Te Herenga Waka celebrates recipients of prestigious Research Honours

Twelve academics from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington have been recognised in the 2021 Research Honours Aotearoa Awards, which are presented by Royal Society Te Apārangi and Health Research Council to celebrate outstanding achievements and excellence among New Zealand researchers.

Academics from New Zealand’s top-ranked university for intensity of high-quality research have been recognised for their contributions across a range of fields, including the social sciences, analytical chemistry, literature, climate change, and sustainability.

Te Herenga Waka Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says, “With a passion for finding solutions to real-world problems, our staff pursue ambitious research that is designed to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of new knowledge.

“It is a matter of immense pride that so many of our staff are being recognised as part of the Research Honours this year. These honours are Aotearoa New Zealand’s highest recognition for exemplary work in areas that can deliver transformative outcomes for the world we live in.”

The Pou Aronui Award, which recognises distinguished service to the humanities over a sustained period, has been presented to Professor Harry Ricketts, a writer, teacher, editor, and promoter of local intellectual culture who is acknowledged as one of Aotearoa’s most significant literary figures.

The Mason Durie Medal for outstanding contributions to social sciences originating in New Zealand with global impact has been presented to Professor Tony Ward for his original research on treating violent individuals, which has been hugely influential around the world.

Professor Eric Le Ru receives the Hector Medal for his world-leading research in physics and analytical chemistry at the nanoscale using surface-enhanced spectroscopies. The Hector Medal is awarded for work of great scientific or technological merit that has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of a particular branch of science.

The Scott Medal, which recognises outstanding contribution towards advancing a branch of engineering sciences, technologies, and their applications, has been presented to Dr Zhenan Jiang, a Principal Scientist at the Robinson Research Institute for his work on measuring and modelling the response of superconductors, leading to cost-effective superconducting machines.

Dr Kyle Clem has been awarded the 2021 Hamilton Award, the Royal Society Te Apārangi Early Career Research Excellence Award for Science, for his research on the warming of the remote interior of Antarctica, which revealed this region—once thought to be isolated from the effects of anthropogenic climate change—is actually one of the fastest warming places on Earth.

Dr Emily Beausoleil has been presented the 2021 Royal Society Te Apārangi Early Career Research Excellence Award for Social Science for her research that seeks to enhance equality of voice in diverse communities by studying the conditions that underlie chronic inattention and inaction by advantaged groups, and the insights these have for designing more effective forms of civic engagement.

The Imagining Decolonised Cities team, which was presented the Te Rangaunua Hiranga Māori Award, is a collaboration of staff from various organisations, including Dr Rebecca Kiddle (previously with the Wellington School of Architecture), Dr Ocean Mercier, Dr Mike Ross and Dr Amanda Thomas. The award recognises excellent, innovative co-created research conducted by Māori that has made a distinctive contribution to community wellbeing and development in Aotearoa, and the team has been recognised for its innovative work combining decolonial scholarship with urbanism practice.

The 2021 Rutherford Medal-winning team led by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman (University of Otago, Wellington) also includes Te Herenga Waka’s Adjunct Professor Ralph Chapman, Professor Robyn Phipps, and Professor Arthur Grimes. The group’s groundbreaking research has quantified the effects of housing interventions on occupants’ health and wellbeing, and informed legislation and policy.

Recently, researchers from Te Herenga Waka also received 22 Marsden grants, totalling over $14 million, and four Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, further consolidating its position as New Zealand’s number one University for intensity of high-quality research.

For details about the work of individual researchers, please find brief synopses below:

Professor Harry Ricketts
A distinguished writer, Harry has written/edited around 30 books on topics ranging from the poets of World War 1 to New Zealand literature to spiritual verse to cricket and has profoundly contributed to many facets of New Zealand literature. His biography of Kipling, The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling, positioned him as one of the world’s leading Kipling scholars and was internationally acclaimed. Having joined the University’s English Programme in 1981, Harry established himself as an engaging and popular lecturer and has successfully supervised around 40 PhD and MA students in English Literature and Creative Writing. From 1998 to 2019, Harry was co-editor of the quarterly New Zealand Review of Books Pukapuka Aotearoa, the only local periodical solely dedicated to long-form reviews of major New Zealand publications. From 1998-2007, he was The Listener’s theatre critic. Harry’s own literary reviews have appeared in The London Review of Books, The Financial Times, Landfall, The Listener and Metro, to name a few places. His Selected Poems was published by Victoria University Press in 2021. He retired from the English Programme the same year as an Emeritus Professor.

Professor Tony Ward
With over 30 years of experience, Tony’s research has transformed the way correctional rehabilitation is viewed around the world. The theory, which he presented 20 years ago, on cognitive distortions in individuals who committed sexual offences, is regarded as one of the most prominent contemporary models in this domain of offence. One of Tony’s most notable pieces of work is the development of the Good Lives Model (GLM), which showcases that offender wellbeing and likelihood of offending are linked. The best way to create a safer society and reduce risk of re-offence is to help individuals adopt socially integrated lifestyles. A highly ethical risk-management and strength-based model, GLM takes into account culture and individuality, alongside the work of therapists, teachers or vocational trainers, and clinicians working at all levels to ensure an effective intervention plan. GLM has been credited as completely reshaping correctional models across Aotearoa and internationally.

Professor Eric Le Ru
Renowned for his work in the fields of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), single-molecule detection, nano-photonics, plasmonics (the study and applications of the optical properties of sub-wavelength metallic objects) and electromagnetic scattering, Eric’s research is concerned with electromagnetism at the nanoscale. A pioneer in the research field of how electromagnetic fields are enhanced around metallic nano-objects and how this changes the interactions between molecules and light, Eric's sustained contribution to the field over the last 15 years, with over 130 publications, spans both theoretical and experimental studies. He has written some of the most influential papers in SERS, notably on SERS enhancement factors, the electromagnetic theory of SERS, and single molecule detection in SERS. His 2009 book on SERS, a comprehensive research monograph, has become the standard reference for SERS researchers and students around the world.

Dr Zhenan Ziang
High temperature superconductors (HTS) offer the promise of very low energy losses and increased power in electrical machines. However, the time-varying currents and magnetic fields typically found in these machines create electrical losses and generate excess heat, affecting HTS’s commercial advantages. Zhenan has developed measurement techniques required to understand the relationships between energy losses and magnetic fields, computational modelling to allow its prediction, and engineering methodologies to support its application, and this work is being applied in the development of HTS electrical machines. Zhenan has made significant contributions to the research field regarding the design and analysis of a wide range of applications and his work supports development of next-generation superconducting electrical machines. His work has been applied to New Zealand power transformers, a wind power generator in South Korea, high speed trains in China, and for aircraft motors and generators.

Dr Kyle Clem
Kyle’s recent research focuses on the remote influences on Antarctic climate. A paper published last year, on which he was the lead author, looks at warming at the South Pole during the past three decades and presents two major scientific advances: first, it shows that nowhere in Antarctica, and therefore nowhere on Earth, is immune to anthropogenic climate change. Second, natural and anthropogenic processes, in this case the effects of natural warming of sea surface temperatures in the western tropical Pacific alongside the continued increasing of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, can work together to produce extreme multi-decadal warming in the Antarctic interior. When considering future climate variability and change in Antarctica, Kyle’s research has shown it is important to consider that extreme changes can occur rapidly, be driven by natural processes, and be forced by processes that seem to be far-removed from Antarctica.

Dr Emily Beausoleil
Emily works to clarify both why it is hard for advantaged groups to hear when disadvantaged groups speak and how listening itself can prove a potent strategy to foster receptivity and unlock entrenched views.  Her work reaches past the usual disciplinary boundaries of political theory—learning from neuroscience, artistic performance, tikanga marae, conflict meditation, therapy—to invigorate and expand our terms for addressing key political questions of voice and structural justice. Her work comes from both scholarly research and experience from her time as a social actor working in and with communities. By outlining the bare issues of structural injustice, Emily identifies key obstacles for listening among advantaged groups and has generated effective anti-racism strategies. She has applied these theories to help develop society’s understanding of the challenges and power of structural injustice through the unique listening-based anti-racism ‘Tauiwi Tautoko’ programme co-created with ActionStation in 2018.

Imagining Decolonised Cities (IDC)
A close collaboration between staff at the University, and members of Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Ngāti Kahungungu, Ngāti Porou, Rongomaiwahine, the IDC team began by exploring what decolonisation might mean for Aotearoa’s towns and cities. This research, recognised nationally and internationally, has shifted thinking in communities, making current understandings of often misunderstood ideas around decolonisation more accessible. The work of the team has promoted the fact that urban spaces have always been indigenous spaces and has explored how to better exemplify this fact. The interdisciplinary collaboration between iwi and university researchers alongside rangatahi has ensured that the work is relevant and accessible to whānau, hapū and Māori communities.

The team has co-designed a board game as an educational tool for use by secondary school and university educators to create a fun and accessible way to learn about colonisation and decolonisation, besides co-authoring an easy-to-read short text, Imagining Decolonisation. The second bestselling book in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington in 2020 (Unity Bestseller list), this text has appeared on lists of anti-racism readings and is used by academics in their teaching across the country and overseas, relating to various disciplines and has led to clear and thoughtful discussions of what decolonisation could look like.

2021 Rutherford Medal: Adjunct Professor Ralph Chapman, Professor Robyn Phipps and Professor Arthur Grimes
New Zealanders spend most of their time inside, yet the indoor environment's impact on health and wellbeing had been overlooked. Under Professor Howden-Chapman's leadership, He Kāinga Oranga's research has shown how straightforward housing improvements to cold, damp and unsafe conditions can significantly reduce rates of infectious, respiratory and cardiovascular disease and deaths, particularly for children and older people. This research has influenced public policy innovation and implementation, including the winter fuel payment and the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which requires all landlords to meet the World Health Organization’s Housing and Health Guidelines, developed by a WHO International Committee chaired by Howden-Chapman.

Further information about these awards.