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Top Young Scientists Named at Awards Ceremony

Wednesday 22 June

New Zealand¡¦s Top Young Scientists Named at Awards Ceremony

An Otago PhD student researching environmental contamination from leaky landfills has taken top honours at the 2005 MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year Awards, held in Auckland tonight.

Jessica North, who is completing a doctorate in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Otago, was presented with the gold MacDiarmid medal by the Hon. Steve Maharey, the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, and Jon Bongard, CEO of the naming rights sponsor, Fisher & Paykel Appliances.

The winning research uses environmental forensics, in the form of isotope fingerprinting, to identify whether the toxic liquid that accumulates at the base of landfills ¡V known as leachate ¡V is contaminating water supplies and damaging ecosystems in the surrounding area.

A Canterbury University PhD student, Shelley Scott, has been named the overall MacDiarmid Awards runner-up, for her research into developing new methods of creating nanostructures for a wide range of medical, scientific and commercial applications. Two other entrants received special commendations from the judges in recognition of the high quality of their research.

The prestigious awards, organised by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, are named after New Zealand-born Nobel Prize winning scientist Professor Alan MacDiarmid and are designed to celebrate publicly the achievements of New Zealand¡¦s future leaders in science and to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

Winning the MacDiarmid Award entitles Jessica North to a trip to Washington DC to join the winners of a similar competition organised by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and to meet with key USA media representatives. She also receives the gold MacDiarmid medal and a $2500 travel voucher which will enable her to attend the British Association Science Festival in Dublin in September. Shelley Scott¡¦s award gives her a trip to Australia to attend a science communication conference and she also receives the MacDiarmid runner-up medal.

A panel of judges selected the winners in this year¡¦s awards from a record 127 entries submitted from around the country. Entrants prepare a poster highlighting their research work with judging taking into account both science excellence and clear communication. Jessica North was also first equal in the Environmental Sciences category while Shelley Scott won the Manufacturing and Materials category.

The panel judges who chose the overall winners were Professor Pat Sullivan (retired head of the Institute of Molecular BioSciences at Massey University), Val Orchard (microbiologist and Science & Research Manager, ESR), Tony Price (General Manager, Research & Development, IRL) and Phil Johnstone (Public Affairs Manager, Merck Sharp and Dohme).

Other winning posters showcased research into:
- the thinking processes of convicted child molesters
- the potential for creating new cancer treatments using compounds in green vegetables
- a new drug which reduces heart disease in diabetics
- technology for farming kina to create a new commercial fishing industry
- better understanding of the productivity of native forests
- ways of improving augmented reality systems for humans to interface with computers

This year¡¦s eight category winners each receive a cash prize of $2,000. In seven of the categories a runner-up prize of $1000 was awarded and one outstanding entry was highly commended.

A range of educational and research institutions and private companies are involved in the winning research projects and all acknowledge the work supervisors and mentors do in terms of supporting and working closely with the students.

Along with principal sponsor Fisher & Paykel Appliances, other sponsors of the Awards include the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, the Health Research Council, the University of Canterbury, the Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research, Crop & Food Research, Massey University, Hort Research, the University of Auckland, the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, Waikato University, NZ Bio, Landcare Research, Fonterra, Right Hemisphere, BTI Travel and Air New Zealand.

The full list of this year¡¦s winners follows:

National Award Winner: Jessica North (Dunedin), ¡¥Leaky landfills¡¦. Jessica was also first equal in the Environmental Sciences category.

National Award Runner-Up: Shelley Scott (Christchurch), ¡¥Mimicking nature on the nanoscale¡¦. Shelley also won the Manufacturing and Materials category.

Winner Agriculture and Forestry and Fishing: Phil James (Wellington), ¡¥Captive kina do well in sea-cages¡¦.

- Runner-up Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing: Jeremy McLeod (Palmerston North), ¡¥Beaten into existence¡¦

Winner Manufacturing and Materials: Shelley Scott (see above under national award runner-up)

- Highly Commended Manufacturing and Materials: Karen Love (Rotorua), ¡¥Why put sand into paper?¡¦

Winner ICT & Creative Industries: Matthew Keir (Christchurch), ¡¥Seeing, not-believing¡¦.

- Runner-up ICT & Creative Industries: Eusebio Scornavacca (Wellington), ¡¥TXT-2-Lrn: improving students¡¦ learning experience in the classroom through interactive SMS (short-message-service)¡¦.

Winner Biotechnology: Melanie Cheung (Auckland), ¡¥Just what the doctor ordered¡¦. Melanie Cheung also received a special Highly Commended prize from the panel judges.

- Runners-up Biotechnology (two):
Scott Walker (Palmerston North), ¡¥Molecular design: Progress towards a new class of antibacterial agents¡¦.

Samantha Baldwin (Christchurch), ¡¥GM Crops: Keeping it in the family¡¦

Winner Health & Medical: Mark Hampton (Christchurch), ¡¥Fighting cancer with greens¡¦.

„« Runner-up Health & Medical: Raewyn Poulson (Palmerston North), ¡¥Omega fats: Mega bones¡¦.

Winners Environmental Sciences (first equal):
Jessica North (see above under national award winner).

Roger Dungan (Christchurch), ¡¥Miniature farmers on a massive scale¡¦. Roger Dungan also received a special Highly Commended prize from the judges.

- Runner-up Environmental Sciences: Priscilla McCallum (Hamilton), ¡¥Fibre of life¡¦.

Winner People and Society: Kirsten Keown (Wellington), ¡¥What were they thinking? Investigating ¡¥cognitive distortions¡¦ in child molesters¡¦.

- Runner-up People and Society: Andrew Clarke (Palmerston North), ¡¥Origins of the Polynesian kumara: A South American connection¡¦.


For further information on the Awards: www.frst.govt.nz/students/firstawards.cfm

ENDS

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