Plenary Speakers

Speakers appear in order of surname.


Peter Dearden

Peter was trained at Victoria University, PhD at Imperial College, University of London. He then worked in the Wellcome (now Gurdon) institute and the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge; the Zoology department, University of Western Ontario; and returned to New Zealand and the University of Otago in 2002.

Peter is a researcher in the Laboratory for Evolution and Development, Otago site leader for the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, and Scientific Director of Genetics Otago. Peter's research is centered in Evolution and Development, Epigenetics and Developmental plasticity.

Jeremy Howard

Jeremy is an entrepreneur, business strategist, developer, and educator. Jeremy is a founding researcher at, a research institute dedicated to making deep learning more accessible. He is also a Distinguished Research Scientist at the University of San Francisco, a faculty member at Singularity University, and a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum.

Jeremy's most recent startup, Enlitic, was the first company to apply deep learning to medicine, and has been selected one of the world's top 50 smartest companies by MIT Tech Review two years running. He was previously the President and Chief Scientist of the data science platform Kaggle, where he was the top ranked participant in international machine learning competitions 2 years running. He was the founding CEO of two successful Australian startups (FastMail, and Optimal Decisions Group–purchased by Lexis-Nexis). Before that, he spent 8 years in management consulting, at McKinsey & Co, and AT Kearney. Jeremy has invested in, mentored, and advised many startups, and contributed to many open source projects.

He has many television and other video appearances, including as a regular guest on Australia's highest-rated breakfast news program, a popular talk on, and data science and web development tutorials and discussions.

Traci Houpapa MNZM

Traci is an award winning company director and a recognised industry leader.  She specialises in strategic and economic development advice to Maori, iwi, public and private sector clients throughout New Zealand.  Traci is known for her strong and inclusive leadership and her clear focus on building the wealth and prosperity of Aotearoa New Zealand.

In 2012 Traci was named as one of the top ten most influential women in New Zealand agribusiness.  In 2013 she was named amongst the Listener's top ten influencers in New Zealand and was a finalist in the Fairfax Media Westpac Women of Influence Awards ('WOI'). In 2014, Traci won the WOI Board and Management award.  In 2015, Westpac named Traci on its 'NZ Women Powerbrokers' list.  Traci has also recently been awarded the Massey University Distinguished Alumni Service Award for services to agribusiness and Maori.

Traci has an MBA from Massey University and is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a Justice of the Peace and a Marriage Celebrant.

Lisa Matisoo-Smith

Lisa is the Professor of Biological Anthropology in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago, and a Principal Investigator in the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution and with National Geographic's Genographic Project. 

She is interested in understanding human history and human variation in general, but her primary area of interest is in looking at the biological evidence for the human settlement of the Pacific. She applies both ancient and modern DNA techniques to reconstruct migration pathways, and is increasingly interested in how human history and population origins may be related to some of the health issues facing Pacific populations today.

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