Neurosurgery Chair Campaign launched in glittering style!

The evening of Tuesday 17 September saw the launch of CBR’s campaign to fund a Professorial Chair in Neurosurgery, to increase our linkages with Auckland District Health Board, and to foster reciprocal knowledge transfer between clinical discipline and academic research in this crucial area.  In recognition of their generous seeding gift of $2 million toward the campaign, the Chair will be named “The Freemasons Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Auckland”

To read more about the campaign, and what its supporters have to say about it, click on the following link:

Professor Richard Faull with campaign drivers Dame Jenny Gibbs (L) and Dame Rosie Horton (R)

Professor Richard Faull with campaign drivers Dame Jenny Gibbs (L) and Dame Rosie Horton (R)

Former 'Fair Go' presenter Kevin Milne was the MC for the launch function.

Former ‘Fair Go’ presenter Kevin Milne was the MC for the launch function.

Vicki Lee and Tim Edmonds of Cure Kids NZ, with All Blacks Steven Luatua (L) and Charles Piutau (R)

Vicki Lee and Tim Edmonds of Cure Kids NZ, with All Blacks Steven Luatua (L) and Charles Piutau (R)


Clean Sweep for CBR Students

CBR students swept the awards pool at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science poster competition last week, where students practise skills essential for future conference attendance.  The challenge is to produce a poster relating to the student’s area of study, which is both informative and good-looking.  The poster then serves as a springboard for the student to discuss their work and answer questions posed by passers-by (some of whom are likely to be judges!)

First place went to Charlotte Connell, from the Exercise Metabolism Laboratory, for her poster titled “Coffee: More than Meets the Eye”, while Yvette Lamb, from the Human Neuroscience Laboratory, and Aleea Devitt, from the Memory Lab, took second and third place respectively.  Pictured below are the prizewinners posing with their posters.

Charlotte Connell with her winning poster.

Charlotte Connell with her winning poster.

Yvette Lamb with her poster.

Yvette Lamb with her poster.

Aleaa McDavitt with her poster.

Aleaa McDavitt with her poster.

CBR PhD Symposium a resounding success

The brightest and best upcoming talent from across the five schools and sixteen departments which make up the Centre for Brain Research all came together in one place last month for the first ever ‘CBR PhD student day’.  The day was conceived, organised, and executed by students, for students, with presentations, expert panels and interactive sessions such as ‘speed dating’ and a variant of the ‘three-minute thesis’ challenge.

The highlight of the day was the opening address by Dr Mark Sagar, CBR member and principal investigator of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies, formerly of Weta Digital, in which he covered the progress of his interesting career to date, with a few tips and points of advice for PhD students in terms of thinking broadly about careers, communication and building networks for the future.

Dr Mark Sagar addresses the Inaugural CBR PhD Student Day

Dr Mark Sagar addresses the Inaugural CBR PhD Student Day

The day also featured a research showcase, with attendees encouraged to draw/write the topics and techniques that they encounter in their daily research, and group these with others, then make connections between their research and related disciplines/techniques, with the result taking on a very web-like – or perhaps cell matrix-like – appearance.  It was a good way to get people talking about how their work related to others and to understand the breadth of the ‘whole picture’ that CBR represents.  People were keen to participate, as the photo below shows!

The 'range of research' - from intracellular to interpersonal.

The ‘range of research’ – from intracellular to interpersonal.

Special acknowledgement is due to all the hard work of organising and executing this event done by members of the BrainWaves committee and others!

Centre for Brain Research hosts 2013 Brain Bee Competition

In a close final round, Auckland Grammar student Thomas Chang won the North Island Brain Bee Challenge, held at The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences this week.

The runners-up were Tiger Huang from Auckland International College and Stephanie Soon from Westlake Girls High School. It could possibly have been an Auckland Grammar 1-2 finish as Tiger Huang was an AGS pupil until the start of this year when he entered Auckland International College.

These students took the top three spots from a group of seven finalists that also included Elizabeth Huang (St Cuthberts College), Samuel Dobson (Palmerston North Boys High), Stephen Lunn (Kings College) and Ewen Tun (Kings College).

The Teams final was won by Epsom Girls Grammar with Westlake Girls High second, and St Cuthberts College third.

The day’s neuroscience knowledge challenge was contested by nearly 200 students from 44 North Island schools. Quizmaster for the day is a research fellow in biological sciences at The University of Auckland, Dr Jessie Jacobsen.

The day was co-ordinated by Dr Maurice Curtis and the founding organiser of the NZ Brain Bee, Professor Louise Nicholson, and hosted by the Centre for Brain Research.

During the day, students took time out to participate in tours of the research laboratories, hands-on activities, visit the MRI scanner and the Anatomy Learning Centre.

“The visit is inspiring for the students and we believe that their experiences with us here at the Brain Bee influences their choices as they move forward into tertiary study,” says the founding organiser of the New Zealand  Brain Bee, Professor Louise Nicholson.

The Brain Bee has been going since 2007, so many of the winning students are now in tertiary study including past winners, George Shand, William Zhang, Rachel Wiltshire and Kate Burgess who are all studying at the Faculty for Medical and Health Sciences.

The Brain Bee is one of the largest student competitions in New Zealand.  Round one was held in Brain Awareness week in March when the 1500 plus registered participants complete in an on-line multi-choice quiz run within their schools.

“We invite the top 200 to this North Island finals day, with the winner of each of the North and South Island competitions go to Australia for the National finals”, says Professor Nicholson.  “The Australia/NZ national final involves the eight states and two from New Zealand all competing to represent their respective countries in the International Brain Bee final which this year is in Vienna.”

The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust is the main sponsor of both the North and South Island competitions, while the Centre for Brain Research sponsors our winners to Australia, with Freemasons (NZ) sponsoring the overall winner to the international final.

Written by Suzi Phillips

Supporting open research values

The Centre for Brain Research has announced support for New Zealand’s first Open Research Conference.

The conference on 6th and 7th February 2013 will explore new, open models of research; where scientists share their research with the world as soon as they record it for themselves. The aim is to speed up the effective transfer of research outputs and improve economic, environmental and social impacts in the New Zealand and Australian contexts.

Research resembles a puzzle: a heap of pieces has to be assembled into a coherent picture. Yet some of the pieces are unknown, and traditional non-open science keeps much of the remainder hidden behind barriers erected by pre-digital reputation and reward systems.

Open science means tackling research problems collaboratively by sharing research tools, data, materials and code as they arise and by building on the shared work. Support for the conference reflects the CBR’s commitment to providing a brighter and better future for people and families living with brain disease.

The CBR will join the growing community of researchers worldwide who are exploring new, open commercial and academic models to enhance the reach and impact of their research. Open research practices are increasingly being driven by international funding agencies that require grant holders to publish their results under Open Access and to share their data as widely as possible.

The CBR has committed to Silver sponsorship of the conference. Registration will open soon – more information can be found at

CeleBRation Choir Christmas Concert


If you are feeling in need of a Christmas-spirit booster, or if you just love a good sing-along, then join the Centre for Brain Research’s CeleBRation Choir for their annual Christmas Concert at the Tamaki Campus of Auckland University on the 17th December!

Music therapist Alison Talmage, who leads the choir with colleague Shari Ludlam, promises a medley of well-known Christmas songs and carols.  She says the choir members are hard at work rehearsing, and would love an enthusiastic audience to join in and applaud their efforts!

CeleBRation Choir Christmas Concert 2012

Monday 17th December, 2.00-2.30pm, Room 730-220

Tamaki Campus, University of Auckland, Morrin Road, Glen Innes.

For more information on the CeleBRation Choir, click here

CBR hosts 2012 Brain Bee Competition

On Wednesday 27th June, the Centre for Brain Research hosted approximately 200 eager and talented year-9 high school students from all over the North Island, and their teachers.  They had come here to take part in the New Zealand finals of the Australia/NZ Brain Bee – a neuroscience quiz for high school students which leads the finalists to compete in the International Brain Bee.

196 students from 40 high schools took part in this year’s event, most of them competing both as individuals and on a school team.  All those who attended had gained high marks in a previous, online test.

Students spent a whole day at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, and in between high-intensity competition rounds, were given the opportunity to do some hands-on lab work, and to interrogate current students and staff from the Centre for Brain Research about their work and their passions, and what brought them to CBR.

This year’s winner was Shen Jianto, from Mt Roskill Grammar School, who was followed closely – very closely – by Claire Wang from Westlake Girls’ High School, and Sang Ho Kim, from Palmerston North Boys’ High School.  Shen will now have the opportunity to travel to Melbourne early next year to compete against the finalists from the Australian States and the South Island.  We wish him all the best!

Pictured above: Shen Jianto, 2012 winner, pictured with (l-r), his science teacher, Professor Richard Faull, CBR Director, Professor Louise Nicholson, NZ Brain Bee Challenge Co-ordinator.