The FINANCIAL — The University of Auckland’s Dr Jessie Jacobson and Dr Nicholas Rattenbury are amongst ten top researchers to receive prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowships.
“It was a privilege to meet these exciting and engaging scholars,” said chair of the Fellowship selection panel Professor Margaret Brimble in announcing the awards.
“The Fellows we have selected represent exceptional talent and promise. They are all building exciting research programmes in their chosen fields and with continued career development they will emerge as the future leaders in New Zealand’s science and innovation sector.”
The Government-funded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships support our most talented early- to mid-career researchers to develop their research careers in New Zealand. Valued at $160,000 per year over a five-year period, the Fellowships support both the scientists’ salaries and their research programmes.
Dr Jacobson, from the School of Biological Sciences, will use her Fellowship to undertake a project called “Autism Spectrum Disorder: hunting for therapeutic targets using genetics”. Her research will contribute to international efforts to genetically define autism spectrum disorder, the ultimate aim of which is to develop therapeutics and health and educational support systems for patients and their families.
Dr Jacobson is the recipient of a Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship from The University of Auckland, and MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year Award in 2007. As the University of Auckland announced, she recently returned to New Zealand after three years at the Centre for Human Genetic Research and Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, with the support of the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
Dr Rattenbury, is returning to the Department of Physics from W.P. Thompson & Co, Patent and Trademark Attorneys in the United Kingdom. His research, titled “Toward Earth-II: completing the census of extra-solar planets in the galaxy”, focuses on a technique called gravitational microlensing that is used to detect small, Earth-sized planets that orbit stars other than our Sun. New telescopes will soon generate more data than can be analysed by experts in the field. Dr Rattenbury aims to develop an automated analysis system to cope with these large volumes of data, and ensure New Zealand retains its leading position in extra-solar planet discovery.
Dr Rattenbury completed his PhD in gravitational microlensing at the Department of Physics. He has since worked at Jodrell Bank Observatory and the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester, and as a visiting researcher at Princeton University and Groningen University. He is now returning to New Zealand to continue his research.