Faculty of Science

2007 News

Chemistry Contact for Outreach Programmes

December 2007
Suzanne Boniface was appointed Senior Fellow in Chemistry at the beginning of this year. She has taken on responsibility for the Chemistry Outreach Programme. She will be looking for ways to enhance the opportunities currently provided by SCPS for both Senior and Junior Science students to experience practical workshops in University laboratories. She will be exploring other ways of supporting the teaching and learning of Chemistry in schools and is particularly interested in developing new ideas for student investigations possibly linked to the CREST award.
Suzanne has a PhD in Chemistry from Auckland University, has taught Chemistry at both secondary and tertiary level and was previously Head of Science at Queen Margaret College in Wellington. Her chemistry education interests include finding stories that link chemical principles and theoretical ideas to the ‘everyday experiences’ of students, tracking student misconceptions and finding ways of dealing with these and exploring the power of visualisations in teaching and learning chemistry.

Tuatara Research 2007

December 2007

2007 has been an exciting year for tuatara research and conservation programmes at VUW. In January a Victoria University research party visiting Titi Island (Marlborough Sounds) found a 5 year old juvenile tuatara, confirming for the first time that the rare Brothers Island tuatara translocated to Titi in 1995 (by VUW and the Department of Conservation) had bred in their new location, a vital milestone in the successful establishment of a new wild population.  A VUW research trip to Stephens Island in March trialled a new technique for studying the mating behaviour of tuatara in the wild.
In May Department of Conservation (DoC) staff sought the advice of SBS staff member Sue Keall when some tuatara eggs were discovered disturbed from a nest on Matiu/Somes Island, the site of the second translocation of Brothers Island tuatara.  Two potentially viable eggs were taken to be incubated at Victoria and subsequently hatched in August; the two little hatchlings were released back into the wild on Matiu/Somes in November this year.

September saw the return of 28 tuatara hatchlings to Little Barrier Island as part of an ongoing collaboration with DoC to restore this tuatara population that was believed to be extinct. Eight adult tuatara were discovered surviving in the presence of Pacific rats (kiore). The tuatara were taken into captivity to keep them safe from the rats, and over the years as the tuatara have bred in their enclosure, the eggs have been sent to VUW for incubation and hatching, and the hatchlings returned to the island to remain in captivity until the rats were eradicated in 2006.

On 19 October 130 tuatara from Stephens Island were transferred to Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, supplementing the population of 70 introduced there in 2005 in the first translocation of tuatara to the mainland.  And on the 31st October 53 juvenile Brothers Island tuatara hatched at VUW and subsequently cared for at Wellington Zoo, were transferred to Long Island in Queen Charlotte Sound, signifying a return of these special animals to Te Atiawa iwi in Picton, who have spiritual connections with the Brothers Islands.

All of the above projects demonstrate the successful partnerships between Victoria University, the Department of Conservation, Māori iwi, and other organisations such as Wellington Zoo, Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and Weta Workshop.

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Science Wānanga in Hawke's Bay

December 2007

Dr Adele Whyte, Maori Fellow in Biological Sciences is organising a Science Wananga in Hawke’s Bay, which will provide an insight into science for young Maori, and may lead to enhanced uptake to tertiary education. An additional outcome of this initiative is the relationship building with Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, which aims to generate a research proposal for TTW funding. 

Te Pipu Pūtaiao Fellowship

December 2007

FRST’s Te Tipu Pūtaiao Fellowship were awarded this year to masters students Hannah Rainforth (SBS) and Sam Nowland (SGEES).

Research Collaborations for Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research

December 2007

The Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research has received funds from the Workplace Group, Department of Labour to extend their Wellington-based research on migrant employment, to a national survey.  This joint project is representative of a research relationship established between CACR and the Workplace Groups that includes collaborative research and information sharing.

Rod Downey becomes ACM Fellow

December 2007

In December Professor Rod Downey was made a 2007 Fellow of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) for contributions to computability and complexity theory. The 2007 ACM Fellows, from the world's leading universities, industries, and research labs, created innovations in a range of computing disciplines that affect theory and practice, education and entertainment, industry and commerce. Outside of North America, the only universities with 2007 ACM Fellows are Victoria University, Oxford University, the University of Edinburgh, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the University of Madeira. Rod is only the second such Fellow in New Zealand. The Association of computing Machinery is the oldest computing society in the world.

VILLA: A Home for Latin American Research and Exchange

December 2007

The Victoria Institute for Links with Latin America (VILLA) was founded in December 2007. Victoria's interactions with the continent have grown rapidly over the last decade and the Faculty of Science has played a central role in this endeavour. The Dean of Science, Professor David Bibby, recently visited Chile which underlines the University's commitment. The VILLA, designed by Associate Professor Warwick Murray (Director of the Institute) and Prof Rob Rabel (PVC International), will be housed in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences and directed by the former. It will act as a virtual hub for interactions with counterparts in Latin American universities, most particularly in terms of joint research and postgraduate exchange. Although Latin American Studies form part of what it seeks to promote, it has been designed to encourage dialogue across all faculties and disciplines, as a recent visit of scientists interested in wooden construction from Chile, which was instigated partly through VILLA connections, exemplifies.

VILLA held its first seminar ‘Latin America Today’ on 27 September (before its official launch). Ten talks on the contemporary political economy of Latin America and relations with New Zealand, were delivered by handpicked Latin American academics and top New Zealand commentators. Prime Minister Rt Hon Helen Clark who opened the proceedings gave a spirited overview of New Zealand's evolving relationship with the continent and also expressed her admiration for the VILLA concept and the work Victoria has been undertaking in terms of increasing interconnections with Latin America. VILLA was involved in the recent visit to New Zealand of the President of Uruguay, attending meetings involving the Head of State and the New Zealand Prime Minister. The Director also travelled to Chile, Argentina and Peru in November at the invitation of the Chilean government to further promote the VILLA.

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Warwick Murray awarded the 2007 VUW Award for Excellence in Research

November 2007

Associate Professor Warwick Murray was awarded a 2007 VUW Award for Excellence in Research, reflecting his body of published work on international development issues and human geography.  The award also acknowledges his national leadership in Latin American studies and his role in winning the prestigious ISI listing for the VUW journal Asia Pacific Viewpoint. Warwick, the current editor, was able to build on the pioneering work of Professor Phil Morrison who edited the journal between 1985 and 2002. 

Warwick Murray was awarded the New Zealand Geographical Society President's Award for Excellence in Teaching

November 2007
After having received a national Tertiary Teaching Award for sustained excellence in teaching in 2006, this year Associate Professor Warwick Murray won the New Zealand Geographical Society President’s Award for excellence in teaching. This award which considers teaching at all levels of education is awarded annually and recognized Warwick’s achievements in the tertiary field but also his general role as an ambassador for geography, evidenced through his outreach work in secondary and other school settings.  Known for singing and using music in class, Warwick is in fact a very serious, well-prepared and committed lecturer who attempts to lead his teaching through relevant research.

Fellow of the RSNZ Academy

November 2007

Professor Tim Stern was one of 10 scientists elected as a Fellow of the Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

As Professor of Geophysics and Geology, Tim is internationally recognised for his insights into Earth's structure and processes, derived through the careful and rigorous application of physical principles to the planet. His research has involved the quantitative modelling of geophysical data, with the broadly based application of physical principles including flexure, rheology, thermal properties, and buoyancy. Two of his most significant discoveries have been the accommodation of plate convergence in the lithospheric mantle by downwarping, indicated by a region of anomalously highseismicvelocity upper mantle material under the central Southern Alps, and the existence of anomalously low seismic velocities associated with raised fluid pressure within the lower crust beneath the western margin of the Southern Alps.

Tim Stern has applied these and developed similar new concepts (such as asymmetric spreading) in studies of the western North Island, the Central Volcanic Region, and the Transantarctic Mountains.

The quality of Tim’s work has been acknowledged by his peers through the Hochstetter Lectureship, the New Zealand Geophysics Prize (twice), and frequent invitations to give lectures and to join international collaborative projects.

Tim was promoted to Professor in the 2006 Promotions round and presented his inaugural lecture entitled Exploration and discovery: The geophysical structure of the New Zealand continent, earlier in 2007 .

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Physics and Chemistry Teachers' Day

November 28 2007
The eighth annual Chemistry Teachers’ Day, jointly hosted by the NZ Institute of Chemistry and the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences (SCPS), was held on 28 November. The day provided teachers with opportunities to stay up to date with different applications of chemistry, to explore new ideas related to teaching chemistry and to network and share experiences with other chemistry teachers.

The Chemistry Teachers’ Day began with two talks. Dr Cliff Law from NIWA gave a presentation entitled ‘The Oceans, Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change’ about issues relating to climate change. This was followed by a talk by Dr Brendan Burkett from SCPS entitled ‘Putting the fun into functional groups: Radical Zippers and Blue Polymers’. This presentation aimed to show that there is more to free radicals and polymers than meets the eye and highlighted some of our research in these areas at VUW. This provided insight for teachers as to some of the processes involved in research in organic chemistry as well as updating their knowledge about a number of interesting aspects of this subject.

These 2 main presentations were followed by  a number of short presentations across a wide range of topics that support different aspects of chemistry education, such as ideas for using climate change data in science lessons, suggestions for activities to introduce ‘chemistry in our lives’ to junior classes and research related to using particle pictures to support learning in chemistry.  Teachers’ were able to ask questions about puzzling aspects of inorganic chemistry and there was the chance to discuss the recent NCEA examinations. The afternoon workshops provided hands–on laboratory experiments that could be used in senior chemistry investigations, activities and discussions around chemistry investigations for junior classes, an opportunity to learn about and use the NMR facilities or time to develop skills in a chemistry drawing programme.

69 teachers from schools in the greater Wellington region and from Nelson attended the Chemistry Day on 28 November.  The day before, 49 teachers attended the Physics Day.

Research Medal for Kate McGrath

November 2007
Associate Professor Kate McGrath was awarded a Research Medal at the November RSNZ Science Honours awards function in Dunedin.  Kate won the Research Medal for her outstanding research over the last three years that spans the disciplines of physical chemistry and soft-matter physics.  Kate is considered to be one of New Zealand’s leading young physical scientists and plays an active role in the life of the MacDiarmid Institute.

James Bell joins the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)

November 2007
Dr James Bell from the Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research (CMEER), School of Biological Sciences, has been invited to join the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and to contribute to their work in protecting the oceans. The mission of the WCPA is "To promote the establishment and effective management of a world-wide representative network of terrestrial and marine protected areas, as an integral contribution to the IUCN mission." The commission consists of over 1200 members across 140 countries who are actively working on protected areas (marine and terrestrial). Dr Bell has worked in a number of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Reserves across the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Indonesia and the US, and will assist the WCPA in their work across the Pacific and Australasian regions.

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Three of the Four James Cook Fellowship Awards presented to Victoria University Scientists

November 2007
Professor Ken McNatty
was awarded a James Cook Fellowship in November.  The Fellowship allows Ken to concentrate on his chosen study for two years. During this time Ken will look at the environmental and nutritional influences on reproductive health – a study that aims to pinpoint the role of environmental contaminants and lifestyle facts on New Zealanders’ declining fertility rate.

Professor Rod Downey was awarded a James Cook Fellowship in November. The Fellowship allows researchers to concentrate on their chosen study for two years. Professor Downey's project will investigate the recent growth area in fundamental mathematics - the very nature of computation. Rod will be working in computational complexity theory and in algorithmic randomness. This project will further enhances VUW's reputation as a world class centre of logic and computation.

Professor Paul Callaghan, director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology was awarded James Cook Fellowship in November.  The James Cook Fellowship allows researchers to concentrate on their chosen study for two years. Professor Callaghan's research project will focus on New Zealand leadership in magnetic resonance, a physical phenomenon that has numerous applications in medicine and chemistry.

Applied and Industrial Chemistry Prize for Jim Johnston

October 2007

Professor Jim Johnston won the prestigious NZIC Council’s prize for Applied and Industrial Chemistry in October.  Jim has built an impressive research platform in the development of new chemical process technology and new high-value products from natural, waste of cheap raw material resources, and the award acknowledges his outstanding achievement.

New Professors in 2007 Promotions Round

October 2007

Associate Professor John Miller has been promoted to Professor in the 2007 Promotions round.  The promotion takes effect on 1 January 2008. John has established an outstanding reputation as a cell biologist specialising in anti-cancer drug development and the effects of psychoactive drugs on the brain.  In his studies on the anti-cancer compound peloruside, he and the team from the University's Centre for Biodiscovery collaborated with leading researchers in the United States and England. John’s work with colleagues in the School of Biological Sciences on morphine stimulation of opioid receptors in the developing brain has shown that opiates can affect cell division in the germinal zones of the mouse brain. This work has been carried out in conjunction with top neuroscience research labs in France and the USA. With colleagues in the Schools of Biological Sciences and Psychology, John is investigating the neurochemical effects of Ecstasy, nicotine and other compounds found in tobacco.  This research underpins and leads much of John’s teaching in the rapidly evolving field of cell biology.  The speed of discovery in this area of science requires continual updating of teaching material and provides numerous opportunities to introduce the latest research findings into the classroom. John has also made a substantial contribution to the University through his long-standing involvement with the Victoria Animal Ethics Committee and his overseeing of the Victoria Institutional Operating Procedure. He is also the University Drug Control Officer. John has been involved with numerous professional bodies and granting agencies both here and overseas, and has been associated with the New Zealand Physiological Society and the Wellington Medical Research Foundation for many years.

Joel Baker was promoted to Professor in the 2007 Promotions round. Joel is a geochemist who uses inorganic chemistry and the measurement of the isotopes of different elements in natural materials to study and understand our planet's origins, history and future. He is a pioneer in the development of ultra-precise chemical and isotopic analytical methods using a new type of mass spectrometry. When applied to meteorites these methods led to a new understanding of the timescales and processes of the formation of our Solar System.  A current research focus with Victoria and GNS Science colleagues is the development of techniques to use the trace element geochemistry of microfossils to recover the past temperature of the oceans in the NZ and Antarctica region.  Joel has published more than 50 papers and is currently involved in the supervision of a significant number of postgraduate students. He joined Victoria three years ago from Denmark where he was Director of a CoRE in Geochemistry and Geophysics.  He has since established a world-class Geochemistry Laboratory that underpins three research teams studying the Solar System’s origins, super-volcanoes and the New Zealand-Antarctic paleoclimate. This research is linked to collaborators at international and national institutions and is supported by Marsden and FRST grants to Victoria and subcontracts from NZ Crown Research Institutes. Joel has acted as Programme Director of Earth Sciences, and is Chair of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences (SGEES) Research Committee. He is the School's representative on the Science Faculty’s Scholarships and Research Committee, serves on the Marsden Fund’s Earth Sciences and Astronomy panel.

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Fulbright New Zealand Senior Scholar Award for Phil Lester

September 2007

Dr Phil Lester, Senior Lecturer, was awarded one of the five Fulbright New Zealand Senior Scholar Awards. The US$32,500 award will allow Phil to investigate the control of red fire ants using pheromones at Texas A&M University. One of the world’s worst invasive species, red imported fire ants use chemical pheromones to signal the location of food to other ants from their colony. Working with colleagues from Texas A&M and HortResearch New Zealand, Dr Lester aims to develop a method of disrupting the ants’ foraging ability through the use of artificially-produced pheromones.

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Mark Ahn appointed as Chair in Entrepreneurship

September 2007

Professor Mark Ahn was appointed in September to the new position of Chair in Entrepreneurship. Mark’s position is shared between the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Commerce and Administration. The role of the Chair is to help scientists at Victoria and other research institutions in the Wellington region build an understanding of entrepreneurship nationally and internationally, and what is required to successfully commercialise scientific and technological innovations.
Mark comes to Victoria from senior corporate positions in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sectors in California, most recently as founder, President and Chief Executive of Hana Biosciences, which develops and commercialises innovative cancer treatment drugs.

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Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research (CACR)

August 2007

The CACR held a second National Forum for Diversity Research in late August 2007. This year’s Forum followed on from the success of last year, which was attended by academics, Govt agencies, NGOs and community groups.

 The Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research developed programmes of work around issues and themes from the previous forum.  These programmes of work included all aspects of academic and applied activity:

  • Building a Culturally Diverse Workforce in Aotearoa/New Zealand: project leader, Dr Astrid Podsiadlowski.
  • Parent-Adolescent Family Dynamics in the Acculturation Process: project leader, Dr Paul Jose.
  • Identity in a multi-cultural context: project leader, Associate Professor James Liu.
  • Promoting inter-cultural interaction in education: project leader, Professor Colleen Ward.

This year’s Forum presented participants with an opportunity to further develop these and other themes, to make recommendations for research activity and to identify opportunities for collaborative research.

KAREN Awards

August 2007

At a ceremony in Auckland in August this year, awards were made to a number of people throughout New Zealand who had made an outstanding contribution to the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network. (KAREN).

A KAREN Enabler Award was presented to Sam Searle:  for her contribution to the goals of the advanced network and her work in helping organise the highly successful 'Building KAREN Communities for Colloboration' conference.

Professor John Hine, Head of School, was awarded a KAREN Fellow Award for his service to the KAREN community from its conception, advocacy and promotion of KAREN (even before it started!) and encouraging capability building and participation in the network.
Sam and John are keen to promote awareness and use of KAREN by Victoria staff and students. For more information, feel free to contact Sam on extension 6613 or John on extension 5670.

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Wellington Regional Science and Technology Fair

August 22-25 2007

About 400 exhibits were showcased at the annual NIWA Wellington Regional Science and Technology Fair which was held from 22 – 25 August.  The young scientists, year 7 to year 13 students from 44 schools throughout the Wellington and Valley areas, covered all areas of science and technology. 

The Faculty of Science and VUW scholarship’s office (Victoria School Leavers Scholarship) offered two prizes this year of first year university fees scholarships: one as a major, senior class prize and one for an outstanding and innovative project by a year 13 student. All students were interviewed and the best entries in each of the age classes were selected by Dr Gillian Turner (SCPS), judging co-ordinator and chief judge with her team of 24 judges. In all, over $10,000 worth of prizes were available donated by the principal sponsor NIWA, VUW and the Royal Society.

The main prize winner of the 2007 Science Fair was Jessie Bird from Tawa College who scooped the top prize with her exhibit on mushroom medicine. Jessie has accepted the VUW’s scholarship offer and will start her science studies at Vic in 2009.

Blake Medal for Professor Paul Callaghan

July 30 2007

Professor Paul Callaghan, director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, has been awarded the Blake Medal for Leadership.

Paul Callaghan is a world leader in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance, and has worked tirelessly to make science more accessible to the general public.

Previous winners of the Medal, named in honour of Sir Peter Blake, are Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall (2006) and former ANZ-National Bank CEO Sir John Anderson (2005).

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$5.5 Million Funding for Cutting-Edge Research

July 20 2007

Victoria University has won more than $5.5 million in contracts from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology as part of NZ$628 million in contracts .

The four winning projects, in the areas of global warming, tectonic science, nano-technology and nuclear magnetic resonance technology, were selected in a rigorous process seeking cutting-edge research that will help New Zealand develop its economy, manage its resources sustainably and respond to climate change.

The four Victoria contracts awarded are:

Quantum Dot-Fibre Composites, $962,500 over three years, led by Professor Jim Johnston in the Schoolof Chemical and Physical Sciences.

Magnetic Resonance Technologies, $1,875,000 over four years, led by Professor Paul Callaghan (MacDiarmid Institute).

Antarctica-New Zealand Interglacial Extreme Climates (ANZICE), $1,500,000 over four years, led by Professor Lionel Carter (Antarctic Research Centre).
Tectonic Framework, $1,245,000 over four years, led by Professor Tim Stern in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences.

2007 Victoria Science Experience

July 2007

The 2007 Victoria Science Experience was held from the 3rd to the 5th of July. This year 95 Year 11 pupils from the Wellington region participated. The programme provided pupils with interactive experiences in a range of science areas and featured several guest presentations on the theme of Special Effects.

Six hands-on sessions focused on:

Four guest speakers from the Film and Computer Games industries and the new Engineering Degree provided pupils with additional challenges and exciting possibilities.

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Working towards a New Zealand Climate Change Institute

June 26 2007

The Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh, has announced that Victoria University is to host a new interdisciplinary Climate Change Research Institute that will work with other New Zealand organisations.

Professor Walsh says New Zealand's science community has identified climate change as the most serious long-term issue facing society for some time, and that the Institute aimed to make the most of national expertise and resources.

"Victoria is uniquely placed in New Zealand, and in some respects internationally, to support a community of researchers and teachers with close links to like-minded institutions in order to seek the best ways of adapting to and helping to mitigate the rapidly growing challenge of climate change," he says.

Professor Walsh says the University's decision to invest an additional $300,000 per annum to supplement existing climate change research and to establish the Institute follows widespread interest generated by the Climate Change and Governance conference hosted last year by Victoria.

"Informal discussions with many people over the last year have indicated a need for an Institute that could improve the interface between climate change research and policy and fill gaps in existing knowledge.
"It is the University's wish to discuss a suitable formal structure for a high-level research strategy to help guide development of policy options for dealing with climate change now, at a time when the need for such a strategy is becoming increasingly urgent," he says.

The initiative follows a recent assessment of Victoria's capabilities in all aspects of climate change research and policy by Dr Martin Manning, a New Zealand climate scientist who has been working for some years with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Colorado. 

Victoria researchers Professors Peter Barrett and Jonathan Boston, and Associate Professor Ralph Chapman are currently talking with potential collaborators among New Zealand research institutions and organisations. The University will be inviting leaders of other organisations with research interests in climate change for a meeting next month to seek practical steps to establish the new Institute.

Professor Barrett, Director of the University's Antarctic Research Centre, says the next step is to engage existing research groups in discussions around potential collaborations that would increase the value of current research efforts.

"We will also be looking for ways in which rapidly evolving policy needs can be met by focused research and new research results communicated quickly and accurately where appropriate to policy making," Professor Barrett says.

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Top Young Victoria Scientists Recognised in Major Awards

June 22 2007

Two up and coming Victoria PhD students have been recognised at the prestigious MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year Awards held in Auckland recently.

PhD students Simon Rogers (left) and Conrad Lendrum.

Conrad Lendrum and Simon Rogers were named runners-up in the Understanding Planet Earth and the Future Science and Technologies categories respectively. Both are PhD students in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences and each received $2500.

Mr Lendrum's research into bio-mineralisation, the process by which nature produces hard and complex materials such as bones, shells and teeth, offers huge potential to the New Zealand economy.

The process is so far unrivalled in artificial or synthetic technologies, and to find out exactly how nature does it, Mr Lendrum is studying model systems based on the sea urchin, or kina, and coccoliths – protective plates grown by algae.

His research shows that the cell membrane could play an important role in the formation of hard mineral crystalline structures and that by changing the membrane chemistry the crystal structure could also be changed.

“Ultimately we can use this knowledge to understand exactly how our bodies form bone,” he says, “but beyond that it also offers potential for a paradigm shift enabling the creation of complex structures similar to those found in nature for use in industry and manufacturing.”

The research of Victoria's second successful student Simon Rogers was described by the MacDiarmid judges as a cutting edge study that has thrown into question the accepted definitions of solid and liquid states by showing that a star polymer system can be both states simultaneously.

He has developed a scientific theory to explain the "astounding experimental data" he has recorded and used it to make testable predictions.

His research examines the way a star polymer system suspended in solvents responds to strains and stresses. The ‘stars’ are provided by scientific collaborators in Greece and resemble tiny koosh balls. When constant shear stress is applied to the stars, the sample behaves as a liquid for about two hours before rapidly stiffening into a solid.

“It is a weird phenomenon to have something which can be at the same time solid and liquid. It changes scientific thinking by showing the co-existence of solid-like and liquid-like behaviours and not just characteristics that are an average of the two,” Mr Rogers says.

The theory he has developed to explain his findings, together with a number of theorists from the United Kingdom, is based on a previously published framework by two French scientists.

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$1 Million Donation to Take Antarctic Research Further

June 19 2007

A donation of $1million to the University's Antarctic Research Centre by a Victoria alumnus will strengthen its research into the history and behaviour of the Antarctic ice sheet in the face of global warming.

The generosity of Alan Eggers, a member of the University's 1975 Antarctic Expedition, is a significant boost for the Centre's research on the ice, says Centre Director Professor Peter Barrett.

"This remarkable donation comes at a time when the need to know more about the region's climate history is more important than ever before," Professor Barrett says.

A Victoria geology graduate, Mr Eggers says he is delighted to be able to "give something back" to the University for his time on the ice. He acknowledges the Centre’s research achievements over the last 50 years and wants to support its current program on account of its global relevance and importance. He also wants to support ongoing student participation in Antarctic research.

"The Centre is recognised as a world leader in this field of research and both the Centre and its researchers are positioned to make a major contribution to our knowledge on climate change," he says.

Mr Eggers notes increasing concern from both scientists and the community regarding the response of the Antarctic to climate change, and thinks more funding is required in this area to better understand the impacts and possible outcomes of continued carbon emissions on climate change.

The donation will be invested through the Victoria University Foundation, and divided among three main areas:

  • The Centre's Endowed Development Fund to support young Antarctic scientists.
  • The Centre's work in the development of Antarctic drilling technology.
  • The Centre's scientific capability in the area of ice and climate modelling.

Mr Eggers will visit the University's Kelburn campus in the near future to meet with former lecturers and to be formally acknowledged by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh.

He is also making a grant to the University of Tasmania’s Antarctic Research Centre in Hobart to support complimentary research by their team in the Antarctic.

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Feature Film to Highlight Antarctic Climate Change

June 11 2007

Production has begun on a $1.8 million (£600,000) film to feature scientists' perspectives of Earth’s changing climate, how and why it is happening and the options we have for responding.

The film stems from a unique collaborative venture between Victoria University of Wellington, with its history of Antarctic research, and Oxford University, with its world-leading centres for the Earth and Environmental Sciences and Atmospheric Physics. DOX Productions, an award-winning company, will produce the film.
With the working title, The Tipping Point, the filmwill be produced and directed by documentary film-makers David Sington and Dr Simon Lamb (pictured) who collaborated 10 years ago to produce the acclaimed
8-hour BBC television series Earth Story. Mr Sington’s most recent film to premiere later in the year, In the Shadow of the Moon, features interviews with the Apollo astronauts, and also has a strong environmental theme. Dr Lamb was a post-doctoral fellow at Victoria in 1985 and is currently a Senior Research Fellow in Science Communication, a position based at both universities.

Professor Peter Barrett, Director of Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre, says the stars of the film will be the young men and women who are working around the world to gather data to both document and understand changes in past and present climate on land, at sea and in the polar regions.

“The Antarctic will figure prominently on account of the large uncertainties in both magnitude and timing of the response of this huge and relatively unknown region to climate change,” Professor Barrett says.

Professor Philip England, Head of Earth Sciences at Oxford, says the film’s main thesis is that people worldwide will be willing to make substantial changes in their way of life only if they understand the consequences of the present high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and are offered the hope of practical solutions to reduce them.

“While climate change has featured prominently in the last year in the popular press through major reviews, such as the Stern report of October, 2006, and the IPCC 2007 reports, the issue seems too vast and complex to compel a well-directed response. The goal of this film is to distil the key issues in a convincing and human way so that all who see it will be able to contribute to the solution of this most challenging problem.”

Filming will take place in 2007 and 2008, with release for both cinema and in DVD format in 2009. Both universities are financially supporting the project, and major funding from UK-based organisation, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, is under discussion. Both Victoria and Oxford Universities will be actively seeking private sponsorship for the project.

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Professor of Nanotechnology appointed at Victoria

May 29 2007

Victoria University scientist Dr Pablo Etchegoin has been appointed as its first Professor of Nanotechnology.

Dr Etchegoin, who is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Chemical & Physical Sciences and a Principal Investigator in the MacDiarmid institute for Advanced Materials & Nanotechnology, will take up his new position on 1 July.  He has been appointed after the position was internationally advertised.

Nanotechnology is a field of science and technology that investigates the use of particles and structures in the nanometer size range (one nanometer is a thousand of a micron) and their possible applied use in areas such as industry and medicine.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Science, Professor David Bibby, said Dr Etchegoin was an outstanding candidate.

“Pablo’s research within the School and the MacDiarmid Institute is of an international standing.  Last year a team he led published ground-breaking research that provided the most conclusive experimental proof available on the detection of single molecules using laser spectroscopy.  He also picked up a three-year Marsden Fund grant worth $735,000 to carry out further research in this area.”

Professor Bibby said Dr Etchegoin’s appointment was a strategic initiative. 

“Through hosting the MacDiarmid Institute, a Government-funded Centre of Research Excellence, Victoria has built on its reputation as a focus for nanotechnology.  The University has decided that if Victoria is to maintain and enhance its strength in the physical sciences, and in nanotechnology in particular, such an investment was essential.”

Dr Etchegoin, who joined Victoria in 2003, holds an MSc from Balseiro Institute in Argentina and a PhD from the University of Stuttgart in Germany. 

His research interests include the study of optical methods for the detection of small quantities of molecules and the study of single molecules by laser spectroscopy.  A particular interest is in the use of Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) in its various implementations with a view towards applications in a biological context.

Dr Etchegoin has strong research links with Imperial College in London with both the Physics Department (Blackett Laboratory) and the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, as well as with the National Physical Laboratory in Britain.

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Dr Sean Weaver Appointed Vanuatu UNFCCC Negotiator

March 2007

The Vanuatu Government recently appointed Dr Sean Weaver of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences as an official Vanuatu delegate and negotiator for the United Nations Framework Conventi 4 May, 2009 lso asked Sean to act as a special advisor to the Vanuatu Government on climate change policy.

Dr Weaver’s involvement in climate change matters in Vanuatu has arisen from the Vanuatu Carbon Credits Project which he leads, which was formally adopted by the Vanuatu Council of Ministers as a national programme late in 2006. The Vanuatu Carbon Credits Project involves an international collaboration between VUW, Freidrich Schiller University (Germany), Climate Focus (a carbon finance consultancy in the Netherlands), and GtripleC Ltd (an international climate change policy consultancy based in Wellington), and the Vanuatu Government.

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UN Leader Visits Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology

January 2007

Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity and United Nations’ Assistant Secretary-General, visited the Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology to discuss the future of the deterioration of the Earth’s environment.

Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf with tuatara, Spike

Dr Djoghlaf visited New Zealand from Montreal as a Guest of the New Zealand Government from Sunday 28 January to Wednesday 31 January.

Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biodiversity is the first global agreement on conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and is part of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Associate Professor Ben Bell, Director of the Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, spent time with Dr Djoghlaf at the University and at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Dr Djoghlaf’s visit was an excellent opportunity for us to showcase New Zealand's unique environmental issues, the high level of our endemic indigenous biodiversity and the frameworks we have in place for managing environmental and resource management issues. The Convention on Biodiversity is a major step towards protecting and improving our planet for the future.”

Professor Awarded Wellingtonian of the Year

7 December 2006

Professor Peter Barrett, Director of the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria and a member of Victoria's staff and alumni, took the top award of Wellingtonian of the Year at the of The Dominion Post Wellingtonian of the Year awards on the 7th of December, for his work in bringing Antarctic Science to a wider public audience. At the event, Professor Barrett was also awarded the 'Wellys' Science and Technology award for his work on climate change.

In April, Professor Barrett received the President’s Medal for outstanding achievement in Antarctic Science from the International Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and in 2004, was awarded the Marsden Medal for a lifetime of outstanding service to science in New Zealand.

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