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A 20-year service to science recognised by Royal Society

Tuesday 30 July 2019 12:45pm

Judith-Bateup-image
Dr Judith Bateup, Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand, has spent 20 years giving her time and expertise to ensure microbiology is on school leavers’ radar.

When Dr Judith Bateup recognised New Zealand school leavers had an alarming lack of microbiology knowledge she decided to do something about it.

Now, after 20 years of community outreach supporting secondary schools in their teaching of science, Dr Bateup herself has been recognised – being one of five Kiwis made Companions of the Royal Society of New Zealand this year.

Dr Bateup – a Senior Teaching Fellow in the University of Otago’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology – says her community outreach work was the result of her realising students’ tertiary study choices were being influenced by the deficit in their school science teachers’ understanding of microbiology.

“That was important to me because I was not aware of the discipline of microbiology when I was at school, I only discovered the amazing unseen world of microbes when I was at university. I then changed my course of study.

"With this outreach I want to open the door for those following me, for them to be aware of microbiology - both as a subject and also how important it is in our daily lives - at an earlier age than I was."

“With this outreach I want to open the door for those following me, for them to be aware of microbiology - both as a subject and also how important it is in our daily lives - at an earlier age than I was.”

Her outreach work has included supporting secondary schools in their teaching of science – particularly microbiology – as well as writing and running workshops for teachers and pupils and providing teaching materials nationwide.

An outreach programme she developed and implemented, investigating the biological ideas around interactions between humans and microorganisms, has helped in the teaching of NCEA level 1 achievement standards. Her outreach packs were distributed nation-wide last year.

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology also hosts hundreds of year 11 Otago pupils annually for half-day workshops and Dr Bateup travels to rural schools. This contact has allowed teachers to feel supported to teach assessment units they would otherwise avoid.

She is also involved in many committees, is a Science Fair judge and regularly speaks at national conferences.

Dr Bateup, who is being formally elected as a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand in Wellington this week, says she is grateful New Zealand’s leading scientists have given such recognition to the importance of science communication in the wider community.