Honour caps satisfying year producing vital Covid data under pressure


Covid-19 data modelling expert Shaun Hendy says he’s humbled to receive a New Year honour.

Shaun Hendy

Shaun Hendy: “We had to work really rapidly and a lot of long days to get the models ready.”
Photo: supplied

The University of Auckland professor has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science.

During the pandemic, his projections on the rate of transmission under different alert levels have helped public understanding of the situation.

“I was privileged enough to be leading a team of fantastic researchers, who made an important contribution to the country, so it’s quite humbling to have been recognised with this honour,” he said.

Hendy said his team of researchers were under time pressure earlier this year to produce models to advise the government and he is pleased with the outcome.

“In March everything was really uncertain and we had to work really rapidly and a lot of long days to get the models ready. We knew the government would need it to be able to start thinking about relaxing alert levels once elimination has been achieved… that was a special achievement,” he said.

“I think it was a team effort. There were people from right around the country who were working together with me on that but I think it did make a difference to the country.”

He said after a summer break, the team will work to support vaccination programmes, and the potential relaxation of borders and travel bubbles.

Professor Hendy has been director of Te Pūnaha Matatini since 2014, a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence that focuses on the translation of complex systems and networks into understandable knowledge for bringing about change.

He has lectured at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences and currently lectures in the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science.

He was deputy director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology from 2008 to 2012 and president of the New Zealand Association of Scientists from 2011 to 2013.

He has published numerous articles and texts across a range of fields, including condensed matter physics, nanotechnology, computational materials science, the physics of complex systems, and innovation and economics.

In 2012, Professor Hendy received a Callaghan Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand and a Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize.

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