Distinguished researcher heads eminent line-up

Otago School of Medical Sciences' award recipients gathering at the Hunter Centre after receiving their awards are (foreground) Associate Prof Tony Merriman (left) and Associate Prof Frank Griffin; back row (from left) Ross Marshall-Seeley, Amanda Wyatt, Dr Christine Jasoni, Dr Anita Dunbier, Prof Parry Guilford, Ellena Whelan, Catherine McCaughan, Prof Ian McLennan, Dr Judith Bateup, Robyn Lee (worked with recipient, but not a winner) and Dr Richard Macknight. Photo by Linda Robertson.A researcher in the area of chronic metabolic diseases, including diabetes, has won the Otago School of Medical Sciences' top award.

Associate Prof Tony Merriman, whose recent work included finding a new way sugary drinks increased the risks of developing gout, was last week named the school's distinguished researcher of the year.

Prof Merriman's research focuses on the genetic basis of chronic metabolic diseases including diabetes, gout and arthritis.

He has been a key leader in the widespread application of genetic analysis to these conditions in New Zealand and has received accolades from external organisations, including the ''Best Science Paper'' award from the Australian Rheumatology Association last year.

He has been a principal investigator on research grants totalling nearly $14 million.

Prof Merriman said receiving the award was nice, but being able to carry out the research he did was reward enough.

''I quite enjoy research, so I consider myself lucky to be paid for what I really enjoy to do,'' he said.

The reward also acknowledged the work of his collaborators, support staff and research participants, he said.

Prof Frank Griffin, who has led a research team devoted to solving animal health problems in the deer industry and also held leading positions in the school, was given the ''prestige'' award for service to the school.

Like Prof Merriman, Prof Griffin said being able to do what he loved was reward enough.

Being recognised by your peer group was a special accolade, because they were the people you had worked with for a long time, he said.

''It has been an absolute joy to work in such a collegial environment. I would happily work at the university for no money, if one could afford to,'' Prof Griffin said.

He believed he had taught about 70,000 students in the more than 40 years he had been at the university.

The other recipients were. - Prof Parry Guilford (commercial research award), Dr Anita Dunbier (emerging researcher award), Dr Christine Jasoni (distinguished academic teacher), Dr Judith Bateup (distinguished teaching fellow), Amanda Wyatt (research support staff award), Ross Marshall-Seeley (distinguished research support staff award), Ellena Whelan (sustained research support staff award), Catherine McCaughan (sustained research support staff award), Prof Ian McLennan (excellence in postgraduate supervision) and Dr Richard Macknight (best paper award).