17 Nov 2011

First woman wins top science award

9:02 am on 17 November 2011

New Zealand's top science and technology honour has been won by a woman for the first time.

Christine Winterbourn from Otago University has been awarded the Rutherford Medal by the Royal Society for discoveries in free radical biology.

The Royal Society says Professor Winterbourn is internationally recognised as a leading authority on free radical research whose work has opened the door for groundbreaking studies into diseases.

It says she's an inspiration to young women contemplating a career in the sciences.

Professor Winterbourn says in recognition of her colleagues' contribution to her work she will devote some of the $100,000 prize money to further research.

"I see it as an award not only to me but also to the people that work with me because research is a combined effort and they've been very instrumental in supporting what I do and contributing to the achievements that I have," she says.

"I really like to think that some of it's going back into supporting them as well."

Fourteen medals were presented by the Royal Society in Wellington on Wednesday night, three of them for the first time.

Sir Peter Gluckman won the inaugural Callaghan Medal for science communication.

Gary Evans received the MacDiarmid Medal for research with the potential to benefit humans and Jim Flynn was awarded the Aronui Medal for humanities research.