NZ's highest science honour awarded

Dame Anne Salmond. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Dame Anne Salmond. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond, the current New Zealander of the Year, has been awarded the country's highest science and technology honour.

The renowned anthropologist, considered our best known social scientist, was presented the prestigious Rutherford Medal in absentia at the Royal Society of New Zealand's research honours dinner in Dunedin this evening.

Dame Anne, who is in Germany, has a reputation for imaginative anthropological re-creations that have earned her rare accolades of membership with overseas scientific associations.

In New Zealand, the impact of her work been "huge" and led to a greater understanding of cultural engagement, the society said.

It has included several books studying Maori ceremonial gatherings, the first exchanges between Maori and Europeans and early expeditions in the Pacific.

In an acceptance message, she paid tribute to her teachers, mentors and colleagues at the University of Auckland, the University of Pennsylvania and around the world, and Maori and Pacific communities for sharing their insights and knowledge.

"As the Maori proverb states: 'Mehemea ka tuohu ahau me maunga teitei - if you should bow your head, let it be to a high mountain',", she said.

"They have opened up pathways into worlds that would have remained inaccessible to me and sent me off on a lifelong journey of voyaging and exploration."


Other winners

* Emeritus Professor Sir Harold Marshall was awarded the Pickering Medal, the top award for achievement in technology, for his innovative research-based acoustical designs that have had a profound effect on the design of performance spaces for music, worldwide. A company the former University of Auckland professor founded, Marshall Day Acoustics, has commissioned numerous concert halls, among them the Guangzhou Opera House and the Philharmonie de Paris.

* Dr Peter Lee received the Thomson Medal, for the management and application of research, for his outstanding contribution to commercialisation of scientific research. The honour particularly reflected his work as chief executive of the University of Auckland's commercialising arm Auckland Uniservices Ltd, the largest company of its kind in Australasia and recognised throughout the world for its innovative practices.

* Dr Siouxsie Wiles has been awarded the recently-introduced Callaghan Medal for outstanding contribution to science communication. The well-known University of Auckland microbiologist has made a vital contribution to raising public awareness of the value of medical science to human health and wellbeing. Dr Wiles also recently received a Prime Minister's Science Prize of $100,000 for her science communication efforts.

* Professor Neil Broom received the MacDiarmid Medal, awarded for advances for human benefit. The University of Auckland professor's research combining engineering and biological concepts has led to better understanding of human heart valves and joint and spinal tissues. The primary focus of his research has been on understanding the structure and function of the soft and hard connective tissue of joints and the spine, and, importantly, the influence of disease.

* Professor Richard Blaikie received the Hector Medal, recognising the advancement of physical sciences, for his wide-ranging contributions to the field of nano-optics. The Otago University professor notably proved light could be manipulated at scales much smaller than its wavelength, providing a world-first demonstration of a controversial superlens system using subwavelength techniques.

* Professor Dave Kelly was awarded the Hutton Medalm, for plant science, for developing knowledge of native flora in New Zealand and defining the key interactions between plants and animals. The University of Canterbury professor has made long-term studies of South Island ecosystems, including decade-long studies to understand "mast seeding", where plant species synchronise production of an unusually large seed crop.

* Professor John Pratt, of Victoria University, received the Mason Durie Medal, in recognition of advancing the frontiers of social science. The professor has advanced the field of the sociology of punishment and comparative penology, specifically looking at why the punishment of offenders changes over time, and exploring comparisons between English-speaking and Nordic societies.

* Professor Andrew Buchanan, winner of the RJ Scott Medal, for engineering sciences and technologies, has been a major force in the international resurgence in the use of timber for large-scale buildings. Many of the concrete and steel buildings in Christchurch survived the Earthquake with moderate damage, but were proving to be too expensive to repair and are being demolished. Professor Buchanan's research has been on developing methods by which joints in timber buildings can be designed to "give" in an earthquake, while avoiding permanent damage or deformation.

* Professor Jim McQuillan, of Otago University, received the TK Sidey Medal for outstanding scientific research in the field of electromagnetic radiation. Professor McQuillan was part of a research partnership that created a new chemical analytical technique called surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and developed infrared spectroscopy to examine wet metal oxide nanoparticles.

* Professor Michael Baker was awarded the Liley Medal by the Health Research Council of New Zealand for his outstanding contribution to the health and medical sciences in the field of public health. The Otago University professor's research has shown a dramatic rise in the incidence of serious infectious diseases and rising inequalities across populations in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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