Our awards and distinctions
The Faculty of Science is incredibly proud of the success of our women scientists. Read about some of their recent achievements.
Professor Donna Rose Addis
Professor Donna Rose Addis pioneered the use of functional brain imaging for the study of brain mechanisms in future thinking and its close relation to episodic memory. Her work highlights the role of the hippocampus, which is part of a brain network critical to the understanding of human memory and imagination, and of disorders such as amnesia, clinical depression, and the dementias.
She has received several international awards for her work, as well local awards including the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, the Prime Minister's MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize, and two Marsden Fund grants. Her work is widely cited, and she is internationally regarded as a leader in her field, which is at the forefront of contemporary psychology and neuroscience.
Professor Addis completed her BA and MA in Psychology at the University of Auckland. She then undertook a PhD as a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Toronto, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Professor Addis returned to the School of Psychology in 2008, where she leads the Memory Lab.
In 2016 she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The prestigious award recognises international distinction in research and scholarship.
Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble
Internationally renowned chemistry researcher Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble was awarded the 2016 Marsden Medal for a lifetime of outstanding achievement.
Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble of the School of Chemical Sciences has dedicated her career to the advancement of the chemical and life sciences in New Zealand, including break-through work in drug discovery and promotion of science both within the science community and to the wider public.
Her work on a drug treatment for Rett Syndrome, a neurodevelopment disorder that affects mainly girls, is set to provide the first-ever cure for a disorder that affects the child’s development at around eighteen months of age.
The drug, trofinetide/NNZ2566, has gained orphan drug and fast-track status from the US Food and Drug Administration and is also being developed for treatment of Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited cause of intellectual disability particularly among boys, and as a potential treatment for traumatic brain injury.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists, which awards the Marsden Medal, called Professor Brimble’s work on trofinetide “a unique achievement” and said she was an outstanding ambassador for women in science and science generally.
Professor Debbie Hay
Hot on the heels of her Marsden Grant funding, Professor Hay has also been awarded the prestigious James Cook Fellowship, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Professor Hay is a leading pharmacology researcher in cellular proteins in the University’s School of Biological Sciences whose research focuses on a newly-discovered pain pathway for migraine.
Migraine attacks are suffered by millions of people worldwide, between 10%-20% of adults, and despite significant progress in treatment in recent years, an effective cure continues to elude scientists.
Latest research does show that those suffering from migraine have elevated levels of a pain-causing hormone called CGRP, or calcitonin gene-related peptide. New drugs in clinical trials have been developed that stop CGRP in its tracks, offering new hope for improved migraine treatments.
However while some patients respond extremely well in clinical trials to CGRP-blocking treatment, others experience no benefit and there are still major unresolved questions on whether these drugs will be safe in the long term.
Professor Hay’s research has discovered that CGRP has two cellular receptor targets, not one as was commonly believed. This means it may induce pain through more than one pathway. She has also identified the molecular blueprint of how CGRP triggers its receptors to become activated.
Dr Jade Le Grice
Dr Jade Le Grice, from the School of Psychology, is sought after for her expertise on Māori and reproduction, sexuality education, maternity and abortion. In 2016 she received an Auckland Medical Aid Trust Fellowship to produce scholarly publications on mātauranga Māori and reproduction. This has contributed to legitimating Māori (hapū and community) knowledge in academic and health contexts, its inclusion in University psychology curricula, circulation in public and community domains, and facilitated bridging Māori ontologies with western feminist, psychological, cultural, health and critical paradigms.
In 2017 Dr Le Grice was awarded a three-year Erihapeti Rehu Murchie post-doctoral fellowship by the Health Research Council to develop Māori recommendations for sexual violence prevention with Ngāti Korokoro hāpu of Pakanae, Hokianga. Maintaining congruence between communities, lived experience, social justice, and the production of psychological knowledge is an important feature of her work.
Prior to taking up a lectureship at the University of Auckland, Dr Le Grice developed considerable experience as a research assistant and officer in community, psychology, and public health research. She has been involved in social justice research that have feminist (mothering; sexual assault services; pornography), Kaupapa Māori (smoking; Māori health and identity; wairua, affect and national days), youth (suicide, Māori health) and LGBTQTI (sexual coercion) foci.
Maintaining congruence between research and community interests has been integral to her success. In addition to informal everyday and dynamic community involvement, she has also formally participated in a number of community organisations, as editorial assistant of Feminism & Psychology (2007-2012), youth advisor of the Māori Health Gain Advisory Committee at Waitemata District Health Board (2008), member of Te Puawaitanga, Te Roopu Wāhine Māori (The Māori Women’s Welfare League) (2011-2012), board member of Women’s Health Action (2014-2016), member of Ministry of Health Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Plan Advisory Group (2015-2016), board member of the National Standing Committee on Bicultural Issues of the New Zealand Psychological Society (2015 onwards), and board member of the Māori Association of Social Sciences (2016 onwards).
She is currently involved with Māori and Pacific student support initiatives within the School of Psychology.
Dr Erin Leitao
A lecturer in the School of Chemical Sciences, Dr Erin Leitao is the 2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science New Zealand Fellow. Watch the video below to find out more about Dr Leitao's ground-breaking research into inorganic, main-group polymers.