Friday, December 07, 2012

Young researcher wins PM's prize

A research project that involved constructing tiny pairs of glasses for chickens has won a schoolgirl the Prime Minister's Future Scientist Prize worth $50,000. Hannah Ng received her award in Wellington last week. The St Cuthbert's College student received the award for her study into myopia, or shortsightedness, a condition that affects up to 40 per cent of Europeans and 90 per cent of some Asian populations. She began the study after being part of the Liggins Institute mentor programme four years ago. Hannah worked alongside researchers at Auckland University's Myopia Laboratory at age 14. "It was a bit bewildering at first, it was confusing and I felt like I didn't quite fit in, but they were very encouraging," she says. As part of her study Miss Ng built sets of multi-focal lenses, similar to mini goggles that were placed over the eyes of chicks. The goal was to investigate the effects on the birds' vision. "They were quite difficult to make, they were so tricky technically. I had to make a few pairs for myself to try them out first." Principal investigator John Phillips says the study is of the same complexity as those conducted by university students. Mr Phillips says Miss Ng is self-motivated and good at getting things done. "Her ability to see the bigger picture while also being able to focus on the important elements of the problem is an indication of her intellectual maturity." Miss Ng will continue her study at the university lab during the summer before starting a pre-med course next year. She would like to work in Cambodia. The $50,000 prize will go towards her university studies. - © Fairfax NZ News Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012

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