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Prestigious award for rising Otago researcher

Thursday 29 November 2007

Prestigious award for rising Otago researcher

One of the University of Otago’s most promising early career researchers has been awarded the University’s Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal for 2007.

Department in Biochemistry Senior Lecturer Dr Peter Dearden is internationally recognised for his research in developmental genetics. His findings are published in prestigious journals including Nature, Genome Research, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Genome Biology.

The Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal, which recognises outstanding research performance of early-career staff, comes with a grant of $5000 for personal scholarly development.

Earlier this year, Dr Dearden won the Invitrogen Life Sciences Award, a major New Zealand award for innovative and ground-breaking research in molecular biology.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Geoff White says Dr Dearden is an outstanding researcher with an impressive record of published research, student supervision, and grant success including four grants from the Marsden Foundation.

“He is an excellent representative of the exceptional talent among early and mid career researchers in the University.”

Dr Dearden returned to New Zealand in 2001 after several years overseas – in London, Cambridge, and then Ontario where he was a visiting fellow in evolutionary biology. His first degree is from the Victoria University of Wellington and he completed his PhD at the Imperial College, London.

In 2002, he established a laboratory for studying evolution and development, with the aim of understanding the relationship between development – the growth of an animal from embryo to adult – and evolution. Dr Dearden uses honey bees, fruit flies and rotifers to study changes in developmental pathways.

“There are two specific questions I aim to address. Firstly, what developmental pathways were present in the common ancestor of all animals? Secondly, how do the complex genetic pathways underlying development evolve?”

Dr Dearden says he is delighted with the award and deeply appreciates the recognition.

“In many respects it is also recognition for the talented people with whom I have worked at Otago. I would like to thank the researchers who have worked in my lab and contributed hugely to this award.

“I would also like to thank my colleagues in Genetics, Biochemistry and elsewhere for their support.”

Dr Dearden will be presented with the medal when he gives a public lecture in April next year.

Note to Editor:

The Rowheath Trust was established in 1964 by Carl Smith – whose family lived in the Rowheath area of England – to support the University. Mr Smith received an honorary doctorate from Otago in 1968.

The Rowheath Award and Carl Smith Medal are initiatives of the University’s Advancement Campaign, Leading Thinkers, launched in November 2002. Leading Thinkers supports outstanding scholarship in areas vital to New Zealand's future well-being, with a strategic academic research programme and scholarship scheme.


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