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NZ's Brightest Sparks Tackle The Burning Issues

NZ's Brightest Sparks Tackle The Burning Issues

Running Hot: Science in New Zealand Conference
When: Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 November, 2006
Where: The Arts Centre, Christchurch

Many of New Zealand’s hottest younger scientists will gather in Christchurch next week to discuss some of the biggest issues facing science in this country.

The Running Hot: Science in New Zealand conference focuses on the future of Kiwi science, and features some of the top emerging scientists in the country. It will spark debate about the hot topics in science today, strengthen links between those involved in the sector, and encourage younger scientists to take up leadership roles.

Those at Running Hot will be tackling issues such as:

• How can science boost the economy?
• How can scientists help leave the world a better place?
• How can New Zealand create its future science leaders?
• Where does the optimal balance between competition and collaboration lie?

We invite you to come to Running Hot, meet some of the future leaders of Kiwi science, and join the debate on the hot topics issues. Entry is free to members of the media and a room will be set aside for journalists at the conference.

The brains behind Running Hot are The Oxygen Group, 10 talented younger scientists who are already leading the way in the sector.

As the name suggests, the Oxygen Group exists to provide a breath of fresh air and fuel the fire of New Zealand science.

It includes top-notch scientists such as virtual reality expert and World Class New Zealand award-winner Mark Billinghurst, Maori researcher, author and musician Charles Royal, and the head of AgResearch’s Protein Engineering Laboratory, Vic Arcus.

More information about the Oxygen Group is included at the bottom of this release.
Joining the Oxygen Group for discussions will be other outstanding younger scientists such as:

• Claire French, the MacDairmid Young Scientist of the Year for 2006. She is developing a new method for identifying whether cell samples collected for DNA testing come from the skin, mouth or the vagina, which has the potential to help solve sex crimes;

• Nikki Moreland, a globetrotting Kiwi who has gone from producing global marketing and medical education plans for pharmaceutical companies in the UK, to taking part in the fight against tuberculosis at the University of Auckland.

• Dr Alexei Drummond, a lecturer of bioinformatics (the rapidly-growing area where biology and information technology meet) at the University of Auckland and Chief Scientist of Biomatters Ltd. He led the team that developed a programme for bioinformatics researchers that was recently the most downloaded software on Apple’s Math and Science website.

Also at Running Hot are five internationally-acclaimed scientists – including a British television star and professors from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and other Kiwis with a deep knowledge of the science sector, such as Professor Paul Callaghan, New Zealand Institute CEO David Skilling and Endeavour Capital chairman Neville Jordan.

Anyone interested in interviewing any of the speakers, either at the conference or at another time, should contact:

Tane Aikman
Communications Adviser
Ministry of Research, Science + Technology
Telephone +64 4 9173065
Facsimile +64 4 471 1284
Level 10, 2 The Terrace, PO Box 5336, Wellington 6145

For more information about the conference, including details on how to register, go to:

Information on the international guest speakers and on the Oxygen Group follows.

International guest speakers:

Paul Zorner, renewable energy guru
Paul is a Senior Director at California’s Diversa Corporation, where he is responsible for developing Diversa’s renewable fuels business programme. Adjunct Professor of Horticulture at North Carolina State University, he is has a long history of working for leading biotechnology companies.

Paul also advises the California, South Carolina and Queensland state governments on biotechnology and renewable energy.

Kathy Sykes, science communicator extraordinaire
A BBC Television presenter and Professor for Public Engagement in Science and Engineering at the University of Bristol, Kathy has been called one of the smartest and most influential women in Britain. When she was appointed to her post in Bristol she was the youngest professor in the UK.

She is well known from her appearances on popular TV shows such as ‘Rough Science’ – where scientists play ‘MacGyver’ on the likes of isolated islands – she also created ‘Famelab’, a kind of ‘Science Idol’.

In September she won the 2006 Royal Society Kohn Award for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science.

Anne Firth Murray, fighting for women’s rights
A New Zealander living in the US, Anne was, as one of a group of 1000 women, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She was the founding president of the Global Fund for Women which, since 1987, has supported thousands of women’s groups working for the rights of women to be free from violence, get access to education and other services, and seek justice and peace.

A biologist and published author, Anne teaches courses on international women’s health and human rights at Stanford University.

Robert Jaffe, groundbreaking physicist
Robert is an outstanding physicist, and his teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has earned him numerous awards. Until recently he was the Director of the Centre of Theoretical Physics at MIT. He specializes in the physics of elementary particles, such as quarks.

Kevin Scanlon, biologist and businessman
Kevin is a man who knows how to turn a smart idea into a successful product. He is deeply involved in the biopharmaceutical industry in California, where he is a business angel advising and supporting entrepreneurs. A molecular biologist and gene therapist, he has authored more than 115 original scientific articles and has been awarded seven patents.

Kevin also served as Vice-President of Cancer Research at pharmaceutical company Berlex Biosciences, and has been consulting for international governments in Europe and Asia that are developing Centres of Excellence in Bioscience.

More on the Oxygen Group
The Oxygen Group is a forum of 10 younger scientists who are among the emerging leaders in New Zealand’s science sector. The Group was set up by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MoRST) in 2005, to help the Ministry hear the voices and to tap into the experience of younger scientists.

Among the Group’s roles are:

• Inspiring other younger scientists to become leaders in the science sector and get more involved in mapping the future of science in this country;

• Improving the links between science disciplines;
• Keeping an eye on current trends in science and technology both here and internationally, considering their implications for this country, and advising MoRST on them;

• Stimulate new ideas about how we do science in New Zealand.

The members of the group come from a wide range of science disciplines, including the biosciences, social science, the information technology (IT) sector, chemical and physical sciences, geosciences and Mātauranga Māori or Māori knowledge.

The group is mentored by two of the most prominent and respected figures in New Zealand science: Professor Paul Callaghan of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and Neville Jordan, President of the Royal Society.


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