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Scientist with illustrious career presents new prize to Honours student

Young man accepting award from older man Distinguished university alumnus Dr Ken McCracken was happy to present a new Physics Honours prize to a high-achieving student - even though his own Honours year wasn't his best.

Dr McCracken described his Honours as the year he discovered "…amateur radio and girls- in that order."

"The net result was perhaps less than would have got me a prize. But that's in the past," he said with a laugh.

The new Dr Ken McCracken Honours Prize in Physics, awarded for the best Physics Honours thesis, was recently presented to student Daniel Macdonald, 23, by Dr McCracken himself.

The prize consists of $350 and the recipient's name being added to a perpetual honour board situated in the School of Physics. (The prize won't necessarily be awarded annually but will recognise merit.)

The prize was the brainchild of Dr Raymond Haynes, President of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP).

Dr Haynes graduated from UTAS with an Honours degree in Physics in 1965.

"I did well in my Honours year and was perturbed I never got a prize- I carried that with me for 40 years!" he said with a smile.

Dr Haynes started a small lobbying project with the AIP, Tasmanian branch committee, to remedy the problem. They generously agreed to fund the prize.

"I think it is important to students when there is a prize at the end of a discipline.

"It's particularly important in the Honours year. I've always looked back on my honours year as the most critical year of university life. It's the year when you make or break the chance of becoming a research scientist or going on and doing something very serious in science," Dr Haynes said.

"The real point of a prize like this is it is a prize that students can be challenged by – if they achieve it, it becomes an important stepping stone."

It was decided the prize would be named after Dr McCracken because of his many achievements in science, including being awarded the prestigious Australia Prize in 1995.

"He has had an absolutely illustrious career that has spanned many continents and taken him into many different disciplines of physics," Dr Haynes said.

Dr McCracken said "ladies and gentlemen, I'm a bit blown away by that introduction."

"I'm delighted to be able to make this presentation to Daniel today," he said.

"Maybe, like me, Daniel will decide with the knowledge of astronomy, he might move into a totally different application or science of relevance to mankind."

Image: Dr McCracken presents the prize to Physics student Daniel Macdonald.

Published on: 06 Dec 2012 9:56am