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Prime Minister’s $1 million science prizes presented

Prime Minister’s $1 million science prizes presented

The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, which combine recognition and prize money of $1 million, have been presented in Wellington today.

The top prize, worth $500,000, has been awarded to Professors Paul Moughan and Harjinder Singh from Massey University whose world-leading and original research has made an outstanding contribution to the understanding of food protein science.

The two scientists established and are co-directors of the Riddet Institute, a Centre of Research Excellence dedicated to food, nutrition and health sciences. They also drove the formation of Riddet Foodlink which involves 90 companies collaborating with the Riddet Institute on research and commercialising intellectual property.

Research from the Riddet Institute has led to a number of commercial innovations, patents, revenue and exports for New Zealand.

The team plans to use the $400,000 of prize money tagged for ongoing research to match Riddet research to new opportunities and commercial products that will strengthen New Zealand’s world-leading food and beverage industry.

Other prize winners are:
The Prime Minister’s 2012 MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize goes to Dr James Russell, a University of Auckland researcher who is internationally recognised for his conservation work. Dr Russell’s innovative combination of ecology, statistics and genetics to prevent rats and other mammalian pests invading predator-free islands is helping to keep endangered species safe, and strengthening New Zealand’s reputation as a world leader in island conservation. Dr Russell’s knowledge is sought after internationally, with overseas organisations asking him to help eradicate rats and manage other pests. Dr Russell receives $200,000 in total, with $150,000 of the money to be used for further research.

The Prime Minister’s 2012 Science Teacher Prize has been presented to Peter Stewart, Head of Chemistry at Papatoetoe High School, a decile three South Auckland school where English is commonly a second language. Under Mr Stewart’s leadership, chemistry class numbers at the school have increased by 44 percent at level two and more than 100 percent at level three while the school roll has remained static. Chemistry achievements are outperforming other subject results within the school and students are now regularly studying and earning chemistry scholarships. Mr Stewart receives $50,000 and Papatoetoe High School receives $100,000.

The Prime Minister’s 2012 Future Scientist Prize goes to Hannah Ng, a 17-year-old student at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, whose research into childhood myopia, or shortsightedness, has given university researchers a novel theory that may provide solutions to the global eye problem. Hannah has discovered that blurring of peripheral vision could increase the rate of shortsightedness. She says optometrists do not usually take peripheral vision into account when prescribing glasses and the constant blurring induced may exacerbate myopia levels. Her work will be extended by researchers at the University of Auckland’s Myopia Laboratory. Hannah wins a scholarship worth $50,000 to help pay for her tertiary studies.

The Prime Minister’s 2012 Science Media Communication Prize has been presented to Shaun Hendy, a Professor of Computational Physics at Victoria University, Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, and an Industry and Outreach Fellow for Industrial Research Limited. Professor Hendy is at the forefront of research and thinking on the links between innovation and economic prosperity. His regular blogging, writing, public lecturing and commentating is credited with changing attitudes and behaviours in government and business. He was chosen by the late Sir Paul Callaghan to co-author a sequel to Callaghan’s book Wool to Weta, which examined ways to lift New Zealand’s standard of living through science. Professor Hendy receives $50,000 with another $50,000 allocated for further developing his science media communication skills.

In addition to a monetary award, recipients of Prime Minister’s Science prizes receive an award-winning trophy that was created by Industrial Research Limited and is based on the Möbius Strip.

To find out more about the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes visit:


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