Media Pack: $54.6 million for Marsden Fund research
25 October 2012
$54.6 million awarded to Marsden Fund researchers
A total of 86 research projects have been allocated $54.6 million of funding in this year’s Marsden Fund grants.
The Marsden Fund is regarded as a hallmark of excellence, allowing New Zealand’s best researchers to explore their ideas. It supports projects in the sciences, technology, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities. The fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the government.
Highlights from the 2012 funding round include projects that will give answers to the questions: “how handedness manifests in the brain?”; “how does ozone influence our weather?”; “could anti-hormone therapy inadvertently fuel cancer?”; “can we understand criminal minds?” and “can things become invisible?”. These research questions are only five of the hundreds addressed by the 86 projects funded this year.
Marsden Fund Council chairperson Professor Juliet Gerrard is extremely impressed with the excellent quality of the applicants and the proposals across the entire range of academic disciplines.
“The Marsden Fund supports the very best investigators to do world class basic research. Marsden lets our brightest investigators work on their best ideas, without worrying about short term priorities. Many of these ideas are high risk, but potentially very high gain. In the long term, we expect some of these projects to make a big difference to New Zealand, in terms of economic growth, social issues, and a wider understanding of who we are as New Zealanders."
“It is widely accepted worldwide that the most important breakthroughs are made when the best researchers are funded to work on their most exciting ideas. This is what makes the Marsden Fund so vital for the long term success of New Zealand and makes Marsden researchers such an inspiring community."
“The huge enthusiasm of New Zealand researchers to engage in basic research means the Fund is always oversubscribed and it is a great pity that we are not able to fund more of these obviously worthy proposals, which have been ranked by international referees as the very best in their fields. However, it is great to be able to fund such a wide variety of projects from across the country and the academic spectrum and know that they are all of exceptionally high quality. New Zealand produces researchers that are of the very highest calibre and their Marsden-funded research is highly respected internationally.”
The Marsden Fund uses a two-stage process to assess the proposals received every year from researchers at New Zealand universities, Crown Research Institutes and private research organisations.
Applications to the Marsden Fund are extremely competitive. Of the 1113 preliminary proposals received, 229 were asked to submit a full proposal with 86 ultimately funded, giving a success rate of 7.7%. All of the funded proposals are for three years.
More than a third of the proposals funded are Marsden Fast-Starts, which are designed to support outstanding researchers early in their careers, 0 to 7 years after their PhD. The Fast-Start grants are intended to help young researchers establish themselves within New Zealand and are expected to have long term benefits for the range of capabilities, skills and knowledge in the country.
Notes to editors
The Marsden Fund supports excellence in leading-edge research in New Zealand. Projects are selected annually in a rigorous process by ten panels who are guided by the opinions of world-leading referees. Funding is spread over three years for each grant.
There are two types of grants: Fast-Start grants worth $115K per annum for three years for early career researchers and Standard grants that can be worth up to $330K per annum for three years.
The Marsden Fund is contestable, is for investigator-driven research projects, and is not subject to government priorities. It is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and funded by the New Zealand Government.
The Fund is named after physicist Sir Ernest Marsden. It was formed by the government in 1994 to fund scientific research.
The Marsden Fund is regarded as a hallmark of excellence, allowing New Zealand’s best researchers to explore their ideas.
|AUT1201||AUT University||Dr Skilling||Social Sciences||Inequality and Injustice: Deliberation, Power and the Nature of Public Opinion||12-AUT-013||$345,000|
|GNS1201||GNS Science||Dr Hollis||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Surviving in the Eocene ocean: the unbearable warmness of being||12-GNS-001||$960,000|
|GNS1202||GNS Science||Dr Cox||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Earthquake hydrology: seismic pumps or broken pipes?||12-GNS-003||$960,000|
|GNS1203||GNS Science||Dr Chambefort||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Fingerprinting geothermal fluids: tracking the magmatic signature||12-GNS-028||$345,000|
|GNS1204||GNS Science||Dr Ellis||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Sticky or creepy: What causes abrupt changes in seismic behaviour along subduction plate boundaries?||12-GNS-029||$895,000|
|IRL1201||Industrial Research Ltd||Dr Willmott||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||Making a Splash: Superhydrophobic Spacing, Symmetry and Stretch||12-IRL-002||$345,000|
|IRL1202||Industrial Research Ltd||Dr Knibbe||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Imaging of magnetic vortex pinning in high temperature superconductors||12-IRL-007||$345,000|
|LCR1201||Landcare Research||Dr Lee||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||Do priority effects explain contrasting lineage diversification on islands?||12-LCR-011||$920,000|
|MAU1201||Massey University||Assoc Prof Morgan-Richards||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||Punctuated evolution: is rapid morphological change linked to speciation?||12-MAU-008||$690,000|
|MAU1202||Massey University||Dr Battley||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||The genetics and epigenetics of bird migration timing||12-MAU-032||$920,000|
|MAU1203||Massey University||Professor Martin||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Modern Analysis and Geometry||12-MAU-044||$615,000|
|MAU1204||Massey University||Dr Plieger||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||The Good without the Bad: Selective Chelators for Beryllium||12-MAU-047||$930,000|
|MAU1205||Massey University||Dr Fialko||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Understanding quantum thermodynamics with the smallest heat engine||12-MAU-129||$345,000|
|MAU1206||Massey University||Professor Scheyvens||Social Sciences||Harnessing the power of business: the contested involvement of corporations in community development initiatives in the Pacific||12-MAU-004||$890,000|
|MAU1207||Massey University||Assoc Prof Moewaka-Barnes||Social Sciences||Affective practice, identity and wellbeing in Aotearoa||12-MAU-019||$850,000|
|MAU1208||Massey University||Dr Muhammad||Social Sciences||Institutional change, path dependence and public transport planning in Auckland||12-MAU-057||$345,000|
|MEP1201||Motu Economic Research||Dr Grimes||Social Sciences||Testing the validity and robustness of national wellbeing and sustainability measures.||12-MEP-001||$890,000|
|NIW1201||NIWA||Dr Morgenstern||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Investigating the role of ozone in New Zealand and Southern Hemisphere climate change||12-NIW-006||$955,000|
|NIW1202||NIWA||Dr Kohout||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Could an increase of storms in the Southern Ocean dramatically influence the climate system?||12-NIW-008||$345,000|
|UOA1201||The University of Auckland||Dr Wu||Biomedical Sciences||Interdisciplinary targeted strategy: novel approach to guide new hypoxia-activated prodrugs to solid tumours using pH-sensitive liposomes||12-UOA-033||$345,000|
|UOA1202||The University of Auckland||Dr Kingston||Biomedical Sciences||Tracing the Footsteps of a Viral Polymerase||12-UOA-086||$975,000|
|UOA1203||The University of Auckland||Dr Vickers||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||Nutritionally driven reproductive development: Is the male in the driving seat ?||12-UOA-015||$785,000|
|UOA1204||The University of Auckland||Dr Hay||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||Unlocking the untapped therapeutic potential of peptide receptors to combat diabetes, obesity and heart disease||12-UOA-089||$910,000|
|UOA1205||The University of Auckland||Professor Hunter||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||How does the heart grow?||12-UOA-166||$910,000|
|UOA1206||The University of Auckland||Dr Barclay||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||Resolving the nanostructure of the cochlear synapse||12-UOA-333||$345,000|
|UOA1207||The University of Auckland||Dr Macinnis-Ng||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||Ready for climate change? The ecophysiology of New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) forests||12-UOA-057||$345,000|
|UOA1208||The University of Auckland||Dr Hunt||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||The genetics of complex cognition||12-UOA-249||$920,000|
|UOA1209||The University of Auckland||Professor Corballis||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||Brain asymmetries for gesture and speech||12-UOA-158||$760,000|
|UOA1210||The University of Auckland||Dr Addis||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||The Imaginative Brain: Neural networks supporting flexible future thinking||12-UOA-254||$780,000|
|UOA1211||The University of Auckland||Dr Besier||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||Novel movement retraining for musculoskeletal and neurological disorders using artificial muscle||12-UOA-122||$930,000|
|UOA1212||The University of Auckland||Professor Nash||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||Heart Failure and Remodelling: From Images to Mechanics||12-UOA-222||$940,000|
|UOA1213||The University of Auckland||Dr Du||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||Understanding the rapid electrophysiological transition in the stomach||12-UOA-228||$345,000|
|UOA1214||The University of Auckland||Professor Bishop||Humanities||Shakespeare's Theatre Games||12-UOA-021||$535,000|
|UOA1215||The University of Auckland||Dr Russell||Humanities||Recognition theory and the Christian tradition||12-UOA-040||$345,000|
|UOA1216||The University of Auckland||Dr Cameron||Humanities||Face, Screen, Interface: Rendering the Face in Screen-based Media from Early Cinema to Digital Special Effects||12-UOA-114||$345,000|
|UOA1217||The University of Auckland||Dr Brown||Humanities||Toi te Mana: A history of indigenous art from Aotearoa New Zealand||12-UOA-234||$635,000|
|UOA1218||The University of Auckland||Dr Leemans||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Highly symmetric polytopes||12-UOA-083||$580,000|
|UOA1219||The University of Auckland||Professor Lumley||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Statistical methods for complex samples||12-UOA-178||$700,000|
|UOA1220||The University of Auckland||Dr Brewer||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Answering the Hard Questions: Massive Bayesian Inference in Astrophysics||12-UOA-299||$345,000|
|UOA1221||The University of Auckland||Assoc Prof Metcalf||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Towards atomic resolution biological imaging using free electron X-ray laser radiation - the granulovirus connection||12-UOA-078||$970,000|
|UOA1222||The University of Auckland||Dr Ratuva||Social Sciences||Rethinking future security: Exploring the nexus between state-based and indigenous security systems in the Pacific||12-UOA-117||$600,000|
|UOA1223||The University of Auckland||Dr Stuart||Social Sciences||Ecological Influences and Life Course Impacts of Bullying and Victimization for Youth in New Zealand||12-UOA-211||$345,000|
|UOC1201||University of Canterbury||Dr Derrick||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||Saving energy vs. making yourself understood during speech production||12-UOC-081||$345,000|
|UOC1202||University of Canterbury||Dr Marshall||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||Electrocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide to methanol||12-UOC-091||$345,000|
|UOC1203||University of Canterbury||Dr Wolffram||Humanities||Criminal Minds: A History of Forensic Psychology, 1850-1950||12-UOC-060||$345,000|
|UOC1204||University of Canterbury||Professor Steel||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Genetic jigsaws with missing pieces: Mathematical challenges for piecing together evolution from patchy taxon coverage.||12-UOC-016||$555,000|
|UOO1201||University of Otago||Dr Anderson||Biomedical Sciences||Overcoming anxiety: the neuroendocrine strategy of new mothers||12-UOO-029||$975,000|
|UOO1202||University of Otago||Professor Herbison||Biomedical Sciences||Recording the Electrical Activity of GnRH Neurons In Vivo||12-UOO-030||$975,000|
|UOO1203||University of Otago||Professor Robertson||Biomedical Sciences||Feeling gravity in your bones - characterising a molecular sensor of force||12-UOO-033||$975,000|
|UOO1204||University of Otago||Dr Dunbier||Biomedical Sciences||Hormonal regulation of immune cells: does anti-hormone therapy inadvertently fuel cancer?||12-UOO-210||$345,000|
|UOO1205||University of Otago||Professor Grattan||Biomedical Sciences||Mechanism of hormone entry across the blood-brain-barrier||12-UOO-202||$975,000|
|UOO1206||University of Otago||Dr Brownfield||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||The role of asymmetric division in male germ-line specification in flowering plants.||12-UOO-043||$345,000|
|UOO1207||University of Otago||Professor Mercer||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||En garde! The development of a stress response in bees and its impact on learning and memory||12-UOO-161||$910,000|
|UOO1208||University of Otago||Dr Macknight||Cellular, Molecular and Physiological Biology||Molecular understanding of flowering time regulation in legumes||12-UOO-168||$910,000|
|UOO1209||University of Otago||Dr Rosengrave||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||How do males adjust their sperm quality in response to social cues?||12-UOO-133||$345,000|
|UOO1210||University of Otago||Dr Krkosek||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||Cycling salmon: Integrating theory and data of spatial population dynamics||12-UOO-170||$345,000|
|UOO1211||University of Otago||Dr Beavan||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||"Living in the shadow of Angkor": Responses and strategies of upland social groups to polity demise in the late- to post-Angkor period.||12-UOO-026||$720,000|
|UOO1212||University of Otago||Professor Bilkey||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||Brain Mechanisms of Self Control||12-UOO-050||$800,000|
|UOO1213||University of Otago||Professor Stillman||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||Mind the gap? Worker productivity and pay gaps between similar workers in New Zealand||12-UOO-067||$800,000|
|UOO1214||University of Otago||Professor Blaikie||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||Engineering Optical Near Fields: Principles and Techniques for Applications in Sensing and Lithography||12-UOO-019||$910,000|
|UOO1215||University of Otago||Dr Vennell||Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences||A scaling law for a renewable energy resource: Is Giga-Watt output from tidal turbine farms realistic?||12-UOO-101||$940,000|
|UOO1216||University of Otago||Professor Tribble||Humanities||Ecologies of Skill in Early Modern England||12-UOO-018||$485,000|
|UOO1217||University of Otago||Dr Weber||Humanities||Modelling Paradoxes in Non-Classical Mereotopology||12-UOO-200||$345,000|
|UOO1218||University of Otago||Dr Hennig||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Causality and Cosmological Models in General Relativity||12-UOO-143||$345,000|
|UOO1219||University of Otago||Dr Thompson||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Transformation optics: the science of cloaking||12-UOO-052||$345,000|
|UOO1220||University of Otago||Assoc Prof Blakie||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Thermal Dynamics of a Spinor Condensate||12-UOO-039||$940,000|
|UOO1221||University of Otago||Dr Longdell||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Efficient conversion of individual microwave photons to individual optical photons||12-UOO-065||$930,000|
|UOO1222||University of Otago||Assoc Prof Freeman||Social Sciences||Natural neighbourhoods for city children||12-UOO-140||$430,000|
|UOW1201||The University of Waikato||Dr Laughlin||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||A new solution to a perennial problem: resolving a paradox in pursuit of ecology's Holy Grail||12-UOW-041||$345,000|
|UOW1202||The University of Waikato||Professor Hamilton||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||Toxic in crowds: The triggers of toxin production in planktonic cyanobacteria||12-UOW-087||$920,000|
|UOW1203||The University of Waikato||Dr Olszewski||Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences||What makes us share food with others? The role of neurohormone oxytocin in social aspects of eating behaviour.||12-UOW-006||$760,000|
|UOW1204||The University of Waikato||Dr Lane||Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry||Photodissociation of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere||12-UOW-007||$345,000|
|UOW1205||The University of Waikato||Assoc Prof Ganesh||Social Sciences||Activism, technology and organizing: Transformations in collective action in Aotearoa New Zealand||12-UOW-033||$890,000|
|UOW1206||The University of Waikato||Dr Whaanga||Social Sciences||He rongo i te reo rauriki, i te reo reiuru: Whakatauki and conservation of biodiversity in Aotearoa||12-UOW-093||$345,000|
|VUW1201||Victoria University of Wellington||Assoc Prof Shima||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||Winners and Losers: Effects of demographic heterogeneity on individual fitness and the dynamics of marine metapopulations||12-VUW-009||$920,000|
|VUW1202||Victoria University of Wellington||Assoc Prof Davy||Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour||The adaptability of corals to climate change: switching partners and the role of nutritional interactions in the coral-algal symbiosis.||12-VUW-010||$920,000|
|VUW1203||Victoria University of Wellington||Dr Golledge||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Will the East Antarctic ice-sheet contribute to global sea-level rise under warmer-world scenarios?||12-VUW-111||$345,000|
|VUW1204||Victoria University of Wellington||Dr Johnston-Hollitt||Earth Sciences and Astronomy||Tracing the Evolution of Radio Halos and Relics with Next Generation Radio Telescopes||12-VUW-183||$870,000|
|VUW1205||Victoria University of Wellington||Professor Wevers||Humanities||The History of Reading in Colonial New Zealand and Australia||12-VUW-043||$445,000|
|VUW1206||Victoria University of Wellington||Professor Boast||Humanities||The Tenurial Revolution in the Pacific and the Americas||12-VUW-155||$585,000|
|VUW1207||Victoria University of Wellington||Professor Downey||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Algorithmic Randomness, Computation and Complexity||12-VUW-060||$510,000|
|VUW1208||Victoria University of Wellington||Dr Arnold||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Cluster Analysis for Ordinal Categorical Data||12-VUW-069||$600,000|
|VUW1209||Victoria University of Wellington||Professor Zhang||Mathematical and Information Sciences||Genetic Programming for Job Shop Scheduling||12-VUW-134||$520,000|
|VUW1210||Victoria University of Wellington||Dr Hodis||Social Sciences||Motivation and achievement: A study of complex relations||12-VUW-053||$345,000|
|VUW1211||Victoria University of Wellington||Dr Marriott||Social Sciences||The Colour of Crime: Investigation of attitudes towards blue- and white-collar offending||12-VUW-058||$345,000|
|VUW1212||Victoria University of Wellington||Dr Young||Social Sciences||Investing in Rural China: New Zealand Agribusiness and the Local Global Nexus||12-VUW-124||$345,000|
|Institute||Number of prelim proposals||Number of full proposals||Success rate to full||Number of funded||Success rate funded||Total amount of funding||Percent of total funding|
|Auckland University of Technology||21||1||5%||1||4.8%||$345,000||0.6%|
|University of Auckland||271||62||23%||23||8.5%||$14,690,000||26.9%|
|University of Canterbury||95||16||17%||4||4.2%||$1,590,000||2.9%|
|University of Otago||190||55||29%||22||11.6%||$15,090,000||27.6%|
|University of Waikato||79||14||18%||6||7.6%||$3,605,000||6.6%|
|Victoria University of Wellington||156||30||19%||12||7.7%||$6,750,000||12.4%|
|Industrial Research Ltd||14||3||21%||2||14.3%||$690,000||1.3%|
|Plant & Food||14||2||14%||0||0.0%||$0||0.0%|
Marsden Fund 2012 media pack
Ozone’s role in Southern Hemisphere climate change
If you live anywhere near New Zealand’s western coastline, you’ll be familiar with blustery westerlies. And if you think they’ve become more frequent in the last few years, you’d be right.
Both ozone depletion and greenhouse gas increases have influenced these winds, speeding them up and drawing them closer to the South Pole. However, the current trend may reduce or reverse if the ozone hole recovers.
Such changes in the strength and location of the westerlies, and the associated storm tracks, greatly influence our climate, so it’s important to understand future trends.
With the support of a Marsden Fund grant, NIWA’s Dr Olaf Morgenstern, along with other colleagues from NIWA, and scientists from the University of Canterbury and the Australian Antarctic Division, will build a new-generation climate model.
The new model will take account of ozone chemistry, the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans, and New Zealand’s topography and land-sea contrasts. The aim is to project our climate through the 21st century as accurately as possible. To better project climate change at the regional, New Zealand scale, the model will be coupled to a Regional Climate Model which adequately accounts for these fine-scale local features.
Findings will be of interest to the international research community, but especially to climate-sensitive sectors of the New Zealand economy such as renewable electricity generation and agriculture.
Total Funding: $955,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Olaf Morgenstern, NIWA Lauder, Private Bag 50061, Omakau, Central Otago
Searching for the tell-tale signs of galaxy cluster formation
If you’ve got kids, they’ve probably asked you why the sky is blue. The answer may not be a high priority for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), but the biggest radio astronomy telescope project in the world, currently under pre-construction in Australia and South Africa, will be pursuing other important questions in astrophysics.
One hot topic is the origin and formation of “large-scale structures” in the universe. Such structures typically contain dust, gas and hundreds of galaxies which are arranged in strands, sheets and clusters. The bigger these regions are, the more galaxies they attract. Using huge radio telescopes, astronomers can measure the visible and invisible (or “dark”) mass of galaxy clusters, as well as the speed at which they travel through space.
As a partner in the SKA, New Zealand will contribute to some of the largest sky surveys ever done. Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt from Victoria University of Wellington and Sydney-based astronomer Professor Ray Norris from CSIRO will embark on this ambitious project, backed by a Marsden Fund grant.
They will use two SKA pre-cursor telescopes to catalogue the characteristics and locations of diffuse radio emissions in galaxy clusters. These emissions will be in the form of cluster relics – believed to be the result of shockwaves left by colliding galaxy clusters, or radio halos – shown by clusters that are merging or disturbed.
Both radio telescopes are located in Western Australia – far from dense populations and their microwaves and mobile phones. The data collected will help answer such fundamental questions as how large-scale magnetic fields in the universe are formed.
Total Funding: $870,000 over 3 years
Researcher: Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Earthquake hydrology gets a shake up
Over many centuries, observations from around the world have noticed the effects of earthquakes on the water levels in wells. Earthquake-induced hydrologic responses range from the near-instant seismically triggered soil liquefaction, to longer-term changes in river discharge, spring flows, and well and groundwater levels.
Recent large South Island earthquakes in Fiordland (2009) and Canterbury (2010/11) have repeatedly triggered a response in monitored wells throughout New Zealand, especially those across the Canterbury Plains. Possibly surprising is the great distances over which these responses can occur, with the Fiordland quake affecting groundwater as far afield as Northland.
Thanks to a Marsden Fund grant, a team of researchers led by Dr Simon Cox from GNS Science in Dunedin will investigate the driving mechanisms of groundwater pressures and ground movements, in response to these contrasting major earthquakes.
Dr Cox and his team seek answers to key questions around how hydrologic responses vary with shaking energy, frequency and direction and the extent to which such responses reflect aquifer damage.
Understanding the effects of earthquakes on groundwater systems and the consequences for engineering strength of land is fundamental in a tectonically active country like New Zealand, which also has a heavy reliance on groundwater resources.
These recent quakes provide a unique opportunity to unravel the cause and driving mechanism of earthquake-induced fluid movements in the earth’s shallow crust. The insights gained will be of national and global significance.
Total Funding: $960,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Simon Cox, GNS Science, Private Bag 1930, Dunedin 9054
Clarity vs efficiency in speech
No matter how hard you try, you can’t say the same sentence the same way twice. Strangely, we sometimes move our tongues in completely different directions when we utter exactly the same phrase. For example, the “d” sound in the word “edit” can be produced in four different ways.
The cause of this variability can be investigated by analysing the tradeoff between speaking clearly and speaking efficiently. The general absence of rhotic vowels in New Zealand English (we say “butta” not “butter”) simplifies the changes that take place when we speak more quickly, making it an ideal dialect in which to investigate these tradeoffs.
Dr Donald Derrick from the University of Canterbury plans to use his Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant to conduct experiments that analyse the effect changes in speech rate have on tongue motion, energy usage and speech perception.
This research will ultimately lead to better speech recognition systems, a welcome thought for all of us who have dialled large telecommunication companies only to get that voice saying “I can recognise certain words and phrases”, closely followed by “I’m sorry, I don’t understand”!
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Donald Derrick, New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140
Gesture, speech, and the lopsided brain
Our ability to use language probably evolved from the gestures and grunts our ancestors used to communicate. As gesturing became more complex and closely linked to communication, it became increasingly specialised in the brain.
It is known that for most of us, the left side of our brain is in charge of both manual and facial gestures and speech. And because most of us are right handed (which means the left side of our brain is in control), the left side has long been seen as more important. Thus our right brain controls only what our left brain is not already doing, such as spatial functions.
But although some 95–99% of right-handers are left-side dominant for language, so are 65–75% of left-handers. These findings suggest more complex origins for right-side/left-side specialisation. “Handedness” itself may be unrelated to some kinds of brain specialisation and be an unreliable measure of others.
In the first large-scale study of its kind, Professor Michael Corballis and colleagues from the University of Auckland will use neuroimaging techniques to measure how the two brain hemispheres specialise in four areas: speech production; manual gestures; perception of facial emotion; and facial movements during speech. They will compare their findings from left-handers to those from right-handers.
By testing the hypothesis that these four areas are interconnected, this Marsden-funded research will provide new understanding of how the left and right sides of the brain specialise in different functions and are linked to left- or right-handedness.
Total Funding: $760,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Professor Michael Corballis, Department of Psychology, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142
Dem bones, dem bones, dem … heavy bones
Healthy and active lives depend on the strength of our bones, which are living tissues with specialised cells controlling their development. It is believed that these cells somehow sense the forces that result from exercise, and can respond by changing bone structure and strength.
Understanding the molecular details of these changes is the focus of a Marsden Fund grant awarded to Professor Stephen Robertson from the University of Otago, who will work with Professor Jillian Cornish from the University of Auckland and Professor Matthew Brown from the University of Queensland.
Professor Robertson is a world leader in the study of rare and severe inherited bone diseases resulting from mutations in a gene called filamin A. Filamin A produces a protein that can bend like a hinge and cushion bone cells from physical shocks. As the protein bends, it sends signals into the cell that switch various genes on or off. These effects appear to change the way that the bone cells grow, thus altering their density and strength.
Researchers will study the effects of filamin mutations on structure and function in bone cells, with and without the hinge region of the filamin protein. Patients with similar bone diseases, but who have normal filamin genes, will undergo genome analysis to identify the disease-causing mutation.
The results of this work should help us understand how inactivity leads to weaker bones in the elderly or infirm, and suggest better ways of preventing or treating bone diseases.
Total Funding: $975,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Professor Stephen Robertson, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054
Young cancer researchers get funding boost
Two young scientists, Dr Anita Dunbier from the University of Otago and Dr Zimei Wu from the University of Auckland have each received Marsden Fund Fast-Start grants to fund their respective research into causes and therapy of cancer.
Dr Dunbier returned to Dunedin in 2011 to take up a Sir Charles Hercus Research Fellowship after 4 years of postdoctoral training at the Institute of Cancer Research, London. Her research has already resulted in new discoveries in the way breast cancer cells can be influenced by the level of hormones like oestrogen.
More than 75% of breast cancers are treated with drugs designed to block aromatase, a key enzyme in the synthesis of the hormone oestradiol (a potent form of oestrogen). Aromatase inhibitors reduce hormone levels and slow the growth of some cancer cells in some patients. But Dr Dunbier’s research shows that reducing hormone levels with aromatase inhibitors can cause some types of breast cancer cells to recruit cells from the immune system to behave in a way that fuels growth of cancer cells. Finding which types of immune cells are recruited to hormone-depleted tumours and whether common anti-inflammatory drugs can modulate this process will lead to new ways of improving outcomes for patients.
Dr Zimei Wu obtained a PhD from the University of Otago and took up a lectureship in pharmacy at the University of Auckland in 2009. Her research addresses the lack of specificity exhibited by many cancer chemotherapy drugs, resulting in undesirable side effects.
New drugs like PR-104, developed in the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, are designed to limit side effects by releasing their active components only in hypoxic (oxygen-starved) tumours. To improve the stability and delivery of such drugs, Dr Wu will develop a novel strategy that uses nano-sized pH-sensitive liposomes to carry drugs to tumours. The low pH of hypoxic tumours will become a selective trigger for release of the drug, reducing the potential for side effects.
Development of improved delivery formulation is a crucial component in the evolution of next-generation cancer drugs, and will build on our world-leading reputation in this field.
Total Funding: Each project receives $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Anita Dunbier, Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin
Kauri and climate change
Take a walk through Northland’s Waipoua Forest and you’ll see some of the few remaining stands of mature kauri trees left in New Zealand. Sadly, even these remnants are under threat from kauri dieback disease.
Climate change may add to the woes of kauri, as tree-ring analysis shows that these trees are particularly sensitive to drought. Rising temperatures and more frequent extreme events such as droughts are predicted for New Zealand, but the likely impact of these changes on our forests has been little studied.
Funded by a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant, Dr Cate MacInnes-Ng from the University of Auckland and colleagues from Australia and the United Kingdom will investigate the sensitivity of the native conifers, kauri, tanekaha and totara, to water stress. They will compare water-use efficiency in these trees across different rainfall areas and look at how particular trees adapt to a lack of soil moisture.
Several traits make kauri vulnerable to drought: they prefer ridge tops that expose them to the driest soils and they have predominantly shallow roots. Like kauri, totara trees demand a lot of light, but grow much faster. Tanekaha grows slowly and little is known about it, possibly because its wood is not valued as highly.
This exciting project will add to our understanding of these three endemic tree species and is crucial to the long-term survival prospects for our kauri forests and other Southern Hemisphere conifers.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Cate MacInnis-Ng, School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142
How do birds “tell the time” when migrating?
Bar-tailed godwits are champion commuters. Each year they fly some 18,000 km from their wintering grounds in New Zealand to Alaska to breed. All the godwits leave on migration during the same 30-day period each year. More remarkably, individual birds leave during the same week or even on the same day, year after year.
But birds setting out on epic migrations don’t rely on watches or calendars. They must schedule their epic migrations to ensure that they arrive on the breeding grounds in time to find a mate and raise their chicks. So how do they know when to leave?
Many birds and other animals respond to changes in day length (photoperiod), but we don’t know how particular responses to photoperiod drive individual behavioural differences, such as departure dates.
Dr Phil Battley from Massey University and Dr Andrew Fidler from the Cawthron Institute have been awarded a Marsden Fund grant to explore the genetic basis of individual photoperiodic responses that may drive this finely-tuned departure timing.
By combining behavioural data from individual bar-tailed godwits with genetic testing, Dr Battley and Dr Fidler’s team will test for connections between DNA-level and individual variation in migratory departure dates.
This project will provide insights into the potential for evolutionary change in bird migration schedules. It also has important implications for understanding the limits of species’ potential to adapt to climate change.
Total Funding: $920,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Phil Battley, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Manawatu Mail Centre, Palmerston North 4442
Unravelling male reproductive responses to social cues
Males of many species respond to a variety of social cues – like the presence of a female or competitor – by making rapid adjustments to sperm quality, presumably to maximise their reproductive success in different social situations. But we don’t know how such adjustments occur or whether they alter a male’s reproductive success against a competitor.
To address this knowledge gap, Dr Patrice Rosengrave from the University of Otago will use her Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant to conduct innovative social manipulation experiments with chinook salmon. Salmon are ideal animals to use for several reasons. Social status can be easily manipulated; also fertilisation is external, so sperm from different males can be mixed easily to fertilise one batch of eggs in a “competitive fertilisation” experiment. The outcomes of these experiments can be easily measured.
By moving fish between different social situations at a salmon hatchery, Dr Rosengrave and her international team will observe what happens when previously dominant males become subordinate, and vice versa.
Cameras and microscope work will, respectively, record behavioural changes during these transitions, and the changes that the fish make to their sperm. The researchers will also explore whether steroid hormone levels in the fish play a role in these changes. To see whether the changes that occur actually make a difference, the researchers will observe the fertilisation rates from different males in competitive fertilisation experiments.
A better understanding of how male salmon adjust their sperm quality will have implications for the enhancement of fertility in many species, including potential applications in aquaculture, livestock and humans.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Patrice Rosengrave, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Otago School of Medical Sciences, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054
Mobile: 027 526 8681
Marsden Fund Contact: Dr Dean Peterson, Manager: Research Funding (04) 470 5783, 027 500 5553, email@example.com, http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/funds/marsden/
Pollen key to plant development
What plants and animals look like depends on an ordered series of controlled processes such as cell expansion and division which need to be in the right direction and plane to build the organism. Some cells divide unequally, and these daughter cells develop into the different cell types and tissues needed to produce a functioning animal or plant.
So how do unequal cell divisions lead to daughter cells with different fates? In animals, this often results from uneven distribution of regulatory molecules into the daughter cells, but the process is not well understood in plants.
Dr Lynette Brownfield from Otago University has been awarded a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant to identify regulators that control the development of the male germ-line after an unequal cell division early in pollen development. In pollen, this key asymmetric division results in a small sperm-producing male-germ-line cell and a second larger surrounding cell that protects it.
Dr Brownfield will collaborate with Professor David Twell from the University of Leicester, an expert on pollen development, to investigate the early molecular-level events that occur during asymmetric division in the developing pollen in the well-characterised plant, Arabidopsis. They will focus on identifying the factors that control a protein they have discovered that activates a male germ-line development.
This study will give insight into the fundamental mechanisms controlling plant development and sexual reproduction and may ultimately provide tools to manipulate and improve fertility in crop plants.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Lynette Brownfield, Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054
How does the heart grow?
Organs grow in response to genes being activated at specific times in specific locations and their development at various stages is affected by specific gene mutations and genetic pathways. Because the heart is the first fully functioning organ to form in vertebrates, it’s the ideal organ in which to study these growth signals and how gene regulation interacts with environmental factors.
Previous research has focused on the genetics of heart development or the mechanical processes during heart growth, but no one has yet combined the two in a predictive model. Professor Peter Hunter of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland has been awarded a Marsden Fund grant to bring these strands together.
Working in collaboration with the University of Oxford, Professor Hunter’s goal is to test the hypothesis that interactions between cell proliferation, reorganisation of cells’ internal scaffolding, and shear stress, play a role in the looping period during heart formation. Looping is a crucial early stage of development where the heart develops its chambers. The researchers will look at how the shape of the developing heart changes, its tissue structure and growth, cell growth and proliferation.
The techniques developed will contribute to the understanding of the development of all organs and build on world-leading cardiac research at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford.
Professor Peter Hunter, a bioengineer and computational physiologist, has been involved in heart modelling research for 30 years. Professor Shuomo Bhattacharya is British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford.
Total Funding: $910,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Professor Peter Hunter, Bioengineering Institute, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142
Getting to the heart of heart failure
Heart failure is a leading cause of disease and death in New Zealanders. Yet we have a limited understanding of the mechanisms underlying impaired heart contraction, partly because heart failure often presents simultaneously with diabetes and obesity. As a result, effective diagnosis and treatment is often difficult.
Professor Martyn Nash, Associate Professor Ian LeGrice and Associate Professor Alistair Young located at the Department of Engineering Science, the Department of Physiology and the Department of Anatomy with Radiology in coordination with the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland, have already pioneered internationally acclaimed methods for measuring the structural and functional changes that occur in heart failure. A Marsden Fund grant will allow the team to apply these methods to state-of-the-art patient imaging data.
Combining biological information with medical imaging and engineering analysis will result in personalised evaluations of heart failure mechanisms, adapted for each patient. This will require sophisticated computer models of the human heart.
This new knowledge will motivate the development of clinical tools to diagnose specific forms of heart failure, which could revolutionise its detection and treatment.
Total Funding: $940,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Professor Martyn Nash, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142
Could tidal power realistically help meet future energy needs?
The New Zealand Government aims to increase electricity generation from renewable sources to 90% by 2025. Scaling up production from such sources is crucial to meeting this target, but scaling up doesn’t work the same way across all energy types.
For example, with a wind farm, the more turbines you add the more power you produce. This is not so with large tidal turbine farms, because power extraction slows the flow speed along the entire channel. Simply adding more tidal turbines won’t necessarily result in more power and may even result in less, depending how the turbines are arranged.
Dr Ross Vennell from the University of Otago has already developed theoretical models of tidal turbine farms. Supported by a Marsden Fund grant, he plans to develop a basic scaling law to determine the relationship between power production and farm size. The research, in collaboration with researchers from Stanford University in the USA, will develop computer models which will improve our understanding of how much power could be generated by channels such as the Kaipara Harbour and Cook Strait.
Such a scaling law would be a significant step in addressing two core questions: what arrangement of turbines will extract the most power, and could tidal turbine farms become a realistic option for meeting a significant part of our future energy needs?
Total Funding: $940,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Ross Vennell, Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054
Making a controlled splash
Raindrops keep falling on my head... splash! With high-speed photography we can capture the amazing splash patterns that droplets make, like the crown shown. Droplet impact patterns can make a difference in applications such as automotive spray painting and ink jet printing. But can we control the pattern that is produced?
This question will be addressed by Dr Geoff Willmott of Industrial Research Limited, using a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant. He is particularly interested in drops that land on extremely water-repellent, or “superhydrophobic”, surfaces. These surfaces exist naturally – for example, in lotus leaves, where the way that rain beads and rolls as it contacts the leaf is thought to help keep the leaf surface clean.
But Dr Willmott is more interested in man-made superhydrophobic surfaces and the effect that the patterning of the surface has on droplet splashes. Man-made superhydrophobic surfaces may be useful for condensation management, ice-prevention or as self-cleaning surfaces.
Dr Willmott will study the impact of different surface patterns on the splash symmetry. He also plans to develop a method to control drop impacts as they happen.
This work may open up an entirely new research area in dynamic droplet-surface interactions, with potential for future applications such as a new class of engineering material for handling liquids.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Geoff Willmott, Industrial Research Limited, PO Box 31310, Lower Hutt 5040
Milk drop corona.
HE Edgerton and JR Killian, Flash! Seeing the Unseen by Ultra High-Speed Photography,
MIT Press, Cambridge (1954).
Getting to the heart of dark matter
When looking out into the universe, astronomers have seen many examples of gravitational lensing, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity. These are situations where the light of distant galaxies is focussed and distorted by the gravitational field of nearer galaxies; effectively the gravity of the nearby galaxy serves as a lens.
Seeing that the lenses are out there is relatively easy, trying to understand the internal structure of the lenses is much more difficult, mainly because some of the lens is stuff we can’t see: dark matter. We have to reconstruct the structure of a lens we can’t see from the traces of evidence it leaves, in the same way that forensic scientists reconstruct a crime they can’t see from the traces of evidence.
Dr Brendon Brewer of the University of Auckland, has received a Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant to work on improving techniques of “statistical inference,” and to get a better handle on the astronomical detective story about dark matter and gravitational lensing. In particular, Dr Brewer will use the classic work of the Reverend Thomas Bayes, which ultimately led to the development of “Bayesian inference”, where you use each new piece of evidence to sequentially update and improve your model of what you can’t see.
Bayesian techniques tend to be highly computation intensive, and require deep mathematical and statistical insight. While Dr Brewer is specifically interested in gravity lenses, the general technique is very widely applicable, and of intense interest in many different disciplines. Biologists use varieties of Bayesian inference to reconstruct phylogenetic lineages, and chemists use it to reconstruct possible protein sequences.
Any software produced will be released under an open source licence to maximise benefits to the science community.
Researchers: Dr Brendon Brewer, Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142
Criminal minds – the science behind the science
Forensic expertise has made for great entertainment for decades. From the Sherlock Holmes novels to modern television series such as CSI or Criminal Minds, the idea that reason, logic and the tools of science could bring criminals to justice has been a staple of our popular culture. But what about expertise about the mind? Is forensic psychology as reliable as fingerprinting? How does forensic psychology sit within our justice system, and what is the story of how it got the status it currently has?
Dr Heather Wolffram, from the University of Canterbury, has been awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant to write the first part of that history, an investigation into how forensic psychology became part of the justice system. Specifically the project asks: How, why and where forensic psychology emerged as a new field during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? And what impact did forensic psychology have on approaches to crime, criminality and jurisprudence in the period 1850-1950?
The goal of the project is a substantially more accurate and nuanced account of the development of forensic psychology than those written by people working in the field. The project will provide a more comprehensive understanding of late nineteenth and early twentieth century conceptions of crime and criminality, and an in depth exploration of late nineteenth-century research into memory and suggestion of witnesses.
Questions that contemporary forensic psychologists, lawyers and other people within the justice system grapple with, including the falsification and repression of memory as well as the reliability of child witnesses, were discussed in great detail by psychologists, psychiatrists and jurists over a century ago. Writing the history of forensic psychology, and focussing on the “psychology of the witness” will shed light on current problems.
This project will contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of how the cognitive sciences play a role in deciding questions of legal responsibility and credibility.
Researchers: Dr Heather Wolffram, Department of History, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140
Toi Te Mana: A history of indigenous art
Art historians around the world are beginning to understand that Western art history generally excludes indigenous artists and their work. And although Māori art has long been acknowledged as one of the world’s great art traditions, it lacks a comprehensive written history.
Dr Deidre Brown, Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Dr Ngarino Ellis from the University of Auckland seek to redress this imbalance as far as Māori art and artists are concerned. Using a Marsden Fund grant, their project Toi Te Mana will trace the development of Māori art from its Polynesian origins to the present day. Toi Te Mana will set an international precedent as the first comprehensive indigenous art history created by and with indigenous peoples, and aims to help redefine art history in a global context.
Toi Te Mana will investigate Māori art using indigenous, Kaupapa Māori research methods. It will focus on a wide range of art practices, from traditional to contemporary. For example, from raranga (weaving) and tā moko (tattooing) to digital media and film.
Dr Brown and her team will analyse Māori art based on case studies, ancestral narratives, historical records, investigations into specific artworks and interviews with contemporary artists. They will also ensure that the contributions of female practitioners and of artist collectives are not overlooked.
This project will make the experience of Māori art accessible and intelligible to local and international audiences through a book, journal articles and conference presentations.
Total Funding: $635,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Deidre Brown, School of Architecture and Planning, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142
Cloaked in invisible bending light
Most of us have idly speculated about what we would do if we could become invisible for a day. However unless you have Harry Potter’s cloak or are in a Romulan Bird of Prey, speculation is as far as it has been able to go. Now, science is getting closer to making it a reality – albeit on a much smaller scale.
Transformation optics – a fundamentally new approach to the design of optical devices – allows for novel control of light. The mathematics underpinning transformation optics is similar to the equations that describe how gravity warps space and time. But instead of space and time, these equations show how light can be directed towards, or away from, an object in a chosen way. Complex artificial materials, known as meta-materials, are a key component.
One potential future application is in meta-materials that bend light around an object to provide cloaking, or invisibility. Meta-materials can also be used to make super-resolution lenses, which can focus beams of light in spots smaller than its wavelength, impossible with conventional lenses. Being able to focus light in such small spots would lead to cheap methods for making tiny electronic circuits.
The fundamentals of transformation optics are the focus of research by Dr Robert Thompson from the University of Otago. In collaboration with researchers from Duke University in the USA, Dr Thompson will use his Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant to develop new mathematical methods that allow meta-materials with exotic optical properties to be designed.
This research could pave the way for new innovations of global importance, and bring New Zealand to the cutting edge of this emerging science.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Robert Thompson, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054
Laughing gas not so funny on high
Nitrous oxide (N2O), commonly known as laughing gas, is emitted into the atmosphere from the soil as a result of bacterial action on nitrogenous fertiliser. But the chemical reactions that it undergoes once in the upper atmosphere are no laughing matter. Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas, which also plays a significant role in ozone destruction. Its concentration in the atmosphere is steadily increasing, mainly as a result of intensified agriculture, making it a critical greenhouse gas for an agricultural economy like New Zealand.
But the chemical reactions that occur once nitrous oxide is in the atmosphere are poorly understood. In particular, there is debate concerning the importance of complexes formed by nitrous oxide and water.
Dr Joseph Lane from the University of Waikato has been awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant to explore the formation and reactivity of nitrous oxide compounds in the atmosphere. With collaboration from the University of Sydney, Dr Lane will use chemical theory, modelling, and sophisticated laser spectroscopy to estimate how much nitrous oxide exists in different regions of the atmosphere and investigate how it absorbs solar radiation.
Dr Lane’s work will contribute to global climate modelling.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Joseph Lane, The University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3240
New Zealand Agribusiness investing in rural China
China has opened its borders to international agribusiness. It has set aside nearly one trillion US dollars for agribusiness investment and subsidies over the next five years. But little is known of how international businesses operate or adapt under current conditions, and even less is known of the impact of foreign investment on the provincial areas of China.
Dr Jason Young from Victoria University of Wellington plans to use his Marsden Fast-Start grant to find out the answers to those questions. Dr Young will compare investment in developed and developing rural regions and examine the role of foreign investment in China’s agricultural sector.
Aided by his fluency in Chinese languages, Dr Young will make two detailed case studies of New Zealand agribusinesses operating in China. The first will be Fonterra’s five farms in Hebei Province. The second will be Maori engagement in farming in the poorer Guizhou Province. Maori business models are compatible with collective Chinese farming practice, especially in the south, potentially providing a unique edge to New Zealand investments in this region.
New Zealand, as a leading agricultural nation with unique market access to China through the 2008 Free Trade Agreement, is well placed to help introduce high-quality agricultural practices. The results of this study will help facilitate such work in the future and will be of interest both internationally and to New Zealand policymakers.
Total Funding: $345,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Jason Young, Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Converting microwave photons to optical photons
In theory, quantum computing offers dramatic increases in computing speed, power and improved data security. But a fundamental problem in quantum information science is that the best system to manipulate the quantum states is not necessarily the best system to transport the information. Dr Jevon Longdell from the University of Otago has been awarded a Marsden Fund grant to investigate a solution in quantum computers based on superconducting quantum information bits.
The solution starts with understanding that an efficient connection is required between the microwave photons that “prepare” and then later “read” the “qubits”, and the optical photons that transport them. Dr Longdell’s goal is to achieve this efficiency by directly converting microwave photons into optical photons.
To make this conversion, the team proposes to create the world’s most efficient electo-optic modulator by integrating an optical whispering gallery mode resonator with a microwave resonator.
The project is a collaboration with the Australian National University, which has one of the world’s leading groups on quantum information storage.
Total Funding: $930,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Dr Jevon Longdell, Physics Department, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054
Identity and wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand
What makes us unique as New Zealanders? It’s not just our characteristics, our shared passions or our land. The national days that we celebrate together are markers of our identity, and two of the most significant to us are ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day.
National days and their related observances produce not just talk, but feelings: from patriotism, nostalgia and pride to anger, resentment and grief. Commemoration and celebration are emotional experiences; even those who remain determinedly indifferent have an emotional response. Thus these celebrations can either unify us or divide us. Our state of mind on these days reflects our wellbeing and social cohesion as a nation.
Supported by a Marsden Fund grant, Associate Professor Helen Moewaka-Barnes from Massey University and her team will use modern media to capture the wairua and emotion of these days for Māori and non-Māori alike. Researchers will record participants and work with focus groups over the next two years to reconstruct their understanding of both national holidays.
The significance of ANZAC and Waitangi days will be also compared with other celebrations, such as Matariki, Chinese and Gregorian (Western) new years, which are emerging as important symbols of our multiculturalism.
This study will provide important new analyses of our “state of the nation” from diverse standpoints, and will be one of the first pieces of research to investigate emotion and wairua in a live social context.
Total Funding: $850,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Associate Professor Helen Moewaka-Barnes, Te Ropu Whariki, Massey University, PO Box 6137, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1141
Corporate community development: harnessing business power in the Pacific
The private sector is increasingly called upon to play a role in international development. But we need to better understand both the potential and the risks of private corporations having a stronger role in “social good” at a community level.
In the Pacific, mining and tourism industries contribute significantly to local development, sometimes providing far more than governments, donors or non-governmental organisations. Although very different, the mining and tourism industries share some key attributes. For example, they both intensively use natural resources (especially land and water) which are important to local communities and they are both economically dominant sectors in these island economies.
A team of researchers led by Professor Regina Scheyvens and Associate Professor Glenn Banks, from Massey University, has gained Marsden funding to undertake fieldwork at two mining sites in Papua New Guinea and two tourism sites in Fiji. They want to know if the community development initiatives of mining and tourism corporations operating in the Pacific can bring about locally-meaningful development.
As part of this comparative study, the team will consider the perspectives of both the corporations and the rural communities in which they operate. Local researchers will assist, thus gaining new skills. The aim is to eventually contribute strategies for corporations to pursue more socially sustainable corporate community development practices.
Total Funding: $890,000 over 3 years
Researchers: Professor Regina Scheyvens, School of People, Environment and
Planning, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4442