Media Advisory October 10


Research which aims to create a computer database that can self-correct is one of four University of Waikato projects that received support from the 2011 Marsden Fund, New Zealand's funding for ideas-driven research. Waikato University secured nearly $2.5 million in Marsden Research funding. Marsden grants are given annually and are regarded as a hallmark of excellence, allowing New Zealand’s best researchers to explore their ideas. Computer Science Professor Ian Witten will lead a team to design and implement a new model of automated knowledge discovery – a computer system that self-corrects. By bringing together existing resources, such as Wikipedia, and applying stringent quality control, they plan to build the world’s first genuinely self-correcting knowledge base. Professor Witten has been awarded $585,000 over three years to aid his research. The Marsden Fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Marsden Fund Council, and funded by the New Zealand Government. The three other Waikato projects involve research on negative structure superposition, the impact of behavioural and environmental change on health and exploring mood systems in the oceanic languages of Vanuatu.


Waikato University’s youngest ever graduate starts his doctorate at Oxford University on October 10. Twenty-one year old Robert (Bobby) Turongo Brooks, who earned his Bachelor of Science at 17, has been awarded the Sir Robert Mahutu Postgraduate Scholarship which gives him $60,000 a year for three years while he’s at Jesus College studying synthetic organic chemistry. Brooks is unsure where his study will take him but he worked on applications for a new generation of anti-cancer drugs for his Masters in chemistry. At Oxford he’ll be in Dr Ed Anderson’s research group which covers both natural product synthesis and development of new synthetic methods, two major cornerstones of chemical research worldwide. Recently Brooks has been living in Wellington where he worked for Motu’s environmental economics team on a review of the Government’s afforestation grants scheme, and then took a position as policy and research analyst at the Federation of Māori Authorities, which fosters economic advancement for Māori. At this year’s national AgBio conference he chaired a session about improving relationships between Mātauranga Māori and science.


Trenchers, gowns and balloons will be abundant this October when students from the University of Waikato graduate. More than 500 University of Waikato students graduate with ceremonies scheduled for October 19 at the Te Kohinga Mārama Marae on the university’s Hamilton campus and at Hamilton’s Founders Theatre on October 20. The Marae graduation begins at 9.30am. There will be three ceremonies held at Founders Theatre and they will start at 10am, 2pm and 5pm, covering all schools of study and level of achievement. A schedule for the Hamilton graduations is available online. The university will also confer honorary doctorates to the Topp Twins on October 20.


University of Waikato Te Piringa-Faculty of Law Dean Professor Brad Morse says New Zealand and other countries have learnt and will continue to learn a lot from the Treaty of Waitangi. As part of his Inaugural Professorial Lecture being held next week, Professor Morse will share his views of how the experience of the Treaty in New Zealand are of interest to and beneficial to other people and nations around the world. Professor Morse, who specialises in indigenous issues, has been an adviser to the Waitangi Tribunal and the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. His lecture, titled Te Tiriti o Waitangi in a Global Context: Growing Recognition of Indigenous Rights, takes place at 6.30pm on Tuesday October 18 at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. Inaugural Professorial Lectures are the university’s way of formally introducing new and recently appointed professors to the wider community. All lectures are free and open to the public.


Children growing up in the 21st century are facing a very different world to that which their parents, grandparents and teachers grew up in. For these children, using instant communication technology such as email, texting and Facebook is second nature and having access to unlimited information through search engines is not a novelty, but a part of everyday life. For these reasons the education they require must be different to anything that has been offered before. Join Director of LENScience Jacquie Bay and science communicator Liz Carpenter at Hamilton’s October Cafe Scientifique, for their talk titled ‘It’s school Jim, but not as we knew it!’. Bay and Carpenter will discuss the idea of tailoring educational environments to enhance and foster the development of lifelong learning skills and competencies; an idea which can be applied over a range of contexts. Hamilton’s October Café Scientifique takes place at Café Français, 711 Victoria Street, Hamilton, at 7.30pm, tomorrow, Tuesday October 11. Café Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, and is supported by the Faculty of Science & Engineering at the University of Waikato to make science accessible to people outside the traditional academic context.


Fourth-year Waikato Mechanical Engineering student Mitchel Woodhouse has designed a credit card-sized ‘multi-tool’ that can open bottles, unscrew nuts and act as a small ruler. The former Cambridge High School student’s project will be one of many on show at the annual Carter Holt Harvey Pulp & Paper Engineering Design Show held from October 18-19, in S Block at the University of Waikato. During the show, second, third and fourth-year Engineering students showcase their research projects in the forms of posters, displays and seminars. Topics covered include Chemical and Biological Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Materials and Process Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Software Engineering. The event is the perfect opportunity for both high school students and industry representatives to meet talented engineering students. For more information visit


The one-woman play Silent Night will play two nights at the University of Waikato this month. The play is written and performed by Yvette Parsons and is the first theatre production from the Central North Island Consortium to be staged at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. The Central North Island Consortium is a collective of theatres from Hamilton, New Plymouth and Hastings and is funded by Creative New Zealand under its Regional Distribution Funding Strategy. “It means that plays and other art forms get out to regional venues – plays that might have had their first performance in a major centre and not normally gone beyond that,” says Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts Manager Jeremy Bell. Silent Night is set on Christmas Day in a little flat in suburban New Zealand as Irene McMunn prepares for a party and reflects on life and loves of times gone by - with some useful Christmas craft tips thrown in. Hamilton performances of Silent Night will take place at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on October 28 and 29.


Te Awamutu College has taken the top prize at the Waikato University ChemQuest. First place went to Hayden Berkers, Liam Macintosh and Matt Harker from Te Awamutu team ‘Tie-Tins’. The students were awarded the James and Wells trophy, $150 and a gold medal each. The annual chemistry quiz gives Year 12 chemistry students the chance to put their chemistry knowledge to the test in a pop quiz-style challenge, mixed in with a series of chemistry demonstrations to wow the crowd. The after-school event was held at the University of Waikato on October 6 and was attended by almost 200 students, made up of teams of three. Teams from St Paul’s Collegiate School won second and third place. ChemQuest is sponsored by the University of Waikato’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, James & Wells Intellectual Property and Hill Laboratories.


Two University of Waikato ecology students spent the summer in the forest canopies of Waikato and Taranaki conducting research they hope will lead to better conservation and restoration of native forests nationwide. Catherine Bryan and Fiona Clarkson both graduate this month with first class honours and are looking forward to more time in the field, having taken full-time positions as research assistants at the University of Waikato Environmental Research Institute. The duo were investigating what factors affect the establishment and survival of vascular epiphyte populations - plants that non-parasitically perch and grow on others. Epiphytes are a crucial and but often forgotten part of native forests and contribute to the ecosystem and biodiversity of forests. The students findings pointed to a declining epiphyte population in urban forests with some forest fragments of Hamilton City having only 60% of the epiphyte species that should be present. “Epiphytes are part of making a forest function properly. We are studying them because not many people know about epiphytes and when people try to attempt forest restoration epiphytes are often left out,” says Bryan. Both received presentation awards for their Masters research at the 2011 New Zealand Ecology Conference held in Rotorua during August.


University of Waikato NIDEA Director Professor Natalie Jackson, alongside fellow lecturers from Auckland, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago universities, has received an award for piloting a cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary Honours-level course in official statistics. The International Statistical Literacy Project's Best Cooperative Project Award in Statistical Literacy is given once every two years in recognition of outstanding, innovative, and influential statistical literacy projects that affect a broad segment of the general public and are fruit of the cooperation of different types of institutions. The cross-institutional course has each university offering two, two-hour lectures via a network to more than 30 students across the country. Students from each university can enrol, making it very resource-effective in terms of teaching an important topic with small student numbers.


Public Art is the subject for the next Demystifying the Arts lecture brought to you the University of Waikato Centre for Continuing Education. Kate Darrow, chair of the Artistic Board of MESH Sculpture Hamilton, will be joined by Hamilton art historian and heritage consultant Ann McEwan to talk about their perspectives on public art and what role it has to play in Hamilton. Public Art – A Way Forward for Hamilton takes place at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on Thursday October 20, from 7-9pm. The cost is $5. For more information visit

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