Brain growth and disease


Team members

Brain Growth and Disease lab

Left to right: Martina Mariano, Julian Heng, Isabel Hemming, Alvin Djajadikerta, Linh Ngo, Saiuj Bhat, Hayley Cullen, Olivier Clément
(Not pictured, Hannah Vanyai)

Current team

Julian Heng

Julian attained his Bachelor’s of Science from UWA and his PhD from the University of Melbourne, working at the Howard Florey Institute. He trained as a CJ Martin Fellow and then as an MRC Career Development Fellow at the National Institute for Medical Research (UK). In 2010, he established his independent laboratory at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute before relocating his research to the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in August 2014. Julian is interested to understand how the brain is put together, and how we can apply this knowledge to give young adults the best start to life as well as to improve mental health as we age.

Hannah Vanyai

Hannah hails from the state of Victoria where she completed her Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science Degree before undertaking PhD studies with Drs Anna Voss and Tim Thomas at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Of her many academic achievements to date, Hannah has received the Rosemary Merlo Prize for History (University of Melbourne), The Melbourne Global Scholarship (an international scholarship to undertake studies in Denmark), the Coleman Speed Honours Award for the top honours score in her cohort (2010), the Helen MacPherson Smith Scholarship (for the highest-ranking female student commencing a PhD in science), the David Walsh Prize for the best student oral presentation (ComBio 2013) and the ANSZCDB Best student talk prize for the Melbourne cell and developmental biology meeting (2014). Hannah is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, and is an excellent molecular biologist as well as an inspired baker of cookies.

Olivier Clément

Olivier is a native of Bordeaux, France. After a Master of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, he attained his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Lyon. During his PhD, he undertook neuroanatomical and pharmacological studies in order to decipher the neuronal network responsible for Rapid Eye Movement sleep control. He was awarded to attend the European Marie Curie Project “Training in Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine”. Olivier was also awarded Young Researcher of the City of Lyon in 2013. Following this, he worked as a Post-Doctoral fellow at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center where he used cutting-edge in vivo electrophysiology and animal behaviour techniques to study the relationship between sleep, emotional memory and depression.

Since early January, Olivier has joined our laboratory to investigate the molecular mechanisms for neurogenesis in health and disease. Using a combination of molecular and cellular tools, he aims to understand how genetic mutations disrupt brain development and cause human intellectual disability. Australia is not completely new for him as he has previously undertaken postgraduate research training in Melbourne in 2006. Olivier is part of the UWA volley-ball club and is looking for good waves all around Perth. He also joins Julian on the lookout for the most price-competitive purveyors of European fine-foods across Perth.

Hayley Cullen

Hayley is originally from New South Wales, and trained in Microbiology at the University of New South Wales. After attaining First Class Honours with High Distinction and completing her Bachelor of Science degree, Hayley worked at the Garvan Institute to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of breast cancer. Hayley won the Shelston IP prize for Biotechnology in 2012, and was a People’s Choice Award for the Peter Farrell Cup, a Business Plan Competition (2011). Hayley commenced in the lab as a graduate research assistant in January 2015, and continues to bring new ideas and efficiencies to our laboratory operations. She has been promoted to Laboratory Manager in 2016.

Linh Ngo

Linh attained her Bachelor of Biomedical Science with First Class Honours in Biomedical Science from Monash University in 2012. She was the top honours student amongst her cohort within the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology. In 2014, Linh was selected for interview at EMBL through a competitive International PhD Fellowship Program. Also, Linh won a place to attend the IBRO/ISN/APSN advanced school on Neuroscience (in June 2015) in order to learn ultramicroscopy techniques which enables her to study the connections between nerve cells in the brain. Linh is a conscientious researcher and innovator who is passionate about Neuroscience. She has been promoted to Research Officer in 2016.

Isabel Hemming

Isabel is our PhD student, and studying the genetic basis for intellectual disability in humans, with particular focus on the basis for mutations to genes which disrupt the production of neurons in the fetal brain. While she is dedicated to her project, Isabel’s chocolate cake is also the stuff of legend.

Jiwon ShinJiwon Shin (pictured)

Jiwon is an honours student commencing in the lab in the middle of the year. Jiwon hails from South Korea, and is a recipient of a prestigious Barry Marshall Scholarship to fully fund her studies to attain her Bachelor’s degree. Jiwon has previously worked in Nobel Laureate Marshall’s lab, and is looking forward to studying the functions of proteins in the nerve cells which help give them their appropriate shape to conduct electrical signals, and to make connections with other nerve cells.

Saiuj Bhat

Saiuj is an honours student completing a Bachelor of Philosophy with an assured path to Medical School in 2017. Little does Saiuj realise that he is a gifted histologist and resourceful bench scientist as he looks to apply his skills to investigate the causative nature of disease-associated mutations to RNA-binding proteins in neuronal migration disorder.

Alvin Djajadikerta

Alvin is undertaking his honours year with Julian and Alistair Forrest as a Bachelor of Philosophy student. Alvin is applying BioInformatics methods to identify candidate genes for Brain Development and Disease. He is also very handy with the guitar.

Martina Mariano

Martina hails from Italy and attained her Masters in Genetics and Molecular Biology, with an emphasis on forensic genetics. Martina has an interest in understanding genetic variation in health and disease, and has previously interned with a Forensic Genetics Laboratory to apply DNA analysis methods to human identification. While a Master’s student, she interned with the Carabinieri Scientific Investigation Department to validate techniques for genotype-phenotype identification. After attaining her Master’s degree, she applied her skills to work as a registered Biologist and develop prenatal and pre-implantation testing for genetic abnormalities such as trisomies. She is currently applying for a PhD scholarship to realise her ambition to develop novel assays for the functional diagnosis and treatment of human genetic disorders. In her spare time, Martina is a remarkable baker of vegan treats.

Former alumni

Ivan Gladwyn-Ng

Ivan attained his Bachelor’s of Science with First Class Honours from Monash University’s Sunway Campus (Malaysia). He was the top student in his Honour’s year cohort. In 2011, he was the recipient of a prestigious International PhD scholarship to undertake PhD studies at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute. He attained his PhD with Julian in 2015 and was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab until November. Ivan was the recipient of an all expenses paid trip to South Korea to attend the IBRO/ISN/APSN advanced school on Neuroscience (in June 2015). Ivan is a keen motorbike rider whom is never far from any research lab. He is presently a postdoctoral fellow with Dr Laurent Nguyen at GIGA-Neurosciences, University of Liege, Belgium.

Former students

Kelly Berger, honours student, University of Western Australia (2015)
Outcome: Honours First Class
- Kelly relocated from Melbourne to undertake her thesis project in our lab to investigate the genetic basis for autism spectrum disorder. Kelly was the recipient of a prestigious CTM Margaret Mills Chemistry Honours Scholarship (2015) to support her studies in the lab.

Stephanie Houston, honours student, University of Melbourne (2013)
Outcome: Honours First Class
- As a student in the lab, Stephanie attained the top honours mark for her cohort in the Bachelor of Behavioural Neuroscience, Monash University (2013). Presently, Stephanie is undertaking PhD studies in Melbourne on full scholarship.

Briony McGrath, honours student, University of Melbourne (2009)
Outcome: Honours Second Class
- Briony worked in the lab to understand the cellular functions of a novel player in neuronal development in the context of Down’s Syndrome. Briony is undertaking her PhD studies in New South Wales on full scholarship.

Linda ShuShan Lim, honours student, University of Melbourne (2003)
Outcome: Honours First Class
- Linda attained First Class Honours with Julian at the University of Melbourne, and then won an A-STAR scholarship to undertake PhD studies at Biopolis (Singapore). Presently, Linda is working in the industrial sector.

Caroline Roberts, Undergraduate Opportunity (UrOP) student (2012)
- Caroline worked in the lab and developed a novel assay to quantify the subcellular location of proteins within cells grown in a dish. She is currently undertaking PhD studies in Melbourne on full scholarship.

John Michael Davis, UrOP student (2010)
- John worked in the lab as a gene hunter to identify the genetic factors which are critical to the development of brain circuits. John is currently studying Medicine and plans to specialise in Neurology.

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