NZ Prime Minister’s Science Prizes feature volcanoes, music, cancer genetics

The recipients of the Aotearoa New Zealand Prime Minister’s Science Prizes have been announced at the prize ceremony at Parliament today, 1 May 2024.

They are recognised for their work in cancer genetics; the psychology of music; communication of volcanic risk; student engagement and soil science.

The Prime Minister’s Te Puiaki Pūtaiao Matua a Te Pirimia Science Prize 2023 for transformative impact is awarded to the Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer Team from the University of Otago, in conjunction with Kimihauora Health and Research Clinic in Mount Maunganui. 

A photograph of 8 people standing in front of the outside of a white building. They are smiling for the picture.
Credit: Salina Galvan Photography

Together with members of the McLeod whānau and their community, the team identified a genetic mutation in the CDH1 gene, which was causing individuals to die from stomach cancer at a young age.

Recognised for his work on the cognitive science of how humans perceive and produce music is Dr Samuel Mehr of the University of Auckland – the Prime Minister’s Te Puiaki Kaipūtaiao Maea MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist 2023.

A photograph of a man wearing glasses sitting in front of a computer screen. On the screen is a program showing various sound recordings.
Samuel Mehr. Credit: supplied

The Prime Minister’s Te Puiaki Whakapā Pūtaiao Science Communicator 2023 is Professor Ben Kennedy of the University of Canterbury. He seeks to communicate both the wonder and the risks of volcanoes in ways suited to the needs of communities and potential visitors. 

A photograph of a man crouching on a rock atop of a mountain. There are hills and lakes in the distance. He appears to be collecting a rock sample.
Ben Kennedy. Credit: supplied

Madeleine Collins, a chemistry and science teacher and associate head of the science faculty at Green Bay High School in Auckland, is the Prime Minister’s Te Puiaki Kaiwhakaako Pūtaiao Science Teacher 2023.

Photograph of a woman wearing safety glasses while in a lab. She is smiling while teaching students.
Madeleine Collins. Credit: Matt Crawford Photography

And a Year 13 student at Kerikeri High School in Northland, Sunny Perry, is awarded the Prime Minister’s Te Puiaki Kaipūtaiao Ānamata Future Scientist 2023 for her research project to test for and map the presence of highly corrosive soils in Northland.

A photograph of a teenage girl wearing a high-vis shirt.
Sunny Perry. Credit: supplied

The Science Prizes were presented by Prime Minister Rt Hon Christopher Luxon and Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology and Minister for Space, Hon Judith Collins.

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