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Teaching excellence recognised

Suzanne PitamaAssociate Professor Suzanne Pitama (right), Director of the Māori Indigenous Health Institute (University of Otago, Christchurch), has been awarded the Prime Minister's Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. The award, which was presented at the national Tertiary Teaching Awards event at Parliament last month (August), recognised her unstinting commitment to tertiary learners and the broader community during her 14-year teaching career.

This is the fourth successive year that an Otago teacher has been presented with this supreme award.

Associate Professor Pitama also won an award for sustained excellence in the Kaupapa Māori category of the awards, alongside two other Otago staff who were recognised with awards for sustained excellence in the general category: Dr Roslyn Kemp (Microbiology and Immunology) and Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith (Dean, Graduate Research School).

Health research supported

University of Otago researchers have been awarded more than $30 million in new health research funding to support world-class studies aimed at improving New Zealanders' health and well-being. In the Health Research Council of New Zealand's latest annual funding round, Otago researchers gained 18 contracts, including three major multi-million, five-year programmes and 15 projects. Otago's recipients span the University's campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington, and each campus hosts one of the major new programmes.

Otago key player in CoREs

Otago researchers are set to make key contributions to Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand's Māori Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), which has been selected to receive a further five years' funding from the Tertiary Education Commission. The CoRE will continue to be hosted by the University of Auckland and the co-directors will be Auckland Associate Professor of Sociology Tracey McIntosh and Otago's Associate Professor Jacinta Ruru (Faculty of Law).

Earlier in the year, Otago officially launched both the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies – the first CoRE to be hosted by Otago – and Brain Research New Zealand - Rangahau Roro Aotearoa, a CoRE co-hosted by Otago and Auckland Universities.

Otago partner in National Science Challenges

The University is a partner in six National Science Challenges for which funding has been announced so far. The most recently announced were the Ageing Well Challenge and Resilience to Nature's Challenges.

These are among 10 challenges selected last year to tackle the biggest science-based issues and opportunities facing New Zealand. They provide an opportunity to align and focus the country's research on large and complex issues by drawing researchers together from different institutions and across disciplines to achieve a common goal through collaboration.

Participatory Science Platform piloted

University of Otago academics will be adding their expertise to the Otago Participatory Science Platform, a pilot initiative aimed at helping communities bring their research ideas to life.

The project is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Nation of Curious Minds strategy and is also being piloted in Taranaki and South Auckland. It will see contestable funds, support and scientific expertise offered to community groups, schools, kura, local rūnaka, businesses and other organisations who may have a research idea that they want to explore.

The University is one of five organisations collaborating on the Otago project and will offer expertise from all four of its academic divisions.

New scholarship opportunities

The University has expanded its undergraduate entrance scholarships for 2016 with the creation of a new scholarship, as well as increases to existing scholarships.
The New Frontiers Scholarship is available to applicants who have achieved either or both NCEA Level 2 or Level 3 endorsed with excellence (or equivalent) and who commence their studies at Otago enrolled in any one (or any combination) of the following Bachelors' degrees: Applied Science, Arts, Commerce, Law, Music, Performing Arts, Physical Education, Science, Social Work, Surveying, Teaching and Theology.

The University has also extended the availability of its entrance scholarships to include international students who have completed Year 12 and Year 13 at a New Zealand secondary school, and has increased the number of Māori and Pacific Peoples' Scholarships. The value of a number of other scholarships has also been increased. Many Otago entrance scholarship recipients are guaranteed a place in a residential college for the first year of study.

Nature Index ranking

The University of Otago leads all research institutions in New Zealand in terms of articles published in 68 high-quality international science journals. In the Nature Index released in June 2015, Otago has moved up into the world's top 500 institutions, ahead of the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington.

50th a grand success

Fifty years after it first began, Otago's Foreign Policy School holds the honour of being the major event in the New Zealand international relations calendar. The 50th school, held in June, was titled “New Zealand and the World: Past, Present and Future”, and featured an impressive line-up of 30 national and overseas speakers discussing and debating pressing issues in New Zealand's international affairs.

Queen's Birthday Honours

The following University of Otago alumni were recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Member of the Order of New Zealand (ONZ): Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, for services to New Zealand.

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM): Associate Professor Chris Atkinson, for services to cancer care; Mr Michael Macknight, for services to science; Professor Graham Mellsop, for services to psychiatry; Mr Max Ritchie, for services to health and the community.

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM): Dr Jonathan Baskett, for services to health; Professor Elizabeth McKinley, for services to education and Māori; Ms Donna Neill, for services to victim support; Dr George Ngaei, for services to health and the Pacific community; Mr Brian Stevenson, for services to the arts and health; Mr Edward Ellison, for services to Māori and conservation (former University Council member).

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM): Dr Lynne Coleman, for services as a sports doctor; Professor Rod MacLeod, for services to hospice and palliative care; Dr Norman MacLean, for services to obstetrics and gynaecology; Ms Jeni Pearce, for services to sports nutrition; Mr Clive Rennie, for services to education and sport; Mr Allan Rumble, for services to education; Ms Keryn Smith, for services to sports governance; Dr Tony Townsend, for services to health; Mr Neil Wilkinson, for services to education.

The Queen's Service Medal (QSM): Dr Barry Knight, for services to health; Mr Brian Rance, for services to conservation.


Helen NicholsonProfessor Helen Nicholson (right) has been appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) at the University of Otago. This is a new role that will oversee a newly created Division of External Engagement, comprising Marketing and Communications, International, and Development and Alumni Relations.

Professor Richie Poulton (Psychology), who appeared in Thomson Reuters' 2014 list of the world's most influential scientific minds, has joined the Ministry of Social Development in a new role of chief science advisor. He will work to improve the use of evidence in policy development and advice, while maintaining his engagement with the University of Otago.

Otago Psychology Professor David Bilkey has been appointed to the Marsden Fund Council, tasked with making tough decisions about the allocation of research funding. The Marsden Fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama (Ngāti Kahungunu) from the University of Otago, Christchurch, has been appointed to the Health Research Council's Board and to the position of Chair on its Māori Health Committee. Associate Professor Pitama is a registered psychologist who has been involved in Māori health research for more than 18 years.

A leading New Zealand seismologist has been appointed as the University of Otago's inaugural Professor of Earthquake Science. Dr Mark Stirling, who is currently a principal scientist for seismic hazard analysis at GNS Science, will take up this new professorial chair in February 2016. He will also lead a new multidisciplinary centre for fault and earthquake science that will draw on cross-departmental expertise at Otago.

The University of Otago has selected Professor Leigh Hale as the next Dean of its School of Physiotherapy. Professor Hale has a strong background in the clinical, teaching and research aspects of physiotherapy.

Tony BallantyneLeading historian Professor Tony Ballantyne (right) has been selected as the University's next Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities). Professor Ballantyne is currently head of Otago's Department of History and Art History and director of the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture. He will succeed Professor Brian Moloughney who is stepping down after leading the Humanities Division for a five-year term. Professor Moloughney will join the Department of History and Art History in a teaching and research role.

Professor Ken Hodge (Physical Education) has been appointed as University Provost for a three-year term from 1 April this year.


Professor Sally Brooker (Chemistry), an internationally leading inorganic chemistry researcher who designs and creates innovative molecules that could underpin future technologies, is the latest recipient of Otago's Distinguished Research Medal. The University awards the medal for outstanding scholarly achievement, including the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, the development of innovative technology, or the development of concepts that lead to significant advances. Professor Brooker is pictured above with her team, known as "Brooker's Bunch".

Two up-and-coming University of Otago researchers are the latest recipients of the Carl Smith Medal and Rowheath Trust Award. Associate Professor Jessica Palmer (Faculty of Law) and Associate Professor Suetonia Palmer (Medicine, Christchurch) are co-recipients of the award and medal which recognise outstanding research performance of early-career staff and are accompanied by a $5000 grant for personal scholarly development.

Tom BrookingProfessor Tom Brooking (History)(right) has been announced as co-winner of the 2015 Ernest Scott Prize for history, for his book Richard Seddon, King of God's Own: The Life and Times of New Zealand's Longest-Serving Prime Minister. The award is considered Australasia's most prestigious history award.

The outstanding contributions of five up-and-coming University of Otago academics have been recognised through Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research. Dr Anitra Carr (Pathology, Christchurch), Dr Jörg Hennig (Mathematics and Statistics), Dr Karl Iremonger (Physiology), Dr Sheri Johnson (Zoology) and Dr Logan Walker (Pathology, Christchurch) have been selected for the award on the basis of their outstanding research achievements.

Associate Professor Julia Horsfield (Pathology) has gained a Health Research Council Explorer Grant to identify new drug targets to combat gout. She is one of four recipients nationally in the latest round for the $150,000 Explorer grants, which support research proposals that advance ideas that are transformative, innovative, exploratory or unconventional, and have potential for major impact.

Four outstanding University of Otago lecturers have been honoured by their colleagues and students in this year's University of Otago Teaching Excellence Awards. The 2015 recipients are Dr Roslyn Kemp (Microbiology and Immunology), Dr Rachel Zajac (Psychology), Associate Professor Christine Jasoni (Anatomy) and Associate Professor Jacinta Ruru (Faculty of Law) also receives the kaupapa Māori award.

Eleven current and former Otago students have received 2015 Fulbright awards. Ashley Campbell, Calum Rickard, Genevieve Coffey, Imogen Browne, and Rebecca Purvis received Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Awards. Bonnie Scarth, Helen Churchman, Paul Winter, Rebecca Thomson and Tim Chambers received Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Awards. Also, Dr Matiu Rātima (Te Tumu) received a Fulbright-Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Scholar Award.

Honorary degree

In May, the University conferred an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree on one of its distinguished graduates, Mr Ian Farrant, CNZM. Mr Farrant graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Finance and Marketing in 1966. During an illustrious career spanning more than 40 years, he was a chartered accountant and professional director for dozens of public and private companies across New Zealand.

Emeritus professors

The University Council has this year awarded the following academics the status of Emeritus Professor: Professor Chris Ackerley (English and Linguistics), Professor William Dominik (Classics), Professor Rosalind Gibson (Human Nutrition), Professor John Highton (Medicine) and Professor Robert Knight (Psychology).


Emeritus Professor Bastow Wilson (1944-2015) joined the Department of Botany in 1971, becoming professor in 2005. He was a prominent figure internationally in plant ecology and vegetation science, and will be remembered for making sustained, insightful and numerous contributions to our understanding of how plant communities function.

Dr Elspeth Gold was a highly respected lecturer and research group leader in the University's Department of Anatomy. She won Otago Innovation Ltd's Proof of Concept award in 2014.

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