Our last newsletter for 2009 consists mostly of achievements, so it
                  seems that Genetics Otago members ha...
Scientific Director of Genetics Otago
                               Firstly, it should be pointed out that Peter is compl...
Genetics Otago Inaugural Postgraduate Symposium
On November 23rd and 24th, 50+ people attended the
Genetics Otago symposiu...
Health Sciences Divisional                             Congratulations to Prof Warren
Genetics Otago Members Elected as Royal Society Fellows
Congratulations to advisory committee member Professor Hamish Spen...
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peter.dearden@otago.ac.nz sophia.mckay@otago.ac.nz


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peter.dearden@otago.ac.nz sophia.mckay@otago.ac.nz

  1. 1. Our last newsletter for 2009 consists mostly of achievements, so it seems that Genetics Otago members have had an excellent year! Please accept my personal congratulations to all of you who have done so well. Notable successes since the last newsletter have been the inaugural Peter’s message Postgraduate Symposium, the selection of 5 outstanding Summer Students, being featured in an up and coming artist’s exhibition and helping teach intermediate students about the wonder of bees! This year has been all about establishing ourselves. Through the development of branding, website and launch I think we have made excellent progress towards establishing Genetics Otago as a vibrant, introducing collaborative community in the minds of the University, and around Otago. I would like to thank you all for your help and support, as together we have built GO into a viable organisation. Next year we aim to be more outward looking, making better contact with politicians, funders, the press and business community. I hope you remain supportive as we adopt novel approaches in order to make news better connections with these groups! Plans for 2010 include events to meet the press and business community; a symposium focusing on psychological genetics in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Children and Families featuring a number of overseas experts; presentations to politicians in Wellington; a possible fund raising event in association with Cure Kids congratulations and of course, our postgraduate symposium. We have also reserved a slot in the Otago School of Medical Sciences Seminar programme for an overseas genetics speaker – so any suggestions would be welcome. As always if you have ideas, information, or opportunities you think we should take advantage of, please let us know. Good luck for the holiday season - I hope you manage to get some research done as well as enjoying a well-earned break. Cheers, c/- Biochemistry Dept. peter.dearden@otago.ac.nz University of Otago PO Box 56 sophia.mckay@otago.ac.nz Dunedin
  2. 2. Scientific Director of Genetics Otago Firstly, it should be pointed out that Peter is completely unaware that he is being featured in this issue (he would have said no to the idea!). Although many of you are familiar with Peter, Genetics Otago membership now exceeds 140 (and is growing weekly), so some of you may not know very much about the person who has campaigned so hard to establish Genetics Otago... Starting his scientific career with a BSc Hons from Victoria University in Wellington, Peter went on to complete his PhD from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London followed by Postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge and the University of Western Ontario. Recently promoted to Associate Professor, Peter is currently based in the Department of Biochemistry, where he is the principal investigator in the Laboratory for Evolution and Development studying insect (especially honeybee) genetics. Peter’s primary research interests include trying to understand how, at the molecular level, morphology evolves; how developmental plasticity arises and is maintained, and the identification of ancient and conserved developmental pathways. In the Laboratory for Evolution and Development, Peter supervises a team of eleven, including three PhD students, two postdocs, and the recent addition of three summer students. The team’s primary focus is on the developmental processes which produce an animal from an embryo. They are particularly interested in how these processes change over evolutionary time, resulting in different forms of an animal. The laboratory studies five aspects of this: evolution of the molecular control of segmentation in insects; the developmental genetics of polyphenisms in the Honeybee (Apis mellifera); the evolution of insect axis formation; the molecular control of development in a Rotifer (Brachionus plicatilis); and the molecular basis of life history tradeoffs. If one was ever given the opportunity to work alongside Peter Dearden it would become quickly apparent that they were working with a person who is completely dedicated and passionate about all aspects of genetic research. From cancer genetics to microbial biology, to law and psychology, Peter is a man determined that all of Otago’s genetic researchers are supported and recognised. Of particular note is Peter’s continuing devotion to the advocacy and mentoring of budding young scientists; with his guidance and support, Peter has provided many young people the opportunity to shine. As well as being the Director of Genetics Otago, Peter is also Otago site leader for the National Research Centre for Growth and Development. Peter lives with his wife, Petra and their three children, Victoria (5), William (3) and Elizabeth (1) and their dog Eddie.
  3. 3. Genetics Otago Inaugural Postgraduate Symposium On November 23rd and 24th, 50+ people attended the Genetics Otago symposium where they had the opportunity to listen to a diverse and fascinating group of speakers whose topics of discussion ranged from the legal ethics of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, through to the research of epigentics in the placenta. Plenary speakers were Professor Jim Sikela from the University of Colorado, who gave a fascinating talk on The Search for Genes That Made Us Human, and Associate Professor Jon Waters from Zoology, who enlightened his audience with a delightfully interactive talk on Evolutionary Genetics in the Southern Hemisphere. Postgraduate zoology student David Winter, who won both the audience and judges’ respect with his talk on Rarotonga’s landsnails, was awarded as Best Student Speaker. You may recall that David was our featured member in our last issue. Next year’s symposium will be even better than the first so Postgraduate Symposium Speakers we look forward to seeing you there! Summer Scholarships Recipients Selected from an outstanding field of candidates, Genetics Otago was delighted to announce that the following students were the successful recipients of the Summer Scholarships: Justine Anderson, who will further investigate the evidence found of mixed modes of reproduction in the brooding brittlestar Ophiomyxa brevirima, under the supervision of Prof Graham Wallis from the department of Zoology. Tanya Flynn, who will be working alongside Assoc. Prof Tony Merriman where they will further research the recent findings of the strong association of the SLC22A11 gene with gout in Māori and Pacific Island gout cases and controls. Kimberley Hughes’ project for the summer will be studying the Epigenetics and Development in the Honeybee in Assoc. Prof Peter Dearden’s laboratory. Tessa Sanders will spend the summer in Dr Christine Genetics Otago Summer Scholarship Jasoni’s lab where she will be studying how epigenetic recipients and their supervisors (from left regulation might affect expression of estrogen receptors in to right): Tessa Sanders; Nathan Kenney; the hypothalamus during the normal onset of puberty. Prof Graham Wallis; Dr Christine Jasoni; Tanya Flynn; Kimberley Hughes; Justine Nathan Kenny will be working with Assoc.Prof. Peter Anderson and Assoc Prof Peter Dearden. Dearden on a project which involves using recently developed RNAi techniques to study the expression of genes involved in neuron operation in rotifer.
  4. 4. Health Sciences Divisional Congratulations to Prof Warren Tate who was awarded a top 10 Forum Poster Winners Supervisor Award by OUSA! Congratulations to PhD students Sarah Deng (Prof Martin Kennedy’s lab) and Erin Daly (Prof Stephen Robertson’s lab) who won best poster prizes at the Health Sciences Divisional Genetics Otago Members’ Forum held at UOW in September. Marsden Funding Success Genetics Otago warmly congratulates the Assoc. Prof. Parry Guilford following members on their success in this year’s Marsden funding: Gains James Cook Fellowship Professor Greg Cook (Microbiology & Associate Professor Parry Guilford has gained Immunology) Why are Hydrogenases Found in a James Cook Fellowship to pursue innovative the Genomes of Aerobic Bacteria? $810,000 research aimed at reversing or preventing the over three years early stages of stomach cancer. The two-year fellowship will allow Prof Guilford, Dr Peter Fineran (Microbiology & to extend his ground-breaking work on the Immunology) Bacterial protection against phage infections: converging themes in toxin- genetics of stomach cancer. antitoxin and abortive infection systems. $753,000 over three years His planned research involves "very promising" new approaches which could lead to much Professor Neil Gemmell (Anatomy & earlier detection of stomach cancer and other Structural Biology) Investigating the genetic common cancers, as well as potentially enabling basis for and adaptive significance of cryptic therapies to be undertaken much earlier. female choice in an external fertiliser the chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha). Parry’s fellowship programme is titled Epigenetic $870,000 over three years approaches to cancer prevention and therapy Dr Stephanie Hughes (Biochemistry) The and starts next year. Transcription Factor Code: maintaining neuronal For more information on Assoc. Prof. Guilford: identity and function in the adult brain. http://www.otago.ac.nz/genetics/staff/guilford.html $935,000 over three years Professor Stephen Robertson (Women's Genetics Otago Members’ and Children's Health) The Two Faces of WTX in Human Development. $840,000 over three Academic Promotions years Out of the 12 recent professorial promotions, 3 Dr Tina Summerfield (Botany) Regulation of were members of Genetics Otago! Our photosynthetic electron transport under low congratulations to Professor Martin Kennedy, oxygen conditions: implications for sustained Professor Graham Wallis and Professor Iain hydrogen production $300,000 over three years Lamont on their well-deserved promotions. For (Fast Start grant) more information on these members’ achievements : Further information on these Marsden successes can http://www.otago.ac.nz/genetics/news/ be found at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/genetics/news/
  5. 5. Genetics Otago Members Elected as Royal Society Fellows Congratulations to advisory committee member Professor Hamish Spencer and Professor Andy Mercer who were recently elected as Fellows of The Royal Society of New Zealand. To be elected as a Fellow is an honour conferred for distinction in research or the advancement of science or technology. Royal Society Fellows are involved in providing expert advice, promoting scientific best practice and disseminating scientific information. For more information on Hamish Spencer: http://www.otago.ac.nz/genetics/staff/spencer.html For more information on Andy Mercer: http://www.otago.ac.nz/genetics/staff/mercer.html Honorary Genetics Otago (arts) Member! A warm welcome and congratulations to Julia Johnstone, an ultra-talented young photographer from The School of Art who gained top marks in her final year examination exhibition which included an interpretation of a genetics laboratory. Julia has a specific interest in the sciences and will be continuing her work in this field, including a commission with Genetics Otago early next year. At right and below are examples of Julia’s work (which will also be posted on our website) or you can view more of her work on http://indecentxposure.wordpress.com/ Julia can be contacted on 027 728 9829 or johjulia@gmail.com