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Rutherford Discovery Fellowships to accelerate research careers announced

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Eleven early to mid-career researchers have been awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships that will support them to accelerate their research careers in Aotearoa.

The research programmes of the new fellowships span a wide variety of interesting topics, including:

- using a lab-on-a-chip approach to understand how plant diseases such as kauri dieback and myrtle rust target and invade their hosts;

- investigating the communication between brain and body to develop better coping mechanisms for those who suffer from anxiety;

- finding out what ‘social capital’ means within a Māori world view and how this is relevant to other populations; and

- combatting loneliness in adolescents and emerging adults by increasing our understanding of social identity.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships seek to attract, retain and develop New Zealand’s most talented early- to mid-career researchers and support their career development by helping them to establish a track record for future research leadership. A few of the awardees will be returning from overseas to take up these fellowships.

One of the panellists selecting the 2019 awardees, Associate Professor Nancy Bertler from Victoria University of Wellington and GNS science, has experienced first hand the impact a fellowship can have on career development. She was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2011 and now leads the Antarctic Science Platform, a $49 million government science investment. "The fellowship allowed me to lead a 9-nation Antarctic project, to support the next generation of scientists, to interact with national and international policymakers, and to take a leading role in developing priorities for the international science community.

"I’m humbled by the calibre of the 2019 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship cohort and can’t wait to see the achievements of these talented individuals over the next five years and the benefits and legacy they collectively will create for New Zealand," Associate Professor Bertler said.

Chair of the selection panel, Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith FRSNZ, said the high calibre of applicants made it extremely difficult to select 11 new research fellows out of more than 80 who applied. "This year we interviewed 22 candidates and all were outstanding. The process gives me great faith in the future of research in this country. It was particularly exciting to be able to bring two outstanding researchers from overseas back home to New Zealand."

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships receive government funding of $8 million per annum and award $800,000 over five years to each research fellow. There are at least 50 Rutherford Discovery Fellows supported at any one time.

Royal Society Te Apārangi manages the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship programme on behalf of government.

For 2019, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship recipients are:

- Dr David Aguirre, Massey University, for research titled: Ecosystems on unstable foundations: examining the potential for coral and macroalgal responses to global change

- Dr Olivia Faull, University of Otago (currently at University of Zurich, Switzerland), for research titled: Breathing and anxiety: Understanding the miscommunication between brain and body, and how best to treat it

- Dr Jodie Hunter, Massey University, for research titled: Developing mathematical inquiry communities: Using a strength based approach to provide equitable opportunities to learn mathematics for diverse learners

- Dr Andrew McDaid, the University of Auckland, for research titled: Uncovering new knowledge of neurological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation mechanisms using novel data-driven methods

- Dr Alexander Melnikov, Massey University, for research titled: Applications of modern computability

- Dr Volker Nock, University of Canterbury, for research titled: Electrotaxis and protrusive force generation in fungal and oomycete pathogens - pathways to new biocontrol strategies

- Associate Professor Melanie Ooi, University of Waikato, for research titled: Resilient and efficient light-based plant detection and characterisation for precision agriculture and environmental sustainability

- Dr Matthew Roskruge, Massey University, for research titled: The economics of social capital from a Māori perspective

- Dr Damian Scarf, University of Otago, for research titled: The belonging project

- Dr Jenni Stanley, University of Waikato (currently at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), for research titled: What does protection sound like? A modern approach to understanding New Zealand's underwater soundscapes and acoustic pressures

- Dr Agnes Szabo, Massey University, for research titled: Growing old in an adopted land: Cross-fertilizing ageing and acculturation research

More information on the new Rutherford Discovery Fellows is available at: royalsociety.org.nz/RDFs

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