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Royal Society Te Aparangi awards Callaghan Medal to Professor Peter Shepherd

14 October 2017

Professor Peter Shepherd, Deputy Director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre, has been awarded the Callaghan Medal for pioneering activities to increase the understanding of science by the New Zealand public.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi awards the Callaghan Medal annually to recognise outstanding contributions to science communication and raising public awareness of the value of science to human progress.

Driving public understanding of science

After realising how little understanding there is amongst New Zealand communities regarding the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity, Professor Shepherd set out to improve public understanding about science.

Among his initiatives is the delivery of high quality scientific information to New Zealand schools, in conjunction with a free Maurice Wilkins Centre-supported professional development programme for secondary school biology teachers that is now in its fifth year.

Peter Shepherd2

Recognition of schools outreach and QRW

Professor Shepherd hosts teachers in his lab, has co-authored two popular secondary school text books, and arranges scholarships for biology teachers to attend Queenstown Research Week, New Zealand’s largest scientific research conference, which he leads. 

"In our rush to find better ways to communicate science we have sometimes undervalued the most obvious way of doing this, which is through schools,” says Professor Shepherd.

“Continual upskilling and empowering of our science teachers and developing new school-based science programmes is something we haven’t done well in the past but is a really cost effective way of getting more members of our communities to understand and buy in to the real benefits science offers our society.”

Fostering a new generation of scientists

Dean of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland, Professor John Fraser, says the award is great news for Professor Shepherd and the faculty.

“He has worked tirelessly to assist schools and teachers engage in and enjoy the field of science. His work has probably steered many school children into science which will be of great benefit to themselves and the future of the scientific community.”

Professor Shepherd also recently developed a health research partnership between the Maurice Wilkins Centre and the Moko Foundation, a Kaitaia-based organisation led by Dr Lance O’Sullivan. The partnership will set up a jointly managed research unit in Kaitaia to be called Waharoa ki te Toi (The Gateway).