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Dr Laura Green PhD - Winner of the 2014 Zonta Science Award


Dr Laura Green of Wellington is the winner of the 2014 Zonta Science Award. Laura was presented with her prize by His Excellency, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand, at a special reception hosted at Government House.

Laura, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Immunology at the Centre for Biodiscovery, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, was born in the USA. She thanks her parents and her teachers for fostering her curiosity in the world around her.

From an early age she participated in science fairs. Her first distinction coming while still at secondary school when she won a Westinghouse Science award for biomedical research. At the age of 17 she held her first research position at the local University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has been involved in biomedical research ever since.

In 2003, Laura came to New Zealand and held research positions at Massey University, and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington. In 2012 she obtained her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology at Victoria University and is currently a member of the research team that is studying better ways to treat the debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis. One promising avenue is the use of the antipsychotic drug clozapine, and the team is investigating how this drug works in the central nervous system.

When asked, “What will you do with your prize?” Laura replied, “The Zonta Science Award will enable me to travel to Switzerland to work with an eminent researcher who has developed a new imaging technique that can visualise individual immune cells trying to gain entry to the central nervous system. I will then bring this specialist knowledge back to New Zealand.”

Dame Margaret Sparrow, Convener of the Zonta Science Award says , “The judges were impressed not only with Laura’s commitment to science but also to her community involvement, notably, her enjoyment of public speaking and her enthusiasm for competitive road cycling, including assisting with cycle safety programmes and cycling skill clinics.

“The Award is for an emerging scientist. It is designed to provide assistance at an important stage in their career development. It recognises not only scientific potential but also the ability to mentor and support other young women embarking on a career in science. Clearly, Laura is passionate about making science accessible to the wider public and is involved in a number of projects including the use of cartoons and film to make science more exciting.

“The Zonta Science Award provides Laura with prize money of $15,000, a further $3,000 towards overseas travel and a pounamu medal especially designed by Upper Hutt jeweller Neke Moa”.

Dame Margaret goes on to say, “We, the Zonta Club of Wellington would find it difficult to continue with the Award without the generosity of our sponsors. This year we are delighted to welcome our sponsors”.

Gold sponsor and Guest Speaker this evening: Dr Jilly Evans. A New Zealand scientist now based in the USA whose career has been devoted to the development of new pharmaceuticals.

Silver sponsor: The New Zealand Association of Science Educators, committed to science education in schools.

KPMG is a school sponsor.

Our most enduring sponsor: The John Ilott Charitable Trust administered by the Rotary Club, Wellington. The trust has supported the award since 1990.

The Zonta Club of Wellington also allocates club funds towards this award.



Dr Jilly Evans Ph.D., FRSNZ (Hon) is a leading scientist and innovator who has a stellar career in drug discovery in Canada and the United States. She is one of the world's leading researchers in the development of therapies for cancer and arthritis and her current research is on drugs that influence inflammation. Jilly is also a champion for getting women into science-related careers, alleviating childhood poverty, and helping New Zealand to find a good working model for commercialising biotechnology research. She is one of Auckland University's 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

Early in 1988 the Zonta Club of Wellington was concerned about the low number of young women entering the field of science and decided that establishing a science award would be one way of encouraging greater participation in science. The award is to assist an emerging woman scientist who had already demonstrated her commitment to science by obtaining a PhD. The award recognises not only excellence in science but communication skills and community involvement as well as promoting science and being a role model for other young women are winning attributes.

Past winners of the award have covered a variety of scientific fields.

1990 Professor Jean Fleming ONZM, molecular biologist, Wallaceville Animal Research Centre, studying fertility gene in sheep. In 2002 awarded ONZM. Now Otago University Professor of Science Communication. National radio programme presenter.

1992 Dr Phillipa Gerard, environmental entomologist, Ruakura, studying wool carpet pests.

1994 Professor Jacqueline Rowarth CNZM, agricultural scientist, Lincoln University, studying grassland seed production. In 2008 awarded CNZM. In 2012 appointed Professor of Agribusiness, Waikato University.

1996 Dr Wendy Nelson, botanist, Te Papa studying seaweeds and European collections of early explorers, now at NIWA.

1998 Dr Helen Neil, NIWA, (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) marine geologist studying climate change in seabed samples, Chatham Rise (paleoceanography).

2000 Dr Michèle Prinsep, Waikato University, organic chemist studying natural compounds occurring in marine organisms and sponges.

2002 Dr Julia Charity, Forest Research, Rotorua. Project leader for the Genetic engineering for Future Forests Research team. Development of gene technologies for forest tree species such as radiata pine. Now writing poetry and founder of Lookafterme, a home hosting enterprise.

2004 Dr Ursula Cochran, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Lower Hutt, palaeoecologist/earthquake geologist, studying earthquake geology using diatom microfossils.

2006 Dr Victoria Metcalf, University of Canterbury, marine biologist studying adaptation of Antarctic fish to cold.

2008 Dr Deirdre Hart, University of Canterbury, Department of Geography, integrative coastal scientist studying lagoons, estuaries and reefs.

2010 Dr Julie Lim, Department of Physiology, University of Auckland, research on the prevention of cataract formation.

2012 Dr Anna Ponnampalam, The Liggins Institute, University of Auckland reproductive biologist studying endometrial function of importance for understanding endometriosis. Anna is now conducting research on preeclampsia. (Sri Lankan)

Zonta working together to advance the status of women

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