New Zealand’s fifth annual Science Honours dinner took place in Dunedin Town Hall on Tuesday 20 November, with announcements of the prestigious Rutherford, Pickering, Liley and Thomson medals. The country’s top science and technology award, the Rutherford Medal, was awarded to internationally renowned neuroscientist, Professor Richard Faull FRSNZ of The University of Auckland, for his groundbreaking work in understanding the human brain.

The Pickering Medal, to recognise excellence and innovation in the practical application of technology, was awarded to AgResearch’s Dr John McKinnon FRSNZ, a pre-eminent wool chemist whose technological advancements have been adopted worldwide.

The Liley Medal, a Health Research Council award for research that has made an outstanding contribution to health and medical science, went to The University of Auckland’s Professor Innes Asher for her work on the role of environmental factors in asthma and allergies.

The Thomson Medal for outstanding and inspirational leadership in the management of science was awarded to Biocatalyst’s Dr John Kernohan. Under his management UniServices, the commercial arm of The University of Auckland, now accounts for about ten percent of the University’s total revenue, a higher percentage than almost any other university in the world. A full list of medal winners is given below.

The winners of the inaugural Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing, this year focused on climate change, were also announced on the night by Pamela Stirling, editor of the New Zealand Listener. Natural History New Zealand’s Alison Ballance won the non-fiction award, while Massey University’s Brian Walpert won the fiction section. Their winning entries, selected by broadcaster Kim Hill, will be published in the New Zealand Listener.

This year’s awards evening – occurring during International Polar Year – also featured a live phone link to kiwi scientists on the ANDRILL drilling rig in Antarctica, a display of the New Zealand flag that Edmund Hillary planted on the South Pole in January 1958, and a film showing the recent BIG Science Adventures trip to Greenland, where a team from Otago Girls High observed the effects of climate change first hand.

The Science Honours dinner is organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand, whose prime purpose is to promote excellence in science and technology.

Auckland

Rutherford Medal for exceptional contribution to New Zealand society in science and technology: awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand Government to Professor Richard Faull FRSNZ of The University of Auckland

Liley Medal to recognise research that has made an outstanding contribution to health and medical sciences: awarded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand to Professor Innes Asher, of The University of Auckland

Citation:

The award recognises the contribution by Professor Innes Asher of the University of Auckland, in the field of paediatrics. Her research studied the change in prevalence of childhood asthma and allergies in almost half a million school children in 56 countries. Previously, the prevalence of these conditions had been increasing, however, the research work found decreases in prevalence in many study centres, including New Zealand. Increases in prevalence were more common in centres of low prevalence and developing countries. In addition to providing new evidence that environmental factors determine prevalence of asthma and allergies, the study has produced an effective research model which can monitor public health internationally and engage researchers worldwide.

Thomson Medal for outstanding and inspirational leadership in the management of science: awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand to Dr John Kernohan, of Biocatalyst

Citation:

Dr John Kernohan, recently retired Chief Executive of Auckland UniServices Ltd, the commercial arm of the University of Auckland, has been an inspirational leader in the development and management of science and technology in New Zealand for commercialisation. His leadership of UniServices occurred during a critical period in the development of a knowledge economy in New Zealand. UniServices is now the largest organisation in Australia and New Zealand devoted to the commercialisation of university research. Its revenues now account for approximately 10% of the University of Auckland’s total revenue, a percentage that exceeds almost every other university in the world. John is a gifted businessman with a science background, who has had a major impact on New Zealand science by showing our scientists how, with suitable business backing, they can become successful entrepreneurs on the international stage. He is a worthy recipient of the 2007 Thomson Medal.

New Zealand Mathematical Society Research Award for excellence in mathematical research: awarded by the New Zealand Mathematical Society to Professor Ernie Kalnins FRSNZ, of Waikato University

Citation:

For his wide ranging, prolific and significant contributions to mathematics, especially in his research on symmetries of partial differential equations, separable coordinates and superintegrable systems. This research has earned Professor Kalnins an international reputation as a leader in his field.

Palmerston North

McKenzie Award for educational research: awarded by the New Zealand Association for Research in Education to the late Professor Roy Nash, of Massey University

Citation:

Professor Roy Nash, previously of Massey University, made a contribution to research in the broad area of sociology of education that is unparalleled in New Zealand, and of the highest standing in the international arena. Roy Nash developed a national reputation as the most influential lecturer in the sociology of education. Through his teaching he has influenced a whole generation of new teachers, policy makers, social workers and nurses who are professionally richer for having him as a lecturer. It is with considerable pride and pleasure that the New Zealand Association for Research in Education recognises Roy Nash’s contribution to education research by conferring on him its McKenzie Award.

Academic Research Prize for excellence in research in chemical sciences: awarded by New Zealand Institute of Chemistry to Professor Andrew Brodie, of Massey University

Citation:

This Prize has been jointly awarded to Andrew Brodie and Eric Ainscough from Massey University for their research into the chemistry of the transition metals. Their recent work has focussed on constructing chains and rings of alternating phosphorus and nitrogen atoms – called polyphosphazenes – to which metal atoms are attached. These novel materials have the potential to have intriguing magnetic and other properties. Professors Brodie’s and Ainscough’s leadership in inorganic chemistry in New Zealand has enhanced this country’s international scientific reputation in the chemical sciences.

The Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing (fiction): awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Listener and the Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters to Dr Bryan Walpert, of Massey University

Wellington

Research Medal for outstanding research by a young scientist: awarded by the New Zealand Association of Scientists to Dr Kathryn McGrath, of Victoria University

Citation:

Associate Professor Kathryn McGrath works at the MacDiarmid Institute at Victoria University of Wellington where she and her team are studying complex fluids and soft matter. She has made important new fundamental discoveries especially in emulsion research where she has managed to characterise a new class of emulsion behaviours using a wide range of physical techniques. Kathryn is considered to be one of New Zealand’s leading young physical scientists and supervises a number of postgraduate students.

Hector Medal for an outstanding contribution to the physical sciences: awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand to Dr Tim Haskell, of Industrial Research Limited

Citation:

The 2007 Hector Medal has been awarded to Dr Tim Haskell of Industrial research Ltd for his outstanding contributions to the physical sciences in New Zealand. For over 35 years Dr Haskell has conceptualized, initiated and advocated for several novel research programmes. His scientific work has covered a broad range, including solar heating, information technology, optical devices and Antarctic sea ice. The hallmark of his scientific leadership has been the ability to coordinate groups of researchers across many institutions. He played a major role in integrating signal processing, communications, optics and synthetic organic chemistry into a collaborative programme that continues to develop novel optical network components and new materials. In the 1970’s he developed one of the world’s first recognized computer networks, preceding by many years the now familiar World Wide Web. His primary interest in the last 30 years has been Antarctic sea ice, and in this area he has again demonstrated consistent leadership and the ability to weld together different teams of researchers, including many post-graduate students.

Edward Kidson Medal for outstanding contributions to meteorological research: awarded by the Meteorological Society of New Zealand to Dr Xiaogu Zheng, NIWA

Citation:

It is with great pleasure that the Meteorological Society of New Zealand has chosen to award its third Kidson Medal to Dr Xiaogu Zheng of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. The Society considers Dr Zheng’s work in studying patterns for seasonal forecasting of rainfall in New Zealand to be outstanding in regards to the advancement in science that this work provides. In terms of advancing knowledge and capability on climate forecasting, Dr Zheng’s work will soon be relevant not only to New Zealand but to most regions in the Southern Hemisphere. It has provided remarkable mathematical rigour to the complex world of integrating different components of the climate system.

Christchurch

Pickering Medal to recognise excellence and innovation in the practical application of technology: awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand to Dr John McKinnon FRSNZ, of AgResearch.

Three R’s Award for excellence in the humane use of animals in research, teaching and testing: awarded by the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee to Professor Rob Hughes, of the University of Canterbury.

Citation:

This is a national award in its fifth year, recognising excellence in the humane use of animals in research, testing and teaching. The concept of the ‘Three Rs’ is to replace live animal subjects, reduce the number of animals used and refine experimental techniques to minimise pain and distress. This year’s award goes to Professor Rob Hughes, of the University of Canterbury, for his contributions towards the reduction and refinement of animal use in short-term memory testing. His behavioural testing methods, relying on animals’ natural curiosity to explore novel environments, have both reduced the number of animals used and avoided the need to use aversive methods. The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee commends Professor Hughes’ work and congratulates him warmly on his selection to receive this year’s 3 R’s award.

Jubilee Medal to recognize an outstanding contribution to primary resource science: awarded by the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science to Professor Stephen Goldson FRSNZ, of AgResearch

Citation:

Dr Stephen Goldson, of AgResearch, is well known for his pioneering New Zealand biological control work on weevils. As well as researching ecological and genetic components of biological control, Dr Goldson has used long-term applied projects to conduct fundamental research into insect pest behaviour, insect seasonality and damage thresholds. His work has contributed significantly to pest management practices in New Zealand. Dr Goldson has also shown leadership and inventiveness in recognising how science can address difficult biosecurity problems and is working on the use of sensor technology to detect unwanted biological material in shipping containers.

Dunedin

The Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing (non-fiction): awarded by the Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Listener and the Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters to Alison Ballance, of Natural History New Zealand.

Roger Slack Award for an outstanding contribution to the study of plant biology: awarded by the New Zealand Society of Plant Biologists to Associate Professor Kevin Gould, of the University of Otago

Citation:

Kevin Gould, of Otago University, studies the ecophysiology of native New Zealand plants. For more than a decade he has led research examining the functional and protective role of certain pigments in plants, successfully demonstrating that they often serve to mitigate the effects of environmentally induced stress. This research is of particular interest to New Zealanders as some of these pigments produce the red colour in leaves that is exhibited by many native plants. Evidence that he is a leading New Zealand plant biologist can be seen in his successful collaboration with international groups, extensive publishing in scientific and popular science journals and international lecture tours. Kevin is also an accomplished teacher and has received Distinguished Teaching Awards from both Auckland and Otago Universities.