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Search James Cook Fellowship awards 1996–2017

Search awarded James Cook Research Fellowships 1996-2017

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Fund Type: James Cook Fellowship

Year Awarded: 2001

Title: The Search for Electroweak Effects in Molecules

Public Summary: Living nature shows an absolute preference for one-handed molecules. Although many biomolecules chemically exist in a left-handed and in a right-handed form, biological systems only contain e.g. left-handed aminoacids and right-handed sugar molecules. Without this restriction life would be impossible, as the smallest conceivable living cell would have unrealistically large size (It would have to be essentially larger than a football). Whereas the importance of single-handedness in biology is well understood, its appearance in natural history is one of the great unsolved problems in the origin of life. The most intriguing among the various hypotheses relates to the possible role of weak nuclear forces. Of the four fundamental forces in nature - gravitation, electrostatic, weak and strong nuclear force - it is only the weak nuclear or so-called electroweak force which makes a difference between left- and right-handed objects. Its effects, however, are too small to be observed in ordinary chemistry and have not yet been measured in molecules. At present, several experimental groups worldwide are searching for this effect in molecules. The main objective of the proposed research is to predict the possible manifestations of electroweak interaction in order to find the most promising experimental approach. This would be an important achievement in both chemistry and physics, with possibly far-reaching consequences for the origin of life.

Total Awarded: $264,889

Duration: 3

Host: The University of Auckland

Contact Person: Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger FRSNZ 

Panel: Physical Sciences (including chemical sciences, geosciences, and mathematical and information sciences)

Project ID: 01/PS/06

Contract ID: JCF-UOA0101

Fund Type: James Cook Fellowship

Year Awarded: 2002

Title: Untangling our past: Language trees meet computational biology

Public Summary: Genetic and linguistic evidence provide vital clues to solving the mysteries of our past. Recently there have been huge advances in the computational methods used to make inferences from genetic data. Languages evolve in remarkably similar ways to biological species. They split into new languages, mutate, and sometimes go extinct. However, despite these parallels historical linguists do not commonly use computational phylogenetic methods. In this project I will develop statistical models of lexical evolution and apply them to large Austronesian and Indo-European language data sets. A Bayesian approach will be used to test hypotheses about the peopling of the Pacific and the origin of Indo-European languages.

Total Awarded: $191,822

Duration: 2

Host: The University of Auckland

Contact Person: Dr Russell Gray FRSNZ 

Panel: Biological Sciences

Project ID: 02/BS/02

Contract ID: JCF-UOA0202

Fund Type: James Cook Fellowship

Year Awarded: 2017

Title: Widely tunable optical fibre frequency comb

Public Summary: Waves of light can be described by the frequency and the length of the waves. While light emitted from e.g. a lightbulb consists of many waves with different frequencies and wavelenghs that are out of phase with each other, laser technology has enabled the generation of lasers emitting perfectly coherent light waves with similar frequency and wavelengths. Heralded by the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics, it is now possible to furthermore split light from certain lasers emitting light with fixed wave properties into in essence thousands of ultra-stable different lasers each displaying specific but different wavelengths – a phenomenon referred to as an optical frequency comb. These individual spectral lines act as spectral measuring sticks and have enabled a wide range of revolutionary applications, ranging from ultra-accurate clocks to molecular fingerprinting and high precision metrology. They could also help in avoiding the so-called capacity crunch of current optical fibre telecommunications networks.
Current methods of generating optical frequency combs do either not allow for the spacing between the frequency components to be tuned, or generate combs with a limited number of frequencies that are more susceptible to detrimental noise – both problems that limits some applications of the technology. In this project, Associate Professor Coen (and colleagues) will therefore design and build a new class of optical frequency comb generator based on pulses that have the ability to persist in optical fibre loops - so called temporal cavity solitons - and for which they have developed an important experimental expertise over the last few years with the help of a Marsden grant. With the proposed technology, they will be able to tune the spacing between the frequency components of the comb over several orders of magnitude, a feat which is currently not possible with any other comb generation technology. He will additionally work on ways to broaden the generated spectral range, with the ultimate aim being to cover a full octave of optical bandwidth, the condition to leverage the most dramatic applications of optical frequency combs. Overall, this study would lead to a small footprint device that would push New Zealand at the forefront of research and technology.

Total Awarded: $220,000

Duration: 2

Host: The University of Auckland

Contact Person: Associate Professor Stéphane Coen

Panel: Engineering Sciences and Technologies

Project ID: JCF-17-UOA-015

Contract ID: JCF-UOA1701

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