University of Auckland awards recognise innovation, excellence and quality of work by senior, early career and emerging researchers.

2024 Celebrating Research Excellence Research Excellence Medal awardees: (from left) Udaya Madawala, Jacqueline Allen, Snejina Michailova, Stephen May, Anna Miles.
2024 Celebrating Research Excellence Research Excellence Medal awardees: (from left) Udaya Madawala, Jacqueline Allen, Snejina Michailova, Stephen May, Anna Miles.

Researchers whose expertise and international contribution in areas as diverse as language rights, electricity grids, modern slavery and the management of people who have difficulty swallowing, are among the University researchers acknowledged in the 2024 Celebrating Research Excellence Awards. 

The annual awards are the University’s public recognition and acknowledgement of researchers who have demonstrated excellence in their field, acknowledging the work of senior, early career researchers and the winners of the best thesis prizes.

An awards ceremony where the 2024 awardees will receive their awards in person takes place on 17 October. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Frank Bloomfield has congratulated each Celebrating Research Award winner.

Research Excellence Medals (Three individual winners and one team award)

Stephen May, Faculty of Education and Social Work. 
Stephen May (FRSNZ) a Professor in Te Puna Wānanga, is an internationally renowned interdisciplinary social scientist, whose published work traverses applied sociolinguistics, sociology, political theory, education and law. He is regarded as a world authority on language rights and has pioneered groundbreaking work internationally on Indigenous language revitalisation, bilingual education, critical multiculturalism and the multilingual turn in language learning.

Udaya Madawala, Faculty of Engineering.
 Professor Madawala’s field of research focus is in  the conversion of electrical energy, supplied by the grid, for consumer and industry applications in our society. He has invented new modelling techniques, new circuit typologies, and other innovations that have resulted in numerous US patents and commercialisation successes.

Snejina Michailova, Business School. Professor Snejina Michailova's research interests include people in multinational corporations, knowledge processes, talent management and modern slavery. Her work examines ethnocentrism in international business and she has investigated how multinationals are implicated (knowingly or not) in modern slavery.

Anna Miles, Faculty of Science and Jacqueline Allen, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.  Swallowing problems (dysphagia) affect millions of people and can have serious health consequences including malnutrition, pneumonia and death. Disturbed swallowing has a huge impact on quality of life, as it restricts mealtime participation and human interactions. Dr Allen is an ear, nose and throat surgeon, and Dr Miles a speech language therapist. Both specialise in managing disorders of the voice, swallowing and head and neck cancer. Through their complementary skill set and teamwork, the pair has undertaken foundational work defining swallowing behaviour and swallow assessment that is being used across the globe.

Early Career Research Excellence Awards

Jamie-Lee RahiriFaculty of Medicial and Health Sciences. Dr Rahiri's research centres on the development of equitable pathways and policies in surgery, Hauora Māori, cultural safety and workforce development.  Her PhD led to the development of a Kaupapa Māori program that optimises outcomes after bariatric surgery for Māori patients and has since informed the delivery of several bariatric services in NZ.

Odunayo (Lola) Mugisho, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.  For the past eight years, Mugisho’s research team has focused on understanding the role of the inflammasome pathway in age-related neurodegenerative diseases like dementia (and Alzheimer’s disease, in particular) with the goal of devising a more effective therapeutic approach to treating the disease. Her research goal is to develop novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases affecting the retina and brain.

Joanna Chu, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.  Dr Chu is a public health researcher who has been engaged in projects focused on child and adolescent at-risk populations, as well as community-based research using a participatory approach. She has a special interest in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and is a nationally and internationally recognised emerging leader in the field of FASD.

Patrick Savage, Faculty of Science. Dr Savage's cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary research on the world’s music and its broader relationship to humanity aims to promote cross-cultural diversity and understanding. He is an international leader in understanding what makes music universal and its role in social bonding. He is building the groundwork to compare not only human music and language but also compare animal song/vocalisation to test the cross-species predictions of he and his collaborators social bonding hypothesis.

Alan Cameron, Faculty of Science.  The dominant theme of Dr Cameron's research initiatives is chemical biology, particulaly infectious diseases. His research is underpinned by developing broadly applicable and impactful new chemical methods to construct or modify biomolecules (particularly peptides and proteins), which are amongst the most rapidly growing areas of pharmaceutical development. These biomolecules have roles in drug discovery, vaccine development and as tools to unravel complex biochemical and immunological pathways.

Katarzyna Sila-Nowicka, Faculty of Science. Sila-Nowicka is a scientist trained in the disciplines of geodesy, geoinformatics and cartography. Her research focuses on developing novel and improving existing  algorithms for understanding human behaviour through human mobility data. Her research addresses the problems and challenges associated with studying human mobility and geoprivacy.

Best thesis awards, 2024

Dr Zahra Aghababaie, Auckland Bioengineering Institute. Targeted ablation therapy for treatment of gastrointestinal dysrhythmias

Dr Ngahuia Harrison, Faculty of Creative Arts and Industies. Coastal cannibals: Industry and occupation on Whangārei Te Rerenga Parāoa

Dr Mohammadrahim Kazemzadeh, Faculty of Engineering. Deep learning and optimised nanoplasmonic sensore for label free biomedical applications

Dr Fiona Sing, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Regulating the marketing practices of the unhealthy food and beverage industry

Dr Kapish Gobindlal, Faculty of Science. Mechanochemical reactions at solid interfaces: The destruction of Per and Polyfluoroakyl substances (PFAS)

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