This year’s Marsden Medal is awarded to Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble CNZM FRSNZ from School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland. Professor Brimble is internationally recognized for her world leading contributions to the synthesis of bioactive natural products and novel peptides with wide ranging applications across the life sciences industry. This is best illustrated by the discovery of a new drug (trofinetide/NNZ2566) for Rett Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that affects females and for Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited cause of intellectual disability especially among boys. Trofinetide has acquired orphan drug and fast track status from the US Food and Drug Administration. Bringing a drug to market is a unique achievement. She is an outstanding ambassador for women in science, New Zealand and science generally, engaging generously with the general public, students and media to explain the complex nature of the drug discovery process and its benefits to the global community.
This year the NZAS awarded the first Beatrice Hill Tinsley Medal, which replaces the Association’s Research Medal for early career researchers. Hill Tinsley was a New Zealand astronomer and cosmologist, who made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the life-cycle of galaxies. Sadly, she passed away at the age of just 40. Her family have agreed to lend Hill Tinsley’s name to the medal in recognition of her achievements during a tragically short, but literally stellar, career on the international science stage.
The inaugural Beatrice Hill Tinsley Medal is awarded to Associate Professor Guy Jameson from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago. Dr Jameson is a gifted biophysical chemist who has made outstanding contributions to the fields of biophysical chemistry and materials science. He is interested in the chemistry of metalloproteins – proteins that contain metal atoms or clusters – and his research involves spectroscopic and kinetic investigations of iron-containing enzymes and compounds. Dr Jameson is a recognised expert in Mössbauer spectroscopy and has established the only low temperature Mössbauer instrument in New Zealand. This gives him the ability to apply spectroscopy to a wide range of materials from proteins through to nanoparticles and inorganic polymers from volcanic ash. One of his major aims is to understand the chemical basis of diseases, such as Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis, through studying enzymes at the molecular level and how their malfunction contributes to the progression of disease.
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.
Professor Emerita Jean Fleming, now retired from the University of Otago, is a very worthy winner of the 2016 Science Communicator Medal. She spent over twenty years in the University of Otago, communicating her passion for science as an academic teacher and researcher. Her desire to inspire young people into science led to long-term involvement in Otago’s Hands-On Science summer camp, the NZ International Science Festival and the Association for Women in the Sciences. She convened the Suffrage Centennial Science Conference in 1993, the first national conference for women scientists held in New Zealand. In 2008 she joined the Centre for Science Communication at Otago, where she supervised 25 MSciComm students and two PhD students, on topics ranging from the effectiveness of rap to communicate science, to use of automata to teach mechanisms. Jean is known nationally for her public speaking and for seven years of regular radio interviews on Body Parts, on Radio NZ National’s ‘Nights’ programme.
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.
The 2016 Shorland Medal is awarded to Professor Antony Braithwaite from the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago. Professor Braithwaite is a leading cancer researcher with a focus on the signaling pathways controlling cancer cell development and on p53 in particular. Professor Braithwaite has been a Research Professor in the Department of Pathology since 1996, where he currently leads a team of more than a dozen researchers and students. Professor Braithwaite has served the national community as a key player in founding the Institutional Biological Safety Committee on which he served for 8 years, and serving 6 years with HRC Biomedical Research Committee, as well as with the HRC Maori Health Research Committee and the NZ Genetic Technology Advisory Committee. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2013 and awarded a James Cook Research Fellowship in 2015.