About Us // Our People //

Our People

The Early Career Steering Committee was set up with the aim of supporting and facilitating the ongoing career development of early career researchers within the MWC. The Committee's goal is to help EC researchers develop and succeed within the MWC through organising events and providing opportunities for EC researchers to get together, discuss their work and build collaborative networks across New Zealand.

Early Career Steering Committee


Joanna is a post-doctoral researcher in Professor Vic Arcus’ lab at the University of Waikato. She received her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2011. She then spent 3 years at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Biochemistry, researching transcription and post-transcriptional regulation in the remnant chloroplast of malaria. Her current research has two main themes, focusing on toxin-antitoxin systems and transcriptional regulation in pathoegnic bacteria and enzyme engineering and inhibitor design.


Dr Wanting Jiao

Wanting completed her PhD in Chemistry in late 2011. She was a postdoctoral research fellow in Biomolecular Interaction Centre at University of Canterbury from 2012 to May 2017. She is currently a Scientist in the Ferrier Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research is focused on using molecular modelling techniques (e.g. molecular dynamics simulations) to study enzymic actions.

Dr Iman Kavianinia

Iman is a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland. He received his M.Sc. degree in Medicinal Chemistry, and his PhD in carbohydrate chemistry. During his PhD at Massey University, he studied the stimuli sensitive polysaccharide-based hydrogels as colon targeted drug delivery vehicles of protein and peptide drugs. Since 2015, he has conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Auckland, under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble. Iman’s main research interests are in the areas of antibody-drug conjugates, including the development of potent drug payloads and novel linker systems. He also has an interest in total synthesis and structure-activity relationship studies of naturally occurring peptides with anticancer and antimicrobial activity.

Dr Kate Lee

Kate is a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland working in part with Professor Peter Shepherd on various projects and in part on her own independent HRC funded research programme. Her area of expertise is pancreatic Islets of Langerhans but her research covers the secretion and function of islet hormones including IGF-II and IGF-II-derived-peptides, as well as studying the biological consequence of diabetes-associated gene variants in cell and animal models.  Kate was a founding member and later Chair of the School of Biological Sciences Postdoctoral Society (PDS) and is currently co-chair of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences PDS. Her drives for wanting to set up such a group and for overseeing were to primarily to provide ECRs with a network allowing them to access their peers and receive each other’s wisdom (and gripes). Officially termed ‘peer-mentorship’. She has substantial expertise in the ECR space, and as such makes an excellent addition to the committee.

Dr Sunali Mehta

Sunali Mehta is a Research Fellow at the Department of Pathology, University of Otago. Her main research interest focus on several aspects of cancer biology including understanding the cell cycle and how its dysregulation leads to development of cancer, understanding the role of p53 (tumour suppressor gene) and YB-1 (an oncogene) in cancer, analyses of large databases to improve biological understanding of cancer, bioinformatic analyses of RNA expression in cancer and other disease from next generation sequencing and microarrays to identify molecular markers that translate into clinical applications.

Ms Marina Rajic

Marina has graduated in Pharmaceutical Engineering from University of Novi Sad, Serbia and is now based in Palmerston North as a Massey PhD scholar. Since 2015 she works in Phage Display Laboratory under the supervision of Dr Jasna Rakonjac. In collaboration with Dr Kathryn Stowell from Massey University, Dr Ian Hermans from Malaghan Institute, and Dr Gavin Painter from Ferrier Institute she is developing a new cancer vaccine for melanoma immunotherapy, and an ultra-sensitive diagnostic assay for cancer biomarkers using phage display, bio-nanotechnology, and synthetic chemistry methods. Marina is interested in improvement of science to business communications and biotechnology commercialization in New Zealand.

Dr Euan Rodger

Euan is a Research Fellow in the lab of Professor Mike Eccles in the Department of Pathology, Dunedin School of Medicine. His earlier work focused on proteomic investigation of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, currently he is using his expertise in molecular biology, epigenetics, and bioinformatic analyses to investigate different aspects of cancer biology. These include identification of novel candidate biomarkers and drug targets for melanoma, development of blood-based diagnostic tools, and profiling of circulating tumour DNA to monitor tumour relapse.

Dr Catherine Tsai

Catherine completed her PhD in 2015 at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, University of Auckland, under the supervision of Associate Professor Thomas Proft. Her PhD project focused on the functional analysis of a unique type of Group A Streptococcus pilus. Upon graduation, she continued as a postdoc in the Proft Lab, working on an innovative peptide vaccine strategy utilising the pilus structure.   Catherine loves people, animals, science, and the nature. She spends her free time tramping, running, doing yoga, eating delicious foods with her husband and playing silly games with her baby daughter.