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Awards Honour Up-And-Coming Scientists

7 May, 2002

Awards Honour New Zealand’s Up-And-Coming Scientists And Researchers

Showcasing the outstanding work being done by New Zealand’s up-and-coming scientists and researchers and increasing awareness of how important science and technology are to New Zealand, are dual goals of the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FiRST) Awards, to be presented in June.

The FiRST Scholarship Awards have been given annually since 1999, to acknowledge the way in which New Zealand’s brightest scientists, researchers and technologists are using their ideas to help grow the New Zealand economy.

Launching the 2002 awards in Wellington this week, Gowan Pickering, CE of the Foundation, says there is a huge amount of innovative, leading-edge work being done in New Zealand, which is adding to this country’s reputation for smart ideas and ground-breaking technology.

“Despite our relatively small size, our scientists and researchers really are up there with the best,” Gowan Pickering says. “We perform well both in terms of innovation and the amount we contribute."

Gowan Pickering says the FiRST Scholarship Awards are an important tool in the current drive to increase understanding and respect for work being done in the science and technology sector.

All fellows and scholars currently funded to do research by the Foundation can enter the FiRST Awards. Projects are presented on eye-catching and information-packed posters that clearly explain the research to a lay audience.

“Improving communication at all levels is vital,” Gowan Pickering says. “Our scientists and researchers need to meet the challenge of clearly explaining what they do to a wider audience and we all have to work together to increase understanding of the huge value science and technology has to New Zealand."

Last year’s overall winner was Aucklander Kaa-Sandra Chee, for research into novel therapies to prevent cataracts. Other projects to win awards were for research into the treatment of wool scouring wastes, reducing external emissions and the origins of Maori and Pacific people.

With the closing date for poster entries being this Friday (10 May), the Foundation is hoping for a 10% increase in the number of posters being put forward.

Gowan Pickering says that reflects the growing national profile of the awards and the work being done by the Foundation to encourage recipients of its fellowships and scholarships to take part.

“As well as being a wonderful celebration, the awards are a great opportunity for fellows and scholars to meet and network with each other and the business sector,” he says.

Thirteen awards will be given this year with the total made up of five each from the North and South Islands, a regional North Island and South Island winner and an overall winner. Prior to the awards, scientists, researchers and technologists from around New Zealand will gather to discuss a range of issues including communication and the importance of research and to hear from former award winners.

The national award will be presented in Auckland on 20 June by the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Hon Pete Hodgson. He will also announce the regional North Island award recipient. A week earlier the South Island regional winner will be announced by the Hon Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, at a function in Christchurch on 12 June.

To reflect the importance of co-operation between business and the science and technology sector, the Foundation has again invited top executives from two of New Zealand’s most successful companies to join the awards judging panel.

The President of Naviman NZ Ltd Peter Maire will be one of the judges, focusing on the research component of the poster entries and speaking at the Auckland ceremony. Jade Software Corporation CEO Sir Gil Simpson will again participate in judging, focusing on the business aspect of the entries, and speaking at the Christchurch awards function.

Last year’s nationwide FiRST Awards winner Kaa-Sandra Chee and Fraser Cason, a director of Fresco Design, are the other judges, with Kaa-Sandra Chee assessing the science component of the entries, and Fraser Cason looking at communication and design.


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