Recipients of the 2010 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes reflect on what their prize has meant for them.
2010 Prime Minister’s Science Prize
The 2010 Prime Minister’s Science Prize was awarded to the Magnetic Resonance Innovation team, led by Professor Sir Paul Callaghan.
The team comprises: Professor Paul Callaghan, Professor in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington; Dr Robin Dykstra, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Dr Mark Hunter, Research Fellow in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, both at Victoria; Dr Andrew Coy, a physicist and Chief Executive Officer of Wellington technology company Magritek; and Dr Craig Eccles, a physicist and Chief Technology Officer at Magritek.
Discoveries by the team are widely used in medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and materials science, and have resulted in cutting edge imaging methods and research techniques. These have opened up opportunities to use MR methods in agricultural and industrial applications and to research climate change in Antarctica.
In 2004, the team formed technology company Magritek, which has increased its revenue by 50 percent in each of the last five years through international sales. Products include spectrometers, rock-core analysers, and smaller, portable MR devices for industries such as food processing and medicine.
Two members of the MR Innovation team work for Magritek and the other three continue to generate knowledge at Victoria University which feeds in to new products and technologies.
The team’s leader, Professor Paul Callaghan, has received many honours and awards during his career, including New Zealander of the Year in 2011. He says he is very proud to have been awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Prize.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be recognised by your own country and to have your work seen as valuable. But the most exciting thing is that this prize goes to the whole team. We are different ages and bring different skills but all have been captivated by this area of research which not only has enormous applicability in industry, medicine and environmental science, but is also just beautiful science.”
The Prime Minister’s Science Prize combines recognition and reward, with the winning team receiving $500,000 of which $400,000 is earmarked for ongoing research. The prize is awarded for a transformative science discovery or achievement which has had an impact on New Zealand or internationally.
Professor Paul Callaghan’s MR Innovation team has used the $400,000 prize money to set up a scholarship endowment; the Prime Minister’s Science Prize Scholarship. This will allow exceptional New Zealand graduates to undertake research in the field of magnetic resonance science or engineering.
To find out more about the scholarship visit: http://scholarship-positions.com/phd-scholarship-in-magnetic-resonance-physics-or-engineering-at-victoria-university-of-wellington-new-zealand/2011/06/16/
To find out more about Magritek visit http://www.magritek.com/
Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize
Donna Rose Addis is a cognitive neuroscientist specialising in the neural networks mediating memory and future thinking using both neuro-imaging and neuro-psychological approaches. In 2010, she won the Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize and has been using the prize to further her research at the Memory Lab at the University of Auckland.
The $150,000 Donna received for ongoing research is being used to examine the neural and cognitive correlates of future thinking (‘imagining’) in depression. Her research on the role of the hippocampus in imagined future events is world-leading and could shed light on how depressed people think about the future, ultimately helping in the treatment of depressed patients.
Donna says winning the MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize has enabled her to pursue and expand her research, which will undoubtedly have a significant impact on her career.
“Most importantly, this prize has enabled me to grow my lab group and hire a post-doctoral fellow. It has also provided funds for some exciting new studies I plan to run with a Fulbright Fellow who will visit my lab for 2012.
“Having a team of talented and hard-working people who are passionate about cognitive neuroscience and with whom you can think creatively, bounce ideas around and try new approaches, is a key ingredient for top-notch science. Having funds and the freedom to try out these ideas is also important. It’s when you have the time to stand back, think creatively and try new things that good science happens and exciting discoveries are made.”
As with the 2009 winner (Dr John Watt), Donna has gained new opportunities as a result of receiving the prize.
“It has increased my profile as an emerging scientist in New Zealand and brought opportunities to communicate my research to the public. It has also provided me with a chance to be a more visible role model for women in science. For example, I had the chance to contribute a piece to the Association for Women in Science. It has also increased my effectiveness as a role model both for Pacific people thinking about a career in science and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
“Being from South Auckland, this is something I am really passionate about. I have returned to my high school, Aorere College, to give motivational talks, hand out awards, and to be concrete evidence for these students that they can achieve their academic dreams through hard work and dedication. I am excited to be an active member of Aorere’s community and to be a highly visible role model for all students and a mentor for up-and- coming young academics, both at high school and in their transition to university.”
For more information on Donna’s research visit: http://centreforbrainresearch.wordpress.com/tag/addis/
The Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize
Howick College has a suite of new netbooks, interactive projectors and IT equipment as a result of the Head of Junior Science, Steve Martin, winning the 2010 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher prize.
Steve received the prize for his development of an innovative, online teaching programme that splits learning objectives into different levels of thinking and brings greater use of technology into the classroom. The programme is successfully raising the level of student motivation and achievement in science.
Steve says his successful teaching strategies rest on his vision “of using ICT to put science learning into a 21st Century context to increase its relevance for students”.
He says the award has given him access to a wide range of people who are equally passionate about the education of students in science.
“It has been inspiring to see the commitment and the level of thinking that so many other science teachers have to making the subject accessible, engaging and challenging.
“Winning the award has provided many opportunities to develop the work I have been doing and to collaborate with individuals who are experts in their fields. The award has also allowed me to reach a much wider audience to share my ideas. This includes an invitation to give a spotlight presentation at the ULearn conference this year.”
Iva Ropati, the Principal of Howick College reflects “Steve’s award has been a great honour for the college. We have certainly basked in his reflected glory and interestingly enough, science as achieved a great boost in popularity. Our students appreciate that we have an outstanding, world class practitioner and interest in his classes has escalated. Our parent community are also impressed that we have such a highly competent staff member adding value to student education. I’m sure Howick College, as a consequence, has made it onto the ‘map’ for schools that are making a difference! Our students and staff are extremely fortunate to have a colleague like Steve in our ranks.”
The Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize
Bailey Lovett has enjoyed a host of new opportunities since winning the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize in November, 2010. Now in her first year of study at Otago University, majoring in Zoology and Ecology, Bailey’s aim is to continue on to a post graduate degree in Marine Science, with an extra degree in Science Communication.
The $50,000 prize has been valuable for Bailey. “Being financially prepared for university has taken pressure off my parents and me. It also gave me freedom to pursue opportunities that I was interested in and ensure that I was able to follow my dreams. The prize also gave me status and respect.”
Bailey says one of the highlights of winning the prize was being asked by Sir Don McKinnon from the Auckland Museum to work there for a month as an intern in the Marine Research Department over the 2010/2011 summer break. “This was an amazing experience. I learnt so many new skills and gained so much knowledge which has been, and will be, very valuable in my future career as a marine scientist,” says Bailey.
“While working at the museum, I was given the opportunity to go great white shark tagging for three days at Stewart Island with Clinton Duffy, the ‘shark man’ of New Zealand, and members of NIWA. I cannot stress how wonderful and important this experience was to me, as my ultimate dream is to study and photograph great white sharks.”
Bailey has firm ideas on her future career path, and plans to “become a marine scientist and have the necessary skills to photograph nature professionally. Ultimately, I would like to study great white sharks in detail, and perhaps be able to work as a marine photographer for National Geographic”.
The Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize
Communicating his science has been a non-stop affair for the 2010 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize, Dr Cornel de Ronde.
A Geologist/Geochemist at GNS Science, Cornel is part of the team that discovered the remnants of the Pink and White Terraces in Lake Rotomahana in early 2011. Before the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886, the terraces were listed as the eighth wonder of the world and continue to be of huge spiritual significance to local iwi. The research also uncovered a previously unknown significant geothermal system in the lake bed, raising the possibility of future power generation in the area.
Cornel hopes they will be able to deploy seismic equipment that will allow the scientists to penetrate the lake floor and mud and possibly create a 3D virtual image of all of the terraces. Their findings have been published in the highly regarded Science Journal.
He has also widely communicated his research findings about the submarine volcanoes of the Kermadec Arc, which runs between the Bay of Plenty and Tonga. This project involved the first use by New Zealand scientists of a high-tech autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to survey the sea bed.
Among the discoveries Cornel and his team reported on were areas of present-day hydrothermal activity, relatively fresh lava flows from volcanic craters, and possible new species of deep-sea life. This information will ultimately help government agencies develop policy to manage New Zealand’s offshore resources.
The discovery of remnants of the Terraces and volcanoes in the Kermedec Arc have been internationally reported.
The prize money has given Cornel additional time and resources to convey this exciting area of science to the non-scientific community through TV documentaries, domestic and international radio interviews, TV panels and extensive news reports (with 1 million viewers on June 10th), public lectures, conferences, web articles and videos, and newspaper articles.