Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund 2023 assessors

Independent assessors appointed by MBIE will assess eligible 2023 Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund proposals against the assessment criteria set out in the 2023 Call for Proposals.

If you are submitting a proposal for the 2023 Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund funding round, check the list of assessors for any potential conflicts of interest. If you identify a potential conflict, email us immediately with the following details so we can reassign assessors if necessary:

  • your application reference
  • your contact phone number
  • the assessor’s name or names
  • the reason for your concern.

You can email us at:



Dr Angela Sharples

Dr Sharples is the Principal at Murupara Area School and a chairperson at the New Zealand International Biology Olympiad. Dr Sharples completed her studies in environmental science at the University of Auckland. Dr Sharples was awarded the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize during her time as Head of Biology at Rotorua Boys’ High School and in the 2022 New Year’s Honours was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.

Dr Barbara Anderson

Dr Anderson currently works at Otago Museum as a Royal Society Rutherford Discovery Fellow, modelling ecological trends based on the museum’s significant insect collection. Dr Anderson leads Ahi Pepe MothNet, a project with a focus on weaving pūtaiao (science), taiao (environment), toi (arts) and te reo Māori together through engagement with moths. Along with connecting teachers, students and wider whānau with nature and science through the study of moths, there are workshops and resources developed to encourage this interaction, such as regional moth guides and instructions for experiments based on moth ecology.

Ms Bianca Woyak

Ms Woyak is Head of Science at Burnside Primary School where she teaches science to all year levels, 1 to 6, specialising in ecology. Ms Woyak was awarded the Te Puiaki Kaiwhaaho Pūtaiao Science Teachers Prize in the 2021 Prime Minister's Science Prizes for her work on engaging students in environmental science activities outside the classroom. She started the Burnside Brings Back Boulder Butterfly project, which engaged students and local experts to recreate boulder copper butterfly habitats and restore butterfly populations.

Dr Dean Peterson

Dr Peterson graduated from Michigan State University with a PhD in Physical Chemistry and spent ten years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory working in the field of Atmospheric Research before being appointed to NASA Headquarters as Co-Program Manager for the Upper Atmosphere Research Program.

Since then, he has worked for Antarctica New Zealand and National Technology Networks, managing the Marsden Fund (the fundamental research fund for the New Zealand government), the James Cook Fellowships, and the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, before joining Te Papa Tongarewa in 2016.

Dr Elspeth MacRae

Dr MacRae has a PhD in Botany and Plant Physiology from the University of Otago. Dr MacRae is part of the Leadership Team for the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge, and is the Theme Leader for the Materials, Manufacturing Processes and Applications portfolio. Dr MacRae was previously the Chief Innovation and Science Officer at Scion in Rotorua.

Dr Gergely Toldi

Dr Toldi’s research primarily focuses on early life development of the immune response and understanding the immunological background of complications affecting preterm and term neonates as well as pregnant women. He also has significant results on the pathomechanism of various autoimmune disorders. He contributed to developing novel flow cytometry based diagnostic and experimental methods. In his clinical role, he works as a Consultant Neonatologist at Starship’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Ms Haritina Mogoşanu

Ms Mogoşanu is the Executive Director of the New Zealand Astrobiology Network Charitable Trust, an organisation that leads astrobiology communication and public events. She is also an Affiliated Research Scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, a non-profit institution in the United States. Ms Mogoşanu previously interned at NASA working in planetary protection. She has also worked at the Ministry for Primary Industries as a Biosecurity Risk Analyst and risk communication subject matter expert, and at Space Place at Carter Observatory as a Senior Science Communicator.

Dr Ian Griffin

Dr Griffin was appointed Director of the Otago Museum in 2013. He has a PhD in Astronomy which was awarded by University College London in 1991. An honorary Research Fellow in Physics at the University of Otago, his research interests include science communication, astronomy and imaging the aurora australis. Dr Griffin has held a variety of leadership roles at cultural institutions in Northern Ireland, England, the USA, and New Zealand. He was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize in 2015 and was elected a Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2019.

Ms Jenny Pollock

Ms Pollock has been a secondary teacher, a former head of Earth and Space Science at Nelson College for Girls and an NZQA as an assessor, and resource developer for the Ministry of Education. Her work also saw the national science curriculum expanded to include ocean and atmosphere studies and earth system science at all levels, which broadened science education throughout the country. Ms Pollock was named a Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2018 and is currently serving on that organisation's Council as a Branch Representative.

Dr John Perrott

Dr Perrott is the Associate Head of School Māori advancement at Auckland University of Technology’s School of Science (Te Arawa). He has a recognised background in science communication, Vision Mātauranga, kaitiakitanga, and mātauranga Māori. Dr Perrott is a current NZQA Review Board member for mātauranga Māori in science education and has a passion for indigenous species, people, and history of Aotearoa. Dr Perrott completed his Master of Science and PhD in Conservation Biology, studying hihi (stitchbird) on Mokoia Island (Lake Rotorua) with Massey University. Current research involves investigating disease ecology in hihi, kiwi and kākāpō.

Ms Jordan Housiaux

Ms Housiaux is currently researching occurrences of whale stranding in New Zealand at Massey University and serves as an Academic Mentor for students at the Pūhoro Māori Science Academy.

She has experience at government and research organisations including the Ministry of Health, NIWA, and AgResearch. Ms Housiaux previously worked in science communication as a Marine Educator at the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre.

Mr Julian Thompson

Mr Thomson is an Educational Consultant and Science Communicator for Out There Learning Ltd. He works with teachers' professional development and schools' environmental science programme design in New Zealand and overseas. He also works with many geoscientists to present their research to the public. He previously worked for 13 years with GNS Science as their Science Outreach Educator and before that as a high school science and outdoor education teacher in Lower Hutt.

Dr Kwasi Adusei-Fosu

Dr Adusei-Fosu is a Forest Pathologist at Scion. He has worked in England, Canada, and New Zealand on soil-borne and foliar pathogens especially for oomycetes and fungi over the years. His research experiences with the government, industry, and academia have all contributed to his versatility and better integration into different research programmes with relevance to his skill set and background. Dr Adusei-Fosu was awarded Unlocking Curious Minds funding in 2019.

Ms Madelaine Armstrong Willcocks

Ms Armstrong Willcocks is a qualified specialist teacher of gifted learners and is now the Head of Programmes at the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education (NZCGE). She has taught gifted children in years 2–8 in different NZCGE programmes. Prior to this, teaching in New Zealand and internationally developed her interest in working with students who sit “outside the norm”. She has previously worked for both Massey University and the University of Auckland in initial and postgraduate teacher education programmes and has run her own consultancy firm providing tailored professional development in literacy teaching. Ms Armstrong Willcocks is a member of the Ministry of Education's Gifted Advisory Group and a New Zealand delegate on the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

Dr Mara Wolkenhauer

Before moving to Dunedin in 2014, Dr Wolkenhauer lived in Brisbane for 17 years. First doing her PhD in marine ecology, then working for Healthy Waterways, and as a Programme Manager at the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence. From 2014-2019 she worked as a Business Development Manager at the University of Otago, focusing on partnerships and science investment for Otago's researchers. Main collaborations include those supported by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funding, National Science Challenges and Platforms. Dr Wolkenhauer’s passion lies in science translation - connecting communities, government and research. She was instrumental in setting up Catchments Otago, a hub created in 2015 where researchers and the community come together on all things water.

Since October 2019 Dr Wolkenhauer has worked at the Department of Conservation as the Principal Advisor- Science Investment. It's like a relationship manager, advising on science investment inside the organisation and connecting Department of Conservation staff with research partners externally, as well as leading the Postgraduate Scholarship Programme.

Professor Nancy Longnecker

Professor Longnecker earned a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Biology from University of the South and a Master of Science and a PhD in Plant Nutrition from Cornell University. Professor Longnecker has curated exhibitions and displays seen by over 100,000 people, authored a popular science communication book Passion for Pulses, produced podcast series, and created social media communities of practice. She develops science communication resources for children, adolescents, and adults. Professor Longnecker has experience as an agricultural research scientist, professional science communicator and communication academic. Her current research involves evaluation of science communication.

Dr Pauline Harris

Dr Harris is from the tribes Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rakaipaka and Ngāti Kahungunu. She is a Senior Lecturer for the Centre for Science and Society at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Harris is an astrophysicist who has specialized in high energy neutrino production and inflationary cosmology. Dr Harris’s research currently focuses on mātauranga Māori associated with Māori astronomy; Māori calendars called maramataka as well as climate change.

Dr Harris is extensively involved in STEM programmes aimed at engaging and inspiring rangatahi and Māori communities, as well as exposing more people to the area of mātauranga Māori in education. Currently, Dr Harris is the Chairperson of the Society for Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions. She is also the Deputy Director Māori for the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Vision Mātauranga Theme Leader for the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge. Dr Harris was part of the Matariki Advisory Committee and advised the government on the establishment of the Matariki public holiday.

Dr Rebekah Fuller

Dr Fuller’s passion is exploring the interface between mātauranga Māori and science. Dr Fuller previously worked at Lincoln Agritech Ltd. Dr Fuller’s research involved the Māori use of fungi and her PhD was in ethnobotany at the University of Hawaii looking into the Polynesian use of fungi. She has since worked as a researcher in fungal genetics and resistance to fungal diseases by traditional cultivars of kumara and the health benefits of māra kai (food gardens) on marae.

Associate Professor Rhian Salmon

Dr Salmon is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Science in Society at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Salmon’s research explores the context within which science communication and engagement operate both in New Zealand and internationally. Associate Professor Salmon received her PhD in atmospheric chemistry at York University in Canada, and her Bachelor of Science (Honours) from Leeds University in the United Kingdom. She has expertise in catalysing conversations between scientists and different publics and has worked with a range of audiences on science festivals, public debates, global community events and expeditions.

Associate Professor Robin MacDiarmid

Associate Professor MacDiarmid is a Science Group co-leader at Plant and Food Research and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland. She completed Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Biochemistry at the University of Otago then completed a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Auckland. Associate Professor MacDiarmid’s research focuses on viruses in native plants and how viruses could combat plant pathogens like fungi or Phytophthora, which cause plant diseases like grey mould and kauri dieback.

Ms Ruth Wordsworth

Ms Wordsworth is a teacher at Waiheke High School, specialising in facilitating learning for neurodiverse students. Her previous science educational roles have been as lead educator at Ferrymead Heritage Park, environmental education teacher for the Christchurch City Council and more recently, Education Manager for the International Antarctic Centre.

Ms Sarah Johns

Ms Johns is the teacher in charge of STEAM education at Nelson Intermediate School. She empowers her students by encouraging them to share her own philosophy of life -to be curious, open to possibilities, and willing to ask questions! Ms Johns was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize in 2017. She has been a recipient of the Endeavour Teacher Fellowship and a Woolf Fisher Fellowship. She has served as a panellist for the Science Teaching Leadership Programme as well as the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prizes. She currently is an active member of the Cawthron Science & Technology Fair Committee.

Dr Sarah Morgan

Dr Morgan is a teacher at Ōhope Beach School, where she teaches Year 5–6 students in an Innovative Learning Environment. She has extensive experience in science community engagement, having worked as a science writer and then project manager for the Universities of Otago and Auckland, and then COMET Te Hononga Akoranga. While at COMET, Dr Morgan set up and ran the South Auckland region of the Participatory Science Platform for 6 years.

Dr Morgan’s PhD was focused on a genome investigation of lifespan extension in Drosophila. She is passionate about education, human and animal rights, and environmental protection.

Dr Sarah Rusholme

Dr Rusholme has a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and a PhD in Medical Genetics. She also holds a Master of Science Communication. She is the CEO of Experience Wellington, which is responsible for Wellington City Council’s three museums: Capital E, City Gallery Wellington, and the city’s collection. She previously worked as the Education and Exhibitions Director of the UK National Space Centre, the Nature Connections Project Leader for Wellington Zoo and Zealandia and was the Director of Space Place at Carter Observatory in Wellington.

Mrs Sarah Washbrooke

Mrs Washbrooke is bringing her expertise in the Technology Curriculum to the forefront as a teaching fellow in Technology Education at the University of Waikato and as product development lead in Digital Technologies at ByteEd. She has taught STEM and technology for the past 25 years, 19 of those being in New Zealand. Mrs Washbrooke volunteers on the Technology Education New Zealand (TENZ) Council and supports a variety of STEM initiatives. Mrs Washbrooke was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize in 20219 and in 2020, received the TENZ Outstanding Technology Teacher Award for continued excellence in technology teaching.

Associate Professor Simon Lambert

Associate Professor Lambert is from Aotearoa New Zealand and is a member of the Tūhoe and Ngāti Ruapani tribes. His doctoral research was on small-scale Māori horticulture, and he was awarded his PhD in 2008 from Lincoln University. Prior to that he was awarded a Master of Arts (Honours) from the University of Canterbury after researching the assessment of environmental vulnerability in the Pacific. Following the 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, Associate Professor Lambert’s research has focused on disaster risk reduction for Indigenous communities with particular interest in urban Indigenous groups. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Pan-American-Health Organization's Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction network, and recently helped launch the International Campaign for Disaster Risk Reduction in Indigenous Communities at the 7th UN Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Bali.

Mrs Sue Breen

Mrs Breen has been teaching for nearly 50 years, involved in gifted education for over 35 years, and has two gifted adult children. She is a life member of both the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC) and Explorers, the Auckland Branch of NZAGC, has served as NZAGC National President, is a former member of the Boards of giftEDnz and the Gifted Education Centre (GEC), and was Director of GEC prior to the merger of GEC and Gifted Kids. She has a special interest in creative writing, maths, science, and technology, and is passionate about her role working with our young and gifted children. Sue teaches MindPlus PreSchool (previously Small Poppies) classes in Christchurch.

Mrs Te Taiawatea Moko-Painting

Ko Ngāti Awa rātou ko Ngāti Porou ko Waikato ko Tūhourangi ngā Iwi.

Mrs Te Taiawatea Moko-Painting is the Pou Whakahaere Kaupapahere (Policy Manager) at Te Tira Whakamātaki.

Te Taiawatea’s area of focus is Māori environmental policy and research. She is passionate about supporting the aspirations of Māori to make transformational change that centres the health of the taiao. Te Taiawatea studied a Master of Social Change Leadership from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Conservation Biology and Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington.