2012 Committee


Lizzie Final formattedLizzie Manning
SOBR Co-Founder & Events Co-Manager

Lizzie Manning completed her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Melbourne and is currently completing her PhD at the Mental Health Research Institute (MHRI), under the supervision of Assoc Prof Maarten van den Buuse in the Behavioural Neuroscience Laboratory. Her project aims to examine the effects of methamphetamine abuse in a rodent model, with a focus on the development of behavioural abnormalities that are relevant to schizophrenia and psychosis. Lizzie has presented oral and poster presentations of this work at local and national medical research conferences.

During her studies Lizzie has been involved in a number of student societies, including roles as the honours representative for the Students of the Florey Institutes (SOFI), president of the Mental health research Institute Student Organization (MISO), and co-founder of Students of Brain Research (SOBR). Lizzie has also acted as the MHRI student representative on the Melbourne Neuroscience Graduate Research Course steering committee, and participated in secondary school outreach programs with the MHRI/Dax gallery and Australian Neuroscience Society. This year Lizzie was also involved in establishing a Mental Health Journal club, with the aiming of increasing discussion and interaction between mental health researchers in the Melbourne Brain Centre.


Anzari FinalAnzari Atik
Events Co-Manager

Anzari Atik is currently completing her PhD in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University and at the Monash Institute of Medical Research, under the supervision of Dr Mary Tolcos, Dr Robert De Matteo and Prof Richard Harding. Anzari is interested in the field of neonatal neurology. Her PhD focuses on investigating the effects of caffeine for the treatment of apnea of prematurity, specifically assessing the effects on the immature brain. Anzari has presented her work at numerous conferences, both local and international and has been successful at winning best oral and poster presentations and travel awards.

During her academic career, Anzari has shown an interest in community involvement. This includes being a volunteer lifeguard/lifesaver, volunteering as a teacher in India, student representative at Monash University open days, supervising high school students in a Monash University Leadership program and speaking at the brain awareness week school outreach program. Anzari has also been involved in the organization of university events while being involved in various committees such as the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University students committee and the students of brain research (SoBR) network.


Ayaka FinalAyaka Ando
Finance and Sponsorship Manager

Ayaka Ando is currently undertaking her PhD in the Neuroimaging group at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes, supervised by Dr Michael Farrell. She investigates brain responses to airway irritation in individuals with chronic cough using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Additionally, she uses fMRI to investigate desensitisation to airway irritants in patients with cystic fibrosis. She aims to describe how the brain contributes to aberrant cough in disease by contrasting the functional organisation of brain sensorimotor networks of both sensitised and desensitised coughers against healthy controls.

Ayaka’s primary interest is in medical imaging, where she has experience in investigating interoception as well as neurodegenerative disease such as Huntington’s disease. She is also currently working at Orygen Youth Health on an imaging project looking at adolescent at-risk psychosis patients.

Ayaka is an APA holder as well as the UQ merit-based scholarship. She has enjoyed being an active committee member of the Florey’s student society (SOFI) over the past year and she is excited to be part of the SOBR steering committee as the Finance and Sponsorship manager.


Andrew FinalAndrew Watt
Media and Communications Manager

Andrew Watt completed his Bachelor of Science (Psychology) at Monash University in 2008 and Honours (Pathology) at The University of Melbourne in 2009. He is currently undertaking a PhD within The University of Melbourne, where he is investigating blood borne biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease with the view of improving the diagnostic accuracy of contemporary measures. Andrew has published his research in internationally recognised, peer-reviewed journals and has presented his work at conferences and institutes both nationally and abroad.

Andrew’s diverse range of interests have led to him working extensively within the third sector. Since 2002 Andrew has worked closely with Alzheimer’s Australia to raise awareness of the disease within the community through talks at various symposia and events as well as through work with both print and radio media outlets. In 2007, Andrew was the opening speaker at the Alzheimer’s National Conference in Perth and in 2009 he was a steering committee member for the National Consumer Summit on Younger Onset Dementia. Since 2010 Andrew has served on the Board of Directors for Alzheimer’s Australia Research. Andrew has also had the opportunity to work closely with both The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, where he helped to implement the inaugural Social Return on Investment evaluation, as well as Lifeline Australia, where he worked as a telephone counselor.

More recently, Andrew has turned his attention towards bridging the gap between Science and the general public by creating the neuroscience blog, A Hippo on Campus. The blog focuses on contemporary research from the fields of neuropsychology to neurobiology and beyond and has been well received from the science writing community. Andrew’s work on A Hippo on Campus has also led to his appointment as Editor at ScienceSeeker, covering the topics of Medicine, Neuroscience and Psychology.


Annabel FinalAnnabel Short
Societies and Conference Liaison Manager

Annabel Short began her research career in Tasmania where she completed her undergraduate degree in medical research followed by honours in cancer genetics. After graduating, Annabel was employed as a research assistant in the cancer genetics lab at the Menzies Research Institute, Tasmania. In 2011 Annabel moved to Melbourne to follow an interest in neurogenetics at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes, namely the effect of environment on gene expression. She is now one year into her PhD research on modelling the effects of paternal lifestyle on offspring mental health.

Annabel has a keen interest in community outreach programs and has been actively involved in various programs including national science week and the CSIRO scientists in schools program. She is also involved in undergraduate mentoring programs and the community organisation Camp Quality.

This year Annabel has been elected as secretary of the student society for Florey Neuroscience Institutes in addition to her role as Societies and Conference Liaison Manager for SOBR. Annabel has a firm belief in the importance of networking programs and investing time in the scientific community. She is a strong believer in promoting science to a wide audience, especially encouraging young people to become more involved.


Benjie FinalBenjie Barzel
Student Liaison and Enquiries Manager

Benjamin Barzel is in his final year of his PhD studies at the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute and Monash University under the supervision of Professor Geoffrey Head and Dr James Armitage. Benjie’s research is focused on identifying neuronal pathways in the hypothalamus that are responsible for the development of obesity related hypertension. His lab is uniquely placed to perform such work with the ability to record sympathetic nerve activity to renal beds in conscious animals. Benjie has had the opportunity to present his work at national and international conferences, winning several prizes.

In addition to his tertiary studies Benjie is a passionate student advocate serving as a member of the Anatomy & Developmental Biology Student Committee at Monash and was previously the treasurer for the Baker IDI Student committee (2010-2011). His volunteer work also extends to the wider scientific community (Australian Society of Medical Research, Science in Schools program) as well as the general community (Royal Children’s hospital, Rotary Club Victoria).



Christina Final formattedChristina Mo
SOBR Co-Founder

Christina is a 3rd year PhD student investigating the effects of stress on the onset of Huntington’s disease in mice. After a successful Honours year at the University of WA, she made the move from Perth to embark on her PhD at Florey Neuroscience Institutes at the Melbourne Brain Centre. “I see Melbourne as a neuroscience hub. That’s why we need to develop a more collaborative and research-savvy next generation of neuro researchers – hence SOBR.”

Christina has always been drawn to the study of gene-environment interactions in addition to the higher cognition of humans. With a solid background in neuroscience and pathology, she also has experience investigating cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, comparative neurology and neural plasticity.

Christina has published in a high-ranking journal (FASEB), won a prize at the Florey’s annual student presentations and also obtained various travel awards for national and international conferences. She has also visited and presented her work to reknowned laboratories in the UK.

Along-side academic acheivements, Christina had a very busy 2011 Presidency in the Florey’s student society (SOFI), leading the committee through inter-departmental amazing races, careers forums, mentor schemes, networking nights and raised funds for the Red Cross and for other PhD students in need. She is also active in the community and helped mould Melbourne University’s new PhD Course in Neuroscience through her position on the Neuroscience Steering Committee. Her involvement in SOBR was natural: “This is something i really believe in and it’s awesome when others get it as well.”

Christina hopes to continue contributing to the exciting world of neuroscience – both here and overseas.


Jo FinalJo Stratton
SOBR Co-Founder

Jo Stratton is currently completing her PhD at the Florey Neurosciences Institutes under Dr Tobias Merson and Prof Trevor Kilpatrick. Using a novel mouse model, she is attempting to understand the complex relationship between function, pathology, plasticity and regeneration initiated following myelinating glia death. Jo has been awarded several best oral and/or poster presentation prizes at international and national conferences for this work.

In addition to her academic success, Jo has excelled at leading the young generation of medical researchers in Melbourne. She was elected as president of the student society at her institute, and cofounded the Melbourne-wide medical research network for young researchers, SOBR. She has represented the student’s of Melbourne on several committees, including the Society for Neuroscience Melbourne Chapter and the Melbourne Neuroscience Graduate Research Course steering committee.

Jo believes it to be important to bridge the gap between the community at large and scientists. She has been an invited speaker to present to lay communities, including high schools and Rotary Clubs across Australia. Jo also leads a team of medical researchers at an annual fun run to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. To date, her team has fundraised over $15,000 towards Multiple Sclerosis research.

Jo’s dedication to contribute meaningful scientific advances that will impact the lives of disease sufferers, as well as her passion to support and mentor current and future young medical researchers, makes her a valuable asset to the scientific community, and the community at large.