The prestigious 2014 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, which recognise the impact of science on New Zealanders’ lives along with celebrating and encouraging the achievements of scientists, were presented to five winners on Tuesday at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.
The top 2014 Prime Minister’s Science Prize of $500,000 went to the He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, led by Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman from the University of Otago, who is the first woman and the first social scientist to receive the prestigious award.
Her team has been tackling long-standing quality deficiencies in housing – particularly as they affect vulnerable groups such as children, older people and those with chronic health conditions – and plan to use $400,000 of the prize money to carry out a community trial on the impact of improving housing on new born infants.
“For my team in particular, who have been working on this for about 15 years, and working very closely with lots of communities, iwi groups…it was lovely to see this be rewarded,” Philippa told Radio New Zealand.
The Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize was presented to ‘Nanogirl’ Sciblogs contributor Dr Michelle Dickinson, a biomedical and materials engineer who runs Australasia’s only nanomechanical testing laboratory at the University of Auckland. The prize, valued at $100,000, recognises Michelle’s work to make the serious subject of science fun and accessible. Michelle will be using half of the $100,000 prize money to write a children’s cookbook.
“[It’ll be] for families to do science experiments with kitchen ingredients at home to show that science isn’t intimidating,” Michelle said to 3 News.
The three other science prizes were awarded at the event: Karl Iremonger received the MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize, Terry Burrell was awarded the Science Teacher Prize and Tim Logan won the the Future Scientist Prize.
More information on the prize winners can be found on the awards’ official website.
The prize giving has been covered by national media. Examples include:
Yahoo New Zealand: Prize-winning year for Nanogirl
3News: Michelle Dickinson wins Prime Minister’s Science Prize
Radio New Zealand: Social scientist bags top science prize
Otago Daily Times: Haul of science prizes
New Zealand Herald: Prestigious science prize awarded to housing champion
The Dominion Post: Science teacher’s winning formula