Cool Research Bro. Here, Have 800k

Minister of Education Steven Joyce last week announced the 10 recipients of this year’s Rutherford Discovery Fellowship. Two Otago University researchers were among those acknowledged.

The Fellowship rewards New Zealand’s top early- to mid-career researchers with a funding package worth $800,000 over five years. The funding allows them “to undertake important research that will be valuable for New Zealand’s future,” Mr Joyce explained.

Among the recipients were Otago’s Dr Angela Wanhalla, for her research on “Marriage: The Politics of Private Life in New Zealand,” and Dr Suetonia Palmer, of the University’s Christchurch Campus, for her research on “Improving evidence for decision-makers in chronic kidney disease.”

“The Fellowships will help attract and retain our most talented early-career researchers and encourage their career development in this country,” said Joyce.

Dr Wanhalla said that receiving the grant served to “reinforce what [I am] doing in terms of research,” and that it is also an “honour for the [Humanities] department.” She noted that having her research acknowledged by the Fellowship will “help elevate history to the sciences level,” and will allow her to widen the scope of her research on marriage and “do something of a grander vision.” Dr Wanhalla said she hopes in the future to look into how “marriage opens up the window to wider social issues,” including how we historicise these issues.

Critic also spoke with recipient Dr Palmer, who described the award as a “life-changing event.” She said that the Fellowship helps to put research back on the centre stage and will allow her to give her undivided attention to her research, something she describes as a “unique and unexpected opportunity.” Dr Palmer described herself as “an information specialist” and hopes to use “next generation” methods of data gathering to “challenge the status quo in medical practice and improve health.”

“The Rutherford awards are a genuinely visionary idea to keep New Zealand researchers in New Zealand for the period in their working lives when they are setting up research networks, teams and new ideas,” Dr Palmer said.

With the aim of developing and fostering future leaders in the broader New Zealand science sector, the competitive Fellowship is available to researchers within three to eight years of completing their PhD. The fellowship was established in 2010 and now boasts 40 fellows, with this number expected to rise to 50 by 2014.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2013.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 6th October 2013 by Claudia Herron.