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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 Auckland today.

The top prize, worth $500,000, has been awarded to a team of scientists from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) and the University of Otago for research that is helping to guide international decisions on mitigating climate change.

The winning nine-member team, which comes under the umbrella of the Centre for Chemical & Physical Oceanography based at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago, is led by Professor Philip Boyd.

The team has investigated the role the ocean plays in influencing climate and used its findings to position New Zealand as a leader in the debate about whether manipulating the oceans to remove carbon dioxide emissions from the air – a form of geo-engineering – could mitigate or solve global warming.
The team plans to use the $400,000 of prize money tagged for ongoing research to help establish a state-of-the-art culture facility at the NIWA/Otago Centre where New Zealand scientists and international collaborators can study Southern Ocean phytoplankton.

Other prize winners are:
The Prime Minister’s 2011 MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize goes to Victoria University of Wellington scientist, Dr Rob McKay, a world-leading glacial sedimentologist based at Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre. Dr McKay uses marine sedimentary records and glacial deposits to reconstruct episodes of melting and cooling in Antarctica over the past 13 million years and show how they influenced global sea levels and climate. His work is contributing to understanding what past environmental change in the Antarctic means for the current phase of global warning. Dr McKay receives $200,000, with $150,000 to be used for further research.

The Prime Minister’s 2011 Science Teacher Prize has been presented to Dr Angela Sharples, Head of Biology at Rotorua Boys’ High School. Dr Sharples has rewritten senior biology courses and been the driving force behind Rotorua Boys’ High School’s Accelerate and Curriculum Enrichment (ACE) programme. In the past three years, Dr Sharples has reversed a decline in the number of students studying biology at the school and significantly improved results with the number of students achieving excellence grades now higher than the national average and Maori students’ results between 10 and 20 percent higher. Dr Sharples receives $50,000 and Rotorua Boys High School receives $100,000.

The Prime Minister’s 2011 Future Scientist Prize goes to Nuan-Ting (Nina) Huang, a Year 13 student at Auckland Diocesan School for Girls. Called “Eye Think”, Nina’s winning project is in the area of neuro-biology. She investigated the effects of high level concentration on pupil size and whether different activities could result in the early development of short sightedness. Her results show that tasks which require more thinking, such as solving maths problems, lead to a decrease in pupil size while easier tasks, like simple reading, result in larger pupil size. Nina wins a scholarship worth $50,000 to help pay for her tertiary studies.

The Prime Minister’s 2011 Science Media Communication Prize has been presented to Dr Mark Quigley, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury, who has been at the forefront of communication about the causes and effects of the Canterbury earthquakes.
Since 2010, Dr Quigley has delivered more than 40 lectures in New Zealand and overseas and published seven peer-reviewed articles on the Christchurch quakes. He has also been interviewed frequently on radio and television, been the focus of multiple newspaper articles and maintained a website that has attracted over 130,000 hits. He 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 helix or Möbius Strip.
To find out more about the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes visit:

About the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes:
The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes combine recognition and reward, with total prize money of $1 million. Presented annually, they are New Zealand’s most valuable science awards and were introduced to raise the profile and prestige of science. The prizes celebrate scientific achievement, highlight the impact science has on New Zealanders’ lives and aim to attract more young people into science careers. The Prime Minister awards five prizes with the top award, valued at $500,000, recognising a transformational science discovery or achievement which has had a significant impact on New Zealand or internationally.
The prizes are:
• The Prime Minister’s Science Prize: $500,000
• The Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize: $200,000
• The Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize: $150,000
• The Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize: $50,000
• The Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize: $100,000

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