Riddet Institute founders take PM's top science prize

The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes for 2012 have been handed out and the top award, worth $500,000, has been awarded to Professors Paul Moughan and Harjinder Singh from Massey University.

The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes for 2012 have been handed out and the top award, worth $500,000, has been awarded to Professors Paul Moughan and Harjinder Singh from Massey University.

Prime Minister’s Science Prize

The two scientists established and are co-directors of the Riddet Institute, dedicated to food, nutrition and health sciences, whose research has led to a number of commercial innovations, patents, revenue and exports for New Zealand. They also drove the formation of Riddet Foodlink, which involves 90 companies collaborating with the Riddet Institute on research and commercialising intellectual property.

Along with a cash prize, recipients were given a nifty trophy created by Industrial Research Limited, based on the Möbius strip.

The other Prime Minister's Science Prize winners are:

The Prime Minister’s 2012 MacDiarmid Emerging ScientistPrize went to Dr James Russell, a University of Auckland researcher who is internationally recognised for his conservation work. Russell’s innovative combination of ecology, statistics and genetics to prevent rats and other mammalian pests invading predator-free islands is helping to keep endangered species safe, and strengthening New Zealand’s reputation as a world leader in island conservation. He receives $200,000 in total, with $150,000 of the money to be used for further research.

The Prime Minister’s 2012 Science Teacher Prize was given to Peter Stewart, head of chemistry at Papatoetoe High School. Under Stewart’s leadership, chemistry class numbers at the school have increased by 44 percent at level two and more than 100 percent at level three while the school roll has remained static. Chemistry achievements are outperforming other subject results within the school and students are now regularly studying and earning chemistry scholarships. Stewart receives $50,000 and Papatoetoe High School receives $100,000.

The Prime Minister’s 2012 Future Scientist Prize went to Hannah Ng, a 17-year-old student at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, whose research into childhood myopia, or shortsightedness, has given university researchers a novel theory that may provide solutions to the global eye problem. She has discovered that blurring of peripheral vision could increase the rate of shortsightedness, and says optometrists do not usually take peripheral vision into account when prescribing glasses; the constant blurring induced may exacerbate myopia levels. Her work will be extended by researchers at the University of Auckland’s Myopia Laboratory. She wins a scholarship worth $50,000 to help pay for her tertiary studies.

The Prime Minister’s 2012 Science Media Communication Prize was presented to Shaun Hendy, a professor of computational physics at Victoria University, deputy director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, and an industry and outreach fellow for Industrial Research Limited. Hendy is at the forefront of research and thinking on the links between innovation and economic prosperity, and he was chosen by the late Sir Paul Callaghan to co-author a sequel to Callaghan’s book Wool to Weta, which examined ways to lift New Zealand’s standard of living through science. Hendy receives $50,000 with another $50,000 allocated for further developing his science media communication skills.