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Professor Keith Gordon awarded University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Chemistry Professor Keith Gordon is the 2021 recipient of the University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal.

In a career spanning three decades, Professor Gordon has published more than 350 papers in scientific journals which have accrued more than 11,000 citations. His research lies across a range of areas that broadly span photonics as well as new materials for energy use (either as energy generators, photocatalysts and solar cells or as efficient energy systems such as organic light emitting diodes).

The University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal award aims to promote research at Otago and to give recognition to outstanding performance of individual researchers or research teams. It is the most prestigious award the University presents annually. A medal commemorating the award will be presented to each recipient at a public lecture given by the recipient. Up to two such awards may be given in any one year. Professor Gordon has made a huge contribution to the development of solar cells and enabling compounds for the human harnessing of light energy. His research focuses on the use of light as a tool for the study of materials. During his career he has adapted techniques to measure the "excited states" of matter at the molecular level to examine conventional materials more easily.

"Chemistry basically breaks down into two types of people: the people who like to make new things, and the people who like to measure things and model them. Making things is really cool and I love working with the people who do that. But my strength is how to develop experiments to measure stuff," Professor Gordon says.

Working extensively with researchers in both New Zealand and overseas, he is driven both by a powerful curiosity and a desire to help his students and the wider community. A recent focus has been using analytical spectroscopy to look under the surface of pharmaceuticals and meat using methods developed to probe solar cells.

Speaking after the announcement of Professor Gordon as this year’s Distinguished Research Medal recipient, University of Otago Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson says: "Professor Gordon has demonstrated outstanding performance spanning fundamental and applied research since being appointed to the University of Otago in 1993. "Professor Gordon’s publications record speaks for itself, placing him in the top tier of New Zealand researchers. His work is also distinctive in the direct benefits that his techniques and discoveries have had on end users in New Zealand and elsewhere, across diverse industries involved with food, pharmaceuticals, energy and agriculture. He is endlessly curious and open to collaboration, exhibiting creativity and resourcefulness." Professor Richard Blaikie, the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, adds: "The selection of Professor Gordon as the Distinguished Research Medal recipient this year followed an exceptionally challenging exercise for the panel given the number and strength of nominations from across the university. But, as the Vice-Chancellor has emphasised, it is the depth and breadth of Keith’s contributions that are so impressive, working in areas contributing to our nation’s long-term economic and environmental wellbeing."

Any academic staff member of the University of Otago who holds an appointment at the level of Research Fellow, Lecturer, Senior Research Fellow, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, Professor or Professorial Research Fellow, or a team comprising such individuals may be eligible for the Distinguished Research Medal.

The basis for selection will be outstanding scholarly achievement, including the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, the development of innovative technology, or the development of concepts that lead to significant advances in activities of the University.

Career highlights

Professor Gordon is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry and the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is a founding member of two photon and materials-related Centres of Research Excellence (Dodd-Walls Centre and the MacDiarmid Institute). He has been awarded the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Maurice Wilkens Prize in recognition of his work in the field of chemical sciences and the Royal Society of New Zealand MacDiarmid Medal for his "outstanding scientific research that demonstrates the potential for application to human benefit, such as in the areas of health, environment and technology."

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