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Celebrating excellence in science

Celebrating excellence in science

New Zealand’s next generation of researchers and scientists are proving even more eager to communicate their bright ideas to the public, with a 47% increase in entries to this year’s FiRST Scholarship Awards.

The Awards, which showcase the research of New Zealand’s top science and technology scholars, will be celebrated at two events – in Christchurch on 4 June and in Auckland on 3 July.

Chief Executive of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, Gowan Pickering, says the increase in entries is something to be applauded.

“The enthusiasm shown for this year’s competition illustrates that New Zealand’s future science leaders are recognising the importance of communicating their science effectively. This is a factor that will be critical to New Zealand’s future social and economic growth.”

The FiRST (Fellows in Research, Science and Technology) Scholarship Awards are open to all fellows and scholars currently funded by one of the Foundation’s five scholarship programmes. The fellows were asked to provide an eye-catching, information-packed poster, which is judged, in part, on how clearly the particular research project is communicated to a lay audience.

“Good communication is vital in this sector, particularly as the students’ research develops and they need to engage with different sectors,” says Mr Pickering.

The overall aim of the Awards is to celebrate the work of our up-and-coming scientists and researchers and to inspire others to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand’s world-class scientists.

“It’s significant that this year’s Awards coincide with the 50-year anniversary of New Zealander Maurice Wilkins’ part in the discovery of DNA. We will certainly be acknowledging him at our awards functions and hope that some of our winners will be celebrated in the same vein in years to come, “ says Mr Pickering.

The Awards also aim to broaden participants’ understanding of the science system in New Zealand and develop the key networks between research, universities and business. Last year’s overall winner was Dr Susan McCoard with her research into identifying genes that regulate the production of protein in the mammary gland of cows. The results from her research are now being used to produce milk and milk products with greater economic value for the New Zealand dairy industry and farmers, as well as products with improved nutritional and human health attributes.

Background on the FiRST Awards

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology invests in five graduate and post-graduate research Fellowship programmes: the NZ Science & Technology Post Doctoral Fellowships, the Tûâpapa Pûtaiao Mâori Fellowships, Technology New Zealand's Technology for Industry (TIF) Fellowships, Enterprise Scholarships (for the Ministry of Education) and Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships (for the Ministry of Education).

The first annual FiRST Awards were held in 1999 to showcase the outstanding work being done by New Zealand’s up and coming scientists and technologists. The Awards are now made up of three components – the poster competition, a full day workshop and culminate in the Awards ceremony event.

There is one National Award winner who will this year win a travel prize of $5,000 for a trip to the US to meet with their top science communicators and media. A total of eight awards are up for grabs this year, comprising two regional awards, one for the North Island and one for the South Island and a scheme winner for each of the five scholarship schemes administered by The Foundation.

The Awards are judged by a panel of specialists with expertise in business, research, communication and design, and science. This year’s judges are Fraser Carson, Director of Wellington-based Fresco Advertising, Dr Tony Price from Navman NZ Ltd, Alison Stewart, Professor of Plant Pathology at Lincoln University, and Katherine Corich, Manager Strategy and Research Development, SYSDOC Group.

For more information, including details on the Awards ceremony, programme and workshops can be found at http://www.frst.govt.nz/students/firstawards.cfm

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