Our regional representatives are our link to our local scientific communities.


After many years of service, Helen and Steph are ready to 'hand over the reins'.  If anyone would like to volunteer to be a regional rep in Manawatu or Dunedin, 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 Helen, Steph, and all our regional reps for their service.


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.


Manawatu: Dr. Helen Fitzsimons


My research involves investigation of the molecular mechanisms that underpin the formation and storage of memory. Memories are stored in synapses, the connections between neurons, and on storing a memory, specific combinations of neurons grow stronger connections. The molecular mechanisms that underpin the formation and maintenance of memory, sometimes over a whole life-time, are not well understood. Helen is a Senior Lecturer at Massey University.




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: None

Please contact us if you are interested in being our regional rep for Otago!






Waikato: Dr. Joanna Hicks

Jo Hicks.jpg

I am a molecular biologist and biochemist with a strong interest in all things to 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.