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Introducing the Marsden Fund 25 Series

The Marsden Fund 25 Series celebrates 25 years of excellent research through regional lectures, online profiles and video interviews.


Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari taku toa, takitini e

Success is not by the work of one, but by the work of many

Marsden Fund Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden was established by the New Zealand government in 1994. Since then, it has driven world-class research in New Zealand by supporting and incentivising excellent researchers to work on their best and boldest ideas, to connect internationally, leading to new knowledge and skills with the potential for significant downstream impact for Aotearoa.

To celebrate, the Marsden Fund 25 Series shines a light on 25 researchers to reflect on the depth and breadth of research excellence making a difference across the disciplines supported by this funding.  

Over coming months, there will be 15 regional lectures and 10 online profiles to explore:


Regional lectures


Professor Greg Cook, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago

Napier, Thursday 5 September 2019

Fighting back: new weapons in the battle against antimicrobial resistant pathogens.
How understanding bacterial survival in extreme environments has led to breakthrough discoveries in drug development and agriculture.
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Associate Professor Siân Halcrow, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago

Auckland, Wednesday 2 October 2019

Sensitive little souls: Using children to assess the agricultural transition and its effect on human society.
Palaeopathology that explores how human life changed with the beginnings of agriculture.


Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith FRSNZ, Head of Department of Anatomy, University of Otago

Blenheim, Thursday 10 October 2019

Using DNA to map human migration and the origins of the first New Zealanders. Lisa has led a genomic study of the people of Wairau Bar, the genetic ancestry of New Zealanders and researched evidence of Polynesian contact in South America.


Associate Professor Nancy Bertler, Antarctic Science Platform Director, Victoria University of Wellington and GNS Science

Lower Hutt, Wednesday 13 November 2019

Nancy helped develop ice core research as a new discipline in New Zealand, and her many expeditions and research has increased our understanding of climate change and the implications for global sea level.


Professor Phil Lester, Insect Ecology, School of Biological sciences, Victoria University of Wellington

Westport, Wednesday 20 November 2019

Phil investigates the boom-and-bust dynamics of invasive social insects and the potential role of pathogens and the insect immune system in population collapses. He also examines bacteria and viruses in honey bees as a method of mitigating the effects of parasitic Varroa mites.


Associate Professor Janet Wilmshurst, Joint Graduate School for Biodiversity and Biosecurity, University of Auckland and Landcare Research

Nelson, Thursday 21 November 2019

Janet is at the leading edge of research in pre-historic plant and animal ecology, fire disturbance, archaeology and what this can tell us about climate change and restoration ecology.


Dr Rachael Shaw, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington

New Plymouth, Friday 22 November 2019

Rachael studies comparative cognition and understanding how non-human minds work and how evolution shapes cognitive abilities. She leads the Wild Cognition Lab, studying how native birds tackle problem solving, learn and remember, and how much they can learn from each other.


Distinguished Professor Marston Conder FRSNZ, Department of Mathematics, University of Auckland

Hamilton, Tuesday 26 November 2019

Marston is a world authority on the mathematics of symmetry and chirality in discrete structures, especially those with maximum possible symmetry in their class. He has been instrumental in developing and promoting mathematics in New Zealand.


Dr Naomi Simmonds Senior Lecturer/Researcher, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi

Whakatāne, Wednesday 27 November 2019

Naomi is revitalising uniquely Māori knowledge and tikanga pertaining to birth and mothering, and how it can significantly transform the maternity experiences of women and whānau.


Professor Brendon Bradley, College of Engineering, University of Canterbury / QuakeCore

Wanaka, Tuesday 10 December 2019

Brendon’s award-winning research predicts how strong the ground shaking will be at certain geographic locations. It is being used to set new international building design codes, and several major rebuilding projects in Christchurch are being influenced by his findings.


Dr Pauline Harris, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science, Victoria University of Wellington

Gisborne, Wednesday 22 January 2020

With a background in the physics of gamma ray bursts, high-energy neutrino production and inflationary cosmology; Pauline is now focused on mātauranga associated with Māori astronomy and traditional calendars called Maramataka.


Professor David Ackerley, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington

Tauranga, Thursday 23 Jan 2020

Research led by David has underpinned a new form of chemotherapy that exclusively targets cancer cells. The engineered enzymes can transform a relatively safe and non-toxic compound (a “pro-drug”) into a drug that is highly toxic to cancer cells.


Professor Stephen Robertson, Brain Health Research Centre, University of Otago

Invercargill, Thursday 4 February 2020

Stephen has been the Curekids Professor of Paediatric Genetics since 2002. He has gained international acclaim for his expertise on genetic disorders in children, with a particular emphasis on those affecting the development of the skeleton and the brain.


Professor Geoff Whittle FRSNZ,School of Mathematics and Statistics, Victoria University of Wellington

Whangarei, Thursday 27 February 2020

Geoff is firmly established as a world leader in discrete mathematics, particularly in the theory of matroids - a type of finite geometry – and graph theory. Geoff is also known as an incredible communicator about the passion and beauty of doing Maths research.


Online profiles


Professor Emily Parker, Ferrier Institute, Victoria University of Wellington

Emily investigates bioactive compounds found in fungi known as indole diterpenes which have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Her molecular level research looks at harnessing their unique chemical signatures to develop drugs and vaccines, tools for early diagnosis and prevention, and new models of disease.


Dr Haki Tuaupiki, University of Waikato

Māori navigation
Using traditional navigation knowledge and contemporary voyaging practices, Haki created Te Kāpaukura a Kupe: The Ocean in the Sky – Māori Navigation Knowledge to help a new generation of Māori voyagers to reconnect with their tupuna and with Polynesian navigators across the Pacific.


Associate Professor Renate Meyer, Department of Statistics, University of Auckland

Statistics/gravitational waves
Renate is an applied Bayesian statistician and pioneer in gravitational wave data analysis. Her research is a globally significant project at the frontiers of physics and statistics. It will help make events such as the coalescence of black holes, which are invisible to us using light, observable using gravitational waves.


Dr Andreea Calude, University of Waikato

Linguistics/Māori language
A Romanian born New Zealander, Andreea is particularly interested in research on New Zealand English and uses of Māori origin in it, such as ‘loan words’, like ‘whānau’ that we use from another language that are mostly understood by people who don’t speak the language.


Associate Professor Nick Golledge, Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington

Nick’s research focuses on numerical models to simulate the Antarctic ice sheet both at the continental scale and at the scale of individual outlet glaciers. He is refining projections from modelled ice sheet loss, using computer modelling to predict Antarctic ice sheet stability.


Dr Isabelle Sin, Senior Fellow, Motu & Victoria University of Wellington

Labour economics
Isabelle has researched how financial incentives affect brain drain and the role of wealth in tertiary graduates' ability to relocate to domestic and international job opportunities


Dr Susie Wood, Cawthron Institute

Algal biotechnology
Susie is considered one of the world experts in cyanobacteria. She is a senior scientist at Cawthron Institute in Nelson, where she leads a team investigating aquatic-based topics from biosecurity, to marine, freshwater and algal biotechnology.


Professor Jon Waters, University of Otago

As a co-director at Otago Palaeogenetics, Jon’s research investigates biological change and biodiversity using genetics and geology to understand the pace of evolution.


Dr Natalie Robinson, NIWA

Natalie is a marine physicist who specialises in polar oceanography, and understanding the oceanic connection between ice shelves and sea ice regimes.


Emeritus Professor Alison Mercer, University of Otago

Zoology/Development genetics
Alison is known for her research on how honey bee queens control their offspring with pheromones, the development of a stress response in bees and its impact on learning and memory. This research helped provide an understanding on how chemicals worked to create behaviour change.


Professor Rangi Matamua, University of Waikato

Māori astronomy
Rangi’s research fields are Māori astronomy and star lore, culture, and Māori language development, research and revitalisation. He travels extensively giving public lectures about Matariki and Māori Astronomy.