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Matchmaking Young UK And NZ Researchers

Friday 11 March 2005

Matchmaking Young UK And NZ Researchers For Lifelong Collaboration

Five New Zealand postdoctoral science researchers will be networking with peer investigators from Britain this week, as part of a British Council initiative that aims to establish life-long international collaborations.

The British Council’s “International Networking for Young Scientists” programme runs worldwide, supporting face-to-face meetings between young scientists and engineers from Britain and other countries.

Three postdoctoral researchers from the University of Otago and two from the University of Auckland were invited by the British Council to select a researcher working in Britain with whom they would like to establish a working relationship to visit New Zealand.

On Sunday the two groups will meet in Dunedin for a week of exchanging ideas and information, visiting laboratories and building professional connections.

“These are outstanding young New Zealand researchers with a bright future who will benefit from international collaboration,” British Council Science and Technology manager Felicity Connell says.

“We want to generate closer contact between New Zealand and British science. The intention is to avoid established collaborations and concentrate on new faces and encourage new links between young researchers which we hope will last the rest of their professional lives,” she says.

This is the programme’s second year in New Zealand and it is targeted at postdoctoral researchers who have been tenured for five years or less.

“The first INYS was held in Auckland only. However with the strength of science in Dunedin, especially in the biomedical sciences, it was logical to extend it to include young scientists from the University of Otago in 2005,” Ms Connell says.

University of Otago Department of Microbiology and Immunology research fellow Dr Sarah Young says the opportunity to network with an overseas researcher at her level working in her field of vaccine development is “absolutely brilliant”.

Dr Young is developing a TB vaccine and chose to invite Dr Anne Moore from the Oxford University, a senior immunologist also working on a TB vaccine.

Dr Moore is also involved in a large-scale hepatitis B and malarial vaccination programme in Africa – a project Dr Young would love to be involved in.

“It’s true I could meet Anne at a conference, but to spend days talking together rather than the length of a coffee break, and to be able to take her round the labs and show her the work we are doing is fantastic,” Dr Young says.

“I certainly hope that this is just the beginning. It is very important to have international collaborations because they not only increase the scope of your work but New Zealand funding bodies look very favourably on grant applications that involve international collaboration.”

Otago School of Medical Sciences Associate Dean of Research, Glenn Buchan hopes the visit will establish strong relationships between young researchers at Otago and their counterparts in top British universities that will be maintained throughout their careers.

“We are keen to immerse them in the biomedical sciences at Otago to show them they have good reason to collaborate with us, come and work here, or send students here. So, although they are only here for a week, we hope to convince them that Dunedin is a place where they can do world-leading research and a wonderful place to live or visit or remain in contact with,” he says.

The five British researchers arrive in Dunedin on Saturday and will spend the weekend socialising with their New Zealand counterparts.

On Monday all ten participants will give presentations on their work at the Otago Centre for Innovation. Later they will visit biotechnology laboratories and talk to world-class researchers, including geneticist Professor Stephen Robertson and fertility researcher Professor Allan Herbison, who are based at the University of Otago.

They will then spend the next two days in their host labs working with their partners before spending time at the University of Auckland.

On Friday they will meet with science funding bodies including Health Research Council chief executive Bruce Scroggins to talk about future collaborations and funding paths.

The New Zealand researchers involved are: from the University of Otago; Dr Sarah Young (Department of Microbiology and Immunology), Dr Tony Merriman (Department of Biochemistry), Dr Phil Heyward (Department of Physiology); from the University of Auckland; Dr Johanna Montgomery (Department of Physiology); and Dr Nikki Moreland (Department of Structural Biology).

The British researchers are: Dr Stephen Brickley (Department of Biological Sciences, Imperial College London); Dr Rachael Whalan (Division of Mycobacterial Research, MRC National Institute for Medical Research); Dr Paul Lyons (Functional Genomics Group, MRC Rosalind Franklin Centre for Genomics Research); Dr Anne Moore (Wellcome Trust for Human Genetics, University of Oxford); and Dr Tim Pearce (Department of Engineering, University of Leicester).


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