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Prof Tate was honoured by the New Zealand Association of Scientists last night for "a lifetime of outstanding service".
Fellow Otago University scientists Associate Prof Sian Halcrow and Dr Judith Bateup also gained national awards from the association.
Prof Tate, of the biochemistry department, is internationally respected for key research in molecular biology and human disease.
In 2010, he also won the Rutherford Medal, recognised as the country's top science award, but Prof Tate said the Marsden Medal had special significance for him.
His brother, a former Palmerston North-based Landcare Research scientist, also won the Marsden Medal, in 2005.
Dr Kevin Tate died earlier this year after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Other family connections have also been important in Prof Tate's research.
His daughter Katherine's difficulties with ME, once called Tapanui Flu, had strongly contributed to his research on this condition.
And the loss of his brother had increased Prof Tate's determination to continue his research into neurological diseases, he said.
Through mentoring, he also tried to help young scientists to "reach their full potential", he said.
Prof Halcrow received the Hill Tinsley Medal, awarded to outstanding young scientists, and Dr Judith Bateup was awarded the Cranwell Medal, for excellence in science communication.
This programme enables some senior pupils to undertake science study and research.
Last month, Prof Halcrow, of the anatomy department, also received the university's Rowheath Trust Award and the Carl Smith Medal, for "outstanding scholarly achievement".
Prof Halcrow is internationally respected as a specialist in childhood bioarchaeology.
Her studies in Southeast Asia and South America investigating the adoption and intensification of agriculture have led to significant insights into the origins of factors affecting human health, fertility and disease.