Joint New Zealand and Australia Meeting of Humboldt Fellows, Wellington November 2017

A short update on the biennial joint meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Associations of Alexander von Humboldt Fellows which will take place in Wellington in November 2017.

Here is the critical information.
Start: 3pm Friday, November 17, 2017
End: 2pm Sunday, November 19, 2017
Location of meeting: Royal Society of NZ Building, Wellington

In February 2017 we filed an application with the Humboldt Foundation, Bonn, to help cover some of the related costs. Listed in that application are details of approximately 80 Humboldtians from Australia and New Zealand who completed “Expression Of Interest” forms.  We expect to get initial feedback on the application in May 2017.

Registration for the meeting will open in July for a period of about two months. Registration is open to all Humboldtians, it is *not* limited to those who completed EOI forms. We are currently engaged in discussion with a few hotels in Wellington to make rooms available for participants. Details will be available on the conference website once registration opens.

We will update you once registration opens. We look forward to you joining us for what we hope will be an excellent meeting.

Eamonn O’Brien, University of Auckland;  Email:

Chair, Organising Committee


New Awards by Humboldt Foundation

Professor Rod Downey from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at VUW received a Humboldt Research Award to conduct research at the University of Heidelberg. Downey works at the interface of computer science and mathematics. His works seeks to understand what parts of mathematics can be made computable, and if so, how computable it is in terms of computational complexity. He developed a branch of complexity theory called parameterized complexity which uses bounds on parameters to explore efficiency, and has more recently been involved in algorithmic information theory, and effective algebra. See

Prof. Kathy Lüdge has been awarded a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers. Her hosts during her 11 month stay at the University of Auckland are Prof. John Harvey from the Physics Department and Prof. Bernd Krauskopf from the Mathematics Department. While in Auckland she is working on the theoretical understanding and bifurcation analysis of coupled mode-locked lasers which are integrated semiconductor lasers with absorbing and amplifying sections. The goal is to predict optimal  operation regimes for regular optical pulse trains, i.e. pulse trains with small timing jitter as needed for example for optical data communication. The project is separated into three main parts which are traditionally established in three different communities: mathematical bifurcation analysis, numerical modelling of photonic devices, and experimental photonics.

In November 2016, Dr Reece Miller from the University of Otago was awarded a Research Fellowship to work with Professor Nils Metzler-Nolte at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. During his PhD, Reece investigated inorganic complexes capable of electrochemical and/or magnetic switching. At Bochum, he plans to apply these skills in the development of electrochemically activated antimicrobial agents in an attempt to counter antibiotic resistance.

In February 2016, Prof. Nicolas Cullen from the University of Otago
received a  Humboldt  Research Fellowship for Experienced Research to conduct research with Professor Thomas Mölg at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg. The aim of the research is to determine the physical processes governing glacier advance and retreat in the Southern Alps (the effect and “local footprint”) by revealing how modes of climate variability (the cause) impact weather and climate over a hierarchy of space-time scales.

In February 2016, three Feoder Lynen Fellows joined the CTCP at Massey University: Dr. Paul Jerabek from the Philipps University of Marburg, Dr. Jan Mewes from the University of Heidelberg, both collaborating with Prof. Peter Schwerdtfeger, and Dr. Thomas Engl from the University of Regensburg collaborating with Prof. Sergej Flach.

Joint New Zealand and Australia Meeting of Humboldt Fellows, Wellington November 2017

The next biennial joint meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Associations of Alexander von Humboldt Fellows will take place in Wellington in November 2017.

Here is the critical information.
Start: Friday evening, November 17, 2017
End: Sunday lunch time, November 19, 2017
Location of meeting: Royal Society of NZ Building, Wellington

The meeting will have a broad theme, covering both humanities and sciences, and will provide opportunities for invited and contributed lectures by Humboldtians and others.

We hope to provide some financial support for Research Fellows, Feoder Lynen Fellows and Humboldt Research Award recipients to take part in the meeting; the quantity of such funding will depend on the outcome of an application early in 2017 to the Humboldt Foundation.

The success of the application will depend on the number of Humboldtians who participate in the meeting. We need your input now to make a successful application, so please complete and return this Expression of Interest form to  me.

We look forward to you joining us for what we hope will be an excellent meeting.

Eamonn O’Brien, University of Auckland


Chair, Organising Committee


Public lecture by Prof Helmut Schwarz, President of the Humboldt Foundation

Professor Helmut Schwarz, President of the Humboldt Foundation, delivered the 2016   Sir Neil Waters Public Lecture in the School of Business at Massey University, Albany Campus, on Wednesday 10th of February. His lecture to an audience of 60 was entitled
“The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge: on the Vital Role of Basic Research in Preserving Societies’ Dreams and Aspirations.”

The lecture was very well received and provoked a lively discussion and large number of questions and comments from the audience.

Professor Schwarz took the opportunity to honour Distinguished Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger (pictured below left) of Massey University (a recent Rutherford Medal winner and Humboldt prize winner) on his 60th birthday and paid tribute to the tremendous contribution Peter has made to New Zealand and international scientific research.


New Research and Feoder Lynen Fellows announced

Dr Tobias Rossmann (left) has been awarded a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship for Post-doctoral Researchers. His host during his 18 month stay at the University of Auckland will be Prof. Eamonn O’Brien. Following the completion of his PhD in Mathematics at the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2011, Tobias has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at Bielefeld University. His work is concerned with asymptotic and computational algebra. While in Auckland, he will work on enumerative problems surrounding infinite nilpotent and finite p-groups as well as conjectural connections with commutative algebra.
Dr Kelly Wade (right) from the  University of Auckland was awarded a Research Fellowship to work with Professor Hans-Joachim Wilke in Ulm. During his PhD, Kelly investigated the microstructural and micromechanical properties of the intervertebral disc nucleus, and demonstrated that the nucleus contains a highly structured fibrous network that is well integrated with its surroundings and provides a form of tethered mobility to accommodate the full range of movement associated with spinal function. He has been a research fellow at the University of Auckland since 2013 and has been investigating the biomechanics of disc failure at the microstructural level. The Humboldt Fellowship will enable him to explore the effects of complex postures and cyclic load conditions on the process of disc failure at a more advanced level.

Two New Zealanders among Humboldt Research Awardees

As part of the recent Annual Meeting of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin, a special ceremony was held to confer this year’s Humboldt Research Awardees. At the ceremony, 2 awards were presented to New Zealanders.

Prof Leo Cheng from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute of the University of Auckland, will use his award to work with colleagues at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Automation in Stuttgart on developing methods for non-invasively recording and interpreting the weak electrical and magnetic fields that result from the heart, gastrointestinal smooth muscle and skeletal muscle.

Prof Barry Scott from Massey University’s Institute of Fundamental Sciences is using his award to work with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg on his speciality of plant-microbe symbiosis and understanding how each partner communicates with one another. The plants provide nutrients for the microbe and in return the microbe provides benefit to the plant such as increased growth or protection form insect herbivory. These associations are widespread and in both natural and agricultural ecosystems so it is important to understand how they function.

awardsPhoto: Humboldt-Stiftung/David Ausserhofer

Prof Hemut Schwartz, left, with the New Zealand Humboldt Research Awardees, Prof Leo Cheng and Prof Barry Scott and the President of the NZ Humboldt Association, Dr Andrew Matthews.

Humboldt Research Award to Prof. Barry Scott

Prof. Barry Scott  of the Massey University’s Institute of Fundamental
Sciences in Palmerston North has just been awarded a prestigious
Humboldt  Research Award. The Humboldt Foundation grants up to only
100  Humboldt Research Awards annually. Prof Scott will take up his
award later in 2014 working with Prof Dr Regine Kahmann, at the Max
Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg. Scott Barry

Prof Scott’s research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of
symbiotic interactions between plants and microbes: in particular the
mutualistic symbiotic interaction between the endophyte Epichloe
festucae and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Perennial ryegrass
is the most common grass on New Zealand farms and therefore extremely
important to the dairy, sheep and beef industries. The ryegrass host
provides nutrients for endophyte growth and a means of dissemination
through the seed, whereas the endophyte provides biological protection
to the host. The endophyte colonises the intercellular spaces of the
leaves to form an interconnected hyphal network throughout the aerial
tissues of the grass. Importantly growth of the endophyte is kept in
check by chemical cross talk between the grass host and the fungus.

Using genetic tools, Prof Scott’s group at Massey has identified many
of the key fungal genes required to maintain this symbiotic hyphal
network and shown there is a very fine balance between a beneficial
(mutualistic) and detrimental (pathogenic) interaction. He is now
interested in deciphering how those genes are “wired” within the cell
and what metabolites are exchanged between each partner to maintain a
balanced and beneficial symbiosis. Therefore his focus in Germany,
using the Humboldt Research Award, will be to collaborate with his
host, Dr Regine Kahmann, at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial
Microbiology in Marburg. They will attempt to develop and apply the
tools of proteomics and metabolomics to decipher the fungal-plant
symbiotic code. There will also be involvement in this project from
fellow scientists from Göttingen University, Freiburg University,
Münster University and the Braunschweig University of Technology.


Dr. Paul Oestreicher, first Humboldt Fellow from New Zealand

Dr. Paul  Oestreicher was  born in 1931  in Meiningen,  Thuringen. His
father,  a Jewish  pediatrician, took  his  family into  exile in  New
Zealand in 1939.  Paul has a BA in Politics and German from Otago that
he  completed in  1953  and an  MA  (Hons) in  Politics (Victoria)  in
1955. The  MA Thesis was entitled “History  of Conscientious Objectors
to  World  War II  in  NZ”. His  supervisor  at  Victoria was  General
Kippenburger  who  had lost  both  feet  at  Monte Casino.  The  young
pacifist and the retired general became friends.
ostPresident of the NZ Humboldt Association, Dr Andrew Matthews with  Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher recently in Wellington

Envoy and authorised Minister  of the German Government, Erich Boltze,
established the  German Embassy in New  Zealand in late  1953. He then
quickly  promoted  the  new   Alexander  von  Humboldt  Foundation  to
universities  around  New  Zealand.  When  Paul  Osetreicher’s  father
learned of this opportunity, he  asked Minister Boltze whether his son
might qualify.  Bolzte was unsure but  sent a copy  of Paul’s Master’s
thesis from  Victoria to AvH  in Bonn. Bonn  came back with  the reply
that  had  such  a  thesis  ((book) been  submitted  in  Germany,  the
applicant would have easily qualified for a doctorate. AvH asked where
Paul would like  to study? Having read in Wellington  a copy of Helmut
Gollwitzers’ book “Unwilling journey”, Paul immediately suggested that
he would  like to join Gollwitzer’s  group in the  Theological Dept at
the University  in Bonn.  Gollwitzer was approached  and was  happy to
accept  Oestreicher,  even  without  a  doctorate!  The  problem  was,
however, that Oestreicher had a degree in political science and not in
theology. Fortunately, a flexible Department of Social Science allowed
Paul to enrol with them but to work in the Dept. of Theology.

From Bonn Paul went to England and spent 2 years studying to become an
Anglican priest and as his bio  shows, went on to build an illustrious
career in the peace movement,  including being a founding President of
Amnesty   International  and   then   Director  of   the  Centre   for
International  Reconciliation at  Coventry  Cathedral. He  holds a  DD
(Lambeth), Hon LLD Sussex, Hon DLitt (Coventry) and Hon DD (Otago] and
has  been awarded  the Bundesverdienstkreuz  1. Klasse.  In  1992 Paul
needed a break from the day to day stressof human rights and peace and
approached the  Alexander von Humboldt  Foundation to ask if  he could
claim the  2nd year from the  Fellowship in Bonn in  1955/56, 37 years
later.  The answer  was  certainly  yes. So  in  1992/93, Paul  joined
Prof.  Marquardt at  the Institute  of Religious  Studies at  the Free
University of Berlin working on Church-State relations in the GDR.

Paul  is married  to a  New Zealander,  Prof Barbara  Einhorn,  who is
Emeritus  Professor of  Gender Studies  at the  University  of Sussex,
UK. She  is also a  graduate of the  University of Otago, and  wrote a
doctoral thesis on ‘The Novel in the GDR 1949-1969’. She was awarded a
DAAD scholarship in 1964 and became  one of the first holders from New
Zealand. Paul  was one of the  people who worked to  free Prof Einhorn
when  in 1983  she was  imprisoned  in the  DDR for  her contact  with
Women’s Groups.

As  Emeritus Canon  from Coventry  Cathedral, Paul  and  Barbara split
their year between the UK, Germany and New Zealand.



Humboldt Research Award to Prof. Neil Boister

Prof.  Neil Boister  of the  University of  Waikato’s Law  Faculty was
awarded a prestigious Humboldt  Research Award in February 2014. The Humboldt  Foundation grants up to only 100  Humboldt Research Awards annually. Prof Boister
will take up  his Award in December 2014 working  with Prof Dr Florian
Jessberger in the Faulty of Law at the University of Hamburg.

Boister, Neil

His proposed research project will focus on the role that The European
Union  has  played  in  initiating the  development  of  transnational
criminal law,  the system of international treaties  and domestic laws
designed  to suppress  transnational crime.  A considerable  amount of
research has been done into the  role played in the past by the United
States  in   the  development   of  transnational  criminal   law,  in
identifying threats and developing substantive and procedural criminal
laws  to suppress those  threats, and  then setting  about globalising
those laws  through a  treaty basis. There  has, however,  been little
work done  on the role played  by the European Union  and its agencies
such  as  the  European  Police  Office  (Europol)  and  the  European
Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in  the development of transnational criminal
law.  While  the EU  is  well known  as  a  laboratory for  developing
responses to  crime internally, the EU  has been globally  active in a
range  of  areas  including  anti-money  laundering  and  anti-tobacco
smuggling legislation. It has been pushing the models it has developed
globally and  inevitably states  like New Zealand  are faced  with the
decision  of  whether   to  adapt  their  law  to   in  this  case  EU
model. Broadly  speaking this research  project will thus  examine how
and why the EU has  developed into a ‘transnational norm entrepreneur’
within   transnational  criminal   law,  and   what  this   means  for
transnational criminal law.