December 2, 2023

NZ scientist lands trip to Branson’s island

0430970d4c0aa28caded32d52319bc3d3246ad49_620x311By Vaimoana Tapaleao From New Zealand Herald

Michelle Dickinson has been on Necker Island in the Caribbean with billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

A young Kiwi scientist has spent the past few days playing chess with Richard Branson on his private island and being served lunch in the pool via a sushi boat.

But Michelle Dickinson was there for work too.

The Auckland University lecturer was one of eight people from around the world invited by the billionaire to Necker Island, part of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, to discuss technology and sustainability. Dr Dickinson’s focus was on New Zealand science.

Over the past few days she has posted photographs of her big trip, yesterday uploading a picture of her hugging the Virgin Group founder saying: “Last day on Necker Island with Richard Branson. This week has inspired me scientifically, technically & emotionally.” Earlier she posted a picture of her chess opponent, Sir Richard, and one of lunch arriving to her, saying: “Lunch served on a sushi boat in the pool! I’m feeling a bit spoiled, luckily its to fuel the #science Im about to do.”

Sir Richard is widely known for entrepreneurial skills, but also his interest in sustainability and environmental issues.

A spokeswoman for the University of Auckland said Dr Dickinson was expected back this week.

Rod Drury, chief executive of New Zealand accounting software firm Xero, said his company had helped fund Dr Dickinson’s trip.

“It was a great opportunity for Xero and others to support her, as she does so much for science in New Zealand,” he told the Herald. “Michelle has been making science fun and accessible for New Zealanders and [is] such a fantastic role model for females getting into technical subjects.”

Dr Dickinson is a senior lecturer in engineering and specialises in nanotechnology – the science of working with atoms and molecules to build extremely small devices.

She runs the country’s only nanomechanical testing lab and is a popular figure on social media, known as “Nano Girl”.

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