Prestigious fellowships for future science leaders

02 October 2013

2 October 2013

Prestigious fellowships for future science leaders

Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy will be returning from the United Kingdom to the School of Psychology and Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland, after winning a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship

He joins fellow recipients from the University of Auckland Dr Craig Radford and Dr Jonathan Sperry. The three are amongst ten top early to mid-career New Zealand researchers to receive the fellowships, which are designed to develop and foster future leaders in the science sector in this country.

“The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships provide our emerging scientific leaders each with a funding package of $800,000 over five years, that will allow them to undertake important research that will be valuable for New Zealand’s future,” said Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce in announcing the awards.

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

Dr Muthukumaraswamy is currently a research associate and lab manager at Cardiff University. He uses a variety of neuroimaging techniques to examine the function and physiology of neural oscillations (repetitive or rhythmic neural activity) in the generation of sensation, perception, cognition and motor behaviour.

Dr Muthukumaraswamy studied for his BSc (Hons) and PhD at the University of Auckland, winning one of its prestigious Best Doctoral Thesis Awards. The fellowship will support his return to the university’s School of Psychology and Centre for Brain Research, where he will undertake research on high-frequency brain activity in health and disease. His project will examine biological markers of changes in brain chemistry.

Dr Craig Radford, a lecturer at the university’s Institute of Marine Science, received the fellowship for his work using passive acoustics to monitor ecosystem health in our oceans (listening to the sea). Human activities like shipping, recreation and exploration are all increasing the amount of noise in the sea. Dr Radford aims to monitor both human and biological noise, and their interactions, to understand more about the health of the marine ecosystem.

Dr Radford trained as a marine biologist and physiologist, and has a particular interest in the biological role of ambient underwater sound. He undertook his PhD at the University of Auckland, studying the effects of underwater sound on marine larvae.

Dr Jonathan Sperry, a senior lecturer in the School of Chemical Sciences, will undertake research titled “Inert C-H bonds: A gateway to molecular complexity.” Carbon-hydrogen bonds are very abundant in organic molecules, and Dr Sperry aims to redefine how they are perceived so that they are no longer considered inert bystanders but useful “handles” that chemists can selectively manipulate.

Dr Sperry, who earned his BSc (Hons) and PhD at the University of Exeter, joined the University of Auckland in 2006. His research interests involves developing sustainable technologies with applications in natural products synthesis, small molecule construction and medicinal chemistry

The Rutherford Discovery Fellowships are open to researchers within three to eight years of having completed their PhD. The scheme was established in 2010 and now supports 40 fellows.


Pauline Curtis, Communications Adviser
The University of Auckland
Phone: +64 (0)9 923 3258
Mobile: +64 (0)21 970 089