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Distinguished Researcher praises Otago’s postgraduate scholarships

Wednesday 18 November 2015 9:43am

Professor Sally Brooker with Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne following the presentation of the 2015 Distinguished Research Medal last Thursday. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Receiving Otago’s Distinguished Research Medal and delivering a lecture to an audience which included her peers, her parents and some of the University’s top officials was an intimidating task, even to someone as experienced as Professor Sally Brooker.

Professor Brooker was named the University’s 2015 Distinguished Researcher earlier this year, and received the medal at her public lecture in Archway 1 last Thursday.

“I must admit I was glad to get past the first couple of slides in my talk as then I could start enjoying it,” she laughs. “I had been quite stressed about it pre-lecture. Giving a public lecture and having all the University’s top brass sitting in the front row is quite daunting!”

The medal recognises Professor Brooker's cutting edge inorganic chemistry research, which sees her team design and create innovative molecules that could underpin future technologies.

"...I think that inspiring and training research students and postdocs is the key, and is a source of great job satisfaction for me..."

In her lecture she described her background and discussed highlights of her team's work at Otago, which includes making designer switchable molecules and ‘green’ polymerisation catalysts.

She also demonstrated that her research is a truly international effort, with her team members – 57 to date – coming from and going to labs all over the world, with a similarly wide geographical spread of collaborators – 46 to date.

Finally she briefly discussed politics and policy, noting that this University does a great job of providing PhD scholarships to the best and brightest applicants.

“This is a huge advantage of working at Otago, as these students are the engine room of our research activity. Indeed, I think that inspiring and training research students and postdocs is the key, and is a source of great job satisfaction for me – I have a lot of chemistry ‘children’ out in the world, pursuing their dreams and doing a wide range of really cool things.”

For Professor Brooker, the highlight of the evening was the presence of her parents. When her medal was announced in July she dedicated it to them.

“They’ve always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and given me the self-confidence to give things a go, whilst staying grounded. So I wanted to say a huge thanks to them. Hence I am really grateful to everyone who was involved in this event, as they did all they could to make this a really special occasion for them – and they succeeded!”