Two Scion Scientists Honoured by MacDiarmid Awards

15 August 2008

Two Scion scientists have been recognised as rising stars in the MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year Awards, winning national recognition for their work in wood and wood fibre.   

Karen Love has won the Masters Award as the best Masters level entry for her research into wood fibre while Dr Tripti Singh was named runner-up in the Adding Value to Nature category for her work into developing an environmentally friendly treatment for protecting wood from fungal infection.

Hosted and organised by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, the awards recognise excellence in New Zealand’s young researchers, with top marks given to entries that combine brilliant, innovative research with the ability to communicate it in a way that attracts the interest of the next generation of potential scientists and researchers.

Scion Chief Executive, Dr Tom Richardson, says it is a huge honour for the scientists to have achieved such a result and to have two successful women from Scion in the awards is even more exciting.

“One of Scion’s key roles is to help raise the profile of science in New Zealand and the benefit it can have for the community so it is extremely heartening to see both Karen and Tripti come forward and be recognised for their skills in this area.

“Not only does their research have the potential to make a significant impact on the forestry component of New Zealand’s developing bioeconomy, both women are a great illustration of how science is supported in New Zealand through young, smart, motivated people.”

Karen has been seeking ways of treating the surface of wood fibre so it can be used in high-value applications, such as in fibre-reinforced composite materials. Her research focuses on new uses for wood as an alternative to fibreglass composites that are expensive to make and do not easily decompose.

Karen says the most enjoyable part of the competition was the communication aspect and the challenge of translating technical science into everyday terms.

“Thinking of an angle for my research that would interest 15-year-olds was quite novel for me but a lot of fun. It is incredibly important that scientists are able to communicate their research to a wider audience, and to get ourselves out of the labs and talking to people about how our work can make a difference.”

Dr Tripti Singh’s research is around developing an environmentally friendly treatment to protect green wood from fungal degradation. Blue stain fungi is an infection that discolours radiata pine logs soon after harvest and is estimated to cost forestry exporters up to NZ$100 million a year.

Dr Singh says she is delighted to be recognised by the New Zealand science community and that the award gives recognition to both her team and Scion.

“I am pleased to work in an environment where young scientists are encouraged and given opportunities to further enhance their professional skills. Competitions such as this one make you think more broadly about the research you are doing and how that can be relevant to others, not just about how to impact on industry.”