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Otago scientists win national medals

Blossom outside Clocktower

Friday, 9 September 2016 9:37am

Two current and one former University of Otago staff members received medals at the New Zealand Association of Scientists Awards Night, which recognises outstanding contributions by members of the country’s science community.

Professor Antony Braithwaite was awarded the Shorland Medal, Associate Professor Guy Jameson the Beatrice Hill Tinsley Medal, and Professor Emerita Jean Fleming the Science Communication Medal.

Antony Braithwaite image
Professor Antony Braithwaite

The Shorland Medal recognises major and continued contribution to basic or applied research that has added significantly to scientific understanding or resulted in significant benefits to society.

Professor Braithwaite, who is based in the Dunedin School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology, is a leading cancer researcher who studies the tumour suppressor protein p53 and other cancer associated genes.
He has been a Research Professor at Otago since 1996 and currently leads a team of more than a dozen researchers and students. Professor Braithwaite has served the national community as a key player in founding the Institutional Biological Safety Committee on which he served for eight years, and serving six years with Health Research Council (HRC) Biomedical Research Committee, as well as with the HRC Māori Health Research Committee and the NZ Genetic Technology Advisory Committee.

In 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and awarded a prestigious James Cook Research Fellowship and the Dunedin School of Medicine’s Dean’s Medal for Research in 2015.
The Beatrice Hill Tinsley Medal is awarded for outstanding fundamental or applied research in the physical, natural or social sciences published by a scientist or scientists within 15 years of receiving their PhD.

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Associate Professor Guy Jameson

Associate Professor Jameson (Department of Chemistry) becomes the inaugural recipient of the medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the fields of biophysical chemistry and materials science.

He is interested in the chemistry of metalloproteins – proteins that contain metal atoms or clusters – and his research involves spectroscopic and kinetic investigations of iron-containing enzymes and compounds.

Associate Professor Jameson is a recognised expert in Mössbauer spectroscopy and has established the only low temperature Mössbauer instrument in New Zealand.

This gives him the ability to apply spectroscopy to a wide range of materials from proteins through to nanoparticles and inorganic polymers from volcanic ash. One of his major aims is to understand the chemical basis of diseases, such as Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis, through studying enzymes at the molecular level and how their malfunction contributes to the progression of disease.

The Science Communicator Medal is made to a practising scientist for excellence in communicating science to the general public in any area of science or technology.

Jean Fleming image
Professor Emerita Jean Fleming

Professor Fleming, who is now retired from the University of Otago, has won the 2016 Science Communicator Medal. She spent over twenty years at the University communicating her passion for science as an academic teacher and researcher.

Her desire to inspire young people into science led to long-term involvement in Otago’s Hands-On Science summer camp, the NZ International Science Festival and the Association for Women in the Sciences. She convened the Suffrage Centennial Science Conference in 1993, the first national conference for women scientists held in New Zealand. In 2008, she joined the Centre for Science Communication at Otago, where she supervised 25 MSciComm students and two PhD students, on topics ranging from the effectiveness of rap to communicate science, to use of automata to teach mechanisms.

Jean is known nationally for her public speaking and for seven years of regular radio interviews on Body Parts, on RNZ National’s ‘Nights’ programme.

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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