This year's Marsden Medal was awarded to Dr Mike Andrews. Dr Andrews has been a practising 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 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and then Industrial Research Limited (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 New Zealand industry with benefits worth over $20 million 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.
This year's Research Medal was awarded to Associate Professor Stéphane Coen. Professor Coen works in the Physics Department at the University of Auckland, where he undertakes fundamental and applied studies of nonlinear optical phenomena in optical fibres, with the aim of developing 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. This work 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 among the few new fundamental concepts in nonlinear optics in recent years.
The Science Communicator Medal is made to a practising scientist for excellence in communicating science to the general public in any area of science or technology.
This year this award was made jointly to two scientists: Professors Christopher Battershill and David Schiel. Professor Battershill (left), who is Professor and Chair of Coastal Science, University of Waikato, and Professor Schiel (right), who is Professor of Marine Science, University of Canterbury, 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, Professors 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. Closing remarks at awards ceremony ‘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 Professor Stevens. ‘It is also fantastic to see the work of Chris Battershill and David Schiel recognised in their contribution to environmental recovery after the Rena disaster.’
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 Shorland Medal was awarded to Dr Ian Brown. Dr Brown is a Distinguished Scientist in the Advanced Materials Group of Callaghan Innovation. He has had an outstandingly successful 41-year research career as a materials chemist, first in Chemistry Division of DSIR, then in 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 utilisation of waste glass and New Zealand ironsands to produce new ceramic materials, and researched the chemistry of fertiliser manufacture from phosphate rock. Ian was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand 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 2014 Marsden Medal is awarded jointly to two equally deserving scientists.
Professor Mick Clout is Professor of Conservation Ecology at the University of Auckland. He is a vertebrate ecologist and has worked on a range of invasive mammals and threatened native birds, first with the DSIR and then DOC, before joining the University of Auckland in 1993. He established the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (SSC/IUCN) and led it for 15 years, and has also served as chair of the Kakapo Scientific & Technical Advisory Committee since 1995 and the Biosecurity Ministerial Advisory Committee since 2005. His primary research speciality is the ecology and behaviour of vertebrates, but he has broad interests in applications of ecological science to national and international problems in conservation and biodiversity management. He has been honoured with the Sir Peter Scott Award for Conservation Merit (2008), the Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement (2007), and the NZ Ecological Society Award for Ecological Excellence (2007). In 2010 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Mick has served his discipline with distinction and the cause of conservation in New Zealand with great zeal and effect.
Professor Keith Hunter of the University of Otago is a recognised leader and innovator in environmental and chemical oceanography. His research is characterised by the application of fundamental chemistry to the investigation of oceanographic systems and the role of trace elements and, recently, CO2 in ecological and biogeochemical processes. He has co-authored over 140 publications, including papers in Nature and Science, and his research has been supported by many Marsden and FRST research grants. His close collaboration with NIWA scientists has resulted in the establishment of a joint Research Centre in Chemical Oceanography. In recognition of his contribution to New Zealand and international science, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, elected as a member of the American Geophysical Union, invited to chair international working groups, and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2011 and the University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal. Keith has held significant administrative positions for the Royal Society and the University of Otago and is currently Pro-Vice Chancellor (Sciences) at Otago.
The 2014 SHorland Medal is awarded to Professor Wei Gao, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Auckland. He received his DPhil from Oxford University, UK in 1988, and worked at MIT, USA for 5 years as a Research Fellow. At the University of Auckland, he leads a research group of 30 people, and has made significant contributions in a wide area including nano-materials, thin films and coatings, light alloys, corrosion and oxidation, superconductors, photocatalysis, wastewater treatment and electron microscopy. His group discovered a simple method to produce “black titania” (TiO2-X), which can collect energy by absorbing UV, visible and infrared radiations from sun light, dramatically improving the efficiency of using solar energy. The nanostructure alloy/composite coatings his group developed possess superior wear and corrosion resistance, and are being used in machinery, tool and device industries in New Zealand and overseas. His selective oxidation map/theory has established the relationships of microstructure and protective oxidation, and has significant impact on oxidation resistant coating research. He has 660 refereed research publications including 375 journal papers, 11 books and book chapters and 15 patents. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society NZ and IPENZ; Vice President of the International Thin Films Society; sits on a number of editorial boards of international journals; and is Honorary/Advisory Professor for 8 universities overseas. He has also received a number of prestigious awards, including the RJ Scott Medal, James Cook Fellowship, RH Cooper Award and Distinguished Materials Scientist of China.
In 2014 we are pleased to award the medal jointly to two scientists.
Professor Merryn Gott of the University of Auckland has developed a programme of research that is at the leading edge of one of the greatest challenges facing health systems today, namely how to reduce suffering at the end of life within the context of rapidly ageing populations and constrained health budgets. Her research has resulted in over 120 publications in peer reviewed journals as well as several books, including an international textbook for Oxford University Press which has been recognised as a ground-breaking work in its field. Not only is her work highly cited, but it has also influenced policy and led to real changes in health and social care services. Merryn directs the Te Arai Palliative Care Research Group based in the School of Nursing, University of Auckland, which has adopted a bicultural framework to focus particularly upon issues of social justice at the end of life and following bereavement. For example, she is currently leading an HRC funded study exploring ways of optimising care at the end of life for Māori and non-Māori over the age of 85 living in a number of communities across New Zealand. Merryn also plays a key role in supporting New Zealand’s next generation of health scientists by mentoring early career researchers and through postgraduate student supervision; she currently supervises seven PhD students.
Associate Professor Richard Tilley of Victoria University has pioneered and developed the synthesis and electron microscopy characterization of nanoparticles in New Zealand. The applications of the nanoparticles made in Richard’s group are varied and include the development of magnetic nanoparticles for MRI contrast agents in collaboration with the Malaghan Institute and Wellington Hospital. The contrast agents are capable of detecting tumours as small as 2 mm and will lead to earlier detection and enhanced treatment of cancers. Additional applications are making light emitting and absorbing quantum dots for solar cells. Richard has also unlocked new fundamental growth mechanisms to explain how nanocrystals can nucleate and grow into unique cubic, hourglass and branched shapes with unique properties for the next generation of catalysts for greener and more efficient technologies. Richard is a Principal Investigator and runs the electron microscope facility of the MacDiarmid Institute. During the past 5 years he has published over 50 papers, including 15 in high impact factor journals, and in 2013 published by invitation in Nature Nanotechnology.
The recipient for 2014 is Dr. Michelle Dickinson, University of Auckland.
Having fun, getting excited, and playing around with science: this is Dr Michelle Dickinson’s description of her day job as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, at the University of Auckland. She loves being able to share that passion with people from all walks of life, through her blog, public talks and TV appearances. Known as the girl who likes to break really tiny things, Michelle has a background in fracture mechanics and nanotechnology. Her passion for her discipline of materials science has been described as contagious and she is known for being able to spark that excitement in others who don’t always understand the more technical details. Michelle understands that most of us don’t have a PhD in science, or a mastery of the technical language that articles are written in, and believes that she can help fill the gap between the highly educated few and the public who crave for information they can understand. Michelle regularly appears on breakfast television to try to explain very complex topics in bite-sized and simple ways that anybody can understand, even before their first cup of morning coffee. As a young woman in STEM, Michelle hopes to help change the public stereotype of scientists and engineers, as well as being a role model for girls by showing that there are many fun, approachable women within this field.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists Marsden Medal for 2013 is awarded to Professor Barry Scott of Massey University. After seminal work on the Rhizobium-legume nitrogen-fixing symbiosis (reported in Nature in 1979), Professor Scott turned his attention to the fungal endophyte-perennial ryegrass symbiosis that is important to New Zealand agriculture. The identification of the endophyte genes and biochemical pathways responsible for the bioprotective metabolites unique to this symbiosis led to the development of PCR diagnostic assays to field-test the metabolite potential of different endophyte strains. Scott and his group then established that fungal synthesis of reactive oxygen species is essential for this symbiosis (reported in two papers in Plant Cell in 2006). The first transcriptome analysis of a fungal-plant association elucidated factors distinguishing a fungal symbiont from a pathogen (published in Plant Physiology in 2010). Professor Scott has also given exemplary service to science, including inter alia: the founding Board of ERMA; active participation in the public debates on Genetic Engineering; the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Science Expert Panel; the founding Board (and convenor in 1992) of Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting Inc. – now an international meeting of ever- increasing scope; Head of the Institute of Molecular BioSciences at Massey University; the current Board of NZ Genomics Ltd; member and current chair of the Committee overseeing the international Asilomar Fungal Genetics Conference; current editorial boards of Molecular Microbiology and Molecular Plant Pathology. In both the practice of and service to science, nationally and internationally, Professor Scott has made over time the outstanding contributions that fully merit the award of the Marsden Medal.
The 2013 Shorland Medal is awarded to Graham Nugent and his team of wildlife ecology and management researchers, Bruce Warburton, Penny Fisher, Dave Morgan, and Peter Sweetapple at Landcare Research, in recognition of their outstanding leadership and prolonged contribution through research to resolve the major environmental and economic problems in New Zealand caused by introduced mammal pests, particularly possums. The team’s skill base spans wildlife ecology, the eco-epidemiology of bovine tuberculosis (TB), computer modelling, animal physiology and behaviour, toxicology, animal welfare and product development. Their research had clarified the role of various pest species as TB vectors and as threats to native biodiversity; helped develop new strategies for local elimination of pest and pest and disease freedom; helped substantially reduce the environmental, non-target, and animal welfare risks caused by pest management; and significantly improved approaches to measuring benefits and outcomes. This work has contributed greatly to the progressive development of a much more cost effective, but also more sustainable and socially acceptable, suite of pest-management strategies and tools. Underpinning this are their 57 journal publications since 2009 – widely cited nationally and internationally. The benefits have been an efficient possum control industry, major reductions in agricultural production losses from TB, increased protection of native plants and animals, and recognition of New Zealand as global leader in vertebrate pest control.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists Research Medal for 2013 is awarded to Dr Noam Greenberg for his outstanding work in many aspects of the fundamental area of science, the theory of computability. There is no doubt that algorithms and algorithmic thinking lie at the heart of modern society, and hence the understanding of computation is one of the most important and central areas of human endeavour. The year 2012 was the Centenary of Alan Turing's birth, when we celebrated Turing's fundamental insight that there could be universal computing machines. This gave birth to the modern theory of computation and led to the development of the modern computer. Dr Greenberg's work follows in the tradition of Turing’s work, by shedding light on the capabilities and limitations of the algorithms used by modern computers and software. The international quality of his research has been recognized by the award of a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (2011) from the Royal Society of New Zealand and a Turing Research Fellowship (2012) from the US-based John Templeton Foundation.
The recipient for 2013 is Associate Professor Simon Lamb, Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr Simon Lamb has a sustained record of high impact communication concerning the science of climate change. He stands out particularly because of the international impact of his portfolio of work, including several books and a number of TV documentaries and films that have reached large global audiences. His book, “The Devil and the Mountain”, which describes his own research into the formation of the Andes, was named on the New York Times Book Review’s list of 100 Notable Books for 2004. This year, he completed a major documentary film project, “Thin Ice", which has reached a global audience of more than 50,000 people. Dr Lamb is also an active researcher and teacher, who works in Victoria University’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences. His research interests lie in the study of the movements of the Earth’s tectonic plates, including the tectonic activity that led to the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010- 2011.
The award of the 2012 Marsden Medal for Professor Lionel Carter recognises an outstanding 40 year research career as a practising geoscientist with significant contributions to marine geology, palaeoceanography, physical oceanography and applied marine geology. Quite simply our present knowledge of the undersea extent of the New Zealand continent and its interaction with water masses and currents that originate in the Antarctic and tropical Pacific would not exist without Lionel’s research career.
His research has transformed our knowledge of the interaction between climate, topography and ocean circulation with important implications for understanding the processes that have formed New Zealand’s undersea exclusive economic zone. Lionel has been a dedicated communicator of science and demonstrator of its practical applications. He has been involved in the production 17 charts including the international award-winning Undersea New Zealand, New Zealand Region Bathymetry and Ocean Circulation, New Zealand. He is a passionate public communicator disseminating scientific results via the media, talks to the public and policymakers on the oceans and the impacts of climate change as well as popular articles.
The recipient for 2012 is Professor Michael Hendy, University of Otago.
Professor Hendy is awarded the Shorland Medal for an outstanding body of research into mathematical phylogeny – the set of mathematical tools for reconstructing evolutionary relationships between species using DNA sequences. The application of combinatorics and graph theory to phylogenetics has proved to be an exceptionally fruitful area for Professor Hendy, yielding over 80 papers published in that field. Our understanding of evolution has developed at an unprecedented rate in recent years and much of this can be attributed to the pioneering work of Professor Hendy and his co-worker, Professor David Penny. In the 1980s Penny and Hendy put Darwin’s theory of evolution to a particularly stringent mathematical test, finding not only that it stood up to their test, but that it was not a tautology as had been asserted by the philosopher, Karl Popper. In 2001, Professor Hendy teamed up with three other researchers at Massey University to develop an application for the government’s new Centres of Research Excellence Fund. This led to the establishment of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, hosted by Massey with partners in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The Allan Wilson Centre advances knowledge of the evolution and ecology of New Zealand and Pacific plant and animal life, and of human history in the Pacific.
The recipient for 2012 is Associate Professor Eric Le Ru, Victoria University of Wellington.
Professor Le Ru has made an enormous contribution to research in the multidisciplinary fields of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and nanoplasmonics. In particular, his work carried out over the last few years has had an exceptional international impact. It has resulted in the publication of a book and over 50 papers, several of them in the most prestigious journals in physics and chemistry. SERS uses nanoscale metallic objects to boost the sensitivity of Raman spectroscopy. Although discovered 30 years ago, its potential applications are only coming of age now thanks to recent advances in nanotechnology. Once the difficulties in understanding and implementing it are overcome, this technique has the potential to revolutionise analytical chemistry. Associate Professor Le Ru has made seminal contributions to both the theoretical understanding of the physical mechanisms responsible for SERS and to the development of new experimental methods to study it. His work has been at the forefront of the international research effort towards applying SERS to single-molecule detection and identification, arguably the ultimate goal of analytical chemistry.
The recipient for 2012 is Dr Siouxsie Wiles, University of Auckland
Dr Wiles has demonstrated excellence in science communication to the general public. She impressed the judge by showing a commitment to communicate across a range of scientific issues of interest to the public, as well as communicating her specialist area. Dr Wiles has embraced traditional print and broadcast media outlets, as well as social media and other communication formats. She has looked to innovate, and has tried new approaches as a creator of content. She is articulate and interesting to her audience, and available and accommodating to the media she deals with. The Association hopes that in awarding this prize to Dr Wiles, it will encourage many other scientists to follow her lead and become proactive, engaging communicators with integrity and passion.
The Marsden, Shorland and Research Medals and the Science Communicator Award were presented by the Hon Dr Wayne Mapp Minister of Science and Innovation, on Thursday, 9 November, at a ceremony at Turnbull House, Wellington. Dr Mapp briefly addressed the audience noting that his first public address as then Minister of Research, Science and Technology was at the Association’s Awards 3 years ago. And now, as Minister of Science and Innovation and a retiring MP was effectively giving his last public address at this year’s Awards ceremony.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists Marsden Medal for 2011 is awarded to Professor Geoffrey B. Jameson in recognition of his sustained record of leadership and service to New Zealand science and his outstanding contribution to the chemical sciences.
Professor Jameson is a member of the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University and has provided a leadership role in the development of capability in synchrotron science and access to the Australian Synchrotron for the New Zealand science community. His continuing service to the facility is having positive outcomes for many areas of science in New Zealand.
As Director of Massey University’s Centre for Structural Biology, he has provided leadership in a range of areas from materials science to understanding fundamental enzymatic processes. His leading of the bid for the high-field 700-MHz NMR spectrometer provided the Centre with the best NMR facility in NZ for the benefit of the country’s scientific research community in structural biology and metabolomics.
Professor Jameson’s reputation in the technique of X-ray crystallography, especially his ability to solve very difficult problems, has meant he is extensively called upon for assistance by the chemical community both in NZ and overseas. Furthermore, his own research contributions are wide ranging and widely cited, and his approach has led to important new insights into chemical and biological systems.
Professor Jameson is Massey University Professor of Structural Chemistry and Biology; Director of the Centre for Structural Biology (Chemistry and Biophysics group); awarded the Massey University Research Medal (2010).
The New Zealand Association of Scientists Shorland Medal for 2011 is awarded to Professor Harjinder Singh, co-Director of the Riddet Institute, Massey University. Professor Singh has demonstrated distinguished scholarship and intellectual leadership in food science and technology, especially in relation to milk products.
His research has had a major international impact on both the dairy industry and the general scientific community. Over 200 papers have been published with his research, and in addition he has successfully mentored over 60 research students and post-doctoral fellows. Not only is his research very highly cited, but he has served on editorial boards of journals and on external agencies, has helped obtain research grants of over $43 million and has been awarded several patents.
Professor Singh is a Fellow of Royal Society of New Zealand, Fellow of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology, Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology. He has been awarded the William C. Haines Dairy Science Award (California Dairy Research Foundation); Marschall Rhodia International Dairy Science Award (American Dairy Science Association) and the Massey University Individual and Team Research Medals (2006).
The New Zealand Association of Scientists Research Medal for 2011 is awarded to Alexei Drummond, Associate Professor of Bioinformatics in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Auckland. His research interests are centred around probabilistic models of molecular evolution and population genetics.
Professor Drummond’s work on the Bayesian phylogenetic analysis programme is very highly regarded. Both his research and his software implementation are now widely used, with incredibly high citation rates. He publishes prolifically in a broad range of prestigious journals and has many collaborators. Being invited to participate in the Woods Hole workshop on molecular evolution is evidence of international recognition of his achievements.
His work has also led to successful commercial enterprises.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award is made to Dr Mark Quigley, Senior Lecturer in Active Tectonics and Geomorphology in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Canterbury.
From the morning of September 4th, 2010 when Cantabrians were awoken before dawn by the violent shaking of the ground beneath them, Dr Mark Quigley has been at the forefront of science communication about the forces at work beneath the Canterbury plains.
From the beginning of the event Dr Quigley was handling media interviews across print and broadcast media in such an engaging way that he became the go-to scientist for independent commentary on the science-related aspects of the earthquakes. Notably, he was instrumental in allaying fears generated by pseudoscientific earthquake predictions.
Throughout, Dr Quigley has maintained a blog, where he writes about his research, contributes extensively when called on by the media and participates in public lectures and presentations that have been greatly appreciated by the people of Canterbury. He has a holistic understanding of current best thinking about the earthquakes which he was able to communicate to a general audience. He is a great asset to natural hazards research in New Zealand and to science communication in general.
The winners of the New Zealand Association of Scientists 2010 awards were recognised for their contributions to research in New Zealand while Dr Marc Wilson picked up the science communicator award for his extensive work with the media, general public and schools.
The Marsden Medal for 2010 is awarded to Professor Brian Robinson, Otago UniversityProfessor Robinson has served the Chemistry Department of Otago University for over 40 years, and taken a very active role in all areas. Although his core research area has been organometallic chemistry, he has continued to be very innovative in examining new areas. His publications have been widely cited in the scientific literature; his work has been appreciated internationally. In addition to the normal roles in teaching, mentoring and research he has served as Head of Department for 10 years, and his service role has been extensive in several areas such as quality assurance and academic audits, controlling chemical hazards, safety, and commercial developments. In all this Brian has maintained an innovative approach to new areas of chemistry – he has served science extremely well.
The Shorland Medal for 2010 is awarded to Professor Ken McNatty, AgResearchProfessor Kenneth McNatty is one of the world’s leading figures in reproduction biology, having made a number of important basic research discoveries and then seen them through to applications with significant economic benefits. He is the author of 260 peer-reviewed research papers and holds 10 patents. Ken’s reputation was founded on a number of discoveries during the ‘70s and ’80s relating to follicular development and egg viability and the differences between humans, sheep and cattle. This work led to Ken becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1992, having been nominated by Brian Shorland. Further fundamental research on ovulation followed, and provided insight into the system that regulates the number of eggs released at ovulation. This work provided the basis upon which Ken’s team at AgResearch developed AdroVax, a sheep twinning vaccine that has made a substantial contribution to the New Zealand economy, estimated to be in excess of $100 million per annum. Now based at Victoria University, Ken continues to develop new insights into reproduction, with projects focussed on human health, agricultural benefits, environmental impacts on reproduction and even seeking to improve rates and success of reproduction in New Zealand’s native avian fauna.
The Research Medal for 2010 is awarded to Dr Shaun Hendy, Victoria University and Industrial Research Limited Dr Shaun Hendy has pioneered, established and continued the transformational research area of Theoretical Nanotechnology in New Zealand. Shaun’s major research discoveries include identifying new solid-liquid phase behaviour induced from nano-scale collisions, and the classification of novel recoil behaviour of nano-particles. These new phenomena are absent from both the smaller atomic-scale, and from the larger macro-scale. Their discovery by Shaun attests to his scholarship, especially given the very applied and industrially-motivated aims of the research programmes. Shaun’s mathematical discoveries have resulted from the application of new numerical methods, called Hybrid-Kinetic Monte Carlo methods, developed jointly with Prof Tim Schulze from the University of Tennessee, which allow both a fine computational grid where significant atomic redistribution is occurring, but with a coarse grid where atomic distributions are largely static. Shaun has also discovered new laws relating at the nano-scale, for the drag between a liquid and a solid surface; and obtained new results for droplet entry into nano-tubes. His IRL responsibilities have included successful application for, and management of over NZ$20M of research contracts. Shaun has been employed at IRL since 1998, where he is a Distinguished Scientist and is currently Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.
The science communicators award for 2010 is awarded to Dr Marc Wilson, Victoria University Dr Marc Wilson describes himself as ‘intellectually indigenous’ to Victoria University, having started studying psychology there in 1991 and never leaving. After completing his PhD in 1999, trying to secure a permanent job involved doing some of the, ahem, less popular academic jobs at the time. These included teaching research methods to 100-level psychology students in one of the largest courses offer at VUW, and so it all began. Marc is a teacher, first and foremost, whether this involves teaching formal classes, or through print, radio, and television media. He regularly presents to schools, organisations, and anyone else who will listen and, taking seriously the obligation of tertiary education in New Zealand to contribute to “the development of cultural and intellectual life”, he has gone out of his way to help out various media organisations in New Zealand. Marc routinely crops us to provide commentary on topical social issues – after all, what better way to champion one’s discipline than through media willing to do the work for you? In the words of one journalist “I swear to God, you seem to be the only psychologist in Wellington who speaks to the media”. Marc has won both local and national recognition for his teaching, and this has lead to the opportunity of an academic lifetime – the chance to design material for, and present, two series of TVNZ’s consumer psychology ‘The School of…’ series in 2007 and 2008 (watched by more than 800,000 people). He has collaborated with several outlets (including TV3 and the Sunday Star Times) on large scale studies on topics such as supernatural and superstitious beliefs, and personality and criminality, which have also served as vehicles for data collection for his research – these partnerships are a win-win for both academics and media. Most recently he has been engaged in a study of public beliefs about evolution that has involved surveying Fellows and Members of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Secondary School science teachers, members of the general public, and (because it’s traditional) first-year Psychology students. On the downside he has also been described by Paul Henry as a “Kiwi cultural commentator”. As befits a science communicator, Marc Wilson demonstrated how to convey information and entertain an audience at the same time. Thanks to the Science Media Center, Marc's speech can be accessed below: