Award tops list, says much-feted researcher

Prof Gregory Cook receives his Otago School of Medical Sciences Distinguished Researcher of the Year award this week from Dean of Otago School of Medical Sciences Helen Nicholson. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Prof Gregory Cook receives his Otago School of Medical Sciences Distinguished Researcher of the Year award this week from Dean of Otago School of Medical Sciences Helen Nicholson. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Gregory Cook has won many awards for medical research during the past two decades, but says the one he received this week at the Otago School of Medical Sciences annual awards ceremony takes the cake.

The 47-year-old University of Otago microbiology and immunology professor was presented the 2012 Otago School of Medical Sciences (OSMS) Distinguished Researcher of the Year award at the Hunter Centre in Dunedin.

''I would place this award at the top of my awards list.

''It's a fantastic honour because it's always hard to win awards when the recognition is from your own colleagues.''

Prof Cook was promoted to professor in 2009 and has received many significant awards during his research career.

These include the 2012 Distinguished Orator Award from the New Zealand Microbiological Society, a Sir William Dunn Scholarship at Cambridge University in 2009, and a James Cook Research Fellowship (2012-14).

His contribution to microbiology and the bioenergetics of extremophiles was recognised when a micro-organism (Amphibacillus cookii) was named in his honour.

Prof Cook has a strong and active research group and in the past five years he has published 33 refereed journal articles, and more than 100 publications in total.

During the same period he was awarded more than $4.2 million in research funding and has collaborated with Nobel prize-winner Prof Sir John Walker (University of Cambridge) and staff at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, University of Georgia, Max Planck Institute and Universities of Auckland and Waikato.

Despite his OSMS colleagues describing him as a ''stellar performer'', he was humble about the award.

''This is an award that I will hang up in my lab.

''Awards are won by teams, not individuals. This is definitely one for the team.''

Other awards were presented to Peter Fineran (OSMS Emerging Researcher); Dr Michelle McConnell (OSMS Commercial Research Award); Associate Prof Grant Butt (Distinguished Academic Teacher); Catherine Gliddon (Distinguished Teaching Fellow/PPF); Christina Edgar (OSMS Research Support Staff Award); Bruce Todd (OSMS Sustained Research Support Staff Award); Dianne Galvin and Carol Dunstone (OSMS Distinguished Research Support Staff Award); Dr Elspeth Gold (Excellence in Postgraduate Supervision); Dr Michael Knapp (OSMS Best Paper Award); and Associate Prof John Cutfield (Service to School Award).