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Professor Peter Hunter awarded nation’s top science honour (2009)

Professor Peter Hunter was presented with the prestigious 2009 Rutherford Medal at the Royal Society of New Zealand’s annual Science Honours Dinner. 

John Hunter Recevies Award

Professor Hunter, founder and director of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and a Principal Investigator with the Maurice Wilkins Centre, won the medal for his ground-breaking work on the Physiome Project, a major international project to build sophisticated computer models of human organs. 

The Rutherford Medal recognises exceptional contributions to New Zealand science and technology by a person or group in any field of science, mathematics, social science, or technology. 

The president of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Dr Garth Carnaby, said Professor Hunter was a “true scientific pioneer” whose revolutionary approach to modelling the human body had led to new and exciting areas of research that would eventually help advance treatments for a number of life-threatening diseases. 

John began working on the Physiome Project in 1996, after spending many years developing the world’s first anatomically based computer model of the human heart at The University of Auckland. The project soon spread from the heart to the lungs, and eventually to all twelve organs in the human body. 

“The idea is to create mathematical models that link genes, proteins, cells, tissues, organs and the whole body into one cohesive framework that will in time become a web resource for diagnosing and treating patients, surgical planning, education and the design of medical devices,” John explains. 

Professor Hunter says he was very honoured to receive the award, which was recognition of the role that engineers and mathematical scientists can play in biology. “I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to many students, both past and present, and to my colleagues at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, especially Associate Professor Bruce Smaill who I have worked with for nearly thirty years.” 

The Auckland Bioengineering Institute is working on all parts of the Physiome Project in close collaboration with the Maurice Wilkins Centre, the New Zealand Institute of Mathematics & its Applications, and many international partners, including the University of Oxford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Image: Professor Peter Hunter receives his Rutherford Medal and certificate. From left: Dr Garth Carnaby, Dr Diane McCarthy, Hon Dr Wayne Mapp, Professor John Hunter, Ms Karin Nielsen