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Prize-winning year for ‘Nanogirl’

Prize-winning year for ‘Nanogirl’

This year’s Prime Minister’s Science Prize for Science Communication has been awarded to Dr Michelle Dickinson, capping off a prize-winning year for the University of Auckland engineering lecturer.

Dr Dickinson, a senior lecturer in Chemical & Materials Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, was also named Science Communicator of the year at the annual New Zealand Association of Scientists awards last month.

Along with her research and teaching roles, Dr Dickinson is a roving ambassador for all things science, appearing regularly in both mainstream and social media, organising science events for school children and setting up a charity to teach children from low-decile schools about robotics, 3D printing and coding.

“My hope is to be able to help anyone, young or old, learn that science is not only fun, it’s a vital part of everyday life, whether we’re choosing the best sunscreen to use or helping our children decide on a future career,” she says.

Dr Dickinson is keen to see more young women go on to study the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), at tertiary level. This year she held a ‘100 days of science’ project for school children after being told by a 14-year-old girl, ‘I hate science’.”

“I decided to set up the ‘100 days’ project then and there because we are losing girls from the STEM subjects in high school yet industry is crying out for highly qualified women in the tech sector,” Dr Dickinson says.

Dr Dickinson obtained her PhD from Rutgers University (USA) and her MEng from Manchester University (UK) in Biomedical Materials Engineering. Her research involves measuring the mechanical properties of materials from the nanoscale through to the macro scale and she has a special interest in biological material behaviour.

Dr Dickinson is a regular media commentator, appearing on TV3 and RadioLIVE, and a social media enthusiast, tweeting under the ‘Nanogirl’ (@medickinson) twitter handle.

Her award, worth $100,000, makes it three in a row for University of Auckland in the science communications category, with Dr Siouxie Wiles, a senior lecturer in molecular medicine and pathology in the Faculty of Medical Health Sciences winning in 2013 and Professor Shaun Hendy of the Department of Physics in 2012.

ENDS

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