Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund 2023 panel members

The Panel members appointed by MBIE will make the final funding decisions for the 2023 Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund.

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

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

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Panel members

Professor Ken Hughey (Chair)

Until the middle of 2022 Professor Hughey was seconded as Chief Science Advisor at the Department of Conservation and is currently Professor of Environmental Management at Lincoln University. Professor Hughey’s research specialises in innovative approaches to environmental problems such as competing demands for water resources, sustainable tourism, climate change adaptation, and collaborative management of natural resources. He led the development and implementation of the River Values Assessment System, a tool to rank different values across or within rivers and was lead researcher in the Lincoln University biennial survey of people’s perceptions of the New Zealand environment (which is transitioning now to Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research).

Ms Kahu Hotere

Ngāti Maniapoto, Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Wai

Ms Hotere is Pou Tiaki - Te Apārangi at the Royal Society based in Wellington. She trained as a primary school teacher at North Shore Teachers College, Auckland and taught at a variety of schools over the next 27 years, only taking short breaks when her 3 children were born. She was in the first cohort of teachers to be trained in delivering Te Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Pūtaiao, Pāngarau and Te Reo at Waikato University. Ms Hotere also worked at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa delivering managing Home Based Learning programmes and loves the Arts.

Professor David Hutchinson

Professor Hutchinson is the Departmental Science Advisor in the Science System Investment and Performance branch at the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment and Professor of Physics at the University of Otago. He is also the Director of the Dodd-Walls Centre of Research Excellence and Chair of the Board of the Otago Museum. His research focuses on the quantum theory of ultracold atomic physics. He is also actively engaged in education outreach through the Dodd-Walls Centre, University and Museum.

Dr Susie Meade

Dr Meade is the Principal Advisor at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (OPMCSA). Susie’s role also supports the Forum of Chief Science Advisors. She has a rural background, having been brought up on a sheep and beef farm in rural Nelson. Susie completed her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Canterbury. She has over 20 years’ experience in the Aotearoa New Zealand science system as a researcher and in science management. Immediately prior to joining OPMCSA, Susie was the manager of a Centre of Research Excellence, QuakeCoRE. Susie spends time in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

Mrs Sio Kihe La'a Talakai-Alatini

Mrs Talakai-Alatini is a proud Tongan who hails from the mighty Vava’u Island with ancestral lineages to Uvea (Wallis and Futuna). Her personal mission is to ensure that women in the public sector have access to resources to navigate challenging issues but flourish and contribute to creating a diverse and inclusive public service. She has a background in community development, education, programme management, and has expertise in Pacific Transnationalism and International Tourism Management. Mrs Talakai-Alatini has worked in the tertiary field for over 5 years and is currently working at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples as the Scholarship and Funding Toloa Manager, her role supports Pacific Peoples in STEAM pathways over a whole of life approach from early childhood education right through to Tertiary, career pathways and to business opportunities to ensure transformational impact in the communities she serves. Her experiences in the private and public sector have been life changing, they have not only helped shape her views and perceptions in life but has provided a platform to serving her community whole heartedly.

Ms Alexandra (Sandy) Robbins

Ms Robbins is employed at the Ministry of Education as a Principal Adviser on the NCEA Change programme. Her role within the programme is to provide insights about the effectiveness of the implementation of the NCEA changes in achieving the programme’s goals through robust data collection and analysis.

Sandy has had a long career in education and taught science in several Wellington secondary schools for more than 20 years before joining the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). Ms Robbins was involved in a variety of work at NZCER, mainly focussed on science teaching and learning, including Science Education Researcher, Resource Writer, Evaluator, and Data Analyst. Her passion for science and curriculum led her into research on the effectiveness of teaching science through a science capability lens and sharing her expertise with science educators in New Zealand and internationally.