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Scientists Elected Royal Society Fellows


Two New Zealand Scientists Elected Royal Society Fellows

Professor Alan MacDiarmid, one of only three New Zealanders to receive the Nobel Prize, and Professor Richard Sibson, an earthquake expert from the University of Otago, have joined the prestigious circle of New Zealand scientists who have been made Fellows of the Royal Society of London, an independent British science academy. There are now 39 New Zealand scientists, including Ernest Lord Rutherford, to have received this title, which is bestowed for contributions to science, both in fundamental research resulting in greater understanding, and in leading and directing scientific and technological progress in industry and research establishments.

Professor MacDiarmid was jointly awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two other colleagues for his work on conducting polymers following the discovery that plastics could be made to conduct electricity. This work can be traced back to a pioneering publication that appeared in Chemical Communications in 1977. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2001.

Educated at Hutt Valley High School, Alan McDiarmid attended the Victoria University College of Wellington (University of New Zealand) where he gained his MSc degree in chemistry in 1950. On its completion he was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship to study in the United States where he gained a PhD degree from the University of Wisconsin. A second PhD degree followed from the University of Cambridge (UK) where he undertook further study having been awarded a Shell New Zealand Scholarship for this purpose.

After a post-doctoral year at the University of St Andrews in Scotland he moved back to the United States and joined the staff of the University Pennsylvania in 1955 where he is currently Blanchard Professor of Chemistry.

MacDiarmid`s current scientific interests are centred on the most technologically important conducting polymer, polyaniline, and its oligomers with special interest in those isomeric forms which might contribute to the greatest degree in promoting high conductivity and enhanced mechanical properties in polyaniline. He is also actively involved in the study of aniline oligomers in reversible sensors for volatile organic compounds down to a few ppm. His studies on light-emitting organic polymers involve investigation of the new phenomenon in which traces of ionic species in the emissive layer greatly enhance selected desirable characteristics.

Professor MacDiarmid has retained his ties with New Zealand and is currently collaborating with researchers at both the Victoria University of Wellington and Industrial Research Ltd. One of the seven new centres of research excellence, the MacDiarmid Insitute for Materials Science and Nanotechnology, is named in his honour, and he is an active supporter and contributor to the Centre. Director of the Institute, Professor Paul Callaghan, himself a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, said "We are delighted that Alan has joined the community of New Zealanders who, along with Richard Sibson, have been honoured by a Fellowship of the Royal Society of London."

The University of Otago's Richard Sibson has made advances in understanding earthquake faulting that have made him a world leader in his field. Professor Sibson, who was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1993, said he was surprised by the announcement. "The selection process is quite a lengthy one so, although I knew my name had been submitted several years ago, I really thought I'd dropped off the end of the list," he said.

Professor Sibson was educated at King's College, Auckland, and studied geology at the University of Auckland. He received his PhD from Imperial College, University of London, in 1977.

His work on an ancient fault zone in Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands convinced him there was an integral relationship between structural geology and seismology. He went on to study earthquakes in California in the 1980s before returning to Otago in 1990, where he became professor of geology and department head for six years.

Professor Sibson will fly to London in July for the official proceedings between 9 and 11 July.

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