Telling It Well: Dr Mark Quigley has spent this year doing a whole lot more of what won him the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize last year.
The University of Canterbury geologist has continued to make himself available to explain the science behind earthquakes and contribute to debate about the rebuilding of Christchurch.
He’s also been making some fascinating scientific discoveries by working close to home and doing science in his own back yard.
Beneath the soils of Mark’s red-zoned Avonside home, he has uncovered the first evidence of historical liquefaction in eastern Christchurch, a discovery that will help scientists learn more about which active faults in the region pose a liquefaction risk to Christchurch and which do not.
He’s also started work on a book that tells both a personal and a science seismic story with alternating chapters on his personal experiences of the Christchurch earthquakes and an explanation of what was going on underground to cause those experiences.
“To include high level science in the book, I have to help do the science that explains what was happening around us during the quakes.”
Mark has used some of his prize money to pay senior postgraduate students to cover his classes at the University of Canterbury while he works on the book and the growing number of peer-reviewed articles he has authored on the Christchurch quakes.
Talking to lay audiences about earthquake science remains a passion. He has given a public lecture about the challenges of precisely and accurately predicting earthquakes and outlined his vision of a hazard resilient city to a New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects conference.
Mark has taken part in a number of science documentary films, been the lead scientist for an episode of Australian science television programme Catalyst and contributed his scientific expertise to an episode of Learnz, the virtual field trip programme for New Zealand’s education sector.
Additionally, he’s pursued an aspiration formed when he won a Prime Minister’s Science Prize by supporting the development of a media training course for scientists which will be piloted at the University of Canterbury in October.
Designed with busy scientists and researchers in mind, the workshops will involve working journalists and focus on encouraging effective media engagement, building skills and confidence, and enabling scientists to successfully navigate a range of media encounters. They will be run by New Zealand’s Science Media Centre.
“It’s great to have been able to support this initiative both personally and with some of my prize money,” says Mark. “The world has changed so much in the last 100 years and today’s scientists must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and efficiently across a range of media channels.
“This course will help encourage and develop more effective science communicators in New Zealand.” To read more visit http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2012/08/31/fostering-our-emerging-science-communicators/
2011 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist
The nomination process itself is an important learning experience, says the 2011 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Rob McKay from Victoria University.
“It really forces you to focus on the key questions you’re trying to address and how this is relevant for society. Improving my communication skills in the nomination process has also led to improved clarity in how I communicate to specialists in my field.”
Rob, who is a climate change scientist, says the prize money has been a huge boost.
“You can use it for research over which you have sole ‘creative’ control and, at an early stage in your career, it definitely helps to develop research independence.”
He says the prize has also increased his profile and his standing among scientific peers and “opened a few more doors that would otherwise have been available”. It has led to invitations to be involved in scientific planning committees and will help fund international collaboration in world-class laboratories.“One of the things that surprised me the most was the international attention and recognition this prize has. It has also allowed me to expand my research group with part of the prize money going towards supporting a PhD student.”
Rob’s current focus is developing his teaching skills ahead of taking on a lecturing role at Victoria but says the long term future remains open. “One of the great pleasures of working in this field is that you never know what doors are going to open.”
2011 Prime Minister’s Science Prize
Candidates for the Prime Minister’s Science Prize should try to appraise their science against a background of all the other researchers who are out there, says Professor Philip Boyd, leader of the NIWA/University of Otago Chemical and Physical Oceanography team that won the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Prize.
“That means looking at the competition in every field, from bio-medical sciences to nanotechnology. Initially it can seem daunting as New Zealand punches above its weight in many fields of science.”
Professor Boyd says winning the prize has opened doors for the team both in New Zealand and internationally. “It means we get to talk with policy people and others with broader interests.”
Professor Boyd’s current focus is helping to put the finishing touches to a new chapter on “Ocean Systems” with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
2011 Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize
Nina Huang was 17 years old when she won the prize. She says the recognition at national level helped cement her decision to base her future around science. Her Year 13 research also won her the Genesis Energy Supreme Award in the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Realise the Dream Competition.
“If your teachers suggest that you enter a competition, then go ahead and do it – you never know what will happen. Do something you are interested in, don’t be afraid to ask for help and put in 200 percent because the project represents you and all the hours you have committed to it,” says Nina, who is now studying Biomedical Science at the University of Auckland.
Being involved in the judging process also helped Nina be more confident about her interest in science and improved her communication skills. The Prime Minister’s prize awarded Nina a $50,000 scholarship to assist with tertiary studies. “It is a huge privilege for me not to worry about study fees, and allowing me to concentrate on my work and get the most out of my time at university.” As winner of Realise the Dream, Nina also won a $7,000 cash scholarship and an all expenses paid trip to the European Union Young Scientist Competition in Slovakia in September this year.
2011 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize
“The prize opened up new opportunities professionally. It also helped me to link up with other organisations involved in improving opportunities for Māori students in science and I hope these links will result in some very positive outcomes in the future.” Dr Angela Sharples, Winner of the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize
The nomination process for the 2011 Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize enabled Dr Angela Sharples to reflect on her achievements as a science teacher, consider future pathways and identify longer term career goals. Angela says that time of reflection resulted in positive planning of the steps needed to achieve her goals.
“The prize is a wonderful recognition of the work you have been doing in teaching. It was lovely to share my success with my school and the other teachers around me. We don’t often take time to celebrate the importance of teaching,” she says. The monetary award was fantastic for her school, enabling it to gain resourcing that is not normally available to foster science in schools. On that basis alone, Dr Sharples recommends other teachers consider applying.
Dr Sharples is now Deputy Principal at Rotorua Lakes High School. She will be further developing a regional hub for senior biology students next year and is involved in planning for and hosting the International Biology Olympiad at Waikato University in 2014.