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Travel Reports

Travel Grant Reports 2007


1st Topical Conference on Nanophotonics and Metamaterials (NANOMETA2007)
Tirol, Austria, 8 -11 January 2007

Ling Lin, PhD candidate, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury

Poster Presentation: Negative permeability using planar patterned metal multilayers

The 1st Topical Conference on Nanophotonics and Metamaterials (NANOMETA2007) was hosted by the European Physical Society and was held in Seefeld in Tirol, Austria, from 8th to 11th of January, 2007. This highly specialized meeting had attracted over 300 delegates from 36 countries with most of the leading researchers in these fields attended; altogether 264 papers (126 oral and 138 poster presentations) were presented there.

My PhD research involves investigation of double-negative metamaterials (DNMs) in optical frequencies. DNMs (also known as left-handed metamaterials) are artificially patterned metallic-dielectric structures with simultaneously negative permittivity ε and negative permeability µ. It has been predicted that substance with these properties can focus light below the diffraction limit, which offers great potentials in optical lithography, optical storage and photonic circuits, etc. While some noble metals have negative ε at optical/IR frequencies, there are no naturally occurring materials exhibiting magnetic resonance above the gigahertz range. However, using periodic micro- or nano-structures made of nonmagnetic conducting materials, strong magnetic response can now be accessed at high frequencies. In such structures, the metallic and the dielectric elements constitute miniaturized L-C oscillators and give magnetic response when incident electromagnetic waves are coupled to the L-C resonance.

The dimensions of these miniaturized resonators need to be considerably smaller than the wavelengths of the incident waves and they’re generally formed by paired elements. Owing to the complexity involved in fabrication process, to date engineering DNMs in optical frequencies still proposes a challenge. At this conference, I presented a poster showing the design of magnetic resonant structure in optical frequencies using a single patterned metallic layer coupled to a planar metal film. The poster generated a lot of interest because of the simplification it offers in the fabrication process. I was delighted to receive a meta-poster prize in the student poster competition.

I am very grateful to attend this conference. I had the chance to learn the most recent and exciting results in these rapid expending fields, as well as discuss my research with experts. I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury branch for providing financial assistance for me to attend this conference. I would also like to thank the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology for supporting my PhD research.


28th NZ Land Treatment Collective Conference
Rotorua, New Zealand, 14–16 March 2007

Shuang Jiang
PhD student, Soil and Physical Sciences Group, Lincoln University

Shuang JiangI am a final year PhD student in the Agriculture & Life Sciences Division, Lincoln University, supported by an Enterprise scholarship jointly funded by FRST and ESR. I attended the 2007 NZ Land Treatment Collective (NZLTC) annual conference on 14-16, March, in Rotorua, with support from the NZLTC and the Royal Society, Canterbury Branch. It was a really good experience, which I enjoyed very much and learned a lot. The conference was well organized, with participants from a wide range of sectors, including scientific researchers, regulators, local government bodies, policy makers, consultants and other stakeholders. It acted as a link connecting people with different roles, and was an interactive conference with active atmosphere.

The conference theme was “Nutrient Removal and Water Quality Issues”. I presented my poster entitled “Factors controlling fate and transport of bacteria from land-applied dairy-shed effluent in a Canterbury soil”. My research aims to understand bacterial transport in soil following the application of dairy shed effluent followed by irrigation, with a view to reducing the risks of groundwater contamination. This is a more recent research area in terms of land application of waste; previous research has focussed on nitrogen and phosphorus transport. There is a need to consider the viewpoints and inputs of a wide range of people. This conference was the right place to report my research findings.

During my poster presentation, suggestions and comments were made by participants, and could be followed up (to my benefit) by my own questions to other specialists ‘on site’ at the conference. Moreover, the field trip was so interesting and informative. Sites included a dairy farm, forest, wetland and an on-site wastewater treatment plant testing facility. This showed us the uses and management of land and water (irrigation), which gave us a big picture of the current status of land application of wastes in NZ, and the moves towards more sustainable agriculture.

In a word, I really appreciated the support from the NZLTC and RSNZ, Canterbury Branch. The experience widened my view of current research, helped me understand further the place of my own research, and identified future research trends and directions.


The XII International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds
Montpellier, France, 22-27 April 2007

Ronny Groenteman
PhD student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury

Every 3-4 years, the core group of scientists practicing biological control of weeds meet for this symposium. I was lucky enough to have this symposium held two and a half years into my thistle biocontrol PhD project, so that I already had interesting results to present and make the best of this event.

My project is looking at interactions between three biocontrol agents that were introduced to New Zealand for the biological control of nodding thistle. I am also looking at the effect of these biocontrol agents on other thistles. Unlike other areas that were invaded by nodding thistle, New Zealand has no native thistles or any closely related flora. Therefore, in New Zealand, the more thistle species attacked by these biocontrol agents – the better. This is not the case in places that have native thistles. At the conference, I presented a talk about nodding thistle crown weevil, a biocontrol agent that was introduced to New Zealand from Europe in the late 1980s, and was expected to attack a variety of thistle species. The weevil was recently redescribed and renamed: instead of the single species of weevil attacking a variety of thistle species, there are now three weevil species named, each attacking fewer thistle species. In New Zealand, I have come across only one of these three species, but I have found it attacking thistle species that it was not meant to attack according to new description, which caused some confusion. What is confusing for New Zealand could prove crucial for places that have native thistles they are trying to protect, and this why it was important to present these findings at an international forum.

On the day of my talk, we held the wine and cheese session – a tradition in this symposium, in which each delegate brings a bottle of wine from their country for a superb international wine tasting. Combined with delicious French cheeses, this was a wonderful opportunity for more people to ask me about my talk. I found out that indeed, I have raised a concern amongst North American biocontrol practitioners, who may be facing a problem conserving an endangered native thistle. So, over a glass of wine we have initiated collaboration with the USDA to further study this confusing weevil!

Thanks to assistance from the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch, I was able to attend this great symposium, and become part of the wonderful group of world wide weed biocontrolers.


New Zealand Society for Oncology Conference 2007
Dunedin, New Zealand, 9th - 11th May 2007

Michelle Hunt
PhD Student, Angiogenesis Research Group, University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Michelle HuntThe New Zealand Society for Oncology Conference is an annual gathering of clinicians, nurses, scientists and students involved in cancer prevention, treatment and regulation. The focus of this year’s conference was translational oncology research, with sessions on diverse topics such as epidemiology, ethics, expression profiling, immunotherapy and clinical trials. I found the papers on immunotherapy, the development of anti-cancer compounds and targeted treatment strategies especially interesting. In addition, the elegant research on gastric cancer presented by Dr Toshikazu Ushijima of Japan was particularly impressive.

I presented a poster at the conference, entitled "Optimising gene transfer for vessel-directed enzyme-prodrug therapy". Our research group at the Christchurch School of Medicine is particularly interested in the processes that occur in and around blood vessels associated with cancerous tumours. Interestingly, approximately one thousand tumour cells are said to rely on a single endothelial cell (cells that line the blood vessels) for survival. Therefore, disruption to the blood vessels that supply tumours with oxygen, nutrients and a means of spread, can lead to marked tumour regression.

I am interested in the use of gene therapy as a potential treatment strategy for solid tumours, by targeting tumour blood vessels for destruction. Specifically, this gene therapy approach requires delivery of an enzyme-encoding gene to tumour endothelial cells. When a prodrug is administered, the enzyme is able to convert this to a toxic substance, but only in the cells that are targeted for destruction. For my PhD research, I aim to compare eight of these enzyme-prodrug combinations in a cell culture setting to identify the optimal combination to target tumour blood vessels.

My poster described experiments I undertook to deliver enzyme-encoding genes into human umbilical vein endothelial cells by transfection, which is notoriously difficult in this cell type. Additionally, I presented results of several assays to show that using one particular enzyme-prodrug system decreased cell proliferation and cell viability by 40-50%. Presenting my own data as a poster gave me the opportunity to explain and discuss my research with a number of other like-minded people working in the area of cancer research. In addition, my PhD advisor and our collaborator, Dr Adam Patterson from the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, also attended this conference, which gave us an opportunity to discuss my research face-to-face.

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for providing me with a travel grant to support my attendance at this conference.


The Vatican Observatory Summer School 2007: Extrasolar Planets and Brown Dwarfs
Rome, Italy, 8 June–10 July 2007

Michele Bannister
BSc Honours student in Astronomy and Geology, University of Canterbury

Michele BannisterThe 2007 Vatican Observatory Summer School was held from June 8 to July 10 at the Vatican Observatory or Specola Vaticana, which occupies part of the Papal Summer Palace in Castel Gandolfo. This small hilltop village overlooks a forest-surrounded lake, some forty minutes travel south of Rome, Italy. One of the world’s more venerable observatories, with its main observation and research facility now in Tucson, Arizona, the Specola has since 1986 organised a biannual summer school for senior undergraduate and doctoral astronomy students from around the world. The idea is straightforward: bring enthusiastic students, no more than two from any one country, invite a host of dedicated and diverse researchers to present lectures, and put everyone together for four weeks of the Italian summer. The inspiration provided by the Schools can be measured by their alumni, with 85% having continued into careers in the field.

Schools of the past have covered topics from galaxy evolution to astrobiology. This eleventh VOSS focussed on the rapidly expanding branches of astronomy devoted to the planets of distant stars and to brown dwarfs, the strange dim objects that have masses less than stars yet are much larger than planets. Twenty-seven students from twenty-two countries were selected from some two hundred applicants. I was the only student from Australasia, and am currently undertaking a B.Sc. with Combined Honours in Astronomy and Geology at the University of Canterbury.

The School had an interesting beginning. On the first day we were given a private audience with the Pope. After time in St Peter’s Basilica, we were ushered through the halls of the Vatican City to the audience chamber, with its ceiling of solid gold leaf. In contrast, normal daily business at the School began with morning lectures by two of the four lecturing faculty from 8.30 am until close to noon. Two of the students then each presented a twenty-minute talk on their home institution and their personal research. I presented my Honours project, on polygonal patterned ground and ancient buried ice on Mars and in Antarctica. This planetary science project fitted well within our wide range of astronomical research areas and the topics presented by our lecturers. Data reduction and literature research labs after lunch through the afternoon each extended over several weeks for our four-person work teams. They included analysis of a spectrum of the brown dwarf Kelu-1 taken by the Keck telescope in Hawaii, photometry of a star field observed by the VLT in Chile to find the transit of a planet, and analysis of the known population of nearly 250 extrasolar planets, for differences between single-planet and multiple-planet systems. The evening lecture at 7.30 pm would be followed by dinner with the guest lecturer of the evening for some of the students. These lecturers ranged from the head of the European Southern Observatory to the principal investigator for one of the instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Weekends involved field trips: to the archaeological site at the Roman port of Ostia Antica, to Rome, and a major one to Florence. There we visited the Galileo Galilei Institute for Astronomy to see their adaptive optics research, and the nearby restored villa where Galileo lived. The Institute hopes to soon use it as a conference centre and guest house for visiting astronomers. Galileo’s telescopes are in the Museum of Science in the city, and after viewing these beautifully crafted, surprisingly small reminders of where astronomy began, we were able to see some of the cultural and artistic treasures of Florence, including the Duomo and Michelangelo’s David.

This School was a wonderful experience. On a personal level, meeting researchers from Europe and America has given me a much better concept of the possibilities available overseas for postgraduate study in astronomy. The twenty-six other students of the School have now all returned to their homes, but we will always be united by our friendships and our memories.


The 17th International Vacuum Congress 2007
Stockholm, Sweden, 2–6 July 2007

David McCarthy
PhD student, Physics and Astronomy Dept, University of Canterbury

I am working with Dr Simon Brown on the growth of thin semi-metallic films. Our work involves the deposition of atomic vapour (analogous to water vapour, but consisting of metal atoms) onto inert substrates. The vapour spontaneously arranges on the substrate surface into structures (1-2nm tall) which are somewhat unique to the materials used. The formation of these structures can be influenced by changes in the growth conditions (i.e. substrate temperature, or vapour pressure), and an analysis of these controlled changes leads to a better understanding of the mechanisms of structure growth. Our aim is to understand the growth kinetics behind the observed structures, providing answers as to why they have such unexpected morphologies.

The 17th International Vacuum Congress 2007 was held in conjunction with a number of other vacuum science related conferences. The event was an opportunity for a large number of researchers to meet and listen to a broad selection of topics, all relating to recent advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Approximately two thousand delegates attended, and with sixteen parallel sessions it was easy to find plenty of interesting presentations to attend. On occasions some scampering between theatres was required at a talk’s conclusion just to make it to the start of another, Europeans are very strict about timekeeping!

My presentation was allotted with similar thin-film growth and analysis talks, and was scheduled for the Friday morning after the conference dinner. Fortunately attendance didn’t suffer too much due to the previous night’s festivities, with only a few of the delegates looking bleary eyed. The work I presented involved some of our results using computer simulations to model our thin-film growth. Computer programs are widely used to model nano-scale growth, as they provide a means of testing theory with experiment. Our results indicate that the rod like objects result from mismatched rates of material transport around the tips of the rods.

Conference attendance is a valuable experience for any researcher, as it provides an opportunity to hear in detail the work undertaken by scientists from around the world, who have similar interests. Therefore I must express much thanks to the RSNZ, Canterbury Branch, for the funding they provided.


Statphys 23
Genova, Italy, 9–13 July 2007

Mike Lee
PhD student, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

Mike LeeThe 23rd Statphys conference brought together 1300 researchers of statistical physics and its applications. In scope, the week-long event encompassed traditional topics, such as critical phenomena and non-equilibrium systems, as well as including emerging interdisciplinary fields and biologically motivated problems. One major area of discussion was in contemporary algorithm design for the study of networks and it was to this aspect of the conference that we were able to contribute.

Reflecting this current era of mass transit and mass communications, the study of strongly connected networks has become a rapidly growing and increasingly important area of research. It so happens that the methods of statistical physics, particularly Monte Carlo simulation and percolation models, turn out to be very useful approaches toward understanding these systems. Many studies attempt to characterise these networks in terms of a small number of numerical parameters that are often calculated as the average value of some observable quantity sampled from within some region of network configuration space. The precision of such studies is limited, as always, by the amount of data that can be gathered.

By adapting and extending some methods from computer science it has been possible to develop a more efficient means of obtaining this data. This new technique allows the system under study to evolve naturally while maintaining it at all times within a relatively small region of interest from which the most useful data is sourced. This significantly improves upon earlier methods which waste large amounts of computer time sampling data that does not usefully contribute to the final result. The much greater efficiency of the new method corresponds to reduced simulation times and more accurate results.

A travel award from the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch made it possible to give a poster presentation of this technique to the diverse international audience present at Statphys. Representatives of several institutions have expressed interest in adopting the technique to assist with their own research programs. The opportunity was also taken to present some high precision results in the field of percolation that were obtained using the technique upon the University of Canterbury Super-Computer. These also found an interested audience at the conference.

From a personal perspective, the chance to attend Statphys was a much sought after opportunity to meet in person with pre-eminent researchers in my field and others with whom I had, up until that point, only written correspondence. The conference has also been a fertile source of ideas for future research and an instigator of some possible collaborations. I wish to express my gratitude to the Canterbury Branch for making this possible.


The Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
St. Louis, USA, July 11–16, 2007

Antoine Fouquet
PhD student, Molecular Ecology Laboratory, University of Canterbury

Amazonia-Guianan frogA total of 1,054 experts from the American Elasmobranch Society, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, and Herpetologists' League convened at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis (MO) USA. Participants attended from 26 countries around the globe, and included 525 professionals and 529 students.

It was very interesting for me to have the opportunity to give a talk about a part of my research on the diversity of Amazonian frogs at this event. Amphibians are vanishing from all the world’s ecosystems with unprecedented speed. These extinctions pose a major issue for the conservation of amphibian biodiversity as species discovery often lags extinction. The problem is that frog species are highly endemic, often morphologically cryptic and predominantly nocturnal. Currently, 6011 frog species are recognized, but the number of frog species is likely to be strongly underestimated.

Tropical America hosts the richest diversity of amphibians on earth but large areas of the Amazonian forest are still poorly studied. The Guiana Shield, which harbours the largest continuous tract of virgin tropical rainforest on Earth, is one of the most poorly studied. This region comprises French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, eastern Venezuela and northern Brazil with the states of Amapà, Parà, Amazonas and Roraima. It is supposed to contain a remarkable amount of biotic history.

We developed a rapid approach to obtain a minimum estimate of the number of species of frogs occurring in Amazonia-Guianas, although the general approach could be applied to species elsewhere. For this work we used a combination of newly acquired and published 16SrDNA sequences to produce a dataset comprised of >500 sequences representing 60 different species that we subsequently analysed to delineate the phylogenetically distinct lineages. Using this framework we then applied geographic and genetic distance-based approaches to identify threshold values for the identification of candidate species among these frogs.

The results we have obtained concerning the level of cryptic diversity in Amazonia-Guianan frogs are striking, with the number of species identified in our analyses more than two-fold greater than the 60 species originally described by morphology. Such an underestimation of amphibian diversity, which we have reason to believe is typical, has broad implications for the management of biodiversity in the Neotropics with the global amphibian decline likely to be even worse than so far realised.

This talk received great interest and it was very constructive to discuss these results with experts in this field. I also learnt a lot by attending numerous talks and developing many contacts that will aid my future work in my chosen field. I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand, Canterbury Branch for providing me with a travel grant to support my attendance at this conference. Your support played an important part in my being able to attend this exceptional meeting and I thanks you again for the opportunity you provided.


53rd International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICMST 2007)
Beijing, China 5–10 August, 2007

Jin Han
MSc student, Food and Wine Sciences Group, Agriculture and Life Sciences Division, Lincoln University

Jin HanWith the great financial support from Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch, I was fortunate to be able to attend the 53rd ICMST 2007 conference. Two papers and two posters from my MSc (Master of Science) research work in Lincoln University were published and presented at the conference. They are: 1. Analysis of volatile compounds in lamb muscles infused with kiwifruit juice; 2. Effects of kiwifruit juice and water pre-rigor infusion on lamb quality.

The theme for the 53rd ICMST 2007 is “Chance, Innovation and Challenge”. A broad range of newest research topics on meat science were covered and discussed during the conference. Some of the world's most prestigious meat scientists presented their latest research findings.

As we all know, meat tenderness, texture and cooked meat flavour are of utmost important influential palatability traits affecting consumers’ acceptance of meat. Maintaining the consistency of meat tenderness in order to cater for the consumers’ needs becomes a major concern and challenge to the red meat industry worldwide. Currently several enzymes and ions such as papain, calcium chloride, etc… have been studied to accelerate meat tenderisation through injection, marination or infusion treatment. In our research, we investigated the lamb meat quality after pre-rigor infusion of kiwifruit fresh juice which contains actinidin (a cysteine protease) and several anti-oxidants that might play the important roles to the overall lamb quality improvements.

I am grateful to extend my thanks to the scientists who showed their interest and shared their thoughts about my papers and posters in the conference. Their valuable comments did provide me with a lot of new information, and absolutely enriched the writing of my thesis. Being as a participant, I had a strong feeling that we, all the meat research people around the world were having an annual family reunion party during the conference days. Finally, I am thankful to the RSNZ Canterbury Branch for helping me attend the 53rd ICMST 2007 conference.


The 9th meeting on the Biology of Spermatozoa
Losehill, Peak District National Park, England 14–18 September 2007

Patrice Rosengrave
PhD Student, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury

Patrice RosengraveI am due to finish up my research in March 2008. Thanks to the funding provided to me by the Canterbury branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand I was able to attend the 9th meeting on the Biology of Spermatozoa. The conference was held at Losehill in the beautiful Peak District National Park, England. This conference was organised by Tim Birkhead and Harry Moore from the University of Sheffield. This meeting is held every two years and brings together scientists interested in sperm function and form, sperm quality, along with aspects relating to sperm competition and sperm choice. This conference was my first international overseas conference that I have had the opportunity to attend during my PhD, and at this conference I was able to give a presentation entitled “Ovarian fluid – a mechanism for cryptic female choice in New Zealand Chinook salmon”. Cryptic female choice is defined as mate choice that occurs after mating or spawning, and in Chinook salmon, this fluid may act as a mechanism for cryptic female choice by altering sperm function and ultimately male fertilisation success. Ovarian fluid is secreted with the egg batch when the female releases her eggs into the aquatic environment, and we have discovered that sperm behave differently when they encounter this fluid. For example, sperm swim quicker, live longer and even the swimming pattern is altered. This fluid may have a dramatic effect on sperm function as many sperm race against each other in aim to get to the egg first to fertilise the egg. Little research has been done looking at the potential mechanism of cryptic female choice in an external fertilising species such as New Zealand Chinook salmon, so I was excited to be given the opportunity to present our research. The presentation I gave was 15 minutes long and then presenters were allocated 15 minutes for question time. This allowed for fellow sperm biology researchers to ask in-depth questions regarding my research which stimulated a great deal of discussion and positive feedback. This was certainly a highlight for me. This conference was attended by around 70 scientists, which allowed for a friendly and supportive environment which encouraged open and frank discussion regarding many aspects relating to sperm biology and future collaborations. I am extremely grateful to the Canterbury branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand for providing me with the opportunity to attend this conference that was very pertinent to my research, and will undoubtedly be of great benefit to me in the future as I embark on my science career.


The IXth Torino Workshop
Perugia, Italy, October 22–26, 2007

Clare Worley
PhD student, Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Canterbury

Clare Worley and Liz Wylie in some of the underground passages of the medieval town on the tour of PerugiaI attended the ‘IXth Torino Workshop 2007 on the Evolution & Nucleosynthesis of AGB Stars’ held in Perugia, Italy. This workshop related directly to my current PhD research and gave me the opportunity to learn from some of the key researchers in my field.

Workshop Programme: The Workshop was broken down into nine sessions each with a particular research focus. I attended all the sessions though the ones of most interest were; AGB Stars in Clusters and Stellar Populations: Models and Observations; Nucleosynthesis Computations for AGB Stars; and Stellar Spectroscopy: Tests of AGB Nucleosynthesis. I presented my work in this last session and received useful feedback from several of the attendees.

Workshop Attendees: There were approximately 60 researchers attending the workshop and this made for lively discussion during the presentations. I made very useful connections with AGB researchers such as Marco Pignatari from the Astrophysics Group at the University of Keele and Innes Ivans from Princeton University Observatory. Also I met again with David Yong and Liz Wylie from the Australian National University, John Lattanzio from Monash University and Pilar Gil-Pons from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya. The wealth of knowledge of the attendees made this a unique opportunity to expand my own knowledge of AGB research.

Social Events: The Italians were fantastic hosts and they took the opportunity to showcase the local history and cuisine. A local historian took us on a tour of the old town of Perugia, a medieval town built on top of a hill surrounded by a fortified wall. The Workshop dinner was preceded by tours of local wine and olive oil museums.

The Xth Torino Workshop 2010: An important decision at any workshop or conference is where to hold the next one. My supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Peter Cottrell, gave me and Canterbury graduate, Dr Liz Wylie, instructions to campaign to hold the next workshop in Christchurch. This suggestion was met with a lot of enthusiasm by the attendees and we settled on January 2010 for the Xth Torino Workshop to be held in New Zealand. This was an excellent outcome from the workshop and gives us a chance to showcase the University of Canterbury, the city of Christchurch and New Zealand as a whole.

It was a wonderful and rewarding opportunity for me to attend the IXth Torino Workshop 2007. I gained a great deal of knowledge and insight, and made important acquaintances during this experience. At this stage in my work it is important for me to begin to establish myself in the research community and this is most effectively done at face-to-face meetings such as the Torino Workshops. I am very grateful to the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand for providing financial support which enabled me to attend the workshop. It was a rewarding experience that will be very beneficial to me for my current research and future career.

Photo: Clare Worley (left) and Liz Wylie (right) in some of the underground passages of the medieval town on the tour of Perugia.


The Engineering and Physical Sciences in Medicine and The Australian Biomedical Engineering Conference (epsm-abec 07)
Fremantle, Australia, 14–18 October 2007

Latoya Flewellen
PhD student, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

Latoya FlewellenIt was my privilege to present a talk on my current MSc thesis topic, undertaken at the University of Canterbury. My thesis lies within the subject area of radiation biology and aims to investigate whether adding mild hyperthermia to ionising radiation increases the overall cell-kill in leukaemia cells. The main motivation for this project comes from the current lengthy list of side effects that can develop in patients who are subjected to total body irradiation in order to prepare them for a bone marrow transplant. A couple of examples of these are the development of cataracts, endocrine dysfunction (usually in children) and sterility. In radiation therapy, one always aims to reduce the radiation dose to normal healthy tissues but in the case of leukaemia that presents itself throughout the entire body this is very hard to do. It was postulated that by adding whole body mild hyperthermia to total body irradiation the overall radiation dose could be reduced without compromising the treatment. To investigate this idea, very basic in vitro experiments have been carried out in order to gain a fundamental understanding whether it is indeed beneficial to add mild hyperthermia to ionising radiation. The initial results that were presented at this conference are unfortunately inconclusive due to the amount of noise in the data. Most of our experiments are to be repeated to initially reduce this noise and thus obtain statistics to show if there is a beneficial response from this ‘combined treatment’ or not. A model that describes the synergism (if it exists) between mild hyperthermia and ionising radiation is to be constructed and tested. Attendance at this conference provided me with the opportunity to present this research to leading academics in similar fields and has greatly increased my own professional development. My research presentation was well received and has resulted in vital contacts with academics around the globe.

The research presented at the conference ranged from: computer aided diagnosis of cancer in Radiology, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy to clinical bioengineering and its applications, a very interesting and diverse programme.

I would like to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand Canterbury Branch for their support, without it, my attendance would not have been feasible.


The American Society of Human Genetics 57th annual meeting
San Diego, USA, October 23–27, 2007

Campbell Sheen
PhD student, Molecular Pathology laboratory, University of Otago Christchurch

This event was attended by approximately 6000 delegates from around the world despite wildfires burning throughout San Diego County for the duration of the conference. Almost 300 oral and 2300 poster presentations were made during the meeting and most I attended were of a very high standard.

Several of the oral presentations were relevant to my work and will assist me in writing my PhD thesis. These included sessions on genomic deletions, gene dosage, submicroscopic rearrangements and regulatory element discovery and function. Further, I was able to meet people during the poster presentations who were doing similar work to my own.

A session of great interest to me, as a final year PhD student at the University of Otago, Christchurch, was the Trainee-Mentor luncheon. This was an informal event where a group of post-graduate students dined with some of the most prolific and talented scientists in the field of human genetics, talking about various topics of interest to early career investigators. We spent this time discussing various career paths for PhD graduates, expectations for post-doctoral work and the intricacies of writing grants. I was also able to discuss the similarities and differences of postgraduate research around the world with the other students in my group.

On the fourth day of the meeting, I presented my research in the form of a poster entitled “Twin complex rearrangements of Xq28 caused by distinct break-induced replication in haemophilia A”. This poster described a discovery of a complex mutation in a local haemophilia A patient. Molecular analysis of this rearrangement led to discovery of a novel mechanism of mutation formation. The poster was well received and I had some interesting conversations relating to my work. During this poster session I met a researcher from Naples, Italy, with whom I have established a collaboration to further study an aspect of my work.

Overall, I found the meeting was a great learning experience and allowed me to meet some top researchers from around the world. I greatly appreciate the support of the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand for helping me to attend this event.


The 8th Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference 2007
Brisbane, 2–7 December 2007

Sam Brown
Masters student, Lincoln University

Sam BrownHello! I am Sam Brown, a Masters student at Lincoln University. My thesis research is investigating the taxonomy and population genetics of Carpophilus (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae). These beetles are found all over the world, but I am limiting my study to the species of the South Pacific. Both adults and larvae feed on rotting fruit and vegetables, and can achieve pest status in some crops such as stone fruit. They are commonly found in shipments of stored products and fresh produce, which makes them a biosecurity risk for New Zealand. My study aims to clarify the systematic status of relevant species to enable them to be more accurately identified in support of appropriate biosecurity decisions.

I was fortunate enough to receive a Canterbury RSNZ grant that allowed me to present a poster at the 8th Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference held in Brisbane over 2-7 December 2007. This conference has a strong focus on taxonomy and systematics, and this particular year had an emphasis on the South Pacific, especially New Caledonia. As such it represented an ideal opportunity to both ‘advertise’ my research to scientists that would be particularly interested in this topic and also allow me to meet experienced researchers actively involved in invertebrate taxonomy and systematics in Australia and the Pacific. While I am still in the early stages of my research, I was able to present a poster on the goals of my research and on a collection kit I have developed to allow people to collect insect specimens for me. Difficulty in obtaining specimens is a common problem for researchers working with South Pacific fauna and so coming up with an easy-to-use kit for others has been a way to overcome this.

I greatly enjoyed my time at the conference and hearing about a wide range of research over a very broad range of invertebrate phyla. Of most interest was the discussion of New Caledonian invertebrates and their biogeography, and learning of new tools and techniques for systematic research. It was also really great to get to know many students and scientists from Australia and the Pacific. I was able to tell people about my research, organise specimen collections, and become encouraged about the importance of taxonomic study and the opportunities for taxonomic research in Australia. I feel that I have become more enthusiastic about systematics and taxonomy as a result of attending this conference. If anyone has any questions about my research, or about the conference itself, feel free to email:

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