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Cancer, camellia and saddleback research awarded 

(back row from left) Ruby Roach, Dr Sita Venkateswar (President Graduate Women Manawatu). (middle row) Loanna Logan, Shannon Ormond, Anne Walker (chair, Graduate Women Manawatu Charitable Trust), Cade Fulton. (front row) Professor Jan Thomas (Vice Chancellor, Massey University), Kayla Purvis, Grace Maddox and Meg Wedlock. (Dulani Abeysinghe and Celeste Bevins were unable to attend).

Blight-resistant camellia, cancer prevention, migrant and refugee mental health, and preservation of the North Island saddleback are among the diverse topics being undertaken by Massey University post-doctoral researchers awarded scholarships by the Graduate Women Manawatū Charitable Trust this year. 

The weekend award ceremony saw nine postgraduate Massey University women students awarded scholarships totalling $69,000.

The students, their families and supporters attended a celebratory lunch held at Wharerata at the Manawatū campus recently, along with members of the trust and guests. Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas was guest speaker and presented the awards, which are made on the basis of academic performance.

All recipients are studying towards master’s or honours degrees in their chosen disciplines at the Manawatū campus or through distance.

Ainsley Watson, manager for Academic Dress Hire, says the trustees on the awards sub-committee “were impressed with the calibre of the applicants and appreciate the diversity in the topics being studied and researched. They enjoyed meeting the awardees at the luncheon and hearing about their research first-hand.”

Other topics of research by recipients include: the genetic disease malignant hyperthermia, the environmental history and change of Lake Horowhenua, the impact of the Emissions Trading Scheme in Europe, and gender differences in financial capability and its implications for retirement savings.

Funding for the scholarships is derived from the hire of academic regalia. The trust owns and operates the Academic Dress Hire business based on the University’s Manawatū campus. It supplies academic gowns for annual graduation ceremonies at Massey University and other tertiary institutions throughout the lower North Island. As a charitable entity, all profit from the business is reinvested in education, through provision of scholarships and awards for women.

The 2018 awardees are:

Cade Fulton – MSc (Plant Biology)

Her study looks at an early plant immune response to pathogenic attacks, specifically in petal tissue during the interaction between disease-resistant camellia species and the causal agent of ‘camellia petal blight’, Ciborinia camelliae. The research can potentially yield growers with data that helps them breed camellia species with increased resistance to petal blight.

Dulani Abeysinghe – Master of Applied Social Work

Shaped by personal experiences, her research is in migrant and refugee mental health. She aims to conduct a New Zealand study examining the relationship between childhood migration and mental well-being through the use of quantitative and qualitative research methodology. 

Grace Maddox – MBS (Finance) 

She is investigating the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which is deemed to be delivering on its environmental goals, to understand its impact on individual firms and the risk imposed on firms by the scheme, and if they can hedge this risk – with the aim of bringing lessons learnt back to a New Zealand context. 

Joanna Logan – Master of Counselling Studies

Having completed the research component of the course, and written a paper titled ‘A Counsellor’s Toolkit for Working with Chinese International Students’, she is completing 200 hours of counselling, 20 hours of supervision, two block courses, and various other assignments throughout the year. 

Kayla Purvis – MSc (Conservation Biology)

Her study will involve estimating the current population size of the North Island saddleback population at Bushy Park – at risk from predators – and monitoring the 2018 breeding season to determine how reproductive success has changed with population density.

Meg Wedlock - MBS (Finance)

She is exploring the gender differences in financial capability and its implications for retirement savings in New Zealand.

Ruby Roach – MSc (Genetics)

In the field of cancer research, she is researching the interactions and structures of proteins and nucleic acids that regulate telomeres (ends of chromosomes), which allow cells to divide indefinitely, leading to uncontrollable cancerous growth. 

Shannon Ormond – MSC (Biochemistry)

She is working with genome sequence data from individuals who suffer from the genetic disease malignant hyperthermia. 

Celeste Bevins 

Lake Horowhenua is taonga to the local Muaūpoko people, but it now suffers from poor water quality, due to contamination from agricultural, horticultural and urban sources. Her project will address gaps in knowledge of pre-disturbance conditions through sampling the ancient sediments to build a record of environmental change of the lake and surrounding catchment.

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