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Published 27 October 2023

Rutherford Discovery Fellowship tops 23 years with 12 new Fellows

2023 Rutherford Discovery Fellows

Established in 2010, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship has been supporting some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most promising early-to mid-career researchers as they secure and accelerate their research careers and contribute to our country’s research, science and innovation system.


In its final year, the Fellowship has awarded 12 outstanding recipients with $800,000 each over the next five years to carry out their specialist research programme.

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

  • Understanding the deep magma systems and processes that drive volcanic eruptions
  • Finding ways to improve and increase political engagement for Māori, Indigenous peoples, and other groups that have historically lower rates of participation and inclusion
  • Using complex 3D laboratory models to understand how breast cancer cells respond to drug therapies
  • Incorporating mātauranga Māori and cutting-edge scientific techniques to co-design and co-implement kelp restoration.

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowship scheme receives government funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to the amount of $8 million per annum. This is managed and administered on behalf of the government by Royal Society Te Apārangi.

The Chair of the selection panel, Associate Professor Marama Muru-Lanning invoked the following whakataukī in her feelings toward the recipients:

“Whiria te tangata, ka puta te oranga, Whiria te mātauranga ka puta he tino rangatiratanga
By weaving people, promote well-being, By weaving knowledge, promote excellence”

She went on to say, “The wero challenge above encapsulates the unique honour we have in selecting this year’s Rutherford Discovery Fellows. It was a privilege to interview the shortlisted scholars. This year the calibre was outstanding. Our successful fellows are driven, passionate people of the highest class. I am absolutely confident that this cohort will thrive and give service to Aotearoa-New Zealand and humanity.”

Experienced panel member and former Rutherford Discovery Fellow, Professor Clemency Montelle, added that “receiving a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship represents a significant honour. A unique community of leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand, the recipients have been selected not only because of their research excellence, but because of their strong commitment to meaningful and transformative change on the intellectual landscape of this country, its global standing, and the well-being of our communities. They are champions of impactful science.”

For 2023, the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship recipients are:

Natalia Yewdall, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha University of Canterbury, Enhancing enzyme networks in condensates for carbon capture and sustainable synthesis                 

Simon Barker, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, Magma forensics at New Zealand’s volcanoes: understanding the magmatic systems and processes that drive eruptions

Kimberley O'Sullivan, Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtakou University of Otago, HOusing, energy, and MEntal health and wellbeing (HOME) Programme

Elizabeth Macpherson, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha University of Canterbury, Blue Carbon Futures in Aotearoa New Zealand: Law, Climate, Resilience

Rosemary Brown, Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtakou University of Otago, Wiring the brain for motherhood: the critical role of hormones in maternal mood and behaviour

Megan Leask, Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtakou University of Otago, Omics and molecular strategies for precision medicine target discovery in Māori and Pacific peoples

Emma Nolan, Waipapa Taumata Rau The University of Auckland, Tools for our future: harnessing NZ-specific advanced cancer models to drive research discovery in Aotearoa                   

Lara Greaves, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, More than the 3 Ps: Enhancing Participation in Politics, Policy, the Public Sphere, and Political Science            

Tom Logan, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha University of Canterbury, Incorporating cascading risk and multiple uncertainties into climate adaptation planning 

Rebecca Lawton, Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato University of Waikato, Help for kelp in a warming world: A multi-disciplinary toolkit to identify resilience and improve heat tolerance of kelp for restoration and aquaculture           

Marta Rychert, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University, Harm reduction industries or harmful corporations? Investigating digital and social media influence strategies of the emerging international legal cannabis industry and cannabis vaping sector.                 

Emma Sharp, Waipapa Taumata Rau The University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand's diverse soil values: Examining the ontological politics of soil 'management' from the ground up.

From 2024, MBIE will support future leaders in research, science and innovation through the three Aotearoa New Zealand Tāwhia te Mana Research Fellowships schemes, which will replace the Rutherford Discovery, Rutherford Foundation and James Cook Research Fellowships.

View more information on the new Rutherford Discovery Fellows and statistics about the funding round.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi