Boys' School Welcomes Three Eminent Scientists

August 08, 2014 at 11:53 AM

‘Building a community of scientifically literate students as we aim for excellence in science education.’

The Boys’ School welcomed three of New Zealand’s top scientists to speak at the 2014 Science Symposium this week. Students and their parents packed JC Chalmers Hall from wall to wall  to hear from Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister; Sir Ray Avery, Founder and CEO of Medicine Mondiale; and Dr Daniel Hikuroa, Earth System Scientist and Research Director, Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, National Centre of Research Excellence.

The idea of an evening dedicated to science stemmed from this term’s Science Fair focus for the boys in Years 7 and 8, as part of the Nature of Science strand. The boys had been working in pairs or independently on a project of their own scientific interest that required following a line of investigation and drawing their own conclusions. The Symposium was planned initially to allow the boys to communicate their findings back to their peers and the School community.

To add something special to this night, our three guests were invited to share their thoughts and ideas with the boys and their families, adding inspiration and motivation for our future scientists and citizens of New Zealand.

Sir Gluckman, Sir Avery and Dr Hikuroa each came forward to speak with messages on a common theme. Each said they were amazed by the range of projects on display by the boys and cited a generational difference between the way they had learned years ago  – remembering facts – and the ways our boys now learn through discovery.  Sir Gluckman said that, ‘Science is not a series of facts; it’s about processes and a series of observations. These processes are how we gain knowledge about the world around us…without scientific knowledge, it’s just opinions.’

Sir Avery followed on by saying that ‘Scientists by their nature are inquisitive and creative.’ He cited the Stone Age era that lasted 3 million years and saw the development of adzes designed to fit comfortably in a man’s hand. Few would have collaborated on that discovery. Fast forward to the last century and the creation of a computer mouse, also designed to fit comfortably in the hands of men and women. Millions collaborated on creating and improving this design. He said, ‘Not one single person in this room is as clever as all of us.’ Like his fellow speakers, he advocated the sharing of ideas.

Dr Hikuroa also spoke of the need to communicate in science and the sharing of ideas. His recent work with Maori communities has seen their indigenous knowledge of eels teamed with the work of scientists to see a solution to a problem that neither body may have reached alone - but working together, the opportunity arose to share their thinking to solve an issue in geothermal areas.

Following our guest speakers, two of our own young scientists came forward to share their recent research in their own inimitable style! Our guests may have been a tough act to follow but Thom Pettit and Sam Looker gave bubbly presentations that captured the audience as much as their scientific elders!

Thom’s project was based on the direction of sound. This was a project of personal interest as Thom is profoundly deaf in one year. Sam’s inspiration came from an oil spill in the kitchen which led him to experiment with ideas to clean spills. They both concluded that ‘You don’t have to be mad to be a scientist and you don’t have to wear a white coat to make discoveries!’ Both boys backed up the message from our guests, that ‘science is not just a collection of facts, it is a process of discovery.’

Our thanks to science teachers Mrs Patsy Hindson and Mrs Sharron Alexandra for their work to bring this evening together but our very special thanks to Sir Gluckman, Sir Avery and Dr Hikuroa for taking the time to share their expertise with us.


Sir Peter Gluckman

Sir Peter Gluckman is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished scientists whose research has won him numerous awards and international recognition. Sir Peter's research encompasses paediatric endocrinology, the developmental origins of health and disease, the evolutionary-developmental biology interface, and evolutionary medicine. He was the founding Director of the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland is and is the only New Zealander elected to the Institute of Medicine of the United States National Academies of Science and a Fellow of Academy of Medical Sciences of Great Britain.

In 2001 he received New Zealand’s top science award, the Rutherford Medal. In 2009 he became a Knight of the New Zealand Order of Merit replacing the 2008 Distinguished Companion of the NZ Order of Merit, for services to medicine and having previously been made a Companion of the Order in 1997. In July 2009 he was appointed and remains as the first Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Sir Ray Avery

Sir Ray Avery is a pharmaceutical scientist, inventor, and social entrepreneur whose humble beginnings saw him spend his childhood in English orphanages and foster homes. His interest in science developed at the age of 14 while living rough on the streets of London and finding warmth and inspiration in public libraries.

He is a founding member of the Auckland University School of Medicine Department of Clinical Pharmacology and former technical director of Douglas Pharmaceuticals. As Technical Director of the Fred Hollows Foundation, Sir Ray designed and commissioned two state of the art intraocular lens manufacturing facilities in Asmara, Eritrea and Kathmandu, Nepal.

In 2009, Sir Ray received a World Class New Zealand Award in the Life Sciences category, and the following year was awarded Kiwi Bank New Zealander of the Year and a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Medal. In 2011 he received an Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur Award and a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to philanthropy. He is the founder and CEO of award winning development agency Medicine Mondiale and is currently Deputy Chair of The New Zealand Health Innovation Hub.

Dr Daniel Hikuroa

Dr Daniel Hikuroa is an Earth System Scientist with interests in the integration of Maori knowledge and science to realise indigenous development. He has been the Research Director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga at the University of Auckland since July 2011, is currently a national committee member of the Sustainability Society of NZ (IPENZ) and was also Auckland representative of the Geoscience Society of New Zealand.

Through his Post-Doctorate Fellowship, investigating how the world’s oceans and biota have responded to naturally driven climate change in the ancient past, Dr Hikuroa found himself increasingly drawn to his Maori roots and has since established himself a world expert on integrating indigenous knowledge and science. He has undertaken many projects including geothermal developments, hazard and vulnerability assessment and industrial waste site rehabilitation.

The author of numerous research papers, Dr Hikuroa led a deep field geology mapping expedition for the British Antarctic Survey for his PhD and in 2005 was a recipient of a National Maori Academic Excellence Award.

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