NewsPublished 23 November 2023
Linda Tuhiwai Smith receives Rutherford Medal alongside other Research Honours Aotearoa winners
Distinguished Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou) CNZM FRSNZ was awarded the Rutherford Medal at an awards ceremony at Government House in Whanganui-a-tara Wellington on Thursday night. She was recognised for her preeminent role in advancing education and research for Te Ao Māori, her groundbreaking scholarship in decolonisation of research methodologies, and her pioneering contribution to transforming research for Indigenous Peoples globally.
Through her leadership in education and academia, she has changed the way that institutions work with Māori – to create intellectual spaces for students and researchers to embrace their identities and transcend dominant narratives.
Linda’s scholarship has informed Kaupapa Māori education, theory, and research; Mana Wahine feminist discourses; Māori research on health; and understanding of historical and intergenerational trauma.
Linda’s influential publication Decolonising Methodologies, Research and Indigenous Peoples (1999) has had a profound influence across the social sciences. First published more than 20 years ago, the text continues to resonate and be used by Indigenous scholars globally, raking in 283,000 citations to-date and being translated into five languages.
Linda is currently Distinguished Professor, Rangahau and Mātauranga Capability, at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.
Royal Society Te Apārangi presented six further awards and the New Zealand Health Research Council awarded three.
This was the third and final of three 2023 Research Honours Aotearoa events held around the country 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.
NANOTECHNOLOGY FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Professor Geoffrey Waterhouse has been awarded the MacDiarmid Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for discovering low-cost nanocatalysts critical to global decarbonisation efforts and the establishment of robust energy infrastructures based around renewables.
Geoff is a Professor in the School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland, a Principal Investigator for the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and an Associate Investigator for the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies.
Geoff’s research focuses on the application of nanotechnology in catalysis, environmental monitoring, and therapeutics. His group aims to fast-track the growth of a Green Hydrogen Economy in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Internationally, Geoff is best known for groundbreaking research designing low-cost nanocatalysts that can replace expensive precious-metal catalysts, such as those containing platinum, in devices such as water electrolysers, fuels cells and rechargeable batteries. His nanocatalysts could potentially lower the manufacturing costs of these next-generation energy storage/conversion devices by up to 20%, sufficient to enable widespread technology adoption.
A CHAMPION OF FRESH WATER AND SUSTAINABILITY
Dr Mike Joy, of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, has been awarded the Callaghan Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for his research on the decline of freshwater ecosystems, the quality of drinking water, and sustainable management of our freshwater ecosystems and food production, and for communicating the science to inform public opinion on these issues.
Mike has demonstrated his commitment to communicating with policy-makers and the public through countless public talks, media interviews, op-ed articles, and panel discussions.
He uses his research to communicate the evidence for causal factors in the degradation of waterways across Aotearoa New Zealand.
Mike’s communication of the science has led to changes in government policy and improved public awareness of options for sustainable management of freshwater sources and food production.
LOOKING TO THE ICE FOR OUR FUTURE
Professor Nicholas Golledge, of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, has been awarded the Hutton Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for his cutting-edge contributions to modelling of the Antarctic ice sheet, and research on climate change, including his role as a Lead Author for the most recent Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Through establishing capability in observational and theoretical approaches to Antarctic ice-sheet modelling for New Zealand, Nick has become a world leader in his field.
He has significantly advanced knowledge of the ice-sheet’s response to climate change and the impacts of melting ice on global sea-level, ocean circulation, and climate variability.
Nick’s research has received international recognition and media coverage, and has informed government policies.
WORKING FOR GREATER HEALTH EQUITY FOR MĀORI
Associate Professor Clive Aspin (Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Tamaterā), of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, has been awarded the Te Rangi Hiroa Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for his research on sexuality, HIV, and suicide prevention. His work has led to greater equity for Māori and indigenous peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Clive has been a pioneer in public health research and Māori health research and has made significant contributions both nationally and internationally to social and cultural diversity, particularly in the critical domains of HIV and AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, and suicide intervention.
His work has influenced policy development and facilitated systematic transformation that has benefited many underrepresented communities, especially Māori.
His leadership of the tripartite research collaboration into the impact of HIV on indigenous peoples in Aotearoa, Australia, and Canada has positively impacted the development of HIV-related policy in all three nations.
EXTRACTING HIGH-VALUE BIOACTIVES FOR HEALTH AND WELLNESS PRODUCTS
Dr Owen Catchpole FRSNZ, of Callaghan Innovation, has been awarded the Scott Medal by Royal Society Te Apārangi for being a world leader in the development of processes to extract high-value bioactive chemicals from biological materials using ‘supercritical’ solvents.
Owen Catchpole is a global expert in the use of chemical engineering to process natural materials from the apiary, horticulture, marine, and dairy industries.
Supercritical fluid extraction commonly uses carbon dioxide at high pressure to extract high-value bioactive compounds from natural materials. Any residual carbon dioxide evaporates entirely so there is no contamination in the finished products, unlike with traditional petrochemical solvents. This makes it ideal for extracting and purifying bioactive compounds for foods, and for health and wellness products. New Zealand businesses are now selling these purified natural products to international markets for tens of millions $NZ per year.
Owen is recognised for pioneering supercritical CO2 extraction in New Zealand “from scratch,” and he has extended this method to using other solvents such as dimethyl ether (DME). He has also worked on related processes for chemical purification and separation.
Owen has also led work for valuable bioactive compounds to be extracted from secondary waste streams from New Zealand’s biological industries.
EFFICIENT MANUFACTURE OF DRUG CANDIDATES
Dr Mark Calcott has been awarded the Hamilton Award—the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Early Career Research Excellence Award for Science— for a breakthrough in sustainable production of new drug candidates using microbes.
Mark is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. His research has enabled new ways to engineer microbes to produce bioactive compounds.
His breakthrough has been in the area of non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs), found in bacteria and fungi. Many of the antibiotics and drugs on the market are produced by NRPSs. Through new understanding, the process for creating novel peptides from microbes has been substantially simplified, with the potential to create useful drugs and other bioactive compounds.
NEW ZEALAND HEALTH RESEARCH COUNCIL AWARDS
In a first for the HRC, two of its three medals have gone to researchers from the same team who are working with iwi and whānau to prevent cervical cancer and improve maternity and infant outcomes.
Professor Beverley (Bev) Lawton, ONZM (Ngāti Porou), founder and director of Te Tātai Hauora o Hine, the National Centre for Women’s Health Research Aotearoa at Victoria University of Wellington, was awarded the HRC’s Beaven Medal for excellence in translational health research.
Alongside Beverley, the team that she leads with deputy director Francesca Storey at Te Tātai Hauora o Hine has taken out the HRC’s Te Tohu Rapuora Medal for outstanding leadership, excellence and contribution to Māori health.
A clinician, researcher and staunch advocate for women’s health, Professor Lawton has worked tirelessly over the past 20 years to ensure that her and her team’s work is translated into clinical practice, particularly in the areas of cervical cancer prevention and maternal health outcomes for wāhine Māori. Much of this research has been undertaken in partnership with iwi, guided by a Kāhui Kaumātua.
Research published by Te Tātai Hauora o Hine showed that enabling women to self-test for human papillomavirus (HPV) rather than undergo a traditional cervical smear could significantly reduce the number of under-screened or never-screened Māori women, resulting in a decrease of deaths from cervical cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The team’s trials showed there were multiple benefits to self-testing for HPV, including that it was less invasive and easy for women to do themselves, and highly acceptable for wāhine Māori, with under-screened or never-screened wāhine Māori over three times more likely to do a self-test rather than a smear.
The HRC’s Liley Medal for an outstanding contribution to health and medical services was awarded to epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker MNZM from the University of Otago, Wellington, and his team who published two companion papers in the Lancet that represent a breakthrough in our understanding of the causes of acute rheumatic fever and the role of group A streptococcal infections.
These studies found the strongest evidence yet that household overcrowding and poor access to primary healthcare are major modifiable risk factors for acute rheumatic fever and streptococcal (strep) infections of the skin.
They also identified strep skin infections as a key pathway driving the risk of rheumatic fever.