University of Otago mathematician Prof Michael Hendy was
presented with a national science award, the Shorland medal, at
a function in Wellington last night.
This award, from the New Zealand Association of Scientists,
recognises "major and continued contribution to basic or
applied research" that had added significantly to scientific
understanding or produced "significant benefits to society".
The medal had been awarded to Prof Hendy for "an outstanding
body of research into mathematical phylogeny - the set of
mathematical tools for reconstructing evolutionary
relationships between species using DNA sequences," the award
"Our understanding of evolution has developed at an
unprecedented rate in recent years and much of this can be
attributed to the pioneering work of Prof Hendy and his
co-worker Prof David Penny."
In the 1980s, Profs Penny and Hendy had put Darwin's theory
of evolution to a "particularly stringent mathematical test",
finding it stood up to their test, and was not a tautology as
had been asserted by philosopher Karl Popper, the citation
In 2001, Prof Hendy had teamed up with three other Massey
researchers to develop an application for the government's
new Centres of Research Excellence Fund. This led to the
establishment of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular
Ecology and Evolution, hosted by Massey with partners in
Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Prof Hendy was yesterday "thrilled" to receive the award,
which had been a "great surprise".
The medal also partly reflected the work of others because he
had always worked closely with a team of other people in his
earlier role as the centre's founding executive director and
in his overall research.
Prof Hendy had previously been long based at Massey
University, before joining the Otago mathematics and
statistics department last year.
At the association's annual awards, the Marsden medal was
awarded to Prof Lionel Carter, Victoria University of
Wellington, to recognise an outstanding 40-year research
career as a practising geoscientist.
Other association awards made were: Research medal, Associate
Prof Eric Le Ru, Victoria University of Wellington; Science
Communicators award, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Auckland University.