University to honour top scientist

Peter GluckmanThe University of Otago will award an honorary doctorate of science degree to one of its most distinguished graduates, Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, this weekend.

Sir Peter is one of the world's leading medical researchers, focusing on human growth and development, and has served as the first Prime Minister's Chief Science Adviser since 2009.

He will receive his honorary degree at the first of two Otago graduation ceremonies at the Dunedin Town Hall, at 1pm on Saturday, and also give the graduation address. Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said Sir Peter was a leading researcher internationally and was ''passionate about translating scientific discoveries into real-world benefits for health and wellbeing''.

After his schooling in Auckland, Sir Peter studied medicine at Otago University in 1967, gaining MBChB qualifications in 1971.

He has made many contributions to international medical research, and is the co-inventor of a ''cooling cap'' that has played a key role throughout the world in limiting brain damage in newborns.

Sir Peter has also been awarded the Sir Charles Hercus Medal, has become a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to medicine, and has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

After graduating from Otago and training as a paediatrician, he undertook further studies, including as a staff member, at the University of California, San Francisco, on how foetal hormone systems developed and foetal growth was controlled.

Sir Peter returned to Auckland in 1980 to establish a perinatal physiology group funded by the then Medical Research Council of New Zealand.

He also held several senior administrative positions at Auckland University, including executive dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

Sir Peter was appointed foundation director of the Liggins Institute in 2001, also receiving New Zealand's top science award, the Rutherford Medal, that year.

In 2003, he led the establishment of the National Research Centre for Growth and Development, now known as Gravida, an interinstitutional, interdisciplinary research network which includes some Otago researchers.