Biologist Dr Gillian Gibb, Geologist Dr Ben Mackey and IT expert Dr Rachel Blagojevic have been awarded prestigious Post-Doctoral Fellowships for 2011.
Dr Gillian Gibb is currently in France at the University of Montpellier 2. Her Rutherford Foundation post-doctoral award will be used to investigate the genetic architecture of flightlessness in island birds.
Professor Brimble said that the genetics of avian flightlessness is of particular importance in New Zealand as it is an aspect of our native fauna that reflects the nature of New Zealand’s isolation from predatory mammals for so long.
Dr Gibb has expertise in genetic sequencing and bioinformatics – the use of advanced computing to describe the sequences of genes on a large scale, which can compare sequences between individuals or species to gain knowledge about how genes affect traits of living things. She will return to Massey University for her fellowship.
Dr Ben Mackey’s Rutherford Foundation post-doctoral fellowship will enable him to return to New Zealand from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to work at the University of Canterbury.
Professor Brimble said: “During his fellowship Ben will be developing a new technique for dating the exposure age of basalt rocks for seismic hazard assessment.”
This is important in New Zealand where many large urban centres are underlain by basaltic rock. Theresearch will lead to a greater understanding of the recurrence intervals of rare earthquakes, and the timing of landslides and volcanic eruptions.
The Foundation’s chairperson Professor Margaret Brimble said: “The Rutherford Foundation is pleased to be able to help repatriate two young scientists who will contribute to the advancement of knowledge in areas of national importance.”
Dr Rachel Blagojevic will be doing research in to multi-touch technology to improve its usefulness in many applications. Her project takes touch screen interaction to a new level with ‘tangible technologies‘for collaborative geometric drawing.
“Development of new knowledge in this area will enable ‘knowledge-based exports’ that increase New Zealand’s wealth without incurring costs on the environment”, said Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, New Zealander of the Year and Trustee of the Rutherford Foundation. “This demonstrates New Zealand is a place for intelligent businesses to thrive.”
The Rutherford Foundation is excited to be able to offer an extra post-doctoral fellowship, in conjunction with the University of Auckland as host, as this increases from 2 to 3 the number of fellows to be supported from the 2011 round. Professor Margaret Brimble, Chair of the Rutherford Foundation said “support for scientists’ early career development is important to ensure New Zealand retains its brightest scholars and to give the signal that outstanding researchers can work in New Zealand.”