The NZIP currently makes three regular awards, the Dan Walls Medal, Te Tohu mō te Whaihua i te Mātai Ahupūngao – Physics Impact Award, and the Rutherford Trophy. Biennial awards will be made in the same year as the biennial NZIP conference.

Applications are now open for the 2024 Rutherford Trophy with a deadline of Friday 24 May, 5pm. The award will be publicly announced in July, and also recognized at the next NZIP Conference (scheduled for mid-2025). Applications (see information below) should be sent to the Honorary Secretary at

The 2023 awards were presented at the NZIP & PHYSIKOS Conference at Massey Albany in July 2023.

The 2021 award was presented at the NZIP & PHYSIKOS Conference at Wellington in July 2021.

See below for more information about the Awards and the Application Information. 

The Dan Walls Medal (biennial)

Presented to the physicist working in New Zealand who is deemed to have made the greatest impact nationally and/or internationally in their field through predominantly New Zealand based research. Applications may be made by New Zealand-based teams in extraordinary circumstances, e.g. when the contributions of individual team members cannot be separated.

Te Tohu mō te Whaihua i te Mātai Ahupūngao – Physics Impact Award (biennial)

Awarded to an individual (or team) who makes a significant contribution to the field of physics and its impact in New Zealand. Contributions could include, but are not limited to, activities in the areas of:

  • Communication and promotional activities enhancing the public visibility or popularity of physics.
  • Commercial and industrial success of physics research.
  • Promotion of equity initiatives and/or mātauranga Māori in physics.
  • Development of interdisciplinary frontiers with physics playing a leading role.

Regardless of the nature of this contribution, the discipline of physics will be prominent in the activities of the award winners.

The Rutherford Trophy (annual)

The Rutherford Trophy was established in 1973 by the Mathematics and Physics section of the RSNZ Canterbury Branch to stimulate the development and improvement of lecture and laboratory demonstrations. The trophy is so named because of Rutherford’s emphasis on simple and clear demonstrations.

The Trophy is now awarded for innovation in physics education that enhances New Zealand students’ understanding of physics or participation in physics education, and shows a strong link to the teaching or practice of physics experiments. This could involve (but is not limited to) demonstrations, resource development, or innovative teaching practice. It is open to anyone teaching physics in NZ.

An individualised trophy will be presented to the winner of this award.

Application Information (applies to all 3 awards):

  • Decisions will be made by the NZIP Awards Committee, appointed by the NZIP Council to be representative, considering equity and diversity. The majority of members will be drawn from the NZIP Council and Fellows, while external appointees familiar with physics in NZ may be invited. The Committee may decline to make an award if the appropriate standard is not achieved, and can decide on any matters not covered in this description of the awards process on an ad hoc basis.
    • For the Rutherford Trophy, the Committee will seek a recommendation from the NZIP Education Section.
  • Any person may be nominated for an award by an NZIP member* (with or without their knowledge); or a person may nominate themselves, in which case they need to identify an NZIP member to support the nomination. The Committee will communicate with the person making the nomination.
    • *An ‘NZIP member’ here means a paid member of the NZIP. Membership may be obtained close to the date of the nomination.
  • A nominated team must be nominated by an NZIP member who is not part of that team.
  • Nominations should be sent to the Secretary of the NZIP by the advertised date.
  • Any unsuccessful nomination will be considered by the Awards Committee for a further two years. The nominator will be invited to refresh the application each year.
  • Each nomination should include:
    • A letter of support from the nominating or supporting member (i.e. the person who is not being nominated for the award);
    • A one-page description outlining why the nominee or nominated team should be awarded the respective prize (nomination statement); and

For the Dan Walls Medal:

  • The curriculum vitae of the nominee.
    • A list of the five best papers on which the nominee’s research contributions can be judged.
    • Any other material to support the application.

For Te Tohu mō te Whaihua i te Mātai Ahupūngao – Physics Impact Award:

  • Any other material to support the application, including demonstrations or evidence of significant contribution to the broader field of physics and/or its impact in New Zealand.

For the Rutherford Trophy:

  • Any other material to support the application, including demonstrations, a video, or other evidence of innovative practice in physics education.

Any enquiries regarding this process can be directed to the Honorary Secretary at

NZIP Award Recipients
Take this link to the NZIP Award Recipients page.