The achievements and contributions of innovators, kairangahau Māori, researchers and scholars were celebrated at
Auckland War Memorial Museum this evening, the third of three 2020 Research Honours Aotearoa events held around the
country by Royal Society Te Apārangi.
The Pickering Medal for innovation leading to significant commercial success was awarded to Rocket Lab’s research and development team, led by Peter Beck. Rocket Lab’s research and development team have achieved technical breakthroughs that have allowed the company to
become the world’s leading dedicated-launch-provider for small satellites. Its competitive advantage derives from
research and development that has achieved both a drastic reduction in the cost of dedicated launches and an increased
launch frequency. Key innovative features from the in-house R include unique motor designs, 3D printing for manufacture and all carbon-composite construction. The launch vehicle’s
components are designed and manufactured in-house at Rocket Lab’s facilities for quick turnaround times and increased
efficiencies. Global uptake is significant and growing.
The Hector Medal for outstanding work in chemical sciences, physical sciences or mathematical and information sciences was awarded to
Professor Eamonn O’Brien FRSNZ, University of Auckland. Eamonn has made world-leading contributions to the mathematical theory of groups, both
through theoretical breakthroughs and his powerful algorithms. These algorithms are now incorporated into the computer
algebra systems GAP and MAGMA that allow mathematicians world wide to access these cutting-edge computational research
tools. He has solved difficult and significant long-standing research problems, including a 40-year-old challenge posed
by Alan Turing and the 50-year old Ore Conjecture. As a research leader, he brings people together from different areas
to work on new problems and has helped foster the University of Auckland as a strong research centre for algebra.
The Callaghan Medal for outstanding science communication that raises public awareness of the value of science or technology was awarded to
Professor Rangi Mātamua (Tūhoe), University of Waikato. Rangi is an outstanding science communicator whose pioneering work in Māori astronomy
has engaged the public in the interface between western science and mātauranga Māori. His passion to share Māori
scientific knowledge associated with the cosmos has resulted in television shows, online and print publications, social
media blogs, more than 100 public lectures in New Zealand and Australia, a museum exhibition visited by more than
100,000 people, and a best-selling book on Matariki written in both English and te reo Māori. Like medal namesake, Sir
Paul Callaghan, Rangi is championing a more open, inclusive and innovative view of Science in Aotearoa, New Zealand and
is inspiring the next generation.
The Early Career Research Excellence Award for Humanties was presented to Associate Professor Ngarino Ellis (Ngāpuhi/Ngāti Porou), University of Auckland. Ngarino is one of very few Māori art historians in Aotearoa. Her first
book A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 18301930, won four major awards. It provides a specific Ngāti Porou art history that significantly advances knowledge and
promotes a century of work by carvers of the Iwirākau School. Informed methodologically by kaupapa Māori research
principles and practices and other global-Indigenous understandings, her book also demonstrates her strong commitment to
provide historical and visual research for practicing artists. It is the first of her planned body of work on Māori art
Dr David Moreau, University of Auckland, received the Early Career Research Excellence Award for Social Sciences. David’s research has demonstrated the benefits of high-intensity exercise. Physical exercise has long been known to
benefit the body and the brain, but David’s ground-breaking research shows that brain functioning benefits can be
obtained from short bursts of high-intensity exercise. Benefits include improvements on our ability to plan, focus
attention, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks. Because high-intensity exercise is extremely time efficient,
this research has the potential to impact schools, professional workplaces and disadvantaged communities, where
opportunities to exercise may be limited. Beyond helping healthy individuals reach their full potential, this work also
shows potential for alleviating neurological diseases such as dementia and developmental disorders.
The Cooper Award, for early career research excellence in technology, applied sciences and engineering, was awarded to Dr Mallory Crookenden, AgResearch. Mallory is recognised for her practical solutions to support immune function around calving to improve
animal health on New Zealand dairy farms. She uses her expertise in biochemistry, immunology and molecular biology to
design practices that can be readily applied on-farm. Roughly 90% of metabolic disease and 75% of infectious disease in
cows occurs during the calving period, leading to yearly revenue loses in New Zealand of an estimated at $1.5 billion.
Her research seeks to ‘dampen’ harmful inflammatory immune reactions and reduce metabolic issues. One example is to
prevent low calcium with a feed additive prior to calving that improves calcium metabolism and modulates the cow’s
Additional 2020 Research Honours Aotearoa awards were presented earlier in the month at events in Wellington and
Christchurch. See full list of award winners: