Innovative University research enhanced with Marsden Fund awards

The University of Auckland was awarded more than $18 million in the latest Marsden Fund round announced today, supporting 29 significant research projects across five faculties and a research institute.

Diverse topics include: the production of carbon-neutral power; how sharks localise sound; the important arteries for feeding babies in utero, the way the brain encodes object size and identity, and the lives of female sex workers since 1978.

“These awards recognise the high calibre of researchers at the University of Auckland as well as the quality and breadth of our research,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Jim Metson.

“The Marsden Fund supports the cutting-edge of new research which will lead to discoveries that shape our future. We congratulate our researchers for this recognition of their outstanding work.”

The Auckland Bioengineering Institute was awarded two grants totalling $1,254,000, including Dr Alys Clark’s international project to build the world’s first virtual pregnant uterus.

Five projects from the Faculty of Arts were awarded a total of $1,822,000. These include Waitangi Tribunal historian Dr Aroha Harris, researching ‘Whanau Ora With, Against, and Beyond the State’ and four Fast Start projects to early career researchers.

Grants worth a total of $2,197,000 were awarded to three projects from the Faculty of Engineering, including for Associate Professor Peng Cao’s work on ‘Locking up oxygen in titanium to achieve strength-ductility synergy’

Grants of $3,585,000 were awarded to five research projects from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, including Professor Julian Paton’s work on ‘The Forgotten Circulation’.

Fifteen research projects from the Faculty of Science received a total of $9,158,000. Among these, Dr Paul Harris will be looking at the ‘Sweetening biological therapeutics-chemical synthesis of glycoprotein

This year, the Marsden Fund has allocated $85.6 million to a total of 136 research projects across New Zealand. These grants support New Zealand’s best investigator-initiated research in the areas of science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities.

The grants are distributed over three years and are fully costed, paying for salaries, students and postdoctoral positions, institutional overheads and research consumables.

The Marsden Fund is managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the government.

The Marsden Fund supports the cutting-edge of new research which will lead to discoveries that shape our future.  

Professor Jim Metson

Successful projects from the University of Auckland are:



Dr Aroha Harris, History
‘Whanau Ora With, Against, and Beyond the State’ - $622,000

Dr Ben Davies, Anthropology
‘Models and Movement: Simulating Human Mobility in Late Holocene South-eastern Australia’ - $300,000

Dr Rebecca Phillipps, Anthropology
‘Past Māori social organisation and movement in the North Island, NZ’ - $300,000

Dr Charlotte Greenhalgh, History
‘Hapū: Women and Pregnancy in Twentieth-century New Zealand’ - $300,000

Dr Cheryl Anne Ware. History
‘Untold Intimacies: Recovering the Lives of Women Sex Workers in New Zealand, 1978-2008’ - $300,000

Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI)

Dr Alice Clark
‘Feeding your baby in utero: which arteries matter?’ - $954,000

Dr Geoffrey Handsfield
‘Novel Imaging of Human Fascia in Vivo Using Advanced MRI’ - $300,000


Associate Professor Peng Cao, Chemical and Materials Engineering
‘Locking up oxygen in titanium to achieve strength-ductility synergy’ - $949,000

Professor Richard Flay, Mechanical Engineering
‘Reap the Whirlwind and Produce Carbon-Neutral Power From Atmospheric Buoyancy Vortices’ - $948,000

Dr Shanghai Wei, Chemical and Materials Engineering
‘Advanced alloying Anode for Magnesium Rechargeable Battery System’ - $300,000

Medical and Health Sciences

Professor Julian Paton, Physiology
‘The Forgotten Circulation’ - $960,000

Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery, Physiology
‘From big brains to little brains: what is the role of plasticity in the little brains of the heart?’ - $955,000

Associate Professor Alan Davidson, Molecular Medicine and Pathology
‘Re-defining the origin of the embryonic kidney’ - $934,000

Professor Steven Dakin, Optometry and Vision Science
‘The cortical limit on visual acuity’ - $736,000


Dr Paul Harris, Biological Sciences
‘Sweetening biological therapeutics-chemical synthesis of glycoprotein mimics’ - $939,000

Dr JJ Eldridge, Physics
‘Understanding the stars and galaxies associated with gravitational wave events’ - $936,000

Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble, Chemical Sciences
‘Unleashing New Generation Lanthipeptides from Nature to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance’ - $935,000

Associate Professor Craig Radford, Marine Science
‘How do sharks localise sound?’ - $935,000

Associate Professor Stephane Coen, Physics
‘Computing with walls of light’ - $935,000

Dr Remco Bouckaert, Computer Science
‘Next generation models for inferring evolutionary history: Gene trees, species trees, word trees and language trees’ - $930,000

Associate Professor Jonathan Sperry, Chemical Sciences
‘Electrifying Chemical Synthesis’ - $888,000

Dr Sina Greenwood, Mathematics
‘Dynamical systems from set-valued functions’ - $560,000

Dr Nicholas Matzke, Biological Sciences
‘How much does extinction matter for phylogenetic biogeography? Using exponential integrator technology to improve realism and speed in model-based biogeographical inference’ - $300,000

Dr Paul Hume, Chemical Sciences
‘Next-Generation Small Molecule Acceptors for use in Organic Solar Cells’ - $300,000

Dr Ivanhoe Leung, Chemical Sciences
‘Unravelling the structural and molecular basis of ethylene biosynthesis in plants’ - $300,000

Dr Yun Sing Koh, Computer Science
‘An Adaptive Predictive System for Life-long Learning on Data Streams’ -$300,000

Dr Julie Hope, Marine Science
‘The sticky link between microalgae, biofilms & microplastics: An interdisciplinary approach to understand the resuspension and transport of microplastics’ - $300,000

Dr Gabriel Verret, Mathematics
‘Local theory for arc-transitive digraphs’ - $300,000

Dr David Moreau, Psychology
‘Dynamics of Brain and Behaviour: A Precision Mapping Approach’ - $300,000

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