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MOA signed

The recent signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between Kōkiri Marae Seaview and Tū Kotahi Māori Asthma Trust and the University of Otago formalises a relationship that began more than 30 years ago.

Since 1999, health and social services provider Kōkiri Marae Seaview and Tū Kotahi Māori Asthma Trust have supported research and teaching at the University of Otago, Wellington, particularly helping researchers access Māori communities in the Hutt Valley community.

University of Otago, Wellington’s Associate Dean Māori, Professor Bridget Robson, says the memorandum is a timely acknowledgement of an enduring and collaborative working relationship that has been critical in ensuring research that is relevant to the Māori community and improves Māori health outcomes.

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Marsden Fund success

Otago researchers have gained more than $13.9 million in new government funding to pursue 22 world-class research projects at the forefront of their disciplines.

Researchers from across the University’s divisions of Health Sciences, Humanities and Sciences will lead the new projects, which include 16 standard projects and six Fast-Start projects designed to support outstanding researchers early in their careers.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie congratulated Otago’s latest Marsden recipients, who together gained one quarter of the $55.65 million available in this round.

“I am delighted by these researchers’ success in what is an extremely competitive funding round. Nationally, only 8.3 per cent of the 1,222 preliminary proposals received were ultimately funded.”

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Online shop launched

Getting your hands on University of Otago memorabilia, clothing and accessories has never been easier with the launch of the Visitors’ Centre’s new online shop. Online orders – everything from branded pens, glassware and umbrellas, to stationery, jewellery and framed artwork – can be shipped to most parts of the world, and special deals and offers will be available periodically throughout the year. 

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UNESCO listing

Early 19th century missionary records held at the University of Otago’s Hocken Library are among New Zealand archival treasures recently listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register of documentary heritage.

Missionary Society archives are one of the foundation collections of the Hocken Library and, at an early December function in Christchurch, they were formally listed with the Memory of the World register.

Hocken Librarian Sharon Dell says the inscription draws attention to the depth of the Hocken Collections and their national significance.
“It makes us very proud to be the caretakers of such iconic collections,” she says.

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Leith transformed

The transformation of the section of the Leith flowing past the University of Otago’s iconic Clocktower building is complete after a major 12-month construction project. Not only have the banks and riverbed been improved to prevent flooding, but new terracing, steps leading down towards the river and a footpath vastly improve public access to the previously unapproachable, but picturesque, Leith.

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The He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research team, led by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman won the 2014 Prime Minister’s Science Prize, valued at $500,000, recognising research over more than 15 years that has involved thousands of New Zealanders and informed policy developments for successive New Zealand governments. 

Dr Karl Iremonger (Physiology) was awarded the 2014 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize in recognition of his discovery of a new brain cell structure and communication system. 

The outstanding achievements of three University of Otago researchers were recognised through the bestowing of significant national medals at the 2014 Research Honours dinner. The Callaghan Medal for science communication was awarded to geneticist Associate Professor Peter Dearden (Biochemistry); archaeologist Professor Charles Higham (Anthropology and Archaeology) was awarded the Mason Durie Medal for social sciences; and the Sir Charles Hercus Medal for excellence in biomedical and health sciences was awarded to Professor Parry Guilford (Biochemistry).

Four leading University of Otago academics are among the 12 top New Zealand researchers and scholars in basic and applied science and the humanities newly elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The new Fellows from the University of Otago are: Professor Catherine Day (Biochemistry), Professor Ewan Fordyce (Geology), Professor Neil McNaughton (Psychology) and Professor Iain Raeburn (Mathematics and Statistics).

Leading environmental and chemical oceanographer Professor Keith Hunter has been awarded the New Zealand Association of Scientists’ Marsden Medal recognising outstanding services to science. Professor Hunter is the University of Otago’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences) and co-director of the NIWA-University of Otago Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography.

Three University of Otago staff members and two postgraduate students have gained scholarships in the 2014 Rutherford Foundation Trust Awards. Dr Charlotte King (Anatomy) and Dr Karen Reader (Anatomy) was awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships, as was Department of Geology PhD graduate and Teaching Fellow Dr Matthew Sagar. Department of Geography master's graduand Elisabeth Liddle and Biochemistry honours student Max Wilkinson gained Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarships to undertake doctoral studies at Cambridge University.

Ten University of Otago researchers are among the recipients of Health Research Council (HRC) Career Development Awards for 2015, with Dr Karl Iremonger (Physiology) gaining a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship. Māori Health Research PhD Scholarships were awarded to Tania Huria (University of Otago, Christchurch), Christina McKerchar (Population Health) and Kelly Tikao (Donald Beasley Institute). Māori Health Research Summer Studentships went to Christina Gordon (Physiology) and Te Kahui Tapsell (Primary Health Care and General Practice). Pacific Health Research PhD Scholarships went to Jaye Moors (Biochemistry) and Dr Faafetai Sopoaga (Preventive and Social Medicine). Pacific Health Research Summer Studentships were awarded to Melbournemockba Mauiliu (Preventive and Social Medicine) and Alapasita Teu (Preventive and Social Medicine).

Professor Jeffrey Miller (Psychology) was awarded a Humbolt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany in recognition of lifetime achievements in research.

Professor Carolyn Burns (Zoology) has received the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society Medal for outstanding contributions to the understanding and management of fresh waters. The citation notes that she is "hugely respected for her scientific knowledge, rigour and sustained contributions to science in New Zealand over many years".

Dr Jennifer Moore (Faculty of Law) has been awarded a prestigious Harkness Fellowship to undertake health law research for a 12-month period at Stanford and Harvard Universities.

Professor Brett Delahunt (Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington) has been appointed to a WHO tumour classification panel being held in Zurich this month (March 2015). He is the only New Zealander ever to participate on the Classification Panel for tumours of the urinary system and male genital organs.

Dr Louise Bicknell (Pathology) and Dr Michael Knapp (Anatomy) have gained highly sought-after Rutherford Discovery Fellowships to help them develop their research careers in New Zealand.

Three University of Otago scientists and a PhD graduate have been supported in the Neurological Foundation’s December funding round. Department of Psychology PhD graduate Dr Robert Munn has been awarded the 2014 Neurological Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, while Dr Stephanie Hughes (Biochemistry), Dr Margaret Ryan (Anatomy and Biochemistry) and Associate Professor Greg Anderson (Anatomy) each received project grants.

Dr Kristin Hillman (Psychology) took top honours in the Otago University Students’ Association 2014 teaching awards while Dr Gill Rutherford (Education) was the recipient of the Inclusiveness in Teaching award. PhD student Malcom Smeaton was named the top tutor/lab demonstrator.

Dr Steve Tumilty (Physiotherapy) has achieved specialist status – just the third physiotherapist in New Zealand to do so since the new register was created by the Physiotherapy Board two years ago.

Marketing PhD student Fatima McKague has been awarded the Todd Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship in Energy Research to investigate fuel poverty in New Zealand.

Dr Russell Bisset, a former postgraduate student at the University of Otago, and now a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States, received the 2014 Hatherton Award for the best scientific paper by a student registered for the degree of PhD in Physical Sciences, Earth Sciences and Mathematical and Information Sciences at a New Zealand university.

Third-year neuroscience student, Sam Hall-McMaster, has taken out the third Eureka! Sir Paul Callaghan Awards delivering a winning 12-minute presentation about how nanoparticles could solve some of New Zealand’s health and environmental issues.

Honorary Doctorate

In December, the University conferred its inaugural Honorary Doctor of Commerce degree on retired Dunedin business leader and philanthropist Graeme Marsh. Dunedin-born and educated, Mr Marsh is a highly successful Otago graduate who has pursued a long and award-winning business career.

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Professorial promotions

The following leading Otago academics have been promoted to full professorships, effective 1 February: 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 (Music).

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Dr David Tombs, a leading public theology and reconciliation researcher working in Northern Ireland, has taken up the University of Otago’s Howard Paterson Chair in Theology and Public Issues. The chair is part of the University’s Leading Thinkers Initiative and Dr Tombs will also become Director of the University’s associated Centre for Theology and Public Issues.

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New Year Honours

Otago alumni to receive New Year Honours include:

Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (GNZM): Professor Murray Frederick Brennan, for services to medicine.

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM): Ms Robyn Jane Baker, for services to education; Mrs Susan Marie Paterson, for services to corporate governance.

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM): Mr Gregory John Dickson, for services to the cargo logistics industry; Mr John Anthony Fallon, for services to people with mental illnesses; Mr Thomas McNeil Pryde, for services to sport and the community; Ms Susannah Adair Staley, for services to governance.

Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO): Mr Brian Edward Hayes, for services to the land tenure system.

Queen's Service Medal (QSM): Mrs Maria Elizabeth Caroline Collins, for services to the community and music; Reverend Tom Etuata, for services to the Pacific community; Mrs Marjory Jean Goldschmidt, for services to the community; Major Barbara June Sampson, for services to the community; Mr David Neil Sinclair, for services to philanthropy and the community; Mr Peter Humphrey Willsman, for services to conservation and the community.

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Emeritus Professors

The University Council has recently awarded the following academics the status of Emeritus Professor: Professor Colin Campbell-Hunt (Accountancy and Finance), Professor Geoffrey Hall (Law), Professor Ian Jamieson (Zoology), Professor Alexander McQuillan (Chemistry), Professor Henrik Moller (Centre for Sustainability), Professor Martin Purvis (Information Science) and Professor Peter Skegg (Law).

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Ron Chambers (1940-2014). From 1980-2001, Mr Chambers was Proctor of the University – a job which made him essentially a guardian and protector of students, dealing with order and good behaviour if required. Those who worked alongside him at the University say his contribution to Otago was immense.