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Thursday 8 November 2018 8:14pm

The University of Otago will receive $28.5 million (excluding GST) for 41 world-class projects in the latest Marsden Funding round.

The University of Otago has secured not only the most funding from this year’s Marsden Fund grants, but also the highest number of grants awarded to any research organisation since the fund began in 1994.

The University will receive $28.5 million (excluding GST) for 41 world-class projects, up from $24 million for 33 projects last year.

"This is testament to the exceptionally hard work put in by research and professional staff to ensure their world-leading research ideas are expressed in the most compelling way possible."

In an analysis by Dave Guerin, Editor of Tertiary Insight, it shows seven universities gained funding and secured 93.8 per cent of the $85.6 million awarded nationally, which is a similar share to previous years. Three Crown Research Institutes and two independent research organisations also received awards and a full list of the successful 2018 Marsden Fund projects can be found here.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says this is a significant achievement for Otago researchers as there is huge competition for the funding, with applications usually coming from the country’s eight universities, seven Crown Research Institutes and about 20 other separate private and public-sector organisations.

“We are very proud that Otago has received the largest number of Marsden Fund awards ever, with the largest value,” Professor Blaikie says. “This is testament to the exceptionally hard work put in by research and professional staff to ensure their world-leading research ideas are expressed in the most compelling way possible.”

The Otago research is broad and varied across all of the University’s Divisions and many of its Schools and Departments.

Dr Sarah McKenzie.

Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Sarah McKenzie is one of the successful recipients to receive $300,000 through the “Fast-Start” proposals for early-career researchers. Her multidisciplinary study, under the guidance of Professor Sunny Collings and a team of international experts, will provide the first in-depth gender analysis of how dominant ideas about “how to be a man” in New Zealand society impact on young men’s experiences of mental distress and suicidality.

Dr McKenzie, who works in the Suicide and Mental Health Research Group at the University of Otago, Wellington, says she is both “thrilled and grateful” to have been awarded the grant.

“This support will enable me to pursue research that I am not only deeply passionate about, but research that is very much needed in New Zealand.”

While suicide statistics continue to climb in New Zealand, Dr McKenzie says we still do not understand why suicide is such an entrenched problem in this country.

"Perplexingly, we are no closer to understanding why men are almost three times more likely than women to take their own lives, or why young men in their early twenties have one of the highest rates of suicide of any age group."

“Perplexingly, we are no closer to understanding why men are almost three times more likely than women to take their own lives, or why young men in their early twenties have one of the highest rates of suicide of any age group.”

Dr McKenzie says she is particularly looking forward to building networks with researchers in Canada, Australia and the UK.

“They are already pushing the boundaries in this research field in terms of methodologies and putting men’s mental health and suicide prevention squarely on the research and policy agenda.”

The Marsden Fund supports excellence in leading-edge research in New Zealand. Projects are selected annually in a rigorous process by ten panels who are guided by the opinions of world-leading, international researchers. Funding is usually spread over three years for each grant.

Marsden Fund Council chair Professor David Bilkey says the Marsden Fund is designed to enable the country’s top researchers to develop their most ambitious and exciting ideas.

“This ‘blue-sky’ funding is vital to ensuring a vibrant research culture in our country and the resulting work will help us better understand our environment and society.”

Otago’s Marsden recipients

Dr Inga Smith (Physics)
Supercooling measurements under ice shelves

Professor Harlene Hayne (Psychology)
Disorder in the Courtroom: How do judicial instructions and questions trails influence juror decision-making?

Professor Liz Franz (Psychology)
Wired to move: The genetics of movement control

Professor Hallie Buckley (Anatomy) and Dr Peter Petchey (Anthropology and Archaeology)
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: A Biocultural investigation of 19th century frontier mining cemeteries in Australia, New Zealand and California


Associate Professor Stephen Bunn (Anatomy)
Monitoring and manipulating neuronal activity in the maternal brain during lactation

Professor Ewan Fordyce (Geology)
Fossils of Zealandia elucidate a global “dark age” in whale evolution

Associate Professor Jacob Edmond (English)
News of the World: The global poetics of the newspaper

Professor John Reynolds and Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie (Anatomy)
Beauty vs the Beast: How does our brain prepare us to respond appropriately to beauty or fear?

Dr Mele Taumoepeau (Psychology)
Could, Would, Should: Integrating mentalistic and deontic stances into a theory of social understanding


Dr Tania Slatter (Pathology)
The Δ133p53 path to cancer: a new role for the Δ133p53 p53 isoform in cell surface trafficking

Associate Professor Sian Halcrow (Anatomy)
Small beginnings, significant outcomes: A new life-course approach to understanding the impacts of social inequality on human health in ancient China

Dr Karyn Paringatai (Te Tumu - School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies)
E Kore au e ngaro! The enduring legacy of whakapapa

Dr Wayne Stephenson (Geography)
Will it stay, or will it go? Determining the relationship between marine terraces formed by earthquakes and coastal erosion


Dr Mikkel Anderson (Physics)
Hot entanglement with cold atoms

Associate Professor Boris Baeumer (Mathematics & Statistics)
Boundary conditions for non-local operators

Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla (History) and Dr Lachlan Paterson (Te Tumu – School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies)
Te Hau Kāinga: Histories and legacies of the Māori home front, 1939-45

Associate Professor Bruce Robertson (Zoology)
Resolving the genomic architecture of hatching failure to improve conservation of endangered birds

Dr Peter Mace (Biochemistry)
Inflammation or death via the ASK signalosome – why not both?

Dr Philip Brydon (Physics)
Superconductors with intrinsic magnetism: Origin, evidence and universal physics

Dr Steven Smith (Geology)
Reacting to rupture: the role of chemical reactions in earthquake behaviour at plate boundaries


Professor Jon Water (Zoology)
Founder Takes All? Tracking the colonisation of New Zealand’s newly uplifted shores


Dr Laura Gumy (Anatomy)
Mechanisms regulating long-range intracellular transport in neurons

Professor Christine Winterbourn (Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Characterising the role of a newly identified peroxidase in melanoma

Associate Professor Alexander McLellan (Microbiology & Immunology)
Tuneable activation of anti-cancer T cells using auto-inducible promoters

Dr Timothy Hore (Anatomy)
Epigenetic sex determination and inheritance

Professor Michelle Glass (Pharmacology & Toxicology)
Applying human drug discovery approaches to kauri die back

Professor Merata Kawharu (Centre for Sustainability)
A question of identity: how connected are Māori youth to ancestral marae, and does it matter?

Associate Professor Nigel Lucas (Chemistry)
Carbon nanocones by design: Atomically-precise molecular containers

Professor Catherine Day (Biochemistry)
Generating complexity in the ubiquitin code

Fast-Start proposals (for early career researchers)

Dr Khoon Lim (Orthopaedic Surgery & Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Harnessing macromolecular chemistry to mimic vascular developmental biology
Mentor: Associate Professor Tim Woodfield

Dr Sarah McKenzie (Dean’s Department, University of Otago, Wellington)
Through the eyes of men: Towards a critical understanding of men’s mental health
Mentor: Professor Sunny Collings

Dr Cristina Ergler (Geography)
Pre-schoolers and their cities

Dr Rebecca Kinaston (Anatomy)
Waves of change: Human migration and adaptation in prehistoric Indonesia
Mentor: Dr Michael Knapp

Dr Tobias Langlotz (Information Science)
Amplified human senses – enhancing visual perception using computational glasses
Mentor: Professor Holger Regenbrecht

Dr Matthew McNeil (Microbiology & Immunology)
Exploiting the biological costs of drug resistance to design new therapeutic regimens against Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Mentor: Prof Greg Cook

Dr Fabien Montiel (Mathematics & Statistics)
Breaking the ice: process-informed modelling of sea ice erosion due to ocean wave interactions
Mentor: Professor David Bryant

Dr Boyang Ding (Physics)
SPASER – Towards practical nanolaser devices
Mentor: Professor Richard Blaikie

Dr Soledad (Maria) Perez-Santangelo (Biochemistry)
Adjusting the clock: How naturally occurring variation in circadian clock genes maximises plant growth and fitness in different environments
Mentor: Associate Professor Richard Macknight

Dr Michael Garratt (Anatomy)
Sensory control of life history and ageing in mice

Dr Simon Jackson (Microbiology & Immunology)
Mobile CRISPR-Cas systems and the genesis of hybrid adaptive immunity in bacteria

Mentor: Associate Professor Peter Fineran

Dr Sarah Saunderson (Microbiology & Immunology)
Exploiting the tumour microenvironment for safer antibody-based immunotherapy

Mentor: Dr James Ussher

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