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Thomson Medal honours Otago researcher’s science leadership

Main entrance to the University at night

Wednesday 11 November 2015 4:36pm

Professor Richard Blaikie

The Royal Society of New Zealand last night awarded Otago’s Professor Richard Blaikie the Thomson Medal in honour of his science leadership. The medal recognises his involvement in establishing and supporting nanotechnology as a strong sub-discipline in New Zealand and his leadership of the MacDiarmid Institute, a Centre of Research Excellence.

Professor Blaikie, now Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) at the University, was Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute under Sir Paul Callaghan from 2001 to 2008 and Director from 2008 to 2011.The MacDiarmid Institute develops cutting-edge techniques in physics, chemistry and engineering to build materials and devices from atoms and molecules and explore other phenomena at ‘the nanoscale’.

The medal selection panel commended Professor Blaikie for his “inclusive and open leadership style that allows researcher-led collaborations to flourish”. It noted that the MacDiarmid Institute experienced high numbers of academic publications and strong attendance at the Institute’s annual symposium during Professor Blaikie’s directorship.

Prior to his involvement with the MacDiarmid Institute, Professor Blaikie established and led a nanofabrication laboratory as part of the University of Canterbury’s Nanostructure Engineering, Science and Technology (NEST) research group, following his return to New Zealand in 1995.

Achievements by Professor Blaikie include:

  • Initiation of PhD internships with IBM's Almaden Research Centre
  • Leadership of the MacDiarmid Institute's annual student and postdoctoral symposia series, setting these up as an avenue for emerging scientist to discuss the commercial, social, environmental and public-engagement elements of the Institute's research
  • Programme Chair for the second ‘AMN' conference (Queenstown, February 2005)
  • Direct engagement with industry through leading the Institute's first industry forum (2003) and undertaking direct industry consultancy work and engaging directly or indirectly with Institute start-up companies.

His other national leadership roles including serving on the Marsden Fund Council (2005-2007) and inaugural membership of the Science Board (2011). In his leadership role at Otago, he seeks opportunities for putting further focus on the practical application of science and technology, while maintaining the strength of discipline-focused research to underpin this.

Professor Blaikie says: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this award and am grateful to my nominators and referees for their support. I have been very fortunate to have always had colleagues and collaborators with shared vision and passion for developing nanoscience as an area of strength in New Zealand; without them any initiatives I have led or contributed to would not have been possible. The opportunity to work alongside Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s most visionary and generous leaders, is also something that I will be ever grateful for.”

Professor Blaikie was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2011 and was awarded the 2013 Hector Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand for his fundamental and wide-ranging contributions to the field of nano-optics.

The Thomson medal was awarded to Professor Blaikie at the 2015 Research Honours Dinner held in Auckland last night, where his Otago colleague Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald was awarded the Te Rangi Hiroa Medal for her work as a medical anthropologist.

For more information, contact:

Professor Richard Blaikie
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)
Professor in Physics
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 8513

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