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Published 8 November 2023

First event to celebrate 2023 Research Honours Aotearoa winners

Five medals and awards were presented in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland this evening by Royal Society Te Apārangi to recognise researchers in New Zealand who have achieved excellence in scholarship, innovation or who have made a significant contribution to Aotearoa through their research and career.

This was the first of three 2023 Research Honours Aotearoa events to be held around the country.

“It is important that we celebrate our top researchers and recognise their achievements. Recognition extends appreciation and encouragement. It also provides a valuable marker for the role of evidence-based research and rigour, which are key for the many future challenges and exciting opportunities ahead,” said Dr Brent Clothier, President of Royal Society Te Apārangi.

“Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini, success is not individual but collective, and we extend our thanks to all the colleagues and whānau of the winners who have supported them.”



Professor Nicola Gaston, University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau, has been awarded the Thomson Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for transformative leadership for the research, science and innovation sector and as a ‘driver of change’ towards equity for women in science.

Nicola is a Professor of Physics at the University of Auckland, where her research focuses on computational simulations of nanostructured systems. She is also Co-Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, a Centre of Research Excellence.

Over the last decade Nicola has provided significant, transformative leadership to research institutes and societies in Aotearoa New Zealand. This includes her roles as President of the New Zealand Association of Scientists and Co-Director of the MacDiarmid Institute, and her work as a ‘driver for change’ to increase equity for women in science, particularly through publishing her book, Why Science is Sexist.

View more on the Thomson Medal winner.



Professor Regan Potangaroa (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa) Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, has been awarded the Te Rangaunua Hiranga Māori Award after devoting his career as an engineer and architect to humanitarian deployments, emergency response efforts, and marae restorations. 

Regan has spanned from using drones to locate bodies which had been buried in unmarked graves in 1920 when Influenza swept through Wairarapa Māori to supporting the response and recovery for communities in Kaikoura after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, where his research informed the relocation of paua beds.

Regan has completed more than 200 humanitarian deployments in 22 countries since 1996, and his ethical approach to his work has formed the core of his academic research.

View more on Te Rangaunua Hiranga Māori Award winner.



Professor Stephen May FRSNZ, University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau, has been awarded the Mason Durie Medal for his work on language rights and revitalisation, spanning the disciplines of applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, sociology, political theory, law, and education. 

His research focuses on how modern nation-states can best manage diversity in this increasingly globalised and superdiverse age, particularly in relation to language and education policy, and in light of Indigenous and multicultural obligations and commitments.

Stephen is regarded as a world authority on language rights and has pioneered groundbreaking work in the areas of Indigenous language revitalisation, bilingual education, critical multiculturalism, and the shift from a monolingual to a multilingual perspective in research, and the teaching and learning of languages (known as “the multilingual turn”).

View more on Mason Durie Medal winner.



Dr Maria Armoudian, University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau, has been awarded the Royal Society Te Apārangi Early Career Research Excellence Award for Social Sciences for her research, leadership, and mentoring to advance the interconnected goals of sustainability, human rights, and good governance.

Her third book, ‘Lawyers Beyond Borders: Advancing International Human Rights through Local Laws & Courts’, represents the definitive work on the inception and development of a global movement to redress survivors of egregious human rights violations, such as genocide and torture.

Based on court records, government, NGO and media reports, and interviews with advocates and survivors, Lawyers Beyond Borders examines the 40-year pursuit to redress and restore human rights for people failed by international legal-political systems – and efforts to build new pathways to justice, using human ingenuity, ideas, and creative advocacy.

View more on ECR Excellence Award for Social Sciences winner.



Dr Hinekura Smith (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Te Ati Awa), Unitec | Te Pūkenga, has been awarded the Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award for her PhD research titled ‘Whatuora: Whatu kākahu and living as Māori women’.

For this research, Hinekura worked with eight Māori women to prepare and weave kākahu, (traditionally made Māori cloaks). 

During their making, her collaborators told stories of reclaiming, restoring, and revisioning ‘living as Māori’ for themselves and their whānau.

Whatuora emerged from the older practice of whatu (a weaving technique), as a theorised decolonising methodology.

View more on Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award winner.


Additional 2023 Research Honours Aotearoa awards will be presented on Wednesday 15 November in Ōtautahi Christchurch and Thursday 23 November in Te Whanganui-a-tara Wellington.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi