Huntington’s disease researcher recognised as finalist

05 March 2015
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.

Researcher Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains was one of the top three finalists for the University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year category at the 2015 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards.

The award acknowledges outstanding and exceptional young New Zealanders aged 15 to 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), and recently graduated with her PhD in September 2014 under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Richard Faull and Associate Professor Henry Waldvogel, who also acted as her referees.

She was nominated for her ongoing commitment to promoting brain health and neurodegenerative disease awareness. Her PhD focused on neurodegeneration of the human globus pallidus in Huntington’s disease (HD), but it is her work for the Huntington’s community for which she has received considerable acclaim.

Since 2010 she has organised fundraising drives twice a year for the Auckland Huntington’s Association (AHDA) in St Luke’s Westfield.

Dr Singh-Bains has been involved in student mentoring programmes through LENScience, including the “Students as Researchers Programme” and she is actively involved in the organisation and running of the annual CBR Brain Day event and the New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge.

She promotes brain health awareness among young people and has visited several schools nationally over the past five years as a volunteer to promote the importance of “looking after your brain”. She created an innovative method using a “human brain puzzle” in an artistic format to engage children in learning about the structure and function of the human brain.

Dr Singh-Bains has presented her research internationally, including Boston, Massachusetts, where she was one of the youngest speakers to give a platform presentation at the Hereditary Disease Foundation Conference in August 2014, and in Rio de Janeiro at the World Congress of Huntington’s Disease in 2013.  She presented her research at the National Huntington’s Disease Association conference 2013 as a guest speaker.

After consultation with HD families at this conference and with the support of Jo Dysart from Auckland District Health Board and the AHDA, Dr Singh-Bains became a founder and chairperson of the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organisation of New Zealand (HDYO-NZ), a charity dedicated to support and educate young New Zealanders impacted by HD.

Her present focus is to raise $7000 to set up a youth-friendly web-based service with her aim to formally launch the organisation by May 2015.

Dr Singh-Bains was honoured for her achievements as a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year at a gala in the Langham hotel on 25 February.

Although she didn’t win the top prize, according to Professor Richard Faull “In truth, all the three finalists in the Young New Zealanders category were outstanding young inspirational New Zealanders and we were just so proud that Malvindar was up there flying the CBR and University of Auckland banner of exceptional achievement.”

The first placing for the category went to Guy Ryan, Wellington, founder and CEO of the Inspiring Stories Trust which runs workshops to help New Zealanders make their mark in the world. 

 

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