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NZAS celebrate NZ scientific achievements

New Zealand Association of Scientists celebrate NZ scientific achievements.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) will award its annual medals to New Zealand scientists for 2015, at a function to be held in Wellington Thursday night (19th Nov).

Four Medals are to be awarded. Associate Professor Craig Stevens, President of the Association, noted that the awards seek to recognise and promote both the recent past of New Zealand science and scientists. They also aim to recognise and support future science leaders. Further to this, the Communicators award emphasizes the importance of explaining what science is and does, now and in the future, to a range of audiences.

The Marsden Medal is awarded for a lifetime of outstanding service to the cause or profession of science, in recognition of service rendered to the cause or profession of science in the widest connotation of the phrase. This year’s medal is awarded to Dr Mike Andrews. Mike has been a practicing experimental physicist for more than 40 years, having trained academically in wave propagation, plasma physics and vacuum techniques. This vocationally broad educational background led to over thirty years devoted to transfer of applied research to New Zealand industry, through DSIR and IRL, Lower Hutt. His major impact has been developing acoustic grading tools useful in production forestry, and producing “Hitman”, an acoustic tester now used world-wide to assess log quality and which provides NZ industry with over $20M benefits each year via early identification of tree properties and appropriate end use. He has also demonstrated a practical concern to encourage the growth of basic scientific understanding in the wider community.

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The Shorland Medal is awarded in recognition of major and continued contribution to basic or applied research that has added significantly to scientific understanding or resulted in significant benefits to society. This year’s medal is awarded to Dr Ian Brown a Distinguished Scientist in the Advanced Materials Group of Callaghan Innovation. Ian has an outstandingly successful 41 year research career as a materials chemist, first in Chemistry Division of DSIR, then to IRL and finally Callaghan Innovation. His research began in the fields of ceramics and glass manufacture. He then developed applications of significant benefit to New Zealand including the utilization of waste glass and NZ iron-sands to produce new ceramic materials, and research the chemistry of fertilizer manufacture from phosphate rock. Ian was elected FRSNZ in 1999, and awarded a DSc by Victoria University in 2000. He has been Adjunct Professor at Victoria since 2006, and is the current president of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry.

The Research Medal is awarded for outstanding fundamental or applied research in the physical, natural or social sciences published by a scientist under the age of 40, during the year of the award or the preceding three calendar years. This year’s medal is awarded to Associate Professor Stéphane Coen of the Physics Department at University of Auckland. Stéphane undertakes fundamental and applied studies of nonlinear optical phenomena in optical fibres with the aim to develop new light sources and new all-optical devices. In particular, he is researching temporal cavity solitons – pulses of laser light that can be maintained indefinitely around a closed loop – which has revealed fascinating physics for seemingly simple objects, and could also lead to revolutionary applications in fields ranging from telecommunications to ultra-accurate clocks. Stéphane’s first observation of these solitons, 30 years after their prediction, led to a landmark publication and subsequent research confirmed temporal cavity solitons as one of the few new fundamental concepts in nonlinear optics in recent years.

The Science Communicators award is made to a practising scientist for excellence in communicating science to the general public in any area of science or technology. This year’s medal gies to: Professors Christopher Battershill (Professor and Chair of Coastal Science, University of Waikato) and David Schiel (Professor of Marine Science, University of Canterbury). Chris and David together were the main science communicators following the grounding of the MV Rena and oil spill off Tauranga on 5 October 2011. As the accident unfolded into one of New Zealand’s greatest marine environmental impacts, affecting habitats, kai moana, tourism, fishing, recreation and well-being , Profs Battershill and Schiel reported the effectiveness of the clean-up from an environmental perspective as well as the longer term consequences. Over a period of 30 months, they gave over 100 talks at numerous marae, public meetings, and conferences, with over 50 interviews for the local and national media, on TV, the press and radio. They coordinated and supervised the Rena environmental recovery monitoring programme, Te Mauri Moana, and became the public face of Rena with respect to science communication.

“It is very pleasing to see two physicists and a chemist represented in this year’s awards, illustrating the strength of the physical sciences in New Zealand,” said Stevens.

“It is also fantastic to see the work of Christopher Battershill and David Schiel recognised in their contribution to environmental recovery after the Rena disaster.”


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