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Otago announces Early Career Awards recipients

Clocktower at sunset

Friday 7 June 2013 10:52am

Early Career researchers

The outstanding contributions of five up-and-coming University of Otago academics have been recognised through Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research.

Dr Karen Brounéus (National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies), Dr Lyndie Foster Page (Faculty of Dentistry), Dr Carla Meledandri (Chemistry), Dr Suetonia Palmer (Medicine, Christchurch), and Dr Virginia Toy (Geology) were selected based on their impressive research achievements at an early stage of their career.

Their research spans the psychological aspects of peace-building, improving young people’s oral health, developing nanoscale materials for nanomedicine, improving treatment of kidney disease, and structural geology and seismic processes.

Announcing the awards, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says that the five are shining examples of the depth and breadth of talent amongst the University’s strong body of up-and-coming researchers.

“I warmly congratulate each on their notable contributions within their disciplines, work which is already creating new knowledge that underpins improvements in health, technology, social wellbeing and our understanding of environmental processes.”

Professor Blaikie says that not only do these talented staff play an important role in the University’s current research effort, they are also well-placed to be among Otago’s future research leaders.

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:

Karen Brouneus
Dr Karen Brounéus

Dr Karen Brounéus

Dr Brounéus is a Lecturer at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. After completing her MA in Clinical psychology at Uppsala University, Sweden, for several years she worked clinically with refugee women and children before undertaking a PhD at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University (2008).

Since joining Otago as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2009, Dr Brounéus has helped build New Zealand’s first Peace and Conflict Studies Centre. In 2010, she received a Fast-Start Marsden Research Grant and in 2011, Dr Brounéus was the recipient of Otago’s New Supervisor of the Year Award.

Dr Brounéus’ research focuses on psychological aspects of peacebuilding. Her doctoral work studied the Rwandan gacaca process and psychological health; she is currently conducting a study in Solomon Islands on the effect of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process on people’s attitudes towards coexistence and peace. She is involved in two collaborative projects with colleagues in Uppsala on peacebuilding during ongoing conflict: in Ethiopia, investigating – through a randomized field study – the effect of interethnic dialogue at Addis Ababa University, and in the Deep South of Thailand, studying the link between attitudes toward gender equality and the use of violence to reach political goals.

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Lyndie Foster
Dr Lyndie Foster Page

Dr Lyndie Foster Page

Dr Foster Page has been a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Dentistry since 2008. She completed her undergraduate science and dental degrees at Otago before working in private dental practice. She went on to complete a postgraduate clinical diploma and a MComDent (Otago) in 2003, then worked as a dental public health specialist for Taranaki and Wanganui DHBs before returning to Otago, completing her PhD in 2010.

Her research encompasses a wide range of oral conditions, problems and settings, most notably in the fields of dental caries and young people’s oral health. Much of her work is concerned with children’s quality of life: her early work has led to a short-form measure that is now the most commonly used internationally. Her recent focus has been on novel approaches to managing caries in children, and recent findings using a new operative technique are particularly promising for the New Zealand oral health sector.

She collaborates widely and has received a number of competitive public sector and industry research grants. In 2011, she received the International Association for Dental Research Australia and New Zealand Division Award in Preventive and Community Dentistry for her published research.

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Carla Meledandri
Dr Carla Meledandri

Dr Carla Meledandri

Dr Meledandri is a Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, and was appointed to this position in 2009. After completing her undergraduate studies at Penn State University in 2001, she worked for three years in the Blood Research Department at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, USA, before obtaining her PhD from Dublin City University in 2008.

Dr Meledandri’s research programme is focused on the design and preparation of nanoscale materials for practical applications, particularly in the area of nanomedicine. One of her main research projects, in collaboration with the Faculty of Dentistry, involves the development of antibacterial silver nanoparticle-based materials for application in clinical dentistry for the treatment and prevention of dental caries.

Together with her collaborator, Dr Meledandri was awarded the 2011 Otago Innovation Proof of Concept Award. In addition to several internal research grants, Dr Meledandri also secured a Fast-Start Marsden Research Grant in 2011 to support her research into the synthesis of shape-controlled magnetic nanoparticles and investigation of their magnetic resonance properties in suspension, for the purpose of developing improved magnetic materials for MRI contrast agent applications. Dr Meledandri’s work has been published in high impact scientific journals, and regularly cited by research groups world-wide.

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Dr Suetonia Palmer

Dr Suetonia Palmer

Dr Palmer is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch. Her research translates new discoveries in kidney disease into useable information for patients, clinicians and policy-makers.

She completed her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Otago. She then completed her advanced training as a kidney specialist and her PhD at the University of Otago, Christchurch, into the link between kidney function and heart health. She then undertook a two-year postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA.

Since her return to Christchurch in 2011, she has continued an active international programme of research with her collaborators in Australia, Europe and Canada. Her more than 40 publications have been highly cited and relevant to clinical practice including publications in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and PLoS Medicine. Her work has identified the relative lack of high quality information available to decision-makers who care for people with kidney disease.

She won a highly prestigious L’Oreal UNESCO For Women In Science Fellowship in 2012 and she was one of 10 recipients of a Health Research Council Emerging Researcher grant in 2013. She is an international editor for the Cochrane Collaboration and believes the most important aspect of her work is to support young researchers to build their own skills, knowledge, and capacity for research.

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Virginia Toy
Dr Virginia Toy

Dr Virginia Toy

Dr Toy, a Senior Lecturer in Geology, is an Otago PhD graduate who has lectured at the University since 2008 in her field of research expertise, structural geology. Dr Toy also informs her teaching from past experience in engineering rock mechanics and tectonics.

She investigates the mechanisms that allow deformation to localise in the Earth's crust and the record of seismic processes in fault rocks through detailed field studies of exhumed, deformed rocks, microscopic and textural analysis, and by performing rock deformation experiments.

She recognises the wealth of information available from well-constrained, well-instrumented natural faults zones, such as New Zealand’s Alpine Fault zone, and the rapid advances that nationally and internationally inclusive research teams can make. Consequently, she is extensively involved, both as a researcher and as a co-ordinator, in scientific drilling into active structures such as New Zealand's Alpine Fault; she co-ordinates the Deep Fault Drilling Project (DFDP), and was a science party member for ocean drilling into the source of the 2011 M9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake.

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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