Our regional representatives are our link to our local scientific communities.
May 2019: CALL FOR REGIONAL REP IN MANAWATU
We’ve filled our regional rep position for Otago (see below!). However, we still need a regional rep for the Manawatu region. If you would like to volunteer to be a rep for either of this region, please let us know. It doesn't take a lot of time, but our reps are an important presence for us at the local level, and play a big part in growing/maintaining our membership numbers. Thanks to Kathryn (Manawatu) for stepping in until we can find someone longer-term!
Ivan attained his undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Oxford, as a member of St Peter’s College. He completed a DPhil in the laboratories of Profs Christopher J. Schofield FRS and Timothy D. W. Claridge, during which he applied NMR spectroscopy to study enzymes from an extended family of non-haem iron oxygenases that use 2-oxoglutarate as a cosubstrate. After his DPhil he spent a further two years in the same group as a postdoctoral research assistant, working on a variety of projects ranging from protein-ligand interactions, enzyme mechanisms, biocatalysis and enzyme inhibition. He has also spent time as a visitor in the laboratory of Dr Isabelle Landrieu at the Université Lille 1, during which he utilised biomolecular NMR techniques to study protein dynamics. Since September 2014, Ivan has been part of the University of Auckland. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Chemical Biology.
I started my working life as a technician, worked through an NZCS in Chemistry, followed by BSc(Hons) and PhD in Biochemistry, Massey University, Palmerston North. After a post doc at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, I returned to Massey to take up a position as a lecturer in Biochemistry, in the then Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I have always had a keen interest in supporting post graduate students and have been post graduate director in the Institute of Fundamental Sciences for some time. I have taught a range of courses in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Genetics and my main research interest has been (and still is) based around the rare genetic disorder Malignant Hyperthermia (MH). I developed an IANZ accredited diagnostic service for MH from my research efforts which started with manual Sanger sequencing and running gels, through a range of kinetic PCR diagnostic methods and finally whole exome sequencing. I have been a regional rep and secretary for the NZSBMB before as well as editor of New Zealand Bioscience. I put my hand up to fill the gap (temporarily) for Manawatu as I think it is important for all the centers to be represented and fly the flag for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in New Zealand.
Wellington: Prof. David Ackerley
I am a molecular microbiologist and enzyme engineer, with a primary focus on discovery, characterisation, engineering and application of useful bacterial enzymes, and of novel antibiotics to counter the spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria. My particular speciality is in tailoring enzyme activities by directed evolution - a powerful approach for enzyme engineering that applies Darwinian evolutionary principles at a single-gene level, using iterative rounds of focused mutagenesis followed by artificial selection of enhanced variants to improve desirable activities. One of the coolest things about that approach is that if you have designed your system sufficiently well, you don’t necessarily need to understand how your enzyme works to achieve some very useful outcomes, which can in turn shed light on key mechanistic details. One of the less cool things is that, as with Aladdin’s genie, you need to be very precise about what you wish for – if things can go wrong, they probably will! But they say we learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so there’s that.
Christchurch: Prof. Margreet Vissers
Most of my current research revolves around determining the biological functions of vitamin C (ascorbate), which is widely considered to be an important natural antioxidant. However, ascorbate is also an essential co-factor for a family of enzymes, the 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases, which control many biological processes, ranging from the stress response to hypoxia, to the regulation of epigenetic enzymes. These processes are important in cancer and we are investigating the contribution of ascorbate to cancer growth as a result of its co-factor activity for these enzymes. We are planning clinical trials to determine the impact of ascorbate on the processes involved in cancer cell biology.
Margreet is the Associate Dean of Research in Pathology at University of Otago (Christchurch).
Otago: Dr. Rob Fagerlund
I am a molecular biologist and biochemist with a strong interest in studying protein-nucleic acid interactions, having investigated several different complexes, including RNase P/MRP and the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune system. I did my PhD with Assoc. Prof. Sigurd Wilbanks, Department of Biochemistry at University of Otago, on the tumour suppressor protein WT1. After postdocs in Otago and Penn State, USA, I returned back to Otago to join Prof. Peter Fineran at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. My research is focused on how CRISPR-Cas systems function to provide bacteria protection against bacteriophage attack, with particular interest in characterisation of a special type of system from cyanobacteria.
Waikato: Dr. Joanna Hicks
I am a molecular biologist and biochemist with a strong interest in all things to do with RNA. I received my PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2011 investigating toxin-antitoxin systems in Mycobacteria. I subsequently spent three years as a post-doc at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Biochemistry, researching transcription and post-transcriptional regulation in the remnant chloroplast of malaria. My current research looks at transcriptional regulation and metabolism in pathogenic bacteria such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis and enzyme engineering for RNA based biotechnology applications.