Virologist appointed dean of medical sciences

Vernon Ward.
Vernon Ward.
An internationally-respected virologist, Prof Vernon Ward, has been appointed as the next dean of the University of Otago School of Medical Sciences.

Prof Ward (52), who heads the Otago microbiology and immunology department, is excited and proud to be taking up the post on October 1.

''The school is a fairly impressive place; it's got a lot of strengths,'' he said yesterday.

''It can stand up on a world stage.''

''And that they've decided that I'm the person to run it is quite an honour.''

The school comprises five big, research-intensive departments: anatomy, pharmacology and toxicology, physiology, biochemistry and microbiology and immunology.

It undertakes world-class research, ranging from medicine to agriculture, and teaches 2400 equivalent fulltime students, including undergraduate courses in science and health science, and MSc and PhD programmes.

Taking on the job was an exciting challenge, Prof Ward said.

He was looking forward to working with staff to foster the school's ''vibrant and active research culture''.

He was keen to further support academic teamwork and to increase awareness of the school's achievements.

Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said Prof Ward was a ''widely respected biomedical scientist with a strong track record in attracting research funding'' and a highly capable administrator.

Prof Ward said the school had an ''outstanding record'' in attracting more than $20 million in national contestable research each year. Its research ranges from fundamental science to translational and commercial research.

A former co-convener of the university's Virology Research Theme (2000-11), Prof Ward will continue his research programme in his new role.

He gained his BSc (Hons) and PhD from Otago University, graduating with the latter in 1987.

After holding postdoctoral positions at the Institute of Virology, Oxford, England, and the University of California, he joined the Otago department in 1993.

Associate Prof Pat Cragg has been serving as the school's acting dean, since former dean Prof Helen Nicholson was earlier appointed as pro-vice-chancellor, international.