Graduate returns to UC with $190,000 fellowship

01 September 2011

UC science and law graduate Dr Ben Mackey will return to his alma mater next year to take up a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship.

Graduate returns to UC with $190,000 fellowship  - Imported from Legacy News system

Dr Ben Mackey.

UC science and law graduate Dr Ben Mackey will return to his alma mater next year to take up a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship.

Dr Mackey is one of two recipients of this year’s Rutherford Foundation post-doctoral fellowships aimed at bringing New Zealanders currently residing overseas home to establish their scientific research careers here.

The fellowship, worth $190,000 over two years, covers research costs and a travel allowance to attend conferences or do collaborative work.

Dr Mackey, who graduated from UC in with a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours in 2003 and a Bachelor of Science with first class honours majoring in geology in 2004, will return from the United States to take up his award based at the University of Canterbury early in the new year.

He was the inaugural recipient of the Fulbright-EQC Award in Natural Disaster Research in 2004, which allowed him to take up postgraduate study at the University of Oregon. He completed his PhD 18 months ago and was appointed to a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Caltech (California Institute of Technology).

UC Geological Sciences Head Professor Jarg Pettinga, who supervised Dr Mackey on an honours research project focused on a large landslide complex in Hawke’s Bay, said the department was “delighted Ben has been awarded one of the Rutherford Foundation fellowships”.

“His research expertise in terms of geomorphology and landscape evolution will be an excellent fit into our current priority research themes in Geological Sciences, especially with the urgent need for a targeted research effort following the earthquake sequence here in Canterbury.”

Dr Mackey said he was excited to be returning to Canterbury "to work with Drs Mark Quigley, Ben Kennedy and the Geology department to explore exposure age dating of basaltic rock".

"This project has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of how New Zealand's volcanic landscapes, such as Banks Peninsula, have been impacted by earthquakes, landslides, and erosion.

"New Zealand has one of the most fascinating and active landscapes in the world, yet the processes that shape this environment pose ongoing hazards and challenges to populations and infrastructure.

"I hope to combine the skills I have learned in the US with innovative geological techniques to increase our knowledge of how rare seismic events, such as the recent series of earthquakes in Canterbury, are recorded in the landscape. This will allow researchers to better asses the long term earthquake risk in regions not typically deemed at risk of extreme shaking."

The chairperson of the Rutherford Foundation of the Royal Society of New Zealand Professor Margaret Brimble said the Foundation was pleased to be able to help repatriate the two young scientists – Dr Mackey and fellow recipient Dr Gillian Gibb – who would “contribute to the advancement of knowledge in areas of national importance".

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