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Published 16 November 2017

Researchers at the top of their fields elected as Fellows

Sixteen researchers and scholars who have advanced knowledge in the areas of history, theology, art, computer science, psychology, law, Māori studies, chemistry, soil science, poetry, linguistics, geology, education, engineering and mathematics have been announced as Fellows of Royal Society Te Apārangi, following the annual selection process.

Being made a Fellow is an honour that recognises true international distinction in research and scholarship. Fellows can use the post-nominal ‘FRSNZ’ after their name to indicate this honour. 

“We are pleased to see a strong showing of new Fellows from the humanities and social sciences in this selection round,” says Academy Chairperson Professor Barry Scott FRSNZ, who is also a Vice President of the Society.

“In being elected Fellows, these people have demonstrated a depth of intellect and originality in their thinking that enriches our lives and broadens our knowledge through their inquiries. 

“We are working on increasing the diversity of our Fellows. This year we have elected seven new women Fellows (44%), two Fellows who identify as Māori (13%) and two employed at Crown Research Institutes (13%). We still have a lot of work to do to achieve greater diversity amongst our Fellowship but we are moving in the right direction. One of the biggest issues we have is building the diversity of our candidate pool. 

“We are continuing to make changes to the Fellowship process so that it will, in time, reflect New Zealand’s research community. The Society is currently holding a series of roadshows around the country on proposed changes to both Fellowship processes and medal selection eligibility criteria. These changes have the goal of making these processes more accessible across the whole research sector, both in types of research organisation and in terms of the widest range of research fields (from humanities to engineering and IT), more responsive to addressing diversity and embracing Māori research.”

“We encourage people to attend these roadshows, running until November 23, to share their thoughts on how we can achieve better balance and diversity in our Fellowship.” 

The new Fellows are:

Professor Charlotte Macdonald, School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, is a historian who has used innovative methods to study 19th century colonies and empires, New Zealand history, gender and women’s history and cultural history of bodies, modernity, sport and spectating.

Professor Paul Trebilco, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, has made original contributions in three main areas:   Jewish communities in Asia Minor; early Christians in the city of Ephesus, modern-day Turkey; and investigations into self-designation and group identity in early Christians.

Professor Michael Parekowhai, University of Auckland, is an artist who explores perceptions of place and nationhood through sculpture, installation and photography. His research investigates the ambiguities of identity, the sensitivities of historical memory, the role of appropriation and assimilation in the artistic canon, and the significance of biculturalism.

Professor Mengjie Zhang, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington, has made significant contributions in the area of artificial intelligence in the field of evolutionary learning and optimisation, particularly in the areas of image analysis; feature selection and pattern recognition; and transfer learning (where machine learning can be applied to a related problem).

Professor Margaret Wetherell, School of Psychology, University of Auckland, is internationally known for her work developing discourse theory and methods for social psychology for studying how do the things people say and do affect society and how does society influence people. She has also developed a new theoretical approach to affect and emotion for social research.

Professor Tony Ward, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, has primarily researched forensic and correctional topics, prominently centered on violent and sexual offenders and rehabilitation. His theoretical contributions have resulted in substantial empirical research projects and innovations in treatment around the world.

Professor Mark Henaghan, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, is New Zealand’s leading family law scholar, who has had a major impact on the judicial system, legislative reform and legal practice in New Zealand.

Professor Margaret Mutu, Māori Studies, University of Auckland, has advanced scholarship with her cutting-edge analysis of Māori language texts relating to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori claims against the Crown, oral histories and traditions, and Treaty settlements.

Professor Jadranka Travas-Sejdic, School of Chemical Sciences, University of Auckland, has made significant contributions to the research field of biosensing. She has developed hand-held, in-field detection systems using conducting polymers for fast sensing of biological molecules and small molecular targets of biological interest.

Professor Michele Leggott, English, Drama, and Writing Studies, University of Auckland, is a renowned poet and poetry scholar who seeks to open up poetry to as many audiences as possible. She was appointed New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2007-2009. Her first book of poetry Like This? won the International PEN First Book of Poetry and in 1995 DIA won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.

Professor Miriam Meyerhoff, School of Linguistics and Applied language Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, is a leading sociolinguist, a discipline that studies the effect of any or all aspects of society on how language is used. Her research has focused on language use in New Zealand, the Pacific and the UK. Her latest research focusses on variation in the English of Auckland citizens, a richly linguistically diverse community.

Professor Richard McDowell, AgResearch, Invermay, is an international authority on the management of contaminant losses from agricultural land and their impact in freshwater, particularly phosphorus. He has developed 18 of the 21 strategies available internationally to reduce phosphorus loss from land to water. 

Dr Nicholas Mortimer, GNS Science, Dunedin, is a geologist who has played a key role in exploring, revealing and promoting the continent of Zealandia. The foundation for this has been his multifaceted work on the older crystalline rocks of on-land New Zealand, including their relationships with Australia and Antarctica.

Distinguished Professor Viviane Robinson, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, has shown through her research the importance of educational leadership in student outcomes. She has designed and evaluated interventions to increase school leader’s skills and has developed resources for leadership development that are trademarked and used internationally.

Professor Noam Greenberg, School of Mathematics and Statistics, Victoria University of Wellington, researches the computable contents of mathematics and algorithmic randomness. He has developed a new research programme in ‘higher’ randomness, in which computability is used to give a hierarchy of randomness: the more complex the tests, the higher the degree of randomness that is required to pass these tests.

Professor Rick Millane, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury, is internationally recognised for his theoretical and computational methods for imaging biological molecules and tissue with wide applications across physical, biological and medical sciences.

The Society also announced the election of an Honorary Fellow. The election of Honorary Fellows aims to encourage strong ties with leading international scientists and scholars and New Zealand’s research community.

Honorary Fellow

Professor Gerry Gilmore FRS, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK, leads efforts to understand the structure and origin of our Galaxy and to deduce the nature of dark matter in the early Universe. 

View more on the new Fellows.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi