The 2015 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes – which provide a total of $1 million across five categories – have been presented in Wellington today.
The prizes recognise the impact of science on New Zealanders’ lives, celebrate the achievements of current scientists and encourage those of the future.
The top prize of $500,000 has been awarded to a team of University of Auckland professors — Distinguished Professor Ian Reid and Associate Professors Mark Bolland and Andrew Grey — for their bone research which has saved billions of dollars internationally in reduced prescription costs.
Their findings revealed the ineffectiveness of treating osteoporosis with calcium and Vitamin D. Their research has also shown that calcium supplements increase the risk of heart attacks in older people, at times by as much as 30 percent.
The prize comes hot on the heels of other accolades for Prof Ian Reid; he was awarded not one but two medals at the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Research Honours dinner last night (the Rutherford Medal, the Society’s premier science medal, and also the Liley Medal from the Health Research Council of New Zealand for his outstanding contribution to health and medical sciences in advancing the treatment ofosteoporosis).
The Prime Minister’s 2015 Science Media Communication Prize has been presented to Dr Ian Griffin, Director of the Otago Museum and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Otago’s Department of Physics.
Under Dr Griffin’s leadership, science communication has become a key focus for the Museum which is investing $3.5 million in the next two years to create a world-class science engagement facility. Outside of work, Dr Griffin is a self-described evangelist for astronomy and the beauty of the night sky.
The other Prize winners were:
The Prime Minister’s 2015 MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize goes to Dr Alex Taylor from the University of Auckland, whose research focuses on trying to understand how humans think differently from the rest of the animal kingdom by studying the cognitive and problem solving ability of birds, particularly New Caledonian crows.
The Prime Minister’s 2015 Science Teacher Prize has been won by Tania Lineham who leads the Science department at James Hargest College in Invercargill. Tania is focused on teaching science skills for the 21st Century to students of all abilities.
The Prime Minister’s 2015 Future Scientist Prize has been won by 18 year-old, Georgia Lala from Auckland’s Diocesan School for Girls for the development of an innovative aquaponics system for growing edible plants indoors, enabling families to reduce the amount of commercially grown crops that they purchase each week.