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Published 11 November 2021

11 new Rutherford Discovery Fellowships awarded

Eleven early-to mid-career researchers have been awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships that will support them to accelerate their research careers in Aotearoa.

The research programmes of the new fellowships span a wide variety of interesting topics, including:

  • Using te Ao Māori approaches to co-develop science pūrākau narratives to facilitate kaitiakitanga guardianship and conservation through genomics research of endangered species.
  • Developing low cost and environmentally-friendly solar cells made entirely from organic compounds to increase the energy efficiency of electricity generation from the sun.
  • Using online citizen science to perform large scale studies to understand how the human mind perceives and produces music, and why music appears across cultures with such remarkable diversity.

One of the selection panellists, Professor Clemency Montelle, is a former Rutherford Discovery Fellow herself and knows first-hand the value of being awarded a Fellowship. Professor Montelle said, “being awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship is an immense recognition. It is a substantial investment in individuals to intensively pursue their world-class research programmes at a critical stage in their careers. But beyond this, it is an opportunity to be part of a very special group of young New Zealanders who are not only deeply ambitious for their discipline but also highly driven to make a profound and substantial impact on Aotearoa, its international reputation, and the wellbeing of its people.”

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships seek to attract, retain and develop New Zealand’s most talented early-to mid-career researchers and support their career development by helping them to establish a track record for future research leadership.

Chair of the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship Selection Panel in 2021, Professor Vic Arcus, said that the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships are “unique”.

“They provide this diverse group of extraordinary researchers that most valuable of commodities: time — a significant amount of time to concentrate on their research and widen and strengthen their networks and connections, to ultimately benefit New Zealand and the world."

Royal Society Te Apārangi manages the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship programme on behalf of the New Zealand government. The Rutherford Discovery Fellowship scheme receives government funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of $8 million per annum and awards $800,000 over five years to each research fellow. There are at least 50 Rutherford Discovery Fellows supported at any one time. This year, the Fellowship is helping bring two applicants back to New Zealand to establish successful research programmes here.

For 2021, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship recipients are:

  • Alana Alexander (Te Hikutu, Ngāpuhi), University of Otago, for research titled “Creating purakau of past, present, and future conservation impacts using genomics.”
  • Htin Lin Aung, University of Otago, for research titled “Development of patient- and community-centric tuberculosis healthcare services: a multidisciplinary approach to close the health inequalities gap.”
  • Amanda Black, Lincoln University, for research titled “Genomes to giants: restoring resilient soil ecosystems in kauri forests.”
  • Calum Chamberlain, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, for research titled “Probing the variability in earthquake nucleation mechanisms in New Zealand.”
  • Kelly Dombroski, University of Canterbury, for research titled “Transitioning to caring economies through transformative community investments.”
  • Jessica Lai, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, for research titled “Patents and power: a critical analysis of knowledge governance.”
  • Khoon Lim, University of Otago, for research titled “3D bioprinting of functional vascular networks.”
  • Samuel Mehr, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, for research titled “Psychological and cultural foundations of music.”
  • Sereana Naepi, University of Auckland, for research titled “Planning for change: an analysis of neoliberalism, equity and change in higher education.”
  • Michael Price, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, for research titled “The physics of next generation solar panels and light emitters for sustainability.”
  • Justin Rustenhoven, University of Auckland, for research titled “Cleaning the brain drains: augmenting meningeal lymphatic dysfunction in aging and neurodegenerative disease to alleviate cognitive decline.”

More information on the new Rutherford Discovery Fellows and statistics about the funding round is available at royalsociety.org.nz/RDFs

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi