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NZAS celebrates NZ scientific achievements

New Zealand Association of Scientists celebrates NZ scientific achievements.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) has awarded its annual medals to New Zealand scientists for 2012, at a function held in Wellington Tuesday night.

The Marsden medal was awarded to Professor Lionel Carter, Victoria University of Wellington, in recognition of an outstanding 40 year research career as a practicing geoscientist with significant contributions to marine geology, palaeoceanography, physical oceanography and applied marine geology. Our present knowledge of the undersea extent of the New Zealand continent and its interaction with water masses and currents that originate in the Antarctic and tropical Pacific would not exist without the work of Professor Carter.

The Shorland Medal was awarded to Professor Michael Hendy, University of Otago, for an outstanding body of research into mathematical phylogeny – the set of mathematical tools for reconstructing evolutionary relationships between species using DNA sequences. Our understanding of evolution has developed at an unprecedented rate in recent years and much of this can be attributed to the pioneering work of Professor Hendy and his co-worker Professor David Penny. In the 1980s Penny and Hendy put Darwin’s theory evolution to a particularly stringent mathematical test, finding not only that it stood up to their test, but that it was not a tautology as had been asserted by the philosopher, Karl Popper.

Associate Professor Eric Le Ru received the Research Medal, awarded to researchers under 40, for his enormous contribution to research in the multi-disciplinary fields of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and nano-plasmonics. His work has been at the forefront of the international research effort toward applying SERS to singlemolecule detection and identification, arguably the ultimate goal of analytical chemistry.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles was awarded the Science Communicators award for her commitment to communicating a range of scientific issues of interest to the public, as well as her specialist area, through both traditional print and broadcast media outlets, as well as social media and other communication formats. The Association hopes that in awarding this prize to Dr Wiles, it will encourage many other scientists to follow her lead and become proactive, engaging communicators with integrity and passion. Professor Shaun Hendy, President of the Association, noted that the awards highlighted the strength of fundamental science in New Zealand. “The award recipients this year come from a range of disciplines, including physics, geoscience, microbiology and mathematics”, said Hendy. “All of these scientists have produced research that crosses disciplinary boundaries, and it is very encouraging to see them making such an impact”.


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