Two SBS staff promoted to Professor

16 April 2014
Mike Pearson-265px
Professor Mike Pearson

The School of Biological Sciences has two new professors – Mike Pearson, a plant pathologist with a specific interest in viruses, and Richard Newcomb, of the Joint Graduate School in Plant & Food Science.

SBS held a celebration on April 9 for the two new professors and three new Associate Professors, microbiologist Silas Villas-Boas, structural biologist Shaun Lott and biochemist Kerry Loomes.

Professor Pearson says that while promotion is a great personal honour – it “is recognition by your peers, both nationally and internationally, that you have made a significant contribution to your field of study” – it’s also important to recognise that many other people contribute to that achievement.”

He adds, “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with many dedicated and generous collaborators, both in New Zealand and overseas. So while I take great satisfaction from this promotion, it’s also with a sense of gratitude to the many other people who have made it possible.”

FOR SBS NEWS PAGE new professors Richard Newcomb
Professor Richard Newcomb

Professor Newcomb, who divides his time between the Joint Graduate School in Plant & Food Science and Plant & Food Research, a Crown Research Institute (CRI), echoes Prof Pearson’s words, and says he is “humbled” by the promotion. He adds, “More specifically, being promoted to professor as a fractional appointment with a CRI demonstrates, I believe, that it is possible to co-exist in both these worlds successfully.”

Associate Professor Silas Villas-Boas says promotion makes him feel “rewarded” and motivated to do the very best he can. “It makes me feel very proud to be part of this university.” He is grateful to former SBS head Professor Joerg Kistler and current head Professor Gillian Lewis “for their continuous support” and to Dr Judith O’Brien, Deputy Director (Academic) and Honorary Research Associate Rosemary Bellamy “for being such excellent mentors on the teaching side of my career”.

Associate Professor Lott, who is on research and study leave in the United states, says that such a promotion feels like recognition and validation of the work his lab has been undertaking. “Promotions don't happen without productive research, and research doesn't happen without the hard work of students and post-doctoral fellows. So I really do see this as the recognition of a lot of team effort.”

Associate Professor Loomes says that when he was asked to describe what promotion means to him, he couldn’t quite find the words and asked his 11-year daughter to draw a picture of what she thought the promotion means to her dad. The result was called “pink fluffy unicorns” and showed a smiling pink unicorn dancing on a rainbow. Symbolism? “It appears to be some sort of interaction between an imaginary symbol of purity and a tangible but unreachable feature of nature,” says Associate Professor Loomes. “I’m still musing on the significance of the colour combinations.”