rosengren’s research career has spanned two distinct arms. The development of novel drugs for triple negative breast cancer and hormone refractory prostate cancer as well as drug induced changes in liver function including drug interactions. We have shown mechanisms for various drug interactions with commonly used drugs including vitamin A, Paracetamol and St. John's wort. We have also synthesised and extensively characterised a suite of novel synthetic derivatives of the natural compound curcumin that we are developing for use in patients with aggressive and metastatic breast and prostate cancer. We are also investigating them as single agents or in combination with raloxifene, a drug currently used for osteoporosis. Ultimately, we aim to deliver both drugs using nanotechnology in order to increase both drug safety and potency by delivering the drug specifically to the tumour as well as to metastatic sites.

Katherine Scott

Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine

Kate Scott is a clinical psychologist whose early research was in experimental psychopathology. Her more recent research has been into the epidemiology of mental disorders. She is a senior investigator with the WHO’s World Mental Health Surveys Consortium, a cross-national project coordinating the implementation and analysis of epidemiologic surveys of mental disorders in 30 countries (including New Zealand). Part of Kate’s research has involved a focus on the links between mental and physical health. In a recent Health Research Council-funded project based on analyses of the World Mental Health Surveys dataset, Kate and her international collaborators established that mental disorders of all types are associated with accelerated onset of most chronic physical conditions. The wide-ranging nature of these mental-physical links has significant clinical and population health implications.

Geoffrey Shaw

Department of Anaesthesia, University of Otago, Christchurch

Geoff Shaw worked in paediatric and adult intensive care in Australia before moving back to Christchurch in 1998. He has a keen interest in biomedical engineering applications in critical care and has worked at Otago since 2003. He has over 470 publications including several patents. His research interests include modelling and control of the insulin-glucose system, cardiovascular dynamics, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and agitation in ICU patients. Geoff enjoys the challenge of teaching both medical and engineering students. Geoff has been a co-founder of three start-up biomedical companies: Lifevent, (Dunedin), Intersection Lifesciences and Tiro (Christchurch). He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury, and is the first clinician to be made an honorary fellow of the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand.

Takashi Shogimen

Department of History and Art History

Since joining the University of Otago as a Lecturer in 2004, Takashi’s research has revolved around the history of political thought. His primary field of research is political thought in medieval Europe. After the publication of his 2007 monograph on the 14th-Century Franciscan philosopher William of Ockham from Cambridge University Press, Takashi produced a survey of medieval European political thought in Japanese, which was awarded the 2013 Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities. He has also published widely on modern Japanese political thought and cross-cultural comparison between European and Japanese political ideas. His work has enjoyed financial support from the Marsden Fund twice. Since July 2013 Takashi has been Associate Dean of Research for Humanities, supporting researchers within the Division of Humanities. He has also been a co-director of the University of Otago Research Theme “Comparative and Cross-Cultural Studies” to facilitate and promote interdisciplinary research in the field.

Elisabeth Slooten

Department of Zoology

Liz Slooten has been researching Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins for 30 years. These endangered dolphins are found only in New Zealand. Liz’s research has led to the creation of protected areas that have reduced dolphin bycatch in fishing nets. In collaboration with other staff and students at the University of Otago, she is also carrying out research on sperm whales, right whales, bottlenose dolphins and New Zealand sea lions. Her research is focused on marine mammal ecology and human impacts on their populations – including fishing, mining and tourism. Liz’s population viability analyses and risk analyses have helped the Government implement protection for marine mammals in New Zealand waters. Liz is a member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and chaired the organising committee for a major international marine mammal conference held at University of Otago in December 2013.

Stuart Young

Theatre Studies Programme, Department of Music

Stuart Young’s research is strongly interdisciplinary, and combines scholarship and theatre practice which includes directing and translating. A long-standing focus of his research has been the production, reception, and rewriting of Russian drama, in particular Chekhov, in Britain. His interests also traverse translation studies and translation for the theatre; modern British drama; New Zealand theatre; gay/queer drama; and documentary/verbatim theatre. Documentary theatre has become the principal focus of Stuart’s research in recent years. He has been instrumental in pioneering the creation and production of this theatrical form in New Zealand. In collaboration with his Theatre Studies colleague Hilary Halba, other professional theatre-makers, and senior students, he has developed a particular form of “verbatim” theatre and created a portfolio of innovative plays.

Promotions to Associate Professor level

(Effective 1 February 2015)

Promoted to Associate Professor:

Peter Adams (Music)
Lubica Benuskova (Computer Science)
Stephen Bunn (Anatomy)
David Burritt (Botany)
Tania Cassidy (School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences)
Tim Cooper (Theology and Religion)
James Crowley (Chemistry)
Jeremiah Deng (Information Science)
David Everett (Food Sciences)
Peter Fineran (Microbiology and Immunology)
Rogelio Guedea (Languages and Cultures)
John Harraway (Mathematics and Statistics)
Patries Herst (Radiation Therapy, Wellington)
Julia Horsfield (Pathology)
Keith Ireton (Microbiology and Immunology)
Christine Jasoni (Anatomy)
Gill Johnson (Physiotherapy)
Taneli Kukkonen (Theology and Religion)
Miles Lamare (Marine Science)
Jonathan Leichter (Oral Sciences)
Ping Liu (Anatomy)
Brian Monk (Oral Sciences)
Jessica Palmer (Law)
Suetonia Palmer (Medicine, Christchurch)
Suzanne Pitama (Dean's Department, Christchurch)
Ivan Sammut (Pharmacology and Toxicology)
Tai Sopoaga (Preventive and Social Medicine)
Simon Stebbings (Medicine)
Yolanda van Heezik (Zoology)
Paola Voci (Languages and Cultures)
Neil Waddell (Oral Rehabilitation)
Pat Wheatley (Classics)
Nicola Wheen (Law)
Ben Wooliscroft (Marketing)

Promoted to Research Associate Professor:

Nigel Anderson (Radiology, Christchurch)
Gabriele Dachs (Pathology, Christchurch)

Promoted to Clinical Associate Professor:

Jeremy Krebs (Medicine, Wellington)
Konrad Richter (Surgical Sciences)
Catherine Stedman (Medicine, Christchurch)

For more information, contact

Simon Ancell
Senior Research Communications Adviser
Tel 64 3 479 5016

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