A Kiwi scientist's work inspiring female immunologists on both sides of the Tasman has been acknowledged with a major award for women in science.

Dr Roslyn Kemp, of Otago University's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, received the Association for Women in the Sciences's Miriam Dell Award for her work with students and for instigating the Women's Initiative of the Australasian Society for Immunology.

A major part of the initiative was to provide mentorship opportunities for female immunologists at all stages of their career, and this was coordinated and managed by Dr Kemp.

More than 85 mentors have been added to the programme since its launch in December 2013, and more than 25 mentoring relationships have been established.


Fellow Otago University scientist Dr Joanna Kirman, who nominated Dr Kemp, described her as having an "inclusive and unselfish" approach to mentoring, with a special emphasis on supporting young female Maori students into postgraduate study.

"As an undergraduate teacher she is exceptional, and this has contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of female students in immunology in recent years," she said.

"Roslyn is a consistently strong and enthusiastic mentor for women in science, and I believe she has made a significant, tangible difference to many careers."

Manawatu-based AgResearch scientist Dr Alec MacKay meanwhile was also highly commended by the awards' judges, for his mentoring of female scientists at all stages of their careers.

The judges were particularly impressed with his work mentoring of female post-graduate students as well as students at Palmerston North Girls' High School, where he has worked with teams of students undertaking the Royal Society's CREST programme.

The Miriam Dell Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring - named after the distinguished botanist and advocate for women's advancement - is awarded biennially to someone who demonstrates outstanding mentoring efforts to retain females in science, mathematics or technology.