Postgraduate insights

Keep up to date with all things postgraduate with our quarterly newsletter from the Associate Dean (Postgraduate), Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin.

A personal note from your Associate Dean

Welcome to the Postgraduate Insights Newsletter for August 2018. We continue to celebrate the successes of our graduate students.

For another year our doctoral students and supervisors continue to exemplify the excellence of our doctoral program.

“Our students achieve the highest levels of distinction in the quality of thesis, the excellence of publications derived from the thesis and the highest standards of scientific communication through conference presentations.”

Below we list a few of our successful students and supervisors whose achievements were recognised through awards this year, but I am keen to acknowledge that all of these awards were hotly contested and many excellent works of our students that were deserving of similar accolades were unlucky to miss out.

Congratulations to all of our students and supervisors!

Best wishes,
Professor Trevor Sherwin
Associate Dean (Postgraduate)
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Vice-Chancellor’s Best Doctoral Thesis Award

For the third year running, FMHS has taken out two of the five available prizes in each year, meaning that doctoral students from FMHS have received 6/15 best doctoral thesis awards in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This success is an absolute testament to the excellence of our doctoral students but also to the excellence of the supervision that is available and the cutting edge opportunities that are available.

Congratulations to:

Christopher Lear
Thesis: The challenge of fetal life: Asphyxia, infection and clinical treatments
Department of Physiology

Justin Rustenhoven
Thesis: Human brain pericytes as mediators of neuroinflammation: Implications for disease and therapeutics
Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology

FMHS Doctoral Publication Excellence Prize

In 2017, the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences established the FMHS Doctoral Publication Excellence Prize. The award aims to encourage doctoral students to publish their research throughout their period of study and rewards the student who (in the estimation of the selection committee) produced the most meritorious publication during the calendar year which reached publication status whilst the student was enrolled in the doctoral programme.

Congratulations to Christopher Lear for his work “Antenatal dexamethasone before asphyxia promotes cystic neural injury in preterm fetal sheep by inducing fetal hyperglycaemia”, published in Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 2017.

Dean’s List 2018

Once again, the quality of our doctoral graduates has been recognized by the elevation of eight of our doctoral candidates to the Dean’s list which recognizes those theses which were singled out by the examiners as being worthy of further recognition:

Priyanka Alok Agarwal
Department: Ophthalmology
Main Supervisor: Dr Ilva Rupenthal
Co-supervisor: Associate Professor Jennifer Craig
Advisors: Dr Simon Swift, Dr Darren Svirskis
Thesis Title: ‘Application of Semifluorinated Alkanes in Dry Eye Therapy’

Odunayo Omolola Boluwarin Mugisho
Department: Biomedical Sciences
Co-supervisor: Dr Monica Acosta
Advisors: Prof Colin Green, Dr Jie Zhang
Thesis Title: ‘Vascular breakdown in Diabetic Retinopathy: Role of connexions and possible interventions’

Ruth Martis
Department: Health Sciences  
Main Supervisor: Prof Caroline Crowther
Co-supervisor: Dr Julie Brown
Advisors: Dr Judith McAra-Couper, Prof Caroline Anne Crowther    
Thesis Title: ‘Optimal treatments and experiences for women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM): improving health for mothers and babies’      

Sarah Lensen
Department: Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Main Supervisor: Prof Cindy Farquhar
Co-supervisor: Dr Nathalie Walker
Advisors: Dr Lyn Sadler, Prof Cindy Farquhar    
Thesis Title: ‘Endometrial scratching for subfertility’  

Rebecca Walker
Department: Paediatrics
Main Supervisor: Prof Edwin Arthur Mitchell
Co-supervisor: Dr Jim Bartley
Advisors: AP John Thompson
Thesis Title: ‘Nasal microbiota profiles, vitamin D and cytokines are associated with chronic otitis media with effusion in preschool children: a case-control study’

Yvonne Anderson
Department: Health Sciences
Main Supervisor: Prof Paul Leslie Hofman
Co-supervisors: Prof Wayne Stephen Cuffield, Dr Jose G B Derraik,Prof Cameron Charles Grant
Thesis Title: ‘Whanau Pakari: a multi-disciplinary intervention programme for children and adolescents with weight issues.’

Amy Chapman
Department: Pharmacology
Main Supervisor: Associate Prof Bronwen Connor
Co-supervisor: Dr Peter Freestone
Advisors: AP Bronwen Connor, AP John Reynolds      
Thesis Title: ‘Optimising the derivation of mature neurons from adult human induced neural precursor cells using in vitro and ex vivo systems’        

Jacqualine Robinson
Department: Nursing
Main Supervisor: Prof Merryn Gott
Co-supervisor: Clare Louise Gardiner
Advisors: Prof Christine Mary Ingleton        
Thesis Title: ‘Benefit or Burden? Exploring Experiences of the Acute Hospital as a Place of Care amongst people with palliative care needs.’

Programme for doctoral candidates

The success of the doctoral workshops for supervisors saw the request from the PGSA for workshops aimed at the doctoral students who were also trying to negotiate the doctoral processes within the Faculty. 2018 has seen an expanded program of sessions which have been well received by the student cohort and further sessions have already been requested.

Workshops remaining in 2018:

The provisional year and how to get through it, Session 2

A general discussion around what the provisional year is, how the review process works and what is expected in the full thesis proposal, followed by Q&As.
Facilitator: Professor Trevor Sherwin, Associate Dean (Postgraduate)
Tuesday 2 October, 10-11am
Seminar room 503-024, 85 Park Road, Grafton
To register please contact Brittney Black at

Doctoral performance 2018

This year’s intake of doctoral students continues to add to the rich tapestry of our doctoral cohort. So far we have added 69 new doctoral students to the faculty, with 25% being international students and just under 12% being Māori and Pacific. Our student cohort is female orientated with women contributing 65% of the doctoral numbers.

Welcome – New Student Centre Team

Glenn Bell

In July, we bid farewell to Sam McCullough who left to pursue his own postgraduate studies.  Most of you may already be familiar with Glenn Bell, who has replaced Sam as the Doctoral Coordinator. Glenn has worked at the FMHS Student Centre and in Academic Services for the past 2 years. Glenn has a PhD in Biomedical Science in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology at the University of Auckland.
Glenn can be contacted at

Su Chan

Another familiar face at the FMHS Student Centre is Su Chan who was the receptionist at the Student Centre since November 2017. Su Chan has now taken on the role as the Masters Examination Coordinator for the Faculty.  Su is a Master of Science graduate and is looking to pursue her PhD in the near future.
Sue can be contacted at the FMHS Student

We congratulate Glenn and Su in their new roles and wish Sam all the very best in his postgraduate studies.