Aotearoa’s top researchers, scholars and innovators honoured – In the News

Outstanding New Zealand researchers have been honoured at the Research Honours Aotearoa, hosted by Royal Society Te Apārangi and held in Dunedin last night.

The Society handed out 17 medals and awards and the Health Research Council of New Zealand also presented three awards. On the night, Tā Tipene O’Regan was made a Companion of the society and a new innovation award for 2020 was announced.

The top honour, the Rutherford Medal, was awarded to Distinguished Professor Jane Harding ONZM FRSNZ for her pre-eminent work determining the causes of newborn conditions and long-term consequences of interventions around the time of birth. 

Professor Harding pioneered a simple treatment for low blood sugar in babies, and has provided some of the first evidence that the health of a pregnant woman not only influences her baby’s growth, but also her baby’s disease risk as an adult. 

The Callaghan Medal for science communication was awarded to Dr Ocean Mercier (Ngāti Porou) from Victoria University of Wellington for her leading work engaging audiences in both mātauranga Māori and science. Dr Mercier was the first Māori woman to gain a PhD in physics and was mentored by the late Sir Paul Callaghan, after whom the award is named.

For the first time, the Society issued a new award that recognises excellent, innovative co-created research, conducted by Māori that has made a distinctive contribution development and community wellbeing in Aotearoa. The inaugural Te Rangaunua Hiranga Māori Award was presented to Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence for work developing and implementing new processes and structures to support Indigenous community co-created research in a tertiary environment.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand presented the Beaven Medal to Professor Richard Beasley FRSNZ for his work on changing asthma management, that halted an epidemic of asthma deaths in New Zealand. 

Former New Zealand Poet Laureate Associate Professor Selina Tusitala Marsh ONZ of the University of Auckland was awarded the Humanities Aronui Medal for her outstanding creative and scholarly work to bring the voices of Pasifika poetry to a broad audience.

The Hutton Medal went to Bio-Protection Research Centre’s Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme FRSNZ for advancing knowledge on how non-native plants become invasive weeds in New Zealand.

Read the full list of recipients. Coverage of the awards includes:

RNZ: A bridge between science & mātauranga Māori
NZ Herald: Top honour for scientist behind newborn breakthroughs
Stuff: Exotic plants poised to invade NZ countryside as climate changes
Otago Daily Times: National awards for Otago scholars
RNZ: Top award for making a difference in babies’ lives
RNZ: 2019 Research Honours – babies, sugar & Māori science
RNZ: Honour a sweet reward for sugar research
NZ Herald: Top honour for scientist behind newborn breakthroughs (video)