Massey researchers have received more than $15.6 million from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s annual Marsden Fund for 26 projects, a record number of projects funded and total funding.
The projects include studying super-heavy elements, Māori resilience in post-disaster contexts and sexuality and ethical deliberation in residential aged care.
The 26 successful Marsden grants – made up of 10 “Fast-Start” grants for new and emerging researchers and 16 standard grants – represent 18.4 per cent of the total $84.6 million funding pool this year.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas congratulated the researchers. “This is a tremendous effort and outcome, not only by our world-class researchers but also the many academics and support staff they work with whose contribution is so vital to ensure the quality and impact of the research proposals are prioritised through the various stages of the process,” Professor Thomas says. “Competition for research funding is intense in the New Zealand research environment. The 133 projects selected to receive funding nationwide were chosen from more than 1000 preliminary proposals.”
Assistant Vice-Chancellor Research, Academic and Enterprise Professor Giselle Byrnes says success in this Marsden round showcases the research Massey is known for, tackling the big issues and wicked problems the world is facing and doing this within a rigorous and scholarly context. “The range and diversity of the research projects also showcases the extent of Massey’s broad research expertise,” Professor Byrnes says.
The College of Sciences received grants for an unprecedented 21 projects, which shared more than $12 million of the funding.
One of the projects will be led by Distinguished Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger of the New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study. It receives $910,000 to explore the heaviest elements in the periodic table.
“Super heavy elements with an atomic number between 113 [Nihonium] and 118 [Oganesson] have only very recently been added to the periodic table and given names. Exploring and extending the periodic table of elements towards the super-heavy region, with atomic numbers larger than 103 is driven by the desire to test the very limits of the existence of matter,” Professor Schwerdtfeger says.
The complex electronic and nucleonic structures require state-of-the-art quantum theoretical approaches due to the huge electric fields involved, which the project proposes to develop and apply, he says.
“A wealth of entirely new phenomena awaits discovery due to the interplay between relativistic electrons and nucleons moving in quantal orbits subject to very strong electrostatic repulsion. Theoretical calculations of chemical and physical behaviour are indispensable to guide, design, and explain the one-atom-at-a-time experiments at the yet-unexplored regime of mass and charge.”
College of Health researchers are launching a new study on alcohol and drug use throughout the country, including measuring levels of drug use in wastewater.
In recent months, community and drug treatment workers have reported increasing use of methamphetamine and synthetic cannabinoids, particularly in smaller cities and towns. Many of these communities already have high social deprivation and poor access to health services.
However, there is currently no research on the extent of unmet demand for health services for alcohol and drug problems in these and many other communities to support the case for improved services. Social stigma attached to methamphetamine, and ignorance about the contents of many new synthetic drugs means users are often reluctant or unable to accurately self-report drug habits in traditional face-to-face surveys.
The research team will use a range of innovative approaches, as well as conducting a national online survey to get a better understanding of what drugs are out there, and to identify gaps in health services.
Associate Professor Chris Wilkins, leader of the drug research team at Massey’s SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre, is leading the study, which began on the weekend.
“Wastewater-based epidemiology is a new method which can provide objective measures of alcohol and drug consumption from drug metabolites found in pooled sewage. The sampling is done at the inlet of a sewage treatment plant, so it covers the entire community and guarantees no individual or household can be identified. A national programme of wastewater-based epidemiology was recently completed in Australia and similar studies have been conducted in Europe and Asia,” Dr Wilkins says.
“We will also conduct a national online survey open to all New Zealanders to obtain a better understanding of recent drug trends and to identify gaps in health services, and barriers to finding help in different communities throughout the country,” he says.
The online alcohol and drug survey can be completed over the phone on 0800 554 101; or face-to-face with an interviewer on request, by texting the word “research” to 0800 554 101.
The survey takes 8-10 minutes to complete. No names or contact details are required and everything said is strictly confidential. The findings will inform improved access to health services for alcohol and drug users and innovative approaches to delivering services
The New Zealand alcohol and drugs study will run until February 2018.
Massey University’s computer programming team will head to Sydney later this month after winning a place in the next round of the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest.
The team, which is called “TryCatchUs” and comprises computer and information sciences students Samuel Dobson, Samuel Irvine and Jacob Stringer, were coached by Dr Henning Koehler from the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology.
They will travel with three other New Zealand teams to compete for the opportunity to participate in next year’s international finals in Beijing.
The global contest, hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery, is a competitive educational programme that aims to raise the aspirations and performance of computer sciences and engineering students.
Kiwifruit growers could have a new and productive tool at their disposal. Industrial designer William Lockwood-Geck’s hand-held scanner which measures the quality of the fruit, is already attracting attention.
Called the Harvest Manager 300, the scanner helps growers identify when the fruit is ready to be picked and also promises to be a cost-saving as much as a time-saving device.
His conceptual design is part of the end-of-year Exposure exhibition being staged by final year students at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts, which opens at the Wellington campus on Friday.
Under horticultural regulations, New Zealand kiwifruit distributor and exporter Zespri requires kiwifruit growers to pay $300 for a quality test to ensure the fruit meets minimum taste standards before it can be harvested from March till May each year. Tests are required for each part of an orchard. These parts are defined as maturity areas, which can include areas of different age or varieties that grow either green or gold kiwifruit.
The tests are needed as growers have to guess when their fruit has sufficient dry matter (the fruit’s substance, including the sugars, minus the water), Mr Lockwood-Geck says.
Most growers need at least two or three quality tests taken per area, with some larger orchards needing as many as seven, significantly raising the cost of testing, he says.
“The HM300 removes the guesswork and allows growers the need to purchase only one $300 test per area.”
The front end of the device rests against the skin of the hanging fruit, transferring the data to a display that is angled to face the user. The process only takes milliseconds and data can later be transferred to a computer or smart device.
The information transferred can be used to determine the fruits taste levels, for which Zespri provides different levels of taste payment – an incentive to growers to focus on growing higher quality fruit, rather than on producing high volumes of fruit. The information allows growers to better determine when it is the best possible time to pick their fruit to receive maximum taste payments.
“Knowing what time to pick your fruit can dramatically change the amount of money you earn from your orchard,” Mr Lockwood-Geck says.
While other fruit industries operate similar, but not identical, technology no existing products have the ergonomic benefits of the scanner, he says.
His design, featuring an angled handle, nozzle and screen to allow the users wrists and head to be in neutral positions when taking measurements, ensures that orchardists are not in such stress positions for long periods.
“The long length of the nozzle also allows users to keep their elbows below shoulder height when reaching up to the canopy. This prevents damage to the shoulder and elbow joints and allows the heart to pump blood to the arm with greater ease.”
Mr Lockwood-Geck, who is originally from Cambridge, and grew up and worked on orchards from an early age, says his design has already attracted interest from growers and the next step was determining what further opportunity there was within the horticultural sector to progress his design.
As part of his extensive research for his final-year industrial design project he met with Zespri’s head of innovation, held discussions with a horticultural company manager, talked to growers as well as kiwifruit consultants and gauged the reaction of orchard staff supervisors too.
“It’s all about helping growers make good decisions when they harvest,” he says.