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Speaker's Science Forum 2020

View topics of the research presentations of the Speaker's Science Forum in 2020.

Research presentations are organised for Members of Parliament, in collaboration with the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament.

The topics are selected in collaboration with Forum partners Science New Zealand, Universities New Zealand and the Independent Research Association of New Zealand.

Future Stars: showcasing New Zealand’s research talent – 29 July 2020

Aotearoa has some outstanding early-career researchers at the cutting-edge of their field. These researchers are our future, they are tacking important issues in our society.

At this Speaker’s science forum, you will hear from some rising stars, and the exciting research they are undertaking on the topics:

"The Māori Round Peg": The integration of mātauranga Māori within a western science framework Dr Nancy Garrity, Research Scientist, New Zealand Institute for Minerals to Materials Research–Te Kahuōpapa


The trials and tribulations of aligning two different knowledge systems. Nancy’s research interests focus on integration of mātauranga Māori within a western science framework.

Dr Nancy Garrity (Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Hine) is project lead working with West Coast hāpu to develop high value materials by repurposing pounamu carving residue. Her research is part of NZIMMR’s Vision Mātauranga Strategy and aligns with whakapapa, kaitiakitanga and mātauranga based on an Ao Māori perspective.

Hidden Energy: Revolutionising hidden high-energy processes - Dr Matthew Cowan, Senior Lecturer, College of Engineering, University of Canterbury

1594142563497 Matthew Cowan low

The background cost of living is how efficiently society purifies our most basic materials. Matthew’s research seeks to revolutionise these hidden high-energy processes to slow climate change and enrich lives.

Matthew is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury. Matthew’s research revolves around improving the methods and technologies we use to purify all the building blocks of society. His overall goal is to reduce the amount of energy we need to use every day - so we have some spare for the things we want to do!

COVID-19: Towards vaccine development - 24 June 2020

Vaccines keep us healthy by protecting us from diseases. Following the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and our own rāhui lockdown to reduce its spread in Aotearoa New Zealand, this Speaker’s Science Forum focuses on the role NZ researchers have in the global efforts to develop a vaccine for this extremely contagious and potentially deadly disease.

At this forum you will hear from three experts in virology, immunology and epidemiology:

SHIVERS’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic - Dr Sue Huang, Director of the WHO National Influenza Centre, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR)

photo Sue Huang ESR WHO National Influenza Centre Director

Dr Sue Huang will discuss virus transmission and human immunity to COVID-19. This research is part of a response to the COVID-19 pandemic connected to an existing international and national collaboration – ‘SHIVERS’ Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effective Research and Surveillance study.

Sue is a virologist and the principal investigator for the SHIVERS studies. Her area of expertise is infectious and pathogenic human viruses, particularly influenza and other respiratory viruses, along with polio and other enteroviruses.

What to expect from the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Will it work? - Professor John Fraser, Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland

photo Prof John Fraser UoA Dean of Faculty and Health Sciences

Professor John Fraser will discuss the global efforts to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. More than 90 different coronavirus vaccines are in accelerated development around the world. Which candidates will work, what research needs to be done, and how quickly can global production be scaled to meet demand?

John is an expert in immunity and infectious disease and widely acknowledged as an international leader in the field of microbial pathogenesis.  He is current President of the Australia and New Zealand Society for Immunology.

A COVID-19 vaccine for NZ: What’s good, what’s not, and what’s possible? - Professor Graham Le Gros, Director of Research, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research

photo Prof Graham Le Gros Malaghan Inst Research Director

Professor Graham Le Gros will discuss New Zealand’s current research efforts towards a COVID-19 vaccine for our nation and neighbours. From collaborations both here and internationally, what progress is being made in ensuring access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest opportunity?

Graham is recognised internationally for his work in immunology and asthma including understanding how the immune system responds to allergens or parasites in the skin and lungs.

Cannabis and health - 11 March 2020

Cannabis is a psychoactive plant whose use generates significant debate and conflict. At this Speaker’s science forum, you will hear about the current research on the positive and negative health impacts of cannabis and cannabinoids. Our two speakers are:

The good, the bad and the ugly - Associate Professor Giles Newton-Howes (Senior Lecturer in Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago)

Giles Newton Howes

Giles will highlight the research evidence of why some think cannabis is a ‘magic cure’ for multiple problems, while others consider it the root cause of the very same issues. This discussion will inform the current debate in New Zealand from a health perspective.

Giles trained in psychiatry at Imperial College in London, and gained five years clinical experience in the Hawkes Bay, before accepting the role in the Department of Physiological Medicine. He specialises in substance misuse psychiatry and is a member of the Medical Cannabis Research Collaborative.

Medicinal Cannabis: Prescription pot luck - Dr Helen Poulsen (Forensic Toxicologist, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited)

Helen Poulsen Paiges edits v2

Helen will give an overview of the changing social and legislative context for cannabis in New Zealand, and the analytical challenges associated with medical cannabis.

Helen has 37 years of experience in analysis of drugs, including cannabis and cannabis products. She is an expert on how drugs may contribute to driving impairment and the use of drugs by drivers killed on New Zealand roads.