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Victoria research scholarships awarded

20 October 2004 Public Affairs

Victoria research scholarships awarded

A group of outstanding postgraduate students from New Zealand and overseas will be adding to Victoria University’s dynamic research output in strategic areas next year, thanks to a new scholarship scheme.

The results of the Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Research Scholarships, worth $20,000 each as well as a domestic fees waiver, have now been announced.

Seven students, from New Zealand, Australia, Germany and the United Sates, will carry out research on subjects including international hunger relief, New Zealand’s art collections, bioactive natural products and the psychology of new immigrants. Further information on the individual students is below.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon says the calibre of the 37 scholarship applicants was extremely high.

“We were so impressed that we decided to increase the number of scholarships from six to seven for this round. These students will play a role in guaranteeing that the research coming out of Victoria is competitive in a diverse mix of areas – not just the areas we are traditionally strong in.”

Funding for the scholarships came from Victoria’s Performance-Based Research Fund allocation. The 2005 allocation round will be advertised early next year.

In addition to the Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Research Scholarships, the University has recently announced the 30 successful candidates for its new PhD Completion Scholarships. These scholarships support doctoral students in the final three to nine months of their research. By facilitating full concentration upon their studies, it enables students already enrolled for several years to bring their research to a successful completion.

Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Research Scholarships Results

Fitting in University of Hawaii graduate, Stephen Fox, will focus his research on strategies that new immigrants use to deal with identity maintenance and intercultural contact. Stephen, who will undertake a PhD in Psychology at Victoria, will also look at how these strategies affect psychological and sociocultural adaption of immigrants. Stephen has extensive experience relating to people from non-Western cultures.

“I came to cultural psychology, oddly, through music. In collaborating with musicians from Africa, Indonesia and other places, I realised we approach this common experience in very different ways. With inevitable globalisation, we have no choice but to acculturate and adapt to each other. The question is, how? New Zealand is an ideal place to study acculturation. The indigenous Mâori culture, the New Zealand Europeans, and an increasing diversity of new immigrants are actively learning how to coexist at this very point in time.“

Recreating nature Lynton Baird’s research within the Chemistry Programme at Victoria will involve making biologically active natural products in the laboratory – from scratch. “These natural products may potentially have antimalaria and anticancer properties. I will also attempt to make analogues of the natural products, which may have altered or tuned biological activities.” Lynton, who is soon to complete a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Otago, says he was attracted to the project because of the potential benefits this research could bring, as well as the challenge of putting together natural products from the foundation up. His career goal is to become a chemistry or science teacher in either the secondary or tertiary education sector.

Art investigator Rebecca Rice is to undertake research on the collection of New Zealand art in Wellington, from the inception of the Colonial Museum in 1865 to the establishment of the National Art Gallery in 1936. Rebecca says her previous research into the display of New Zealand's art at several nineteenth-century international exhibitions drew her attention the wealth of material awaiting investigation within our colonial archive. “I aim to enrich the scholarship surrounding the national holdings of New Zealand art, thereby allowing others to become better acquainted with these fascinating and neglected collections.” Rebecca has completed a Master of Arts (Distinction) at Victoria University.

Helping computers see us Will Smart, who is soon to complete a Master of Science in Computer Science at Victoria, will undertake PhD research into using genetic computer programmes for vision and image recognition. Genetic programming is a method used to allow computer programmes to evolve, in order to solve a high-level problem.

It uses Darwinian evolutionary patterns, including natural selection, replication and mutations to evolve the programmes. Will’s research uses genetic programming to help a computer or robot ‘see’ a scene or person and perform simple tasks. His research could have many practical applications, including within the surveillance industry. He will be building a working robot as part of his research.

Food – a basic human right? American political studies student Matthew Bright will investigate the “impasse between theoretical and practical approaches to international hunger relief”. Matthew, who is due to complete his Master of International Studies (Adv) at the University of Queensland next month, says his experience working for humanitarian programmes in crisis situations inspired him to focus on issues of peace and justice in his academic career. “Every day 30,000 children under the age of five die from preventable starvation and poverty-related illness.

My PhD research will use case studies from previous work experience analysed through the theoretical framework of distributive justice and human rights.” In the future Matthew would like to integrate fieldwork and primary research with teaching and academic writing. “This could be as a policy advisor at the United Nations or World Bank, perhaps even a particular Foreign Service post. Ideally, I would be able to move back and forth from working on the issues of justice on the ground and reflecting on them academically.”

Family dynamics in stepfamilies Psychology student Rebecca Graham will join researchers at Victoria’s Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families to examine relationships in stepfamilies. Rebecca, who has completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Psychology at Macquarie University, Sydney, will investigate the experiences and perspectives of children and parents over time in newly-formed stepfamilies, so that factors contributing to the resilience of relationships and of stepfamilies can be examined.

Rebecca says this research is “crucial” in providing the community with feedback and information on factors that are beneficial for newly-formed stepfamilies. “I find the topic fascinating and feel this is a very important, and somewhat neglected, area of study.”

Earthmoving research German geologist Susanne Grigull will investigate the rock flow and movement deep beneath New Zealand’s Alpine Fault in the Southern Alps for her PhD in Geology. “My research aims to increase our understanding of the behaviour of fault systems.

This will involve some structural geology and computer modelling of formations observed in the hanging wall of the Alpine Fault. The topic combines geology with geophysics – a combination I have always sought.” The Alpine Fault is the dominant structure defining the Australian-Pacific plate boundary in the South Island of New Zealand. It runs as a single structure for more than 500 km.

ENDS

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