New Zealand's top science and technology honour, the RutherfordMedal, has been awarded to a woman for the first time.
Professor Christine Winterbourn was awarded the Royal Society ofNew Zealand medal at the Research Honours celebration event inWellington tonight.
Dr Garth Carnaby, president of the Royal Society, saidWinterbourn's research into free radical biology has opened the wayfor groundbreaking research into links to diseases.
Winterbourn, from the University of Otago, Christchurch, was oneof the first scientists to demonstrate that human cells producefree radicals as part of their normal function.
She went on to characterise some of the chemical reactions offree radicals that occur in diseases such as cancer, stroke,coronary heart disease and arthritis.
She is the first woman to receive the top award since it wasestablished 20 years ago in 1991. Along with the medal, Winterbournalso receives a $100,000 award.
"She (Winterbourn) is recognised internationally as one of thefounders of free radical research in biological systems and aleading world authority in this field," said Carnaby.
Winterbourn has also been a firm advocate for science in NewZealand, acting as a role model and mentor to young students andscientists trying to forge careers in New Zealand.
A chemistry graduate from Auckland University, Winterbournreceived her PhD in biochemistry from Massey University, and didpostdoctoral work at the University of British Columbia in Canadabefore returning to the University of Otago in Christchurch.
Currently Director of the Free Radical Research Group in thePathology Department at Otago, Winterbourn also served on theMarsden Fund Council and the Health Research Council.
The professor has published extensively on her prolific researchwork, both nationally and internationally. She is an editor of the"Biochemical Journal" and is on the editorial board of "FreeRadical Biology and Medicine".
Her current work focuses on mechanisms of antioxidant defence,understanding how white blood cells kill bacteria, and free radicalinvolvement in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
The Rutherford Medal was instituted in 1991 as the premier NewZealand science and technology award at the request of the NewZealand Government.
The award is made by the Council of the Royal Society of NewZealand. The last 11 recipients have been Professor Warren Tate(2010), Professor Peter Hunter (2009), Professor David Parry(2008), Professor Richard Faull (2007), Professor Ted Baker (2006),Professor Sir Paul Callaghan (2005), Professor David Penny (2004),Professor George Petersen (2003), Professor Jeffrey Tallon (2002),Professor Sir Peter Gluckman (2001) and Professor Alan MacDiarmid(2000).
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