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New Zealand's Pride in Science

By Shaun Yu
Epoch Times New Zealand Staff
Jan 11, 2006

A Wellington nuclear physicist, Professor Paul Callaghan was joyfully rewarded as a principal companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM) for his prestigious contribution in the magnetic resonance area right before the coming of Year 2006.

Born in Wanganui, Professor Callaghan, 58, heads the Victoria University-based MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

He has made significant achievements in the field of magnetic resonance a method used to track molecules through radio waves.

His work was focusing on identifying how quickly a microscopic medicinal capsule reduces its load by giving radio-wave messages into its nucleus, which record information on molecule movement.

The best-known application of magnetic resonance is in human organ scans, while in the areas such as the oil industry to see how much oil a well contains, the food industry to measure the spread ability of butter or the features of chocolate, and analytical chemistry to identify what materials are comprised of.

Also, the magnetic resonance methods are used worldwide in the plastics manufacture, liquid crystals and detergents, and have helped Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra to develop the best mozzarella cheese for pizzas.

Nanotechnology, in which another area Professor Callaghan works, is "convergence science" that seeks, among other things, to unite human cells and electronics by drawing together chemistry, biology, physics and engineering.

Possible future uses include technology that interfaces with the body - bionic eyes, perhaps, or particles that can target specific cells to release drugs directly to them, an idea which would have implications for chemotherapy for cancer patients.

Professor Callaghan was granted his first degree, in physics, at the Victoria University of Wellington, followed by a PhD at Oxford University, England. He has received some of science's highest honours.