Bright-eyed student wins $50,000
A research project that involved constructing tiny pairs of glasses for chickens has won a school girl the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize worth $50,000.
Hannah Ng received her award from Prime Minister John Key in a ceremony held in Wellington last week.
‘‘He’s quite a friendly person, I got to have a bit of small talk with him. It was quite an experience,’’ the 17-year-old says.
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 receiving the Liggins Institute mentor programme four years ago. The project saw Hannah working alongside researchers at the 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 different effects on the bird’s 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.’’
Through her experimentation she found that prescribed glasses do not accommodate for peripheral vision so the blurring that a bespectacled person still sees to their left and right can exacerbate the myopia.
Principal investigator John Phillips says the study is of the same complexity as those conducted by university students. He 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 be continuing her study at the university lab during the summer before heading to university next year to start on a pre-med course before going into medicine.
‘‘I want to consider different fields of medicine and see what options are available before I make a final decision,’’ she says.
Her long-term dream would see her working in Cambodia, and she has even been learning a dialect from her grandfather.
‘‘They have a shortage of doctors there, and it is quite poor, so I would like to work there and help.’’
St Cuthbert’s principal Lynda Reid says her student grasps opportunities with both hands.
‘‘Hannah has a genuine curiosity about the world, always asking thoughtful questions that explore science at a deeper level.’’
The $50,000 prize will be put towards university study for Miss Ng, who is still finalising where she will attend.
Award winner: Hannah Ng, 17, won the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize for her study into shortsightedness.