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Issue 370 | 6 March 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

Welcome to the latest edition of the Dean’s Diary.

The 2015 academic year is now upon us and classes are at last in full swing. I hope that everything is going well across the campuses.

Despite some last minute hiccups, I’m delighted to say that the vast majority of first semester enrolments went smoothly and most students received a complete course schedule prior to commencement.

We are now working towards our autumn graduation and this will be the largest ever for our faculty. Please set aside the date of 6th May if you wish to attend the ceremony and I hope to see a strong turnout from staff.  

This week of course we hosted the AMC accreditation panel, here to assess our medical programme. They visited and met a large number of university and hospital staff and students and will report their preliminary findings to the faculty on Friday. Thank you to all those who took part in the interviews.

At the Vice Chancellor’s Deputy Dean’s meeting this week, a major topic of discussion was the next PBRF assessment scheduled in 2018 – yes three years away! Of course we need to start planning now and so expect a number of important communications in the near future about our faculty strategy from Associate Dean Research Professor Andrew Shelling. There will be some significant changes to the evidence portfolio. My only advice at this stage is to make sure you record your research activities now so as not to forget them in 2018. 

In this week's edition of the Dean's Diary you can read about an award winning student of molecular medicine and pathology, a graduate who is leading the development of new tools for cancer bio-marker discovery, and one of our research fellows who is also one of the top three finalists nominated for a 'Young New Zealander of the Year' award; the images of our orientation and summer celebrations on campus capture the lively atomosphere that we have all enjoyed on campus this week. 


Centre for Brain Research rising star nominated for esteemed national award

Image of Young New Zealander of the Year finalist, Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains (centre) with University Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon (left) and the Director of the Centre for Brain Research, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull
Young New Zealander of the Year finalist, Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains (centre) with University Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon (left) and the Director of the Centre for Brain Research, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull

Congratulations to Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains who was one of the top three finalists nominated for the ‘University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year’ award. The nomination was part of ‘2015 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards’.

Dr Singh-Bain was honoured for her achievements at a gala extravaganza held at the Langham hotel on 25 February.

The award acknowledges outstanding and exceptional young New Zealanders (aged 15-30), who are community-orientated youth leaders with the potential to produce a bright future for New Zealand.

Dr Singh-Bains is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Brain Research (CBR), at our Grafton campus. She recently completed her PhD under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Richard Faull and Associate Professor Henry Waldvogel.

Dr. Singh-Bains was nominated for the award for her ongoing commitment to promoting brain health and awareness of neurodegenerative disease.

Her PhD focused on neurodegeneration of the human globus pallidus in Huntington’s disease (HD), and she has received considerable acclaim for her work with the Huntington’s community.

Dr Singh-Bains advocates promoting brain health awareness among young people. She has visited several schools nationally over the past five years as a volunteer to promote the importance of ‘looking after your brain’.

Using a ‘human brain puzzle’ she created an innovative method in an artistic format to engage children in learning about the structure and function of the human brain. 

Dr Singh-Bain has presented her research internationally and she was one of the youngest speakers to give a platform presentation at the Hereditary Disease Foundation Conference in August 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.

We are all incredibly proud that Malvindar was flying the flag as a finalist at the awards, for not only the CBR, but also the University of Auckland. 


Molecular Medicine and Pathology PhD student wins 2015 Trans-Tasman Bursary

Image of Denis Simonov
Denis Simonov

Congratulations to our PhD student Denis Simonov for winning the ProSciTech Pty Ltd Trans-Tasman Bursary at the recent 27th New Zealand Conference on Microscopy.

Denis gave an oral presentation at the conference which was held in Dunedin early last month.

His presentation was entitled ‘Membrane vesicles released from Uropathogenic Escherichia coli deliver RNA cargo to human bladder cells’. It included a range of microscopy techniques, such as transmission electron microscopy and confocal microscopy, as well as molecular biology techniques.

The award provides full funding for Denis to attend the 2016 Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Society conference – covering air travel, conference registration fees and includes an AUD $500 subsistence allowance.

He also received a grant-in-aid Young Microscopist Scholarship of $500 which assisted him in attending the New Zealand conference.

Denis’s supervisors include Dr Simon Swift, Dr Cherie Blenkiron, Professor Cris Print and Dr Anthony Phillips.

Congratulations also to Jessy Kong, from our Department of Optometry, who was another successful recipient of a Young Microscopist Scholarship.


Graduate leads development of new tools for cancer biomarker discovery

Image of Dr Francis Hunter (centre) with Professor Bill Wilson (left) and Dr Jingli Wang
Dr Francis Hunter (centre) with Professor Bill Wilson (left) and Dr Jingli Wang

Recent PhD graduate Dr Francis Hunter undertook doctoral studies under the supervision of Professor Bill Wilson and Dr Jingli Wang at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre.

Dr Hunter’s research focused on exploiting features of the tumour microenvironment to improve cancer treatment.

This area of research has been a long-standing objective in cancer drug development; the genetic tools are now available to enable researchers to identify patients likely to see clinical benefit from such an intervention.

The work has been published in leading cancer journals, though the most significant findings are yet to be published, and there is a lot of work ahead.

In parallel to his academic studies, Dr Hunter co-founded a biopharma start-up company, Mesopharm Therapeutics, which has been featured in the University’s news section.

Dr Hunter recently received the John Gavin Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Genesis Oncology Trust, to develop new treatments for head and neck cancer.

Scientists and clinical oncologists at the FMHS, ADHB, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have assembled as a world-leading working group for this exciting new programme.

Dr Hunter is also a principal bench scientist on a recently-awarded Marsden Grant which aims to develop biomarker-guided treatments for drug-resistant paediatric leukaemia.


Orientation events a great success

On Wednesday 25 February we welcomed our new and returning students to the faculty with the first of our orientation events.

On Wednesday 4 March the orientation celebrations continued with a two hour event aimed at encouraging our students to get to know each other through various games that you may have seen set up in the quad area by building 502.

Below you’ll find a collection of images taken at our 2015 orientation events to welcome our new and returning students in medical and health sciences.

There is such a lively atmosphere at our campuses, as we see these bright and talented students come together to embark on their student journey.

Summer 1
Summer 8
Summer 6
Summer 3