UC awarded nearly $3 million in Marsden funding

06 October 2011

University of Canterbury researchers have been awarded nearly $3 million in funding in this year's Marsden Fund round.

University of Canterbury researchers have been awarded nearly $3 million in funding in this year’s Marsden Fund round.

The government-funded awards, administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand, are regarded as a hallmark of excellence, allowing New Zealand’s best researchers to explore their ideas. The fund supports projects in the sciences, technology, engineering and maths, social sciences and the humanities.

UC received grants for six research projects totalling $2.9 million over three years. 

The largest single fund for a UC project goes to American Studies lecturer Associate Professor Kevin Glynn (Humanities) and Dr Julie Cupples (Geography). They will receive $800,000 over three years for their research “Geographies of media convergence: Spaces of democracy, connectivity and the reconfiguration of cultural citizenship”.

“We are currently living through a period in which centralized forms of media, such as national television and mainstream journalism, are perceived to be in crisis. This crisis is creating new spaces for the development of alternative ways of knowing, watching and making media,” said Professor Glynn.

“This project is designed to advance incipient dialogues between human geography and media studies by asking how practices within popular cultures of media convergence can contribute to the construction or renovation of democratic citizenship.

“We are extremely pleased about the Marsden Fund’s support for this unique and exciting interdisciplinary research project situated at the cutting edge of our respective fields of expertise: Media Studies and Geography.  We believe this project will enable us to learn a great deal about how emergent media ecologies are reshaping the spaces and practices of democracy, cultural contestation and citizenship throughout the world,” Professor Glynn added.

Associate Professor Emily Parker (Chemistry/Biomolecular Interaction Centre) will receive $735,000 over three years for her project titled “Retracing the evolution of enzyme regulation: understanding the molecular mix-and-match that gives rise to sophisticated metabolic control”.

Professor Parker said precise control of metabolism was of crucial importance to living organisms but enzymes have evolved a remarkably complex array of strategies to alter their activity in response to chemical signals.

“The research will inform the design of novel biocatalysts and will assist the development of new models for antibiotics against pathogenic organisms.”

Dr Mathieu Sellier (Mechanical Engineering) will receive $337,696 over three years for his research into the role digital microfluidic devices play in nano- and biotechnologies. He is investigating previously unexplored propulsion mechanisms by mixing droplets of different substances.

Three UC academics were each awarded Fast-Start grants worth $345,000 over three years for early career researchers. They are Dr Daniel Stouffer and Dr Pieter Pelser (Biological Sciences), and Dr Pedro Lee (Civil and Natural Resources Engineering).

Dr Pelser, working with UC adjunct fellow Dr Julie Barcelona, will research the topic “Untangling a vine and its parasite: the importance of cospeciation, host-switching and geographic isolation in the evolutionary history of Tetrastigma and Rafflesia”. The research aims to identify the factors driving parasitic plant evolution through the study of the Philippine species of the parasitic genus Rafflesia and its host plants.

Dr Stouffer will use his funding to investigate the topic “Bringing ecology full circle: Understanding species-level consequences from a community perspective”. He will look at how the interactions between species within ecological communities allow us to better understand the importance of different species in ecological networks.

Dr Lee will use his Marsden Grant to research the topic “Can fluid pipeline systems be used for communication? Fundamental investigation into the distortion and attenuation of fluid transient signals in pressurised liquid conduits”. Dr Lee will investigate the behaviour of fluid transients – high speed compressive waves that transmit through pressurised channels. His findings have the potential to allow fluid conduits to act as a medium for information transfer. One of the applications for this research is a non-intrusive method of locating leaks and blockages in pipelines. Information carried by the fluid transients can be used to rapidly diagnose the condition of piping systems without the need to shut down or drain the pipe.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Steve Weaver congratulated all recipients and said he was particularly pleased that four UC early career researchers won Fast Start grants.

"This is a strong indication that we are recruiting top talent and the research leaders of the future." 

He said Professor Parker's work on enzyme regulation was already internationally recognised "and I'm very pleased to see the work of Associate Professor Kevin Glynn of the School of Humanities - on geographies of media convergence - recognised by the award of a Marsden". 

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