New Zealand’s million dollar scientists

By Shaun Hendy 10/03/2010 1


Congratulations to all the winners of the inaugural Prime Minister’s science prizes. I am particularly pleased to know four of the winners personally.

Dr Jeff Tallon and Dr Bob Buckley, from Industrial Research Ltd, are two of New Zealand’s greatest physical scientists.  I discussed some of their work in a blog post last month.  Twenty five years ago, the Jeff and Bob took New Zealand to the forefront of research and development in high temperature superconductivity, and have kept us there ever since.  Their work has not only had immense scientific impact, but has led to the development of a superconductivity industry in New Zealand.  Jeff is a Principal Investigator in the MacDiarmid Institute, and Bob is a member of the Institute’s governance board.  Bob and Jeff have both been important mentors in my career.

Elizabeth Connor is the winner of the Science Communicators Prize.  I taught Elizabeth at Victoria University of Wellington during her BSc(Hons) in physics.  After her honours degree, Elizabeth travelled overseas to pursue further training in science communication, before returning last year.  She has since worked with us at the MacDiarmid Institute on several projects, including our Interface newsletter, and for Radio New Zealand.  You can read some of her work in our newsletter here.  She is one of our up and coming science journalists. I hope that Elizabeth continues to go from strength to strength in her journalism.

John Watt is another winner with MacDiarmid Institute affiliation.  We knew about John’s prize in advance as he was the winner of last year’s MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year award, which has now been superseded by the Prime Minister’s Emerging Scientist award.  John submitted his PhD thesis earlier this year and is awaiting his oral exam at the moment.  You can see some of John’s work on palladium nanocrystals here.  After he graduates, he is going to work with a Victoria University spin out company.  The prize will give him an excellent opportunity to become one of New Zealand’s scientific entrepreneurs.


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