Monday 6 December 2021 12:18pm
The SJWRI is undergoing an exciting period of renewal, with the establishment of new positions on our leadership group and the recognition of emerging areas of research strength as new programmes. These initiatives bring fresh ideas and a diversity of perspectives to how we plan, guide, enhance and measure our research activities, and how we support our research staff and students.
Senior leadership appointments
Since the establishment of the Sir John Walsh Research Institute in 2007, the roles of Director of the SJWRI and of Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Dentistry have been held concurrently, first by the late Professor Jules Kieser until 2014, then by now-Deputy Dean Professor Richard Cannon until earlier this year, and now by Professor Warwick Duncan. With the increase in research activity and intensity in the Faculty year-on-year, the decision was made to create two new leadership positions to sit below Professor Duncan, as our Deputy Director and Deputy Associate Dean (Research).
Dr Carolina Loch has been appointed to the position of Deputy Director of the SJWRI. This role has a focus on our outward-facing activities, our relationships with stakeholders, and on how we measure and increase our research achievements. An evolutionary biologist by training, Dr Loch is one of our leading early-career researchers, moving to Otago in 2010 from her native Brazil to undertake a PhD on the evolution of the dentition in dolphins and whales, under the supervision of the late Professor Kieser. In 2017 she was appointed as a lecturer in Oral Biology in the Faculty of Dentistry, and last year as the leader of the SJWRI's Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Oral Implantology research programme. She is an advocate for diversity and increased participation of women in the sciences, currently serving as national co-convenor of the Association for Women in the Sciences.
Research Associate Professor Dawn Coates has been appointed to the position of Deputy Associate Dean (Research). The focus of this role is on supporting our Faculty's research students, particularly our PhD students who are enrolled directly through the SJWRI, and the establishment of a Research Advisory Committee (RAC) to support, assess and advise on research proposals, funding and ethics approval applications. An Otago PhD graduate, Associate Professor Coates is a highly credentialled and successful researcher in the field of cellular and molecular biology, with strong experience in academia (University of Cambridge, University of Otago) and in Crown Research Institute (AgResearch team leader) environments. She has been part of our Faculty since 2007, initially as a Research Fellow, before being appointed as Research Associate Professor in 2018. She also serves on the council of the Association for Women in Sciences and the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society.
Research programmes, promotions and other appointments
Associate Professor Coates is also the leader of the recently established Dental Engineering and Tissue Regeneration (DEnTRegen) research programme, reflecting her research expertise and interests. This new programme recognises an area of emerging research strength, focused around new approaches to trigger or enhance regeneration of oral tissues, including tooth regeneration, bone and blood vessel regrowth, wound healing and stem cell therapies.
As part of the SJWRI's strategic development plan, we are also moving to establish a new research programme in Māori and Pasifika Oral Health Research, and are looking forward to making announcements about this.
There has been renewal amongst the leadership of our longer-standing Research Programmes as well. The leadership of our Clinical and Translational Research programme, formerly held by Professor Warwick Duncan, has been assumed by Dr Joanne Jung Eun Choi. Dr Choi is a highly successful early career researcher from a dental technology background, with a strong track record in multidisciplinary clinical and translational research. In just the last few months, she has been awarded significant support from the Health Research Council of NZ, the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge, the Ministry of Health, Cure Kids and the Kiwinet Emerging Innovator Programme, as well as continuing relationships with commercial and industry partners.
Dr Jonathan Broadbent will become the leader of our Dental Epidemiology and Public Health programme, taking over from Professor Murray Thomson. Another graduate of our SJWRI PhD programme, Dr Broadbent is a dentist with 20 years’ clinical and research experience, and is passionate about a better and fairer oral health future in Aotearoa New Zealand. Currently an Associate Professor within the Department of Oral Sciences, he is a world-leading researcher in dental epidemiology and public health research and now leads the dental component of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, funded by the Health Research Council of NZ.
Congratulations also to Peter Cathro, Harsha De Silva, Nick Heng, May Mei and Alison Meldrum, all of whom have been promoted to Associate Professor in this year's round of academic promotions. Also receiving promotions are SJWRI research collaborators Natalie Medlicott of Pharmacy (now Professor) and Khoon Lim of the CReaTE Group, University of Otago Christchurch (now Research Associate Professor.)
Lastly, congratulations to Dr Amira Salem, the 2022 recipient of the SJWRI Postdoctoral Fellowship, which has returned as a one-year position supported by funding from the Division of Health Sciences. Dr Salem's Fellowship research will be carried out under the mentorship of Associate Professor Dawn Coates.