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Queen's Birthday Honours 2015: Nanogirl

Michelle Dickinson honoured; some would call it for services battling Paul Henry.

Mon, 01 Jun 2015

There is no better way to lead than by example. And if children – especially girls – were looking for inspiration to follow a career in science, they only had to look on-stage at the nearest science or technology event, or simply turn on the TV when there was a science story in the news over the past 12 months. The hardworking Michelle Dickinson has been everywhere.

Her day job is senior lecturer, head of the Nanomechanical Testing Lab at Auckland University and a world-renowned academic in her own right. But it is as her alter ego, Nanogirl, that Dr Dickinson has become best-known, pursing her mission to motivate young students into science and engineering subjects — which she sees as the future of our economy.

Today, she became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science.

Her Queen's Birthday honour is just the latest in a string of accolades which include the Prime Minister's Science Prize for Science Communication and being named the NZ Association of Scientists' Science Communicator of the Year.

Dr Dickinson recently co-founded OMG Tech! with Vend boss Vaughan Rowsell and Health Innovations' Rab Heath, a non-profit set up to encourage New Zealand's future inventors, and released her own line of clothing (modelled top right).

New Zealand still has a way to go in its attitude to science, technology and educated women.

After Sir Richard Branson invited Dr Dickinson and others to talk about science, innovation, entrepreneurship and business successes at his Necker Island retreat last year, Paul Henry's key question was "Did you sleep with Sir Richard?"  

It says a lot about Nanogirl that she shrugged off the incident (after taking time to de-code it), then soldiered on with her mission. She continues to appear on Paul Henry's show.

"I realised, that only I can make the decisions on whose show I choose to go on and my reasons for doing that. Until we can get funding for a prime time dedicated science program accessible to all, scientists like me will keep having to throw in our five minutes wherever we can because we feel its important to talk about science," she says. which she sees as the future of our economy.

"Michelle Dickinson has in the space of a few years, established herself as one of the country's leading science communicators. Her work with the mainstream media through to school children is making a real difference. It is fantastic to see her recognised this way," says Science Media Centre head Peter Griffin.

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Queen's Birthday Honours 2015: Nanogirl