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‘Exciting’ research projects get $6.3m funding

Friday, September 08, 2006

‘Exciting’ research projects get $6.3m funding from Marsden Fund

WELLINGTON – Sixteen Massey staff will lead or participate in research projects that were today awarded funding worth in excess of $6.3 million by the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund.

The prestigious Marsden grants, for the best and brightest of New Zealand’s academics, and Marsden “fast start” grants, for up-and-coming researchers, this year totalled just over $39 million.

They enable 78 new projects to go ahead over the coming years in a range of disciplines. Six of the major Marsden project leaders are from Massey and five of the Fast Start recipients, while a further five Massey staff will assist in other’s projects in the role of Associate Investigators.

Marsden grants

Dr Leon Huynen from the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution in Auckland has been awarded a $763,139 Marsden grant to unravel the whakapapa (geneology) of Mäori cloaks using DNA.
The cloaks (käkahu) are taonga, treasures as unique to New Zealand as the variety of materials and dyes used to create them.
Stunning examples of the long history of käkahu-making can be found in museums locally and throughout the world.
Dr Huynen and a team of associates will use non-destructive techniques to sample feathers, skins and plant fibres from the käkahu to identify the types of flora and fauna used to make them.

Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger from the Centre of Theoretical Chemistry and Physics in Auckland has received $870,000 Marsden grant for research into whether the differences between so-called left and right-handed molecules can be measured.
One of the fundamental scientific puzzles is why and how nature chooses one biological molecule over another when they are mirror images of one another as similar as a right and left hand. Unanswered questions include why it is the human body can digest only right-handed sugar molecules and why most of the amino acids in our bodies are left-handed. Professor Schwertfeger believes he and team of Europe-based associates may be able to measure the energy differences between the molecules, previously regarded as imperceptable, by using advanced computational methods and studies of the evolution of stars.

Dr Jan Schmid from the Insititute of Molecular BioSciences in Palmerston North has received a $769,000 grant to study whether sexual reproduction is an aid to survival of species or whether the alternative method of reproduction, dividing to produce identical clones, is just as successful in evolutionary terms.
She will lead a team that includes Dr Barbara Holland from the Allan Wilson Centre studying a fungus, which normally reproduces by dividing in two.

Professsor Ian Evans from the School of Psychology in Palmerston North has received a $741,817 grant to find out how schoolteachers can help the development of children’s emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, known as EQ, is a measure of people’s ability to understand and manage their feelings and is linked to positive social outcomes. But how it is learnt is unclear. Assisting Professor Evans will be Dr Shane Harvey from the School of Psychology and Dr Juliana Raskauskas from the School of Arts, Development and Health Education.

Dr Evelyn Sattlegger from the Institute of Molecular BioSciences in Auckland has received a $745,000 grant for a project entitled How do we know that we are hungry? – Unravelling the molecular basis of sensing amino acid starvation.

Dr Adriane Rini from the School of History, Philosophy and Politics in Palmerston North has been awarded $390,000 grant for a project entitled The world-time parallel.

Fast Start grants
($140,000 each over two years)

Dr Nikki Hessell from the Communications and Journalism Department in Palmerston North for a project called Genius in the gallery: Literary authors as parliamentary reporters. The project focuses on four authors – Samuel Johnson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens from Britian and New Zealander Robin Hyde – who worked as parliamentary reporters at different stages of their careers, examining their reports as works of journalism, rather than considering them as works of literature.

Dr Shane Telfer from the Institute of Fundamental Sciences in Palmerston North for a project called A rational approach to catalytically-active porous materials. The project will aim to develop a new approach to nanoporous catalytic materials based on metal organic frameworks.

Dr Patrick Dulin from the School of Psychology in Palmerston North for a project called The health-engendering effects of helping others: A psychophysiological exploration of altruistic behaviour among older adults. The project will attempt to find a scientific explanation for the fact that older people who do good deeds like charity work tend to live longer, happier lives.

Dr Sarah Ross from the School of English and Media Studies in Palmerston North for a project called Women, poetry and politics in England, 1603-1688.

Dr Armaz Aschrafi from the Institute of Molecular BioSciences in Auckland for a project called In search of the molectular basis of memory formation.

Associate Investigators:

Professor Kerry Chamberlain, from the School of Psychology in Auckland, will assist Waikato University’s Dr Darrin Hodgetts and Linda Nikora in a study of New Zealand’s homeless, which received a $795,342 grant.

Professor David Officer, from the Institute of Fundamental Sciences will assist Associate Professor Keith Gordon of Otago University in a project called Understanding charge-carrier flow in electroluminescent materials which received a $565,000 grant.

Dr Barbara Holland will assist Dr Schmid, and Dr Shane Harvey and Dr Juliana Raskauskas will assist Professor Ian Evans (see above).


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