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New James Cook Research Fellowships Awarded

Thu, 16 Dec 2004

New James Cook Research Fellowships Awarded

Mosquito-eating spiders, disorders of the inner ear, and our cultural identity will all be subjected to intensive world-class research over the next two years, thanks to three new James Cook Research Fellowships. The Fellowships, awarded by the New Zealand Government and administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, are given to "forward thinking" researchers who make a significant contribution to New Zealand's knowledge base. The Fellowships are for two years and are full-time positions, allowing researchers to concentrate on their chosen topics.

The New Fellows are:

*Biological Sciences: Professor Robert Jackson FRSNZ, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, for research on "Predators that target human disease vectors". Professor Jackson's work on jumping spiders from East Africa may have relevance for the fight against the greatest killer on earth – malaria. The unusually intelligent salticid spiders, which often prey upon other spiders, have been studied at Canterbury University for many years. Now Professor Jackson will focus on how the biology of Evarcha culicivora, a species that feeds on blood-carry mosquitoes, can be linked to Anopheles, the mosquito that carries malaria.

*Health Sciences: Associate Professor Gary Housley, Dept of Physiology, The University of Auckland, for research on "Auditory function -- sound transduction and neurotransmission". Professor Housley's work, an international collaboration involving three laboratories, investigates the working of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped cavity of the inner ear that contains nerve endings essential for hearing. His basic research could have direct clinical relevance to hearing loss and other disorders of the inner ear.

*Social Sciences: Professor Colleen Ward, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, for research on "Acculturation, adaptation and intercultural relations". Professor Ward's research considers important questions around our cultural identity such as where and how immigrants fit into our society, how important it is for migrants to be like other Kiwis, and how important it is for them to maintain aspects of their own cultural heritage. Her research also compares these New Zealand perspectives with finding from 12 other countries, and looks at whether there are unique aspects of New Zealand's bi-cultural setting that distinguish it from other societies in this regard.

The prestigious James Cook Fellowships were established by the Government in 1969 to mark the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook's arrival in New Zealand. They give scientists and scholars a chance to concentrate on their work for two years, without administrative and other distractions. There are presently six Fellows at various stages, studying topics as diverse as the make-up of New Zealand's population and the synthesis of shellfish toxins as new chemotherapeutic agents. The three new Fellows will start their Fellowships in early 2005.

Initially the Fellowship was available to any scientist, technologist or engineer based at a New Zealand University or research institution, regardless of nationality. In 1991 the Fellowship was discontinued. Following their reinstatement in 1996, the conditions of the Fellowships changed. They are now awarded to New Zealanders only, but regardless of location.

The Fellows are selected by the James Cook Research Fellowship Selection Committee, chaired by the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright.


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