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  • Position: Professor and Associate Dean (Research), University of Otago.
    Field: Genetics and biochemistry.

    Professor Peter Dearden started his career in science studying genetics, biochemistry and physiology at Victoria University of Wellington. He completed a BSc with honours before starting his PhD in the development of the nervous system at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, UK.

    His PhD led to exciting research opportunities at the Wellcome Institute (now Gurdon Institute) for Cancer and Developmental Biology and the Museum of Zoology, both at the University of Cambridge. Peter also spent time at a government research institute in Ontario, Canada, working on crop protection and food research.

    Rights: Peter Dearden

    Peter Dearden

    Associate Professor Peter Dearden conducts a lot of his research using honey bees as a model organism. Model organisms are non-human species used by scientists to better understand particular biological research questions.

    He returned to New Zealand in 2001 to take up a fellowship working on the genetics of inherited eye disease at the University of Otago. He was hired by the Biochemistry Department in 2002 and became Director of Genetics Otago in 2009.

    If it isn’t hard then it isn’t worth doing.

    Peter feels that he has the best job in the world! He enjoys the diversity that comes with teaching university students and also regularly gives public lectures and talks to schools and teachers. He leads a research programme that he finds challenging, exciting and interesting and works with very talented individuals, from the students and researchers who work for him, to the colleagues, both national and international, that he collaborates with.

    How does a cell decide what to be?

    Cells decide what they will become in the embryo. Associate Professor Peter Dearden, is interested how our genes control this process.

    Peter’s research involves trying to understand how the genes and pathways that an animal uses to make an adult from a fertilised egg change over evolutionary time to give us the huge diversity of animals we see around us today. This research is fun and challenging, but also provides ideas and innovations that are the basis for new ways to help industries, the environment and health. Peter finds this aspect of his work very satisfying.

    Researching the link between genotype and phenotype

    Associate Professor Peter Dearden, from the University of Otago, is interested in how genotype makes phenotype. In this video, he talks about his laboratory’s research where they manipulate individual genes and observe any resulting changes in phenotype.

    Peter won the 2014 Genetics Society of AustralAsia Ross Crozier Medal for outstanding contributions to genetics. Also in 2014 he received the Callaghan Medal for science communication. This was for the outreach activities of Genetics Otago that he helped form and his involvement in communicating his genetics research on honey bees with the beekeeping industry and the public.

    In 2016 he was promoted to professor.

    Peter’s interests outside science include playing with his 3 kids, walking his big dog in the Otago hills, reading and laughing.

    Related content

    Learn more about Peter's research in the article The genotype/phenotype connection, Genotype and phenotype further explains this fascinating concept.

    Useful links

    See his profile on the University of Otago's website for more information about Peter’s research.

    In 2016 Peter gave his inaugural Professorial lecture Shaping Darwin's 'endless forms most wonderful'. Prior to his lecture, there is an indepth introduction to his accademic life and passion for science communication.

    Learn more about Peter's research into using the bee genome to develop a bee-friendly insecticide.

    Listen to one or both of these talks by Peter at the Apiculture New Zealand conference in 2017 on Stock improvement in honeybees via genomic selection and Driving wasps to extinction.

    Follow him on twitter @peterkdearden.

    This article is based on information current in 2011 and updated in 2018.

      Published 10 June 2011, Updated 24 July 2018 Referencing Hub articles
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