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Research groups

Centres of Research Excellence (CoRE)

Ten Centres of Research Excellence operate in New Zealand at the leading edge of their field within the international research community. Research in these areas is fundamental to the interests of New Zealand and have the potential to make major contributions to New Zealand’s future economic and social development. Funding for these CoREs runs through until 2020.

Find out more about CoREs

The Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies (DWC)

Officially launched on 17 February 2015, the Dodd-Walls Centre is the first Centre of Research Excellence to be hosted by the University of Otago.

The Dodd-Walls Centre encompasses investigators from universities across New Zealand and is focused on the fields of precision atomic and quantum optical physics. DWC research explores the limits of control and measurement at the atomic scale through the use of laser light, the generation and manipulation of light at its most fundamental quantum level, and the processing and physical nature of information in this quantum realm.

The Dodd-Walls Centre has research teams built around four themes: Sensors and Imaging, Sources and Components, Quantum Fluids and Gases, and Quantum Manipulation and Information, and dedicated outreach teams. The Industry Team works towards the translation of the Centre’s research in to profit-making businesses and the establishment of new companies. The Educational Outreach Team works in partnership with the NZ museum sector, and especially the Otago Museum, to spread the excitement and passion for science and technology inherent in the Centre. Training of postgraduate students is also a key activity of the DWC.

Brain Research New Zealand – Rangahau Roro Aotearoa (BRNZ)

BRNZ is co-hosted by University of Otago and University of Auckland. Officially launched on 22 May 2015 by the co-directors, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull from the Centre for Brain Research and Professor Cliff Abraham from the University of Otago, the centre will also involve collaboration from researchers at Canterbury University and AUT, and clinicians at various District Health Boards.

New Zealand has a world-class brain research capability and BRNZ draws on this capability to create a cohesive and mutually reinforcing national team. This collaboration brings researchers engaged in ageing-related neuroscience under one virtual roof, reducing competition and encouraging cooperation.

Brain Research New Zealand is a national enterprise that, through a coordinated research, training and education programme, will develop new capacity and capability to address the increasing burden of ageing-related brain disorders.

Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga

Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga is New Zealand's Māori Centre of Research Excellence, hosted by the University of Auckland in partnership with the University of Otago and other leading New Zealand research organisations. Professor Jacinta Ruru from the University of Otago’s Faculty of Law along with Professor Tracey McIntosh from the University of Auckland are the current co-directors.

Established in 2002, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga has a focus on producing transformative research that produces real outcomes and results for Māori communities and the nation. Much of the emphasis has been on nurturing and increasing Māori participation and success in tertiary education and research training.

A new CoRE contract was commenced in January 2016, and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga has since launched a refocused strategy (Ahunga Āta Whakarite Strategic Direction 2016–2020) that will further support and realise researched solutions for iwi, hapū, and whānau across three main research themes: Whai Rawa – Research for Māori Economies; Te Tai Ao – Research into the Natural Environment; Mauri Ora – Research into Human Flourishing. The three themes coalesce around a central strategy of Te Reo me Ngā Tikanga Māori, and articulate a vision of Māori leading New Zealand into the future.

National Science Challenges

The National Science Challenges are designed to take a more strategic approach to the government's science investment by targeting a series of goals, which, if they are achieved, would have major and enduring benefits for New Zealand. The Challenges provide an opportunity to align and focus New Zealand's research on large and complex issues by drawing scientists together from different institutions and across disciplines to achieve a common goal through collaboration. 

The eleven Nation Science Challanges on the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website

The University of Otago hosts two of the National Science Challenges:

Ageing Well

Kia eke kairangi ki te taikaumātuatanga – launched 4 March 2015

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge vision is to add life to years for all older New Zealanders. This will be achieved by harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life. The mission of Ageing Well is to push back disability thresholds to enable all New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the life course with particular reference to the latter years of life.

Director:  Professor David Baxter
Manager:  Lisa Davis

Healthier Lives

He Oranga Hauora – launched 4 December 2015

Research to reduce the burden of major New Zealand health problems. The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is a national research collaboration dedicated to achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders.

We are working on the prevention and treatment of four of New Zealand’s main non-communicable diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Our mission is to deliver the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient.

Director: Prof Jim Mann
Manager: Jean Cockram

Genomics Aotearoa

Genomics Aotearoa is an agile, leading-edge and collaborative platform, established to ensure that New Zealand is internationally participating and leading in the rapidly developing fields of genomics (the study of the genome, the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism) and bioinformatics (the development of methods and software tools for understanding the biological data derived from genomics).

Genomics Aotearoa is an alliance of nine partners:

  • Universities – Auckland, Massey, Otago, Victoria, Waikato
  • Crown Research Institutes – AgResearch, ESR, Landcare Research, Plant & Food

It also has over 30 associates – organisations that are researchers or end users of genomics and bioinformatics.

Visit the Genomics Aotearoa website for more information

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University of Otago Research Centres

University of Otago Research Centres are research flagships for the University. There are twelve formally recognised and supported Research Centres.

University of Otago Research Themes

A University of Otago Research Theme signals developing or potential research excellence in areas of strength within the University. There are eighteen formally recognised and supported Research Themes.

Overarching Research Strengths

Other Research Groups and Applied Research Units