Recognition for innovation
Innovative research is at the heart of the University of Auckland’s mission, with the work of our 2,000+ researchers making major contributions to the wellbeing of the national community.
This month three of our leading researchers have been honoured by the Royal Society Te Apārangi and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.
These awards recognise men and women who work at the cutting edge of their disciplines, producing research that has a significant impact on the world in which we live.
Their brilliant achievements are really something to be proud of.
Research Honours from the Royal Society Te Apārangi
Award for lifetime achievement in mathematics.
Distinguished Professor Marston Conder FRSNZ
Professor Conder is a world authority on the mathematics of symmetry and chirality in discrete structures, especially those with maximum possible symmetry in their class. His early work on structures known as Hurwitz groups and surfaces is one of the most important milestones in that field. More recently, he discovered gaps in the spectrum of chiral maps on orientable surfaces. He also identified the smallest regular polytopes in all dimensions.
Marston is renowned for pioneering an array of algebraic, combinatorial and computational techniques to answer what are called ‘open’ and ‘challenging’ questions in mathematics and to see beyond them to make wider ground-breaking discoveries. Over the last three years, Marston has solved problems and answered open questions in mathematics dating back to 1962, 1967, 1985, 1998, 1999 and 2005.
He has previously been awarded a James Cook Research Fellowship, the Hector Medal, life membership to the New Zealand Mathematical Society, and fellowships of the American Mathematical Society, Institute of Combinatorics & Applications and Royal Society of New Zealand.
Award for encouraging scientific research in New Zealand by early career researchers.
Associate Professor Maren Wellenreuther
Associate Professor Wellenreuther has been awarded the Hamilton Award for her research to develop a new aquaculture-ready species in New Zealand in the next 5-10 years, which is currently dominated by three species.
To do this, she and her team have been working on all aspects of the aquaculture farming system. Image-based libraries allow the rapid capture and storage of information relating to a wide range of fish traits, and provide accurate historical records for future research. Maren and her team are using these images to measure the visual patterning of snapper to identify individual fish in a population. Traditionally, fish were manually tagged to identify individuals then individually weighed and measured on a regular basis. The pattern fingerprinting has removed costs of manual tagging and provides a permanent, visual record of each individual over time.
The new breeding concept also identifies genes controlling traits of interest, which will be used to select parents for the breeding programme, supporting the breeding of high quality populations for aquaculture, and to significantly shorten the time to harvest.
Health Research Council of New Zealand Medals
Award for research that has produced a significant breakthrough within the health and medical fields.
Professor Cynthia Farquhar
Professor Farquhar has been awarded for her study into Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) which was published in The Lancet last November. In a clinical trial, she showed for the first time that IUI combined with ovarian stimulation was three times more effective than trying to conceive naturally in women with unexplained infertility and an unfavourable prognosis for natural conception.
In the trial, 101 women receiving IUI treatment had 31 live births, compared with nine live births for the 100 women assigned to ‘expectant management’. The study concluded that IUI could be offered as a safe and effective first-line strategy for couples with unexplained infertility.
Professor Farquhar credits the breakthrough to the medication giving couples a helping hand by encouraging more eggs to be released, and timing conception right by getting sperm into the uterus and thus halfway to the egg. She adds that IUI offers a simpler type of fertility treatment than IVF, which is more complicated but thought by many to be more effective.