Newsmaker: Katherine Challis

This week’s Newsmaker is Dr Katharine Challis, a Rotorua scientist who has just been awarded a $300,000 Marsden Fund grant to study how cells generate energy.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a busy mum to a 3-year-old and a nearly 3-month-old. I work at Scion part time and enjoy the outdoors when I can.

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Marsden funding boosts molecular motors research

Scion scientist Katharine Challis has been awarded a Marsden Fast Start grant to explore how tiny molecular motors use energy.

Dr Challis, a theoretical physicist working in Scion’s bioenergy and biofuels team, says that the ‘motors’ within biological systems (including cells) are far more efficient than industrial processes and finding out how these nano-motors work may have major implications for the future of bioenergy.

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Research to enhance fertility of New Zealand dairy cows

A Victoria University of Wellington researcher is aiming to discover why some dairy cows are less fertile than others and how to overcome the disparity.

An expert in the field of reproductive biology, Dr Janet Pitman from Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences, says dairy cows worldwide have become less fertile—partly due to farmers selecting cows for high yields of milk. “This creates a population of cows that use much of their energy to produce milk, with the consequence that less energy is directed towards fertility.”

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Genetically modified crops: an open letter to Europe

More than twenty of Europe’s most prominent plant scientists today signed a joint letter warning that Europe will never meet agricultural targets unless it starts allowing GM crops.

“We all depend on plants for providing us with food, building material, textiles, medicine and fuel. Among the greatest challenges facing mankind are the provision of healthy and nutritious food, feed and fuel to a burgeoning population using agricultural and forestry practices that are environmentally and economically sustainable. Thanks to basic research on plants, we now understand well how plants grow, how they protect themselves against disease and environmental stress, and what factors limit production in agriculture and forestry.

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$56m in Marsden funding for top NZ researchers

New Zealand’s top researchers will receive $56 million in Marsden Fund grants over the next three years as a result of funding decisions announced today, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says.

101 programmes have been approved in this year’s funding round and include projects on robotics as therapy for cerebral palsy, using Google balloons to probe weather systems, why heart failure is common in diabetics, and fine-scale imaging of the Alpine Fault zone.

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Lanzatech, Indian researchers develop new way of producing omega-3 fatty acids

LanzaTech, the New Zealand-founded carbon recycling company, and a research team from India’s IOC-DBT Center for Advanced Bio-Energy Research have developed a way of using carbon dioxide emissions to produce omega-3 rich fatty acids.

Omega-3 oils have become a multi-billion-dollar business because of their nutritional benefits, sold in capsule form, although they are most commonly consumed through eating oily fish.

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Marsden funding boosts molecular motors research

Scion scientist Katharine Challis has been awarded a Marsden Fast Start grant to explore how tiny molecular motors use energy.

Dr Challis, a theoretical physicist working in Scion’s bioenergy and biofuels team, says that the ‘motors’ within biological systems (including cells) are far more efficient than industrial processes and finding out how these nano-motors work may have major implications for the future of bioenergy.

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U.S. jockeys with China over GMO crop issues

With U.S. approval for Dow AgroSciences’ package of chemicals and new genetically engineered crops now in hand, the Dow Chemical Co unit faces a major obstacle to a $1 billion market opportunity: Chinese import barriers.

The Asian nation has become a major buyer of U.S. corn and soybeans in recent years, but has also shown mounting reluctance to accept some genetically modified crops grown by U.S. farmers. China for the last year has been rejecting U.S. corn shipments containing traces of a type of GMO corn developed by Syngenta AG .

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HSBC funding biofuel

EUROPEAN banking giant HSBC has added its support to a biofuel development partnership run by Virgin Atlantic and LanzaTech, which is also supported by Boeing. The organisations are working to produce jet fuel from waste gases captured from industrial steel production, which are then fermented & chemically converted into sustainable aviation fuel. VS and LanzaTech have been working on the project for three years, with test flights expected within the next year. Virgin Atlantic president Richard Branson said HSBC’s support will help getting fuel certified for use.

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Dr Joshua Freeman: Trade deal needs urgent check up

New drugs and medical procedures undergo careful scrutiny before being foisted on the public. Nobody wants another Thalidomide disaster.

The same scrutiny is needed for changes to systems that underpin health. This is why a broad coalition of New Zealand health organisations is calling for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to have an urgent health check.

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