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Geneticist Wins Zonta Science Award

Geneticist Wins Zonta Science Award

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Zonta Science Award

Geneticist Wins Zonta Science Award

Last night, Dr Victoria Metcalf was declared the winner of the Ninth Biennial Zonta Science Award. The Prime Minister, Helen Clark presented Victoria with her prestigious prize, comprising of a cheque for $10,000 and airfares for international travel. In addition to the monetary prize Victoria was presented with the Zonta Science Medal designed by well-known sculptor Tanya Ashken, a former member of the Zonta Club of Wellington.

Zontian and Science Award judge Dr Margaret Sparrow, DCNZM, MBE, involved in the Award since its inception eighteen years ago says, “I was impressed by the quality of entries this year. There were thirty applicants and the standard was exceptionally high with a wide range of scientific endeavours. This made the judging not only extremely difficult but also very challenging.”

Victoria, a graduate of the University of Otago, completed her PhD in Biochemistry at the Christchurch School of Medicine. Her PhD thesis was entitled the Molecular Evolution of Serum Albumin in Non-Mammalian Vertebrate Species. Victoria completed her thesis in 2001 and her current research interests are Antarctic fish. They are interesting because they have different ways of surviving in extremely cold waters. As a consequence, their blood is very different to the blood of other fish. Victoria’s work involves catching Antarctic fish, collecting blood samples, and identifying blood proteins. She is also carrying out some genetic studies to try to understand how Antarctic fish evolved to live at such cold temperatures.

Victoria says, “I love the fact that I can do something no-one else in the world has ever done before. I am challenging my mind constantly and have this passion to be a top scientist. At the same time, life for me is about balance and striving to be a well-rounded individual. I believe in keeping physically fit to help all aspects of my life. I enjoy the outdoors, diving and tramping. The latter activity allows me to further develop my passion for photography.”

A former pupil of Southland Girls’ High School, Invercargill, she is now a full time Principal Investigator of a FRST (Foundation for Research, Science and Technology ) funded project at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch. Victoria’s current project involves a number of national and international collaborations investigating Antarctic fish and linkages with cold adaptation.

Zonta Science Award Convenor, Sharon Nelson-Kelly says, “The Zonta Science Award promotes science as a career for women as well as providing encouragement and recognition for those already working in the scientific field. We look for an outstanding woman scientist able to use the Award to further her career, a person who can be an advocate for women in science but who also contributes to her community. We want a role model for other women scientists who will demonstrate the rewards of entering into the science field and Victoria certainly shows all these attributes.”

Victoria says, “I plan to use the award money to further my research in the United States..” She goes on to say “The award will enable me to travel to Boston to spend two to three months working in the laboratory of Professor Bill Detrich, a leading Antarctic fish biochemist and molecular biologist at Northeastern University. I am really looking forward to working with him.”

The Zonta Club of Wellington is grateful for the continued support of the Principal Sponsor BP Oil New Zealand Limited, and the contribution of the John Ilott Charitable Trust. The Zonta Club of Wellington contributes financially and organises the event.

Issued by the Zonta Club of Wellington Inc.
Sharon Nelson-Kelly 029 239 4874
Convenor of Zonta Science Awards

The winner will join an illustrious list of previous recipients, notably:
2004 Dr Ursula Cochran, earth scientist
2002 Dr Julia Charity, forestry biotechnologist
2000 Dr Michele Prinsep, organic chemist
1998 Dr Helen Neil, paleoceanographer
1996 Dr Wendy Nelson, botanist
1994 Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, plant physiologist
1992 Dr Pip Gerard, environmental scientist
1990 Dr Jean Fleming, research scientist

Zonta International

Zonta is an international organisation of executive and professional women working together to advance the status of women. There are over 33,000 members in 1,246 clubs in 68 countries around the world.

Zonta International holds consultative status with United Nations’ agencies – UNICEF, UNESCO, ECOSOC - and has permanent observers at the UN in New York, Paris and Geneva. It undertakes international funding projects to which all clubs throughout the world contribute. For example the Amelia Earhart Scholarship is awarded annually to 15 postgraduate students to pursue work in the aerospace science.
Over one million dollars has been contributed to the United Nations Unifem Fund to aid the economic development of women in ten of the world’s poorest nations. In addition, the fund raising activities of the New Zealand clubs support local organisations.

The Zonta Club of Wellington is one of 29 clubs in New Zealand. The Zonta Science Award was initiated by the Wellington Club to fulfil one of Zonta’s main objectives, to improve the economic, legal and political status of women. Visit our website at


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