PM’s top science prize goes to DNA crime scene software

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today congratulated the winners of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes.

“It was a privilege to join some of New Zealand’s top scientists to celebrate the 10th year of these prestigious awards,”Jacinda Ardern said.

“Our Chief Science Advisor’s Meth Report has recently shown the important role that science plays in informing our policy decisions, and the crucial role that accurate science communication plays.”  

Minister Woods congratulated the award winners and their families, supporters, colleagues and friends who have played a part in their success.

“The recipients have helped to solve some of society’s biggest challenges while encouraging increased curiosity and understanding of the science system. All the recipients are role models who play a part in inspiring others to become involved with science,” Megan Woods said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern awarded the prizes during a celebratory event at Parliament this afternoon. The 2018 award categories and winners are:

  • Prime Minister’s Science Prize: $500,000 – The premier award of the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes has been awarded to the STRmix™ team, from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR). The STRmix™ software interprets DNA material from multiple individuals at a crime scene, and has been used in more than 100,000 cases worldwide.
  • Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize: $200,000 – Awarded to outstanding emerging scientist, Dr Peng Du from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland. Dr Du’s world leading research helps the diagnosis and treatment of gut problems.
  • Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize: $150,000 – Carol Brieseman from Hampton Hill School in Tawa, Wellington has been awarded the prize for her work to inspire students, teachers and communities. As well as encouraging her students to ask difficult questions, Ms Brieseman supports and mentors other teachers, and prompts science initiatives across the school.
  • Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize: $100,000 – Won by Professor James Renwick, from Victoria University of Wellington. Professor Renwick focuses on communicating the science behind climate change to the New Zealand public. He has undertaken more than 100 public presentations and given more than 200 media interviews on the subject.
  • Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize: $50,000 – Awarded Finnegan Messerli, a former Onslow College Wellington student. Finn’s research into the physics problem, why grains of salt form a cone-like pile when poured, will ultimately help scientists better understand the risks of avalanches and slips. 

To find out more about the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes visit the website.

ENDS

Editor’s note: STRmix is pronounced ‘star-mix’