HealtheX 2016: A decade of supporting young scientists

09 September 2016
Front row: Hans Vellara, Amy Gamage, Grace Gong, Anusha Dravid, Madhavi Pandya. Back row: Tessa Fuhrer, Elsie Jacobsen, Hei Tsun Tsang, Himanshu Wadhwa, Maximilian Joret.

HealtheX 2016

HealtheX is a student-led conference which promotes research activity and excellence in presentation skills among postgraduate students.

This year’s HealtheX marked the 10th anniversary of supporting and developing emerging researchers in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The competition and award ceremony took place last Friday 9 September at FMHS.

HealtheX supports emerging scientists’ development by providing a platform in which to communicate their research to a wider audience. This is essential to the development of young researchers who must learn how to present their science in a way that engages the public opinion and secures ongoing funding.

Hosted by PhD candidates Yukti Vyas and Brittney Black from the Centre for Brain Research and organised by a committee of FMHS post graduate students, this year’s event feedback was unanimously positive.

On this occasion, the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (AMRF) increased their contribution to prize-giving by awarding three travel grants to HealtheX winners in three categories.

The winners and runner-ups of HealtheX 2016 per category were as follows:


Oral Doctoral Category 

Grace Gong – AMRF Outstanding Emerging Research Award

Title: Who would have thought that ATP competitive inhibitors could affect protein-membrane interactions?

Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology

Supervisor: Professor Peter Shepherd


Hans Vellara – AMRF Doctoral Oral Presentation Runner Up Award

Title: In vivo orbital compliance in thyroid eye disease

Department of Ophthalmology

Supervisor: Associate Professor Dipika Patel


Jesse Ashton – Second Runner Up Doctoral Oral Presentation Award (CBR)

Title: Shift of Dominant Pacemaker Site during Reflex Vagal Stimulation is the Result of Propagation Failure

Bioengineering Institute

Supervisor: Professor Bruce Smaill


Oral Non-Doctoral Category

Hei Tsun Tsang – Best Non-Doctoral Oral Presentation Award

Title: Hyaluronan-coated Liposomes for Targeted Delivery to CD44 Overexpressing Demyelinating Diseases

School of Pharmacy

Supervisor: Dr Zimei Wu


Tessa Fuhrer – First Runner Up Non-Doctoral Oral Presentation Award (CBR)

Title: Impaired expression of GABA transporters in the human Alzheimer`s disease brain

Department of Anatomy with Radiology

Supervisor: Dr Andrea Kwakowsky


Himanshu Wadhwa – Second Runner Up Non-Doctoral Oral Presentation Award

Title: Investigating the use of corneal stem cell-enriched spheres in keratoconic corneal tissue repair

Department of Opthalmology

Supervisor: Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin


Poster Category

Maximilian Joret – AMRF Best Poster Presentation Award (CBR)

Title: The immunosuppressive phenotype of human brain pericytes in glioblastoma multiforme

Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology

Supervisor: Professor Michael Dragunow


Wojciech Ambroziak – First Runner Up Poster Presentation Award (CBR)

Title: Regulation of synaptic glutamate receptor distribution in mutant huntingtin expressing neurons

Department of Physiology

Supervisor: Associate Professor Johanna Montgomery


Madhavi Pandya – Second Runner Up Poster Presentation Award (CBR)

Title: Age- and gender-specific changes in GABAA receptor subunits in Human inferior-, middle- and superior temporal gyri

Department of Anatomy with Radiology

Supervisor: Dr Andrea Kwakowsky


Elevator Pitch Category

Amy Gamage – Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust Best Elevator Pitch Presentation Award

Title: The Roles of Placental Macrophages (Hofbauer cells) in Placental Vascular Development

Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Supervisor: Dr Jo James


Anusha Dravid – FMHS Postdoc Society First Runner Up Elevator Pitch Presentation Award

Title: Developing an injectable thermosensitive gelling system for the sustained release of lactoferrin

School of Pharmacy

Supervisor: Dr Darren Svirskis


Elsie Jacobson – FMHS PGSA Second Runner Up Elevator Pitch Presentation Award

Title: Does squeezing through cracks remodel the genome to activate immune cells?

Liggins Institute

Supervisor: Dr Justin O’Sullivan 


The conference was attended by our Vice Chancellor; Professor Stuart McCutcheon and our Deputy Vice Chancellor Research; Professor James Metson, among other distinguished academics. Special awards were given by Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin; Associate Dean of Post Graduate Studies, Professor Andrew Shelling; FMHS Associate Dean of Research, Ian Simpson; Chair of the MPPT Scientific Committee and Jeff Todd; President of AMRF.

The HealtheX committee wishes to thank the sponsors of this year’s event; Auckland Medical Research Foundation, Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, FMHS Postdoc Society and FMHS Postgraduate Students Associations, as these generous contributions are shaping the future of scientific research in New Zealand.