The University of Otago’s newest award-winning early-career researcher Dr Anna Gosling says a Māori proverb – “ka mura, ka muri” (we walk backwards into the future) – is a focus for her work.
Hot on the heels of news earlier this month that her research team received a $3 million Marsden Fund Award, Dr Gosling has today been awarded a Rutherford Foundation postdoctoral fellowship to investigate genetic predisposition to metabolic diseases like diabetes and gout among Pacific people.
She is one of ten early-career researchers in New Zealand to receive the award from the Royal Society Te Apārangi.
Needless to say she is excited about her success. “It’s been quite an unreal couple of weeks to be honest.
“It is a challenging environment for early career researchers, and awards like this are much sought after. The fellowship will help establish me as an independent researcher.”
Dr Gosling works in the field of molecular anthropology, where she uses molecules (DNA) to study humans and variations in DNA.
“I got into this field somewhat by chance, having studied a Bachelor of Biomedical Science in immunity and infection, alongside a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in archaeology. I was driven to see how I could make these two fields work together and it turns out that understanding the past is pretty vital for our understanding of the world around us today. As the proverb says, “ka mura, ka muri” (we walk backwards into the future).”
Studying a Master’s of Science under Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith and continuing similar work into a PhD with both her and Professor Tony Merriman, Dr Gosling began investigating the evolutionary origins of metabolic disease.
The current project she has received both Marsden Funding and the Fellowship for, integrates both the molecular anthropological approaches of looking at human migration, adaptation to environments, along with the medical genetics of understanding which genetic loci are contributing to disease.
“Metabolic disease is a serious problem in the Pacific and is often accompanied with a sense of shame or self-blame in those who suffer from it. The work that we do may help to lift some of this stigma around the assumption that diseases like Type 2 diabetes and gout are related to a Westernised diet and lifestyle,” Dr Gosling says.
“This particular project involves fieldwork to other parts of the Pacific and this allows me to get out of the lab and actually meet and talk to people. This makes the potential impact of this work so much more real – diseases like gout have a significant impact on people’s lives.”
The Rutherford Foundation Fellowships seek to build human capability in research, science and technology, including social sciences and the humanities. The funding opportunities support early-career researchers who demonstrate a passion for research and have a strong sense of the purpose and benefits of research to Aotearoa.