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Three leading Otago researchers awarded prestigious national medals

Clocktower.

Thursday, 27 November 2014 11:45am

Associate Professor Peter Dearden
Associate Professor Peter Dearden

The outstanding achievements of three University of Otago researchers were recognised through the bestowing of prestigious national medals at last night’s 2014 Research Honours Dinner.

The trio were among 13 New Zealand researchers to be honoured at the Royal Society of New Zealand event in Wellington.

The Callaghan Medal for science communication was awarded to geneticist Associate Professor Peter Dearden (Biochemistry) for the outreach activities of Genetics Otago that he helped form and his involvement in communicating his genetics research on honey bees with the beekeeping industry and the public.

Charles Higham
Professor Charles Higham FRSNZ (Anthropology & Archaeology)

Archaeologist Professor Charles Higham FRSNZ (Anthropology & Archaeology) was awarded the Mason Durie Medal for social sciences for his work to understand social change in Southeast Asia over three millennia.

His work identified a series of social changes that ultimately led to the establishment of the rise of the Angkor state in modern-day Thailand.

The Sir Charles Hercus Medal for excellence in biomedical and health sciences was awarded to Professor Parry Guilford (Biochemistry).

Professor Guilford is internationally recognised for his work that established the gene mutation that can lead to hereditary stomach cancer in families.

Parry Guilford
Professor Parry Guilford. Credit Sharron Bennett

Since the discovery of the gene, approximately 350 families have been diagnosed worldwide, leading to dramatic improvements in clinical management and cancer prevention. Professor Guilford is also chief scientist for Pacific Edge, a cancer diagnostics company which has developed various products including a urine test for bladder cancer.

Additionally, NIWA Research Director Dr Rob Murdoch, who is co‐director of the NIWA‐University of Otago Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography, received the Thomson Medal. This collaborative centre received the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2011 and the University of Otago’s Research Group Award in 2012.

President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Sir David Skegg FRSNZ, said the 13 medals recognise the country’s top researchers and scholars for their outstanding contributions to knowledge but also for their leadership and public service in their disciplines. “New Zealand and, in many cases, the world has benefited greatly from the endeavours of these researchers and we salute their achievements on behalf of the research community and the general public.”

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is delighted that the excellent work of the Otago researchers has been formally recognised in this way.

“I’m sure the University community will join me in heartily congratulating these fine researchers on their richly-deserved medals,” Professor Hayne says.

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