President – Kirsten Gainsford

Degree/University: PhD, Monash University

Area of research: Psychology & Cognitive Neuroscience, non-invasive brain stimulation, virtual reality

Background: Kirsten completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) and Bachelor of Psychological Sciences (Honours) at Deakin University where she used non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques to explore the role of visual perception in the aetiology of Autism. She has been working in NIBS research since 2016 at Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre and Epworth Centre for Innovation in Mental Health where she has been responsible for the co-ordination of double-blind, randomised controlled trials in clinical populations including schizophrenia and treatment resistant depression. She has also worked closely with people with Alzheimer’s disease and the healthy aging population.

Research focus: Kirsten’s doctoral research focuses on improving social cognition treatments for schizophrenia. Problems with social cognition have significant impacts on daily functioning and current treatments are limited in their effectiveness, are significantly intensive, and have low ecological validity. There is increasing interest in virtual reality (VR) as an ecologically valid intervention for social cognitive impairment. There is also growing evidence to support the use of non-invasive brain stimulation for enhancing social cognition. Kirsten’s research is investigating, for the first time, the integration of VR and brain stimulation to develop a biological and ecologically valid therapy for social cognitive impairment.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? SOBR is a unique organisation that give students opportunities to develop networks with other students and researchers from all institutions, stages of career and backgrounds, bound together by their common interest in brain research. It is an honour to play a role in providing these networking and learning opportunities for the SOBR community and I look forward to continuing to grow our reach and build on SOBR’s shining reputation.

Vice President – Reuben Dyer

Degree/University: PhD, The University of Melbourne

Area of research: Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology

Background: Reuben has a background in Neuroscience, graduating from the University of Melbourne with an Honours in Visual Neuroscience and subsequently a Masters of Biotechnology.

Research focus: My research examines inhibitory control and emotion regulation in individuals with bipolar disorder. Using behavioural and eye-tracking modalities, I seek to examine interactions between sleep, cognition and emotion factors in bipolar and healthy cohorts.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? I’m excited about broadening my connections across brain research disciplines and institutes.

Secretary – Nathan Nuzum

Degree/University: PhD, Deakin University

Area of research: Neurophysiology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Stimulation

Background: I have been at Deakin University since my undergraduate degree in Sports and Exercise science. While in my second year of my undergraduate degree I decided I wanted to pursue honours, but in a separate field to what I had been studying. It just so happened that the honours project that interested me the most was investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation, and this was my first exposure to neurophysiology and brain stimulation research.

Research focus: My previous research and areas of interest includes neurophysiology, brain stimulation, cognitive neuroscience and exercise and sports science in relation to overall health. Luckily, I have been able to combine these research interests as part of my current PhD which is investigating the links between gut bacteria and Parkinson’s disease. As part of this project I am investigating the neuroplasticity and cognitive behaviour of individuals, how gut bacteria may relate to this, and additionally, how lifestyle factors including diet and exercise may influence our gut bacteria composition.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? One of my favourite things about science, is being able to communicate new findings, both within and external to the scientific community. As part of the SOBR 2020 committee, I am looking forward to helping do this through our two major events, the dinner and symposium, and hopefully through additional events throughout the yea

Treasurer – Anna Horton

Degree/University: PhD, The University of Melbourne

Area of research: Behavioral Neuroscience

Background: I completed my Bachelor of Science at The University of Melbourne majoring in anatomy and neuroscience. I really enjoyed the neuroscience component of the course, so I decided to complete honours at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health within the Addiction Neuroscience laboratory. Following honours I worked for 3 years as a research assistant investigating food addiction. I am currently completing my PhD at the Florey on a methamphetamine project.

Research focus: Methamphetamine is a highly addictive psychostimulant that can lead to serious drug dependence and addiction. The transition to addiction is thought to involve changes in output from the prefrontal cortex. The strength and timing of output signals from the prefrontal cortex are modulated by different types of inhibitory interneurons. For my PhD I am using electrophysiology to investigate whether a subset of interneurons are altered following methamphetamine exposure as a possible mechanism contributing to methamphetamine addiction.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? I am excited to be part of the SOBR 2020 Committee as I think it is a great platform for students to gain experience in skills necessary for event and conference management, as well as a great opportunity to meet other students studying a broad range of brain science areas.

Finance Team Member – Lucas Teasdale

Degree/University: Honours student, University of Melbourne

Area of research: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Background: I completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne in 2018. My main areas of focus were genetics and stem cell biology. Earlier last year, I stumbled across a lab at the Florey Institute that were looking into rare epilepsy variants using a stem cell model. So far, it has been a great adventure being able to combine physics with biology (something I’ve wanted to do since high school).

Research focus: My research is based around the characterisation of a potassium channel (KCNQ2) variant that causes epileptic encephalopathy in a patient. My goal is to understand the underlying molecular mechanism of this variant, such that, the patient’s quality of life can be improved via targeted therapeutics. The main set of techniques I utilise fall under the banner of electrophysiology, whole-cell patch clamping being the cornerstone of my work.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? Being able to foster connections across the state between prospective neuroscientists, staff and students alike. It is a great community of people and I’m just happy to be able to help in any way possible.

Media and Marketing Manager – Katie Wykes

Degree/University: PhD, Swinburne University of Technology

Area of research: Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology

Background: I took an interest in brain research during high school, and completed a psychology and psychophysiology degree at Swinburne University. In 2016 I completed honours in cognitive neuroscience, with a thesis looking into the relationship between binocular rivalry and autistic personality traits. In 2017 I began my PhD in cognitive Neuroscience

Research focus: I am exploring the relationship between visual imagery, visual processing and perception. Specifically, I am exploring whether visual imagery vividness can influence an individuals real-world perception

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? Connecting with people and expanding upon this amazing organisation. It is an honour to play a role in providing these networking and learning opportunities for the SOBR community and I look forward to continuing to grow our reach and build on SOBR’s shining reputation.

Media and Marketing Assistant – Dinuli Nilaweera

Degree/University: PhD Candidate, Monash University

Area of research: Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology

Background: Dinuli graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. With an interest in neuropsychiatry and dementia. She pursued an Honours degree in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (Monash University). Due to very interesting results in her Honours year, Dinuli decided to continue with a PhD in the same field.

Research focus: There is increasing interest in understanding to what extent chronic and severe psychological stress (including posttraumatic stress disorder) are risk factors for adverse events in later-life, such as dementia and mortality. Dinuli’s research aims to answer these important questions, using secondary data analysis conducted on multiple large cohorts. Her research also involves understanding potential mediators driving these associations, including DNA methylation of candidate genes.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? The opportunity to connect with like-minded students and researchers from other universities and institutions! I’m also very excited to build my communication skills as a member of the Media Team.

Media and Marketing Assistant – Roisin McCague

Degree/University: PhD Candidate, Monash University

Area of research: Neuropharmacology

Background: I graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2017 with a Bachelor Science (Honours) majoring in neuroscience and psychology. My honours project investigated the effects of high-sugar high-fat diet and liquid sucrose consumption on cognition.

Research focus: My current research investigates the receptors and signalling mechanisms involved in ischaemic stroke-induced blood-brain barrier dysfunction. After initial damage caused by a lack of blood flow in ischaemic stroke, secondary inflammation causes increased blood-brain barrier permeability which is associated with oedema formation, intracranial haemorrhaging, and mortality. My research aims to identify the role and mechanism of G protein-coupled receptors in blood-brain permeability after ischaemic stroke.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? I’m excited to meet other students from different universities and areas of brain research.

Events Manager (Symposium) –  Nguyen Trinh (Phuc)

Degree/University: PhD, Monash University

Area of research: Neuropharmacology, Neurophysiology, Cellular and molecular neuroscience

Background: Phuc completed her undergraduate and Honours studies at Monash University, majoring in drug discovery biology. She first got a taste for brain research during her Honours year investigating the role of CHIR99021 for efficient generation of A9 ventral midbrain dopaminergic neurons from human embryonic stem cells. Following this, she decided to pursue a PhD at Monash University of Pharmaceutical Sciences in neuropharmacology.

Research focus: Phuc’s PhD will look to understand new paradigms in pharmacology (biased allosteric modulation and heterodimerization) of coexpessed receptors, metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 and adenosine A1 receptor in neurons and glial cells. She will investigate functional interaction of mGlu5 and A1R in the absence and presence of pathological stimuli in Alzheimer’s disease.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? I’m super excited to a part of such an amazing team of young neuroscientists! SOBR events, annual symposium and professional development dinner, bring people together and allow us to network and foster new relationships while hearing about amazing neuroscience research!

Events Manager (Dinner) – Jessica Lu

Degree/University: PhD, Monash University

Area of research: Neuropharmacology

Background: I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand and my background is in Pharmacy. I graduated from the University of Auckland in 2017 with a Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) and worked in Community Pharmacy in New Zealand briefly before moving across the Tasman in 2019 to start a PhD with the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) at Monash University, Melbourne.

Research focus: My research is on characterising splice isoforms of the Class B G protein-coupled receptor, the PAC1 receptor. The PAC1 receptor is extensively expressed in various tissues in the brain and dysregulation of signalling from this receptor may potentially be involved in migraine pathophysiology. I am looking at characterising the splice isoforms of the PAC1 receptor that arise during alternative splicing events in regions of the gene encoding for the intracellular loop 3 and N-terminal extracellular domain.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? I really appreciate the work SOBR has done to encourage students in brain research to build a social and academic network. I think that as students, having early engagement with the wider academic community is extremely valuable. Because of this, I am really excited to be organising the SOBR Dinner with the rest of the committee.

Events Manager (Virtual Events) – Cassandra Hatzipantelis

Degree/University: PhD, Monash University

Area of research: Behavioral Neuroscience, Neuropharmacology, Cognitive Neuroscience

Background: I graduated from Monash University in 2017 with an honours degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences majoring in drug discovery biology. My honours project focused largely on understanding the intracellular signalling profile of putative antipsychotics with novel mechanisms of action. My passion for brain research stems from the underrepresentation of mental health disorders in pharmaceutical research and the unsatisfactory nature of currently marketed therapeutics – particularly antipsychotics.

Research focus: My current research takes a neuropsychopharmacological approach to validating the use of a novel class of antipsychotics in the treatment of cognitive deficits of schizophrenia. My project involves the use of mouse touchscreen behavioural testing and immunofluorescence microscopy, in combination with genetic interventions, to determine the molecular mechanism that drives the in vivo efficacy of these compounds

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? As a student with a deep love for all things brainy and a sincere drive to do good by other students and the wider science community I’m a part of, I truly look forward to using a position of responsibility to incite change that the community itself wants.

Events Team – Sarah Gauci

Degree/University: PhD, Swinburne University

Area of research: Cognitive Neuroscience.

Background:I did an undergraduate degree in Science majoring in Psychology and Psychophysiology at Swinburne University. I then did my honours in psychology and now I am completing my PhD.

Research focus: My research is investigating the relationship between different dietary patterns and cognitive performance in older adults and how this relationship is mediated by cardio-metabolic risk factors for cognitive decline.

What are you most excited about being a part of the 2020 SOBR committee? I am really looking forward meeting other PhD students and learning about all the different types of brain research taking place in Victoria!