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Falling Walls Lab Aotearoa New Zealand Jury

Meet the Jury Members making the selection of the 2023 Winner of Falling Walls Lab Aotearoa New Zealand.

Jury Chair - Professor Phil Lester

Insect Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington

Phil Lester square

Professor Lester works at Victoria University of Wellington, where his research is in population dynamics and ecology of social insects. The pathogens and parasites of honey bees, invasive ants and social wasps in the Pacific region are a particular focus. He is a Specialty Chief Editor for the journal Frontiers In Bee Science. Phil has been the recipient of both a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship and a Royal Society Te Apārangi James Cook Fellowship. He has previously been Head of School for the School of Biological Sciences, and a prior President of the Entomological Society of New Zealand.

Associate Professor Riz Firestone

Associate Professor, Senior Research Officer, Research Centre for Hauora and Health, Massey University

Riz FirestoneAssociate Professor Firestone is a Senior Researcher at Research Centre for Public Health. Her research involves investigations on social-cultural and health inequalities specifically among young Pasifika people with non-communicable diseases in Aotearoa New Zealand. She also has a wider focus in co-developing community-based interventions with Pasifika and Māori communities to: (i) tailor interventions to ensure the community’s’ needs are met and; (ii) ensure the interventions are relevant, and adaptable for long-term uptake by people within their communities.

Outside of academic life, she has a passion for empowering others in healthier lifestyles through her pro-hobby group fitness career at one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest gyms, teaching Group Power classes (she is the Head Teacher for this programme), where she enjoys empowering people from all walks of life into healthier lifestyles.

Associate Professor Alex Gavryushkin

Biological Data Science Lab, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury

Alex GavryushkinAssociate Professor Gavryushkin, Rutherford Discovery Fellow, is an expert in algorithms, biological data science, and genomics working on scalable approaches to big data analysis in cancer research, epidemiology, and drug discovery. 

Chris Karamea Insley

Chair and Executive Director at Te Arawa Fisheries Group and Chair of Te Taumata advancing Māori business interests in to all Free Trade Agreements and a Member of the APEC2021 Business Leadership Group

Chris InsleyI was born and raised with my koroua and kuia on the East Coast in Te Whanau a Apanui at Omaio. We were raised on a small dairy farm working on the land and entrenched in Te Reo and Maori tikanga. Today I am able to work and navigate seamlessly between our taha Maori and the world of Pakeha, commerce and government, at home and internationally.  

I have graduated with Degrees and Masters Degrees in Commerce/Finance and Business Administration from Massey University and the University of Waikato respectively, while also completing several of the Harvard Business School Executive Education program studying Getting Global Strategy Right and International Finance. 

I have extensive experience in technical, management, executive leadership and Governance in forestry, farming (horticulture), geothermal energy and the fishing industries here in New Zealand, internationally in private, public and Maori owned and led businesses. In everything I do I practically advance embedding works class science research and technology in to new product development and business processes.

Veronika Meduna

New Zealand Editor for The Conversation

Meduna Veronika ex Alicia Scott squareVeronika Meduna is the New Zealand editor for The Conversation, a not-for-profit media organisation working with academics to provide evidence-based news and current affairs analysis. She is an award-winning science/environment writer and broadcaster, with experience across all multi-media publishing platforms. Before joining The Conversation, she produced and hosted a weekly science programme for New Zealand’s public broadcaster RNZ, for which she won several journalism awards, including the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union’s prize for best documentary.

She has written several books on science, most recently Towards a Warming World, published by Bridget Williams Books, and Science on Ice: Discovering the Secrets of Antarctica, published by Auckland University Press and, in an international edition, by Yale University Press. This book was a finalist in the 2013 Science Book awards.

Veronika contributes to other broadcasters and publications in New Zealand and internationally, including the NZ Listener, NZ Geographic, New Scientist and Deutsche Welle. 

Monique Surges

CEO German-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (GNZCC) 

Monique Surges squareMonique Surges is a seasoned CEO who has been leading the German New Zealand Chamber of Commerce since 2000. In 2015, she also joined the Supervisory Board of BayWa AG. Ms. Surges has also been instrumental in the establishment and growth of the New Zealand Europe Business Council, where she held several leadership roles including Vice President, President, and Treasurer.

Ms. Surges brings extensive expertise in facilitating and nurturing business relationships between New Zealand and Germany. Her hands-on approach has been invaluable in assisting companies with their exhibition needs at various international trade fairs in Germany. Over her impressive 30-year career, she has been a key driver in cultivating a thriving trade relationship between these two countries.

With its mandate to help New Zealand and German business entities thrive in an increasingly competitive global market environment, the German New Zealand Chamber of Commerce is a uniquely positioned bilateral trade office. It is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Action and is the largest European Chamber in New Zealand.

Jury assessment of presentations

The Jury will assess the presentations based on the following criteria:

  • Breakthrough factor – Does the project have originality and potential for innovation?
  • Relevance/Scope of impact – How relevant is the idea for the discipline and beyond, and what is the likely impact?
  • Structure/Performance: Is the presentation well structured, how convincing was the presentation?

More information on the scoring and the weighting of each criteria is available here.