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Major Marsden funding for Otago researchers

Thursday 3 November 2016

Major Marsden funding for Otago researchers

University of Otago researchers have been awarded more than $13.7M in the latest annual Marsden Fund round to undertake 23 world-class research projects that push the boundaries of knowledge in their fields.

The innovative Otago projects will be led by researchers from 14 different departments across the University.

The Marsden Fund supports excellent investigator-initiated research in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities in New Zealand.

Otago projects funded in the latest round include investigations ranging from exploring the origins of New Zealand’s pre-European musical instruments to studying the massive undersea volcanic eruption in the Kermadec arc that produced a 400km2 pumice raft in 2012.

Other projects include investigating a TB bacterium protein that may provide a new target for drugs that rapidly treat the disease, how an embryo’s genome is activated, and the neural mechanisms behind persistence and quitting behaviours.

Otago recipients’ projects are also focusing on the role of placental genes in cancers, using gene editing technology to study the brain’s master control of fertility, and the use of nanoparticle catalysts to remove nitrate from groundwater, among others. A full list appears below.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie warmly congratulated the Otago recipients on their outstanding performance in this year’s round.

“Our researchers’ stellar success reflects the excellence of the proposals they have put forward for this extremely competitive fund,” Professor Blaikie says.

The researchers represent a range of Departments including Anatomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, History, Microbiology and Immunology, Music, Theatre and Performing Arts, Pathology, Philosophy, Physiology, Psychology, Women’s and Children’s Health, and Zoology.

Professor Blaikie says it is very pleasing that nine of the Otago projects are ‘Fast-Start’ grants designed to support outstanding early-career researchers.

“From these up-and-coming researchers will come the University’s research leaders of tomorrow so it is wonderful to see their important work recognised and supported through the Fund.”

All 23 projects run for three years and the funding amounts are spread over this period.

Otago’s Marsden recipients:

Professor Colin Brown (Physiology)
Drinking for two: Central resetting of water balance in pregnancy and lactation
$825,000

Dr Jennifer Cattermole (Music, Theatre and Performing Arts)
The origins and development of pre-European contact musical instruments in Aotearoa (New Zealand), Rekohu and Rangiaotea (Chatham and Pitt Islands)
$530,000

Dr Yawen Chen (Computer Science)
Optical Network-on-Chips (ONoCs): Architectures and Routing Algorithms for Ultra High-Throughput and Energy-Efficient On-Chip Communications
$300,000 - Fast Start

Dr Matthew Clarkson (Chemistry)
How does the Earth stop Global Warming? Testing climate stabilisation during ‘hyperthermal’ events.
$300,000 – Fast Start

Professor Greg Cook (Microbiology & Immunology)
Unraveling the key role of cytochrome bd oxidase in antimicrobial lethality in tuberculosis
$825,000

Professor Mike Eccles (Pathology, Dunedin)
The genes of life and death: a role for placental-specific genes in cancer?
$825,000

Dr Anna Garden (Chemistry)
A green approach to denitrification of water
$300,000 – Fast Start

Professor Neil Gemmell (Anatomy)
Parasitic Puppeteers – How do They Pull the Strings?
$830,000

Professor David Grattan (Anatomy)
Growth factors mediating prolactin-induced neurogenesis in the adult brain
$810,000

Professor Allan Herbison (Physiology)
In vivo gene editing with CRISPR to define estrogen feedback in the brain
$825,000

Dr Kristin Hillman (Psychology)
Quit or persist? The neural mechanisms of forfeit behaviour
$705,000

Associate Professor Julia Horsfield (Pathology, Dunedin)
Becoming master of your destiny: insights into genome activation from nuclear structure
$810,000

Dr Gabrielle Jenkin (Dean’s Department, Wellington)
Acute Mental Health Wards: Therapeutic Spaces of Stigmatising Places?
$300,000 – Fast Start

Dr Jane McCabe (History & Art History)
Splitting up the farm? A cross-cultural history of land and inheritance in Aotearoa
$300,000 – Fast Start

Dr Kourken Michaelian (Philosophy)
Remembering together: Collective memory and collective intentionality
$300,000 – Fast Start

Dr Yoshio Nakatani (Microbiology & Immunology)
Uncovering the physiological roles of the multiple NDH2 in bacterial genomes
$300,000 – Fast Start

Dr Nic Rawlence (Zoology)
Do glaciers drive diversity? Using ancient DNA to retrace the history of New Zealand’s biodiversity
$300,000 – Fast Start

Professor Stephen Robertson (Women’s and Child Health)
Bones under pressure. How does the skeleton sense gravity?
$825,000

Professor Clive Ronson (Microbiology & Immunology)
Silencing unwanted expression in molecular circuits using naturally evolved solutions
$750,000

Professor Hamish Spencer (Zoology)
Epigenetics and Evolutionary Theory
$825,000

Dr Helen Taylor (Anatomy)
Why do inbred males fire blanks? Unravelling the relationship between inbreeding and infertility
$300,000 – Fast Start

Dr Alexander Tups (Physiology)
Hypothalamic Inflammation: Cause of leptin resistance and obesity?
$795,000

Professor James White (Geology)
Digging into the biggest explosive submarine eruption ever “seen” to understand seafloor volcanism
$855,000

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