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Otago scientists win national outstanding research awards

Friday 18 October 2019 4:24pm

Two University of Otago scientists have received prestigious awards at the New Zealand Research Honours gala this evening.

The annual Royal Society Te Apārangi awards, which have this year been held in Dunedin, celebrate the achievements of New Zealand researchers by awarding a number of medals and awards.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise Richard Blaikie says it gives him great pleasure that the qualities of leading Otago researchers have been recognised alongside the other outstanding recipients.

Other top Otago researchers have also been recognised in group awards, Professor Blaikie says.

Anne-Marie Jackson image
Dr Anne-Marie Jackson

Senior Lecturer in Māori Physical Education and Health, Dr Anne-Marie Jackson, has been awarded the 2019 Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award for community research forging new knowledge at the interface of mātauranga Māori and Physical Sciences.

In 2019, Dr Jackson led a team of researchers and communities to create a free Māori water safety programme to strengthen whānau connection to the water.

Although water is the giver of life for Māori, it is also the source of tragedy, and Māori consistently represent 20 to 25 per cent of New Zealand’s drownings despite forming 15 per cent of the population.

“What I hope to achieve in our research is simple – and that is mauri ora (flourishing wellness),” she says.

She dedicated her award to her mother, who had “always promoted excellence in education”.

“Being a Māori academic who engages in this style of research has certain challenges,” she says.

“Winning this award is recognition for our communities, colleagues, mentors, and our research kaupapa of Te Koronga and Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai in our expression of Māori research excellence.”

Keith Gordon image
Professor Keith Gordon

Fellow University of Otago scientist Professor of Chemistry Keith Gordon has been awarded the MacDiarmid Medal for his innovative use of light to understand molecular structure across a range of areas that impinge on technology, health and the environment.

Professor Gordon uses the interactions between light and matter – known as spectroscopy – to probe the molecular structure in a wide range of materials from solar cells, fish oils to plastics in the environment.

In solar cell research, he and his team have improved solar cell performance to make the cells better at absorbing light and conducting charges created by light absorption.

Professor Gordon says he is very pleased to receive the award and thanked his family for their support.

“Science is a team effort and in addition to the students and postdocs I have worked with over the years, I would like to acknowledge the scholarly community that I enjoy working in at the University of Otago Chemistry Department, and my collaborators and colleagues in the Dodd-Walls Centre, the MacDiarmid Institute and the Riddet Institute.”


Dr Anne-Marie Jackson

Dr Jackson is of Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa, and Te Roroa descent.

Dr Jackson is a co-founder of Te Koronga: Graduate Research Excellence and Indigenous Science Research Theme, and she co-leads two other research programmes: Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai (customary fisheries) and Tangaroa Ara Rau (Māori Water Safety).

In 2016 she was awarded the University of Otago Student Association Supervisor of the Year, in 2017 she received the University of Otago Division of Sciences Māori / Pacific Content Innovation in Teaching Award and in 2019 received the Kaupapa Māori University of Otago Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award is for an early career researcher to recognise innovative Māori research with a promising trajectory.

Professor Keith Gordon

Professor Gordon has more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, many of which are regarded as seminal.

He was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) in 2004, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2011 and a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2012.

In 2010 he was awarded the Maurice Wilkens Prize for excellence in Chemical Sciences by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry.

The MacDiarmid Medal is for outstanding scientific research that demonstrates the potential for application for human benefit.

Royal Society Te Apārangi

These awards were presented at the 2019 Research Honours Aotearoa gala event held on the night of Thursday 17 October 2019 at the Dunedin Town Hall.

Royal Society Te Apārangi hosts this annual awards ceremony to celebrate the achievements and contributions of innovators, kairangahau Māori, researchers and scholars in science, technology and humanities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. The Health Research Council of New Zealand also awards three medals at the event.

For more information, contact:

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson
Senior Lecturer
Māori Physical Education and Health
Co-Director Te Koronga
School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences
University of Otago
Tel +64 3 479 8378

Professor Keith Gordon
Department of Chemistry
University of Otago

Please note Professor Gordon is currently overseas but is available by email.

Liane Topham-Kindley
Senior Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Tel +64 3 479 9065
Mob +64 21 279 9065