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Awards recognise up-and-coming Otago researchers

Sun striking the Clocktower

Tuesday 29 May 2012 7:36am

Early career 2012 Knapp Clarkson Halcrow AbbottEarly-Career Award winners
Dr Michael Knapp, Dr Andrew Clarkson, Dr Sian Halcrow and Dr Haxby Abbott.

Early-Career Awards for Distinction in Research have been made to four highly promising University of Otago staff members.

Dr Haxby Abbott (Surgical Sciences), Dr Andrew Clarkson (Anatomy and Psychology), Dr Sian Halcrow (Anatomy) and Dr Michael Knapp (Anatomy) were selected on the basis of their outstanding research achievements.

Their research spans osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, protecting and restoring brain cell function following stroke, infant and child biology from archaeological sites, and the study of ancient DNA.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says the recipients reflect the high-quality research being undertaken at the University of Otago.

“These four fine researchers are, even at this early stage in their careers, making remarkable contributions in their respective fields. They are well-placed to be among Otago’s future research leaders so it is pleasing that the University can formally recognise and support them in their work.

“They are at the forefront of their disciplines and producing research with much promise for either improving people’s wellbeing or in gaining important insights into humanity’s past, which in turn can inform our future directions.”

The Early-Career Award for Distinction in Research includes a $5000 grant for the recipient to use for research and scholarly development.

Recipients also become members of the University’s O-Zone Group of early to mid-career researchers. O-Zone undertakes activities to promote interdisciplinary thinking and collaborations and to present a positive, clear, innovative, and independent voice for research within the University and beyond.

About the recipients

Dr Haxby Abbott

Dr Haxby Abbott is a member of the Orthopaedic section of the Department of Surgical Sciences, Dunedin School of Medicine, where he is principal investigator of the Management of Osteoarthritis research programme at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Outcomes Research. After qualifying as a physiotherapist he practiced in the USA, where he completed a Masters degree before returning to New Zealand to complete his PhD at the Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology.

Dr Abbott’s research focuses on the management of musculoskeletal conditions, particularly osteoarthritis, together with health economic evaluations, and the accuracy of clinical examination tests and clinical outcome measures. He has won numerous national and international grants, and in 2010 was awarded a prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Dr Abbott’s clinical research has influenced national practice change and international clinical practice guidelines, and has driven an innovative practice initiative funded by the National Health Board. He has served as an editor, associate editor, and manuscript reviewer for several national and international journals. He is currently collaborating on projects with researchers from institutions in NZ, Australia and the USA.

Dr Andrew Clarkson

Dr Clarkson is a Senior Research Fellow in the Departments of Anatomy and Psychology where he is investigating mechanisms related to neuroprotection and neurorestoration following a stroke. After completing his PhD at the University of Otago in December 2005, Dr Clarkson was awarded the Phillip Wrightson Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand to continue working at the University of Otago. In 2008 Dr Clarkson moved to Los Angeles to work in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 2010 Dr Clarkson returned to the University of Otago after being awarded the New Zealand Neurological Repatriation Fellowship to establish his own laboratory. Since his return he has been awarded a Sir Charles Hercus Fellowship, a Health Research Council Project Grant, a Lottery Health equipment grant and more recently contract research from Industrial Research Limited.

Dr Clarkson’s current research focuses on understanding the various mechanisms related to neuroprotection and neurorestoration after a stroke. Understanding how these changes occur and how they evolve over time will enable specific pharmacological targeting of pathways of recovery with the aim of complementing remedial therapies. Dr Clarkson is part of several international projects aiming to find novel pharmacological therapies to treat people who have had a stroke.

Dr Sian Halcrow

Dr Halcrow is a Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy where she studies infant and child biology from archaeological sites. She completed her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Anthropology in 2002 and then her PhD in 2007, both at the University of Otago.

From 2007 she held the position of Postdoctoral Fellow before being awarded a Lectureship in the Department of Anatomy in 2010. She has been successful in securing several internal research grants, and external funding including a Claude McCarthy Fellowship, a NZ Fulbright Travel Award and a Marsden Fast-Start Grant.

Dr Halcrow’s Marsden Grant research involves investigating infant and child diet and weaning, and its relationship to health and demographic change with the introduction and intensification of agriculture in prehistoric Southeast Asia. She is also currently working on several multidisciplinary archaeological projects in Southeast Asia, including Thailand (funded by an Australian Council Research Gant) and Cambodia, and is starting fieldwork in Indonesia this year.

Since 2007, Dr Halcrow has published 23 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

Dr Michael Knapp

Dr Knapp is a Research Fellow in the Department of Anatomy and a member of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution. After completing his PhD at Massey University in 2007, he was offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. In 2009 he returned to New Zealand to take up his current position at the University of Otago.

Dr Knapp’s research program has a strong focus on Paleogenetics. Using state-of-the-art ancient DNA techniques he is reconstructing the past population dynamics of humans and the animals they encountered on their ancient journey across the globe to investigate how faunal communities responded to changing environments over the past 50,000 years. Dr Knapp recently completed a research project on cave bear extinction, which received international media attention, and he was part of a team that pioneered a novel method for targeted high-throughput sequencing of highly degraded DNA. He is principal investigator of an Australia & Pacific Science Foundation Grant and a University of Otago Research Grant, and Associate Investigator on two Marsden Grants.

Dr Knapp has published high impact journal articles and book chapters and serves as academic editor for the international journal PLoS ONE.

For further information, contact

Professor Richard Blaikie
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 8513

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