Select your mentor

Select your mentor

Prita Riana Asih – Research Assistant

Prita Riana AsihMentor since: 2012
Area of specialisation:
Biomedical sciences
Personal interests: Women’s empowerment in STEM, travel, read books

I have been mentoring Honours, Master, and PhD students since 2012, when I started my research career as a research assistant at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. As my academic status changed from research assistant to PhD student, I maintained this mentoring role, not only to provide technical support in the lab, but also give advice on how to navigate life in academia. I am currently mentoring overseas students via online platform in several universities in Indonesia.

Emily Don – Lecturer

Emily DonMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Molecular biology, zebrafish, professional practice, cell biology, histology, embryology
Personal interests: Camping, hiking, bike riding, travel, promoting equity

My career path reflects my keen interest in the intersection of research and professionalism. I was awarded my PhD in fin/limb evolution and development in 2014 from the University of Sydney. Leveraging some of the core skills gained during my PhD, I transitioned into neurodegenerative disease research and began working as a post-doc at Macquarie University in 2013.  During 2016-2017, I gradually increased my teaching load and was appointed as a full-time lecturer in 2018.

Working in a team, I have published 22 articles (4 as first author) and received $1 million in research funding.  I have received multiple awards at local and national conferences for my research and recently received a department award for rising star in education.

Jennifer Fifita – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Jennifer FifitaMentor since: 2014 
Area of specialisation:
Motor neuron disease, human genetics, cellular biology
Personal interests: Musicals, watching Netflix, spending time with my daughter and family

I started my career as a research assistant investigating the genetics of motor neuron disease in 2009. I worked as an RA for four years before starting my PhD at Macquarie in 2013. My PhD aimed to identify novel gene mutations causing motor neuron disease and investigate these mutations both in vitro and in vivo (zebrafish). Since completing my PhD in 2017, I have continued my research on MND and was awarded the prestigious Bill Gole Post-doctoral Research Fellowship from the MND Research Institute of Australia.

I have been mentoring students (PhD, MRes 1 and 2, B. Clinc Sci, summer and PACE students) since 2014, and am passionate about bringing the best out of all my students. I aim to keep my students organised to reduce stress, provide feedback and advice on ECR skills (eg oral presentations), provide career and academic progression advice at all stages, and generally assist each student where uniquely required.

Karen Hutchinson – Postdoctoral Research Fellow AIHI

Karen HutchinsonMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Disability, lived experiences, qualitative research/ thematic analysis/ caregivers, adult and young/ adult neurological conditions/ social model of disability/ families/ physiotherapy rehabilitation of adults living with neurological conditions
Personal interests: Travel, bush walking, skiing, keeping fit, yoga, pilates

I am a physiotherapist with many years of clinical experience with adults living with acquired complex and chronic neurological impairments in the community setting mainly. I received a yearlong Primary Healthcare Research Development scholarship to learn about research. Then began a master’s in philosophy with the University of Sydney but transferred to a PhD. I received a 15-month master’s scholarship with the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre. In this qualitative research I conducted interviews with people living with younger onset dementia, caregivers, adult and children, and health care professionals.

I completed a PhD thesis by publication (5 publications) based on this qualitative research on the experiences of families living with younger onset dementia, taking a social model perspective. I worked as a physiotherapist throughout this time, privately (NDIS) and in health. After completion of my PhD I then was successful in obtaining a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Australian, Institute of Health Innovation in March 2019.

Anna Konopka – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Anna KonopkaMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Neurobiology, neurodegeneration, DNA damage
Personal interests: Painting, drawing, modern art; breaking stereotypes, self-improvement; thought provoking movies and books; travelling and water sports

Fascinated with biological basis of brain function, I had completed my PhD on neuronal plasticity (October 2015) and concurrently master degree in psychology on cognition (2014) in Poland. The movement to Australia verified my plans about scientific work on the intersection of biology and psychology.

In 2017 as a postdoctoral research fellow I got into topic on DNA damage in neurodegeneration. Surprisingly, I found the research in this new area equally tempting as my previous plans and I decided to pursuing my career in this subject.

I value continuous development and look at my current position as a transient stage into total scientific independence. The independent thinking, undertaking challenges and strategic planning are my motto.

Angela Laird – Senior Research Fellow

Angela LairdeMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Neurodegenerative diseases such as motor neuron disease and spinocerebellar ataxia; Using animal models such as zebrafish to study diseases; Drug testing studies
Personal interests: Travelling, parenting, art

Dr. Angela Laird was awarded her PhD in Medicine from UNSW, Sydney in 2008 following a research project focused on studying autonomic nervous system implications of spinal cord injury and possible treatments for spinal cord injury using rat models of the condition. She then moved to a leading international neurobiology laboratory at KU Leuven in Belgium to perform post-doctoral training in the use of zebrafish to study the neurodegenerative disease motor neuron disease.

In 2010 she returned to Sydney and formed a team to start work on a project to develop the first transgenic zebrafish model of MJD. Today, Dr. Laird’s team has a strong background in testing potential treatments for neurodegenerative diseases using zebrafish, cell culture and rodent models with the aim of identifying novel treatments for these diseases. Angela has been successful at obtaining large grant funding and maintaining relationships with community groups, philanthropy organisations and industry partners to enable her team’s work.

Albert Lee – Senior Lecturer

Albert LeeMentor since: 2014 
Area of specialisation:
Communication, project planning and management, and academic research and teaching
Personal interests: Balancing work and family time, food (I like to eat!), sports

I am mid-career researcher (PhD 2011) working in the Centre for MND research, Department of Biomedical Sciences. Following my PhD, I moved abroad with my partner (now wife) to work at the NYU Langone Medical Center (2010-2011) and subsequently the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute (2011-2013). During this period, there were many challenges such as the lack of research funding in the US at the time and maintaining a long-distance relationship.

At the end of 2013, I moved back to Sydney on casual employment (washing and maintaining lab ware) until in 2014 I was recruited by Prof. Roger Chung who had just joined ASAM. I brought my proteomics expertise to his research program and slowly built my own research team (through successful research grants) focused on applying proteomics to MND research.

While my research was gaining upwards momentum, my wife and I had our first child (2016) at a time where education programs (BClinSci) were being launched in the Faculty. This provided an opportunity to transition my career to a Teaching/Research role where I am currently the convenor for MEDI3200 and continually run my research program with huge support from my colleagues. This transition came with many risks, rewards and compromises. While my wife should take all the credit, my biggest achievements are raising two young children and managing work and life but also prioritising what is most important to me – my children

Edwin Lim – Senior Research Fellow

Edwin LimMentor since: 2014 
Area of specialisation:
Neurosciences, metabolomics, biostatistics
Personal interests: Cooking and singing

I am no stranger to the constant change and adaptation in research dynamics that is required in order to keep up with the rapidly advancing pace of technology. I have pursued a research career that has taken many twists and turns – from being a cell biologist to an analytical biochemist, and now a biostatistician, opening up a wide array of research opportunities in my career. At one stage, I was both a supervisor and a part-time Masters student; I believe that was the most difficult time of my career to date. As the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and I think that in research, that quote stands true. I’m a strong believer in leading by example and instilling “grit” in my students and staff in order to survive the demanding nature of academic research. My biggest achievement yet is being proud that I have done my best in bringing out the potential within my students and staff through training, mentoring, and inspiration!

Esther Lim – Postdoctoral Fellow

Esther LimMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Personal interests: Travelling, going on nature walks, dining out

I completed my PhD at the University of New South Wales and decided to go overseas for my postdoctoral training. Deciding where to go was not that difficulty as I was mostly motivated to travel around Europe. After applying to a few places, I secured a position at Oxford, England and remained there for five years. I wanted to continue research, especially in a country that has more sunshine, and decided to come back to Sydney. I started at Macquarie University in 2016 and have continued with research and teaching since.

I have successfully supervised five HDR students. All my students have completed their degrees on time and with high distinction and have embarked on their own career paths.

Reidar Lystad – Research Fellow

Reida LystadMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Injury epidemiology
Personal interests: Running, hiking, wine

I completed my PhD in sports injury epidemiology at Macquarie University in 2014. I worked part-time as a postdoc at Neuroscience Research Australia before starting in my current role as a full-time researcher at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation in 2017.

I am an injury epidemiologist with a particular interest in traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, paediatric trauma, and sports injury (and Game of Thrones). My research involves conducting large population-based studies using linked health data to investigate health outcomes following injury and to guide improvements in health service delivery and policy.

Adam Martin – Senior Research Fellow

Adam MartinMentor since: 2016
Area of specialisation:
Neuroscience, peptides, ECM
Personal interests: Sport, baking, hiking, travel, coffee

I have a background in chemistry and my current work involves designing mimics of the brain extracellular matrix for insights into Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2016 I was awarded an NHMRC Dementia Fellowship and have was promoted to Lecturer in 2018 and Senior Research Fellow in 2019. I now have mentored many ECRs through my career thus far and strongly believe in scientific outreach and a good work-life balance. I am always happy to grab a coffee and have a chat.

Vanessa Tan – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Vanessa TanMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Neurodegenerative diseases, biomarkers, environmental toxins
Personal interests: Reading, baking, shrimp keeping

My career started off with a Diploma in Biotechnology, and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biotechnology), and a MPhil (Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences). I worked as a Research Assistant for several years working on the Kynurenine Pathway, primary human neuronal cultures, and MND. Subsequently, I commenced a PhD in that group - completing it in 2017. I expand on the research projects in my PhD on MND, firstly, development of biomarkers, and secondly, the role of toxins in neurotoxicity and disease development.

Emily McCann – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Mentor since: 2019 Emily McCann
Area of specialisation:
Genetics, genomics, motor neuron disease 
Personal interests: Animals (especially dogs), cricket, bush-walking

I completed a Bachelor of Medical Sciences in 2012 and discovered my passion for genetics, as well as a love of research as part of a Summer vacation scholarship placement. During my Masters of Research degree (2014) and PhD (2019) I focused on discovering and understanding the genetic causes of motor neuron disease. In my five year career I have published 13 peer reviewed research articles and have presented my research at 13 domestic and four international scientific conferences. My PhD studies were supported by a competitive top-up scholarship from the MNDRIA, and I have also secured multiple travel grants affording me the opportunity to attend scientific conferences. As an early career researcher I am eager to share my experiences and support HDR students as they navigate their path through the beginning of their research career.

Magdalena Przybyla – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

MagdaMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Neurodegenerative diseases, drug discovery, mouse models
Personal interests: Cooking, F45, travelling, coffee

After completing my bachelor’s (Biology) and master’s degree (Neuroscience) at the University of Bremen (Germany), I commenced my PhD studies at the University of New South Wales. Last year I started my postdoctoral position with the Dementia Research Centre (DRC) at Macquarie University. Within the DRC I am an integral part of the Drug discovery group, which aims to develop and validate potential drug targets for future translation into therapy. Additionally, I am involved in several internal and external research collaborations at Macquarie University and beyond.

As an international candidate I know all about the struggles of conducting a PhD and I am very familiar with the fears and the pressure you may face at times, in particular when being far away from home. But believe me, there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel and plenty of ways to make your PhD an unforgettable and enjoyable adventure.

William Redmond – Senior Postdoctoral Fellow Neuroscience

William RedmondMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Vision/computational neuroscience
Personal interests: Cooking, experimental music, literature

I have been a scientific 'grasshopper' throughout my career. I started as an intern and did my MSc doing experimental clinical trials in a chronic pain lab, came to MQ to do my PhD on cannabinoids signalling with Mark Connor, changed trajectory and worked on the effect of cannabinoids on vision in Montréal, then vision and machine-learning in Belgium, and finally linking vision, autonomic systems and machine-learning here with Simon McMullan.

My biggest achievement is probably managing to learn all these different methods, which I hope makes me a rather well-rounded neuroscientist with varied interests.

Janet Van Eersel – Group Leader

Janet Van EerselMentor since: 2012
Area of specialisation:
Dementia, mouse models, drug discovery
Personal interests: Reading, pilates, travel

I am a Group Leader in the Dementia Research Centre at Macquarie University leading the Drug Discovery and Childhood Seizure teams. My research primarily focuses on identifying, developing and testing novel potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as utilizing mouse models of childhood seizure disorders to better understand the mechanisms of neuronal hyperexcitation. I was awarded my PhD, which focused on the tau and TDP-43 neuropathology of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, in 2010 from the University of Sydney. After this, I continued my research as a post doctorate in the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease laboratory at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and was awarded an ARC DECRA for this work in 2012. In June 2013, I moved with the entire group of Prof. Lars Ittner to UNSW as a post doctorate to establish the Dementia Research Unit. In December 2018 (after 2 periods of maternity leave), I moved with the entire group of Prof. Lars Ittner to MQ as a group leader to establish the Dementia Research Centre.

Isabella Tan – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Isabella TanMentor since: 2019
Area of specialisation:
Blood pressure and vascular function
Personal interests: Music (especially musicals) and films (animations, crime, and slice of life)

Worked as a computer programmer for 4 years before embarking on the long PhD journey during which I had three babies (including the thesis). Currently a part-time postdoctoral researcher in the Blood Pressure and Vascular Function Research group, assisting with international, multi-centre clinical research studies

Rimanto Ronto – Lecturer in Public Health

Rimanto RontoMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Health promotion/public health nutrition
Personal interests: Animals (dogs, cats), outdoors (beach, walking) and good food

I am an early career academic; I have completed my PhD in 2017. My thesis explored the relationship between food literacy and adolescents’ dietary behaviours. For the last three years, I have been on the teaching and research pathway. My research is in public health nutrition area and I am also very interested in Learning & Teaching research. I have participated in several mentorship programs which I found to be very beneficial for my progress and career.

Marina Junqueira Santiago – Lecturer

Marina Junqueira SantiagoMentor since: 2019 
Area of specialisation:
Pharmacology, drug signalling
Personal interests: movies and series, food and drinks

After some years working as a community pharmacist, I came to Macquarie University to do a PhD in Pharmacology. I finished my PhD in 2015, where I researched the effect of single nucleotide polymorphisms and phosphomutation of the mu-opioid receptor. After concluding my PhD and a short postdoc, I left academia to worked for NSW health (Drugs and Alcohol Services). I quickly realised I enjoyed my experience in academia and therefore I returned. Now, I am engaged in teaching pharmacology, research and professional practice, in addition to continue researching molecular pharmacology of cannabinoids and opioids.

Mitchell Sarkies – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Mitchell SarkiesMentor since: 2020 
Area of specialisation:
Health services research
Personal interests: Hiking, camping, cycling, rock climbing, live music

I begun my career working clinically, as a physiotherapist in the hospital setting. Early in my clinical career I sought opportunities to get involved in research, working part-time as a research assistant and publishing a few papers. My boss agreed to supervise my PhD and we were awarded some funding to support my candidature, while still working part-time as a physio. Upon completion of my PhD, I spent a year in industry, managing a project with the WA Primary Health Alliance, after which I returned to academia as a post-doctoral research fellow with the Australian Institute of Health Innovation.

Annika Van Hummel – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

AnnikaMentor since: 2020
Area of specialisation:
Neurodegenerative diseases, motor neuron disease, mouse models neurobiology
Personal interests: Music, singing, travel, food, netball, snowboarding

After graduating from a Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering degree and working as a design engineer at an orthopaedics company, I decided that industry wasn’t for me, and came back to university to do my PhD in osteoarthritis research. During my PhD I spent 3 months each in Boston USA and Germany, a great experience to learn how different labs worked around the world. After finishing my PhD in 2014 I moved into the neuroscience field and have been with the same group ever since, now called the Dementia Research Centre at MQ. I also do some teaching in B Clin Sci, and have supervised Honours, MRes2 and now have a PhD student. I am always happy to share my experiences and advice and have been unofficially mentoring junior students and staff for many years.

Kelly Williams – NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow

Kelly WilliamsMentor since: 2019
Area of specialisation:
Genomics, bioinformatics, biostatistics
Personal interests: Spending time with my children, social team sports, baking

Dr Kelly Williams completed her PhD at the ANZAC Research Institute/University of Sydney in 2013 and has since been awarded two Postdoctoral Fellowships for her research. She currently leads the Genomics & Bioinformatics research program within the multidisciplinary Centre for Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Research at Macquarie University. Her academic career has predominantly focused on identifying defective genes that lead to disease.

Her discoveries have directly translated into clinical practice including a therapeutic treatment, diagnostic tests, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and predictive testing. Her current research interest is identifying disease-modifying factors underlying the inexplicable variability in age of onset and rate of disease progression in MND patients.

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