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University of Canterbury awarded millions

8 September 2005

University of Canterbury researchers awarded millions in latest Marsden Fund round University of Canterbury researchers have been awarded nearly $5 million in this year’s round of the Marsden Fund awards.

The awards, which are government funded, are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The UC researchers who feature in this year’s round work in the areas of economics, chemistry, mathematics and statistics, philosophy, geological sciences and biological sciences.

The largest UC grant has been awarded to a project headed by Professor Andrew Abell (Chemistry) which aims to unravel the relationship between structure and function of biological molecules.

The project, which has been awarded $795,000 over three years, seeks to determine the influence of fluorine on the structure of peptides. Professor Abell will work collaboratively with New Zealand and Swiss researchers.

The effects of migration will be considered in a project headed by Professor John Gibson (Economics), along with David McKenzie of Stanford University and Steven Stillman of Motu research in Wellington.

The research will focus on the effect that migration has on the wealth and health of Samoan, Tongan and Fijian migrants to New Zealand, and the consequences of these moves for family members in New Zealand and those left behind in the home countries.

In another project Professor Gibson will collaborate with Dr Bonggeun Kim (Economics) to assess the accuracy of long-term recall data, which is sometimes used in social surveys as a substitute for repeatedly visiting respondents over many years.

The project will use a unique validation survey to compare employees’ long-term recall of labour market data with the corresponding employer’s record to develop statistical treatments for potential recall bias.

A project involving Dr Ben Martin (Mathematics and Statistics) and colleagues in the UK will use Group Theory - the branch of mathematics that deals with symmetry - to study the properties of infinite matrix groups.

The researchers will use new geometric techniques to study these properties.

Professor Jim Cole, Professor Steve Weaver and Dr Robert Bolhar (Geological Sciences) will research the driving force beneath caldera volcanoes. These volcanoes are some of the most dangerous on Earth, yet there is little understanding of the processes that drive their eruptions. The researchers will use older granites, considered to be analogues of what is beneath the calderas and exposed by erosion, to help characterise these processes.

Professor Robert Jackson (Biological Sciences) is a world authority on the evolutionary ecology of invertebrates and an internationally recognised expert on the behaviour of spiders.

The Marsden Fund has committed $730,000 over three years to a project in which he is involved, that seeks to understand how the legendary eyesight of the salticid spider might be replicated in new technology.

Philosophy professors Graham Macdonald and Cynthia Macdonald are investigating the question of whether minds make a causal difference to behaviour, and if so, how. Their project is to develop a theory of mental causation that will have ramifications for the nature of explanation in the social sciences.

Professor Douglas Bridges (Mathematics and Statistics) will collaborate with international researchers to investigate the role of various logical and non-logical principles in proving theorems.

The project will examine theorems already proved by non-standard, or intuitionistic, logic and provide a measure of their complexity. It will also classify theorems that cannot be proved using intuitionistic logic.

Dr Anne-Marie Brady (Political Science and Communication) will collaborate on a project looking at how the Chinese Communist Party can maintain its monopoly on political power while dismantling the socialist system.

The research project will analyse changes in the propaganda system in China from 1989 to the present day, and will examine how the government has adapted old techniques to new challenges and dilemmas.


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