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Published 29 October 2020

Fellowships support research into brain cancer cell communication, sustainable and self-determined tourism and plant stress tolerance

From left: Charles Unsworth (University of Auckland), Regina Scheyvens (Massey University) and Kevin Davies (Plant & Food Research)

Three researchers at the height of their careers have been awarded fellowships to undertake study or research in their field of endeavour for two years, recognising their sustained research excellence.

Dr Kevin Davies, Plant & Food Research, will work to understand the origin and current diversity of the metabolic stress-tolerance system of land plants. His hypothesis is that plants called hornworts are unique among land plants in that they lack the ability to produce protective metabolites called flavonoids. He will establish the physiological, metabolic and genetic status of the flavonoid pathway in hornworts to establish their vulnerability to environmental change.

Professor Regina Scheyvens, Massey University, will explore ways of achieving sustainable, self-determined tourism that supports Indigenous wellbeing in the Pacific region. The impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector provides a unique opportunity to rethink how tourism can more sustainably benefit Aotearoa and the Pacific. She will analyse the policies and strategies being developed in response to the crisis, hold widespread discussions/kōrero/talanoa with affected people and, on the basis of these, re-imagine tourism using Indigenous voices and concepts.

Associate Professor Charles Unsworth, University of Auckland, seeks to understand communication pathways in the brain that can lead to GlioBlastoma Multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive and lethal primary brain cancer in adults. He will study the relationship between calcium ion-channels, changed calcium communication in the brain, and how this can trigger the transformation of normal cells into cancerous ones in GBM tumours. He will leverage his research group’s transformative silicon brain-on-chip technology to map calcium channel communication and determine how GBM cancer talks at the network level. His research may discover new therapeutic strategies and approaches for treatment of GBM.

The James Cook Research Fellowships are awarded to researchers who have achieved national and international recognition in their area of scientific research.  The fellowships allow them to concentrate on a major piece of research for two years without the additional burden of administrative and teaching duties.  The funding package annually is $100,000 plus GST and up to $10,000 plus GST in relevant expenses. The fellowships are administered by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the New Zealand Government.

Royal Society Te Apārangi President Professor Wendy Larner said the Society was pleased to award fellowships to these outstanding researchers who are recognised leaders in their respective fields. “We look forward to hearing what these talented researchers uncover with their research.”

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi