Former Research Team Members

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Martina Mariano, PhD student (2016-2020)

Martina hails from Italy and attained her Masters in Genetics and Molecular Biology, with an emphasis on forensic genetics. Martina has an interest in understanding genetic variation in health and disease, and has previously interned with a Forensic Genetics Laboratory to apply DNA analysis methods to human identification. While a Master’s student, she interned with the Carabinieri Scientific Investigation Department to validate techniques for genotype-phenotype identification. After attaining her Master’s degree, she applied her skills to work as a registered Biologist and develop prenatal and pre-implantation testing for genetic abnormalities such as trisomies. She was awarded a prestigious IPRS scholarship from UWA to realise her ambition to develop novel assays for the functional diagnosis and treatment of human genetic disorders.  Martina recently completed her thesis exam and is now working with the medical technology innovation sector.  Wow congratulations Martina!  In her spare time, Martina is a remarkable baker of vegan treats and delightful desserts.

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Isabel Hemming, Honours student (2015-2016), PhD student (2016-2019), Research Assistant (2019-2020)

Isabel has been associated with The Heng lab from student to staff, investigating the genetic basis for intellectual disability in humans, with particular focus on the basis for mutations to genes that disrupt the production and development of neurons in the fetal brain. Not only was she is dedicated to her project while in the lab, Isabel’s chocolate cake was the stuff of legend.  Isabel’s PhD thesis was recently passed by the examination committee at the University of Western Australia. Having the distinguished honour of publishing the most number of papers as a PhD student in our laboratory, Isabel is now undertaking postdoctoral research training with Professor Thomas Perlmann at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.  Congratulations and we wish you all the very best, Dr Hemming!


Ivan Gladwyn-Ng, PhD student (2012-2014), Postdoctoral Researcher (2015-2016)

Ivan attained his Bachelor’s of Science with First Class Honours from Monash University’s Sunway Campus (Malaysia). He was the top student in his Honour’s year cohort. In 2011, he was the recipient of a prestigious International PhD scholarship to undertake PhD studies at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute. He attained his PhD with Julian in 2015 and was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab until November. Ivan was the recipient of an all-expenses paid trip to South Korea to attend the IBRO/ISN/APSN advanced school on Neuroscience (in June 2015). Ivan is a keen motorbike rider whom is never far from any research lab. Ivan completed a very successful postdoctoral period with Dr Laurent Nguyen (GIGA-Neurosciences, University of Liege, Belgium) where, among other studies, he published work on the neurobiological impact of ZIKA virus infection during cerebral cortex development, in Nature Neuroscience. Ivan continues his big hitting ways as a Field Application Specialist with Taconic Biosciences, and is based in Denmark.

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Olivier Clément, Postdoctoral Researcher (2015-2017)

Olivier was a postdoc in the lab, from 2014 to 2017. A native of Bordeaux, France, he achieved his Master of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, then his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Lyon. For his PhD work, Olivier was awarded the Young Researcher of the City of Lyon in 2013. During his time in the laboratory, Olivier investigated the molecular mechanisms for neurogenesis in health and disease, using a combination of molecular and cellular tools. With a broad skillset, including cutting-edge in vivo electrophysiology and animal behaviour techniques to study the relationship between sleep, emotional memory and depression, Olivier is an asset to any research laboratory. Since leaving the lab, Olivier has been working as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Professor Ryan Lister, and is doing great things there.


Hannah Vanyai, Postdoctoral Researcher (2014-2015)

Hannah hails from the state of Victoria where she completed her Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science Degree before undertaking PhD studies with Drs Anna Voss and Tim Thomas at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Of her many academic achievements to date, Hannah has received the Rosemary Merlo Prize for History (University of Melbourne), The Melbourne Global Scholarship (an international scholarship to undertake studies in Denmark), the Coleman Speed Honours Award for the top honours score in her cohort (2010), the Helen MacPherson Smith Scholarship (for the highest-ranking female student commencing a PhD in science), the David Walsh Prize for the best student oral presentation (ComBio 2013) and the ANSZCDB Best student talk prize for the Melbourne cell and developmental biology meeting (2014). Hannah was very productive in the lab publishing papers and winning a grant (25 June 2015) but left in 2016, to go on to do excellent work as a postdoc at the Francis Crick Institute. She is an excellent molecular biologist and developmental biologist and has made many significant contributions to our understanding of the genetic basis for growth and tissue formation through her outstanding research publications. She is also an inspired baker of cookies.


Matilda Haas, Postdoctoral Researcher (2010-2014)

Matilda attained her PhD from the University of Tasmania and undertook postdoctoral studies at the National Institute for Medical Research (Mill Hill, UK). She joined the lab as a postdoctoral fellow from 2010-2013 and successfully applied for research grants with the ARC and the NHMRC. Matilda investigated the molecular mechanisms for projection neuron specification, and discovered a novel molecular mechanism which is relevant to neurodevelopment and autism spectrum disorder. Matilda was very productive as an integral member of our group, co-mentoring honours students (Linh Ngo, Stephanie Houston) and publishing research.  She left in 2014 and has since been applying her skills to usher Australians into the age of genomic medicine, as a Programme Coordinator at the Australian Genomics Health Alliance. Take a look at her recent publication to read about one of many challenges overcome, and what challenges lie ahead for us to incorporate genomics into healthcare.

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Lieven Huang, Postdoctoral Researcher (2013-2014)

Lieven hails from Belgium and attained his PhD jointly from the University of Brussels and the University of Ghent. After completing postdoctoral studies as an MRC Career Development Fellow at Imperial College, London with Dr Vincenzo De Paola, he joined our lab as a postdoctoral fellow applying high power confocal microscopy imaging modalities to understand the roles for disease-associated genes on the formation of dendritic synapses on postmigratory projection neurons. He left the lab in 2014 and is presently working in the Biotechnology Sector in a leadership position, as Head of Business Development & Licensing at Exopharm Ltd. He is also an avid and prize-winning distance runner.

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Linh Ngo, Honours Student (2012), Research Assistant (2013-2015), Research Officer (2016) 

Linh attained her Bachelor of Biomedical Science with First Class Honours in Biomedical Science from Monash University in 2012. She was the top honours student amongst her cohort within the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology. In 2014, Linh was selected for interview at EMBL through a competitive International PhD Fellowship Program. Also, Linh won a place to attend the IBRO/ISN/APSN advanced school on Neuroscience (in June 2015) in order to learn ultramicroscopy techniques which enables her to study the connections between nerve cells in the brain. Linh is a conscientious researcher and innovator who is passionate about medical research. She was promoted to Research Officer in 2016, and has since left the lab to take up a position at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and continues to publish excellent research.


Steven Blake, Honours student (2019), Research Assistant (2020)

Steven is working on molecular modelling approaches to understand the genetic basis for brain developmental and disease in humans, with a focus on genes which encode DNA-binding transcription factor proteins, such as ZBTB18. Steven holds a Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Honours from Curtin University, and is jointly supervised by Julian, Mark Agostino. Steven was formerly an honours student.  Steven has published two research manuscripts from his hard work in our team.  He dedicated a lot of time in the lab to develop the most beautiful molecular models for our investigations. Artistry in molecular biology. There is so much more to Steven than the molecule for his portrait.


Hayley Cullen, Research Assistant (2014-2017)

Hayley is originally from New South Wales, and trained in Microbiology at the University of New South Wales. After attaining First Class Honours with High Distinction and completing her Bachelor of Science degree, Hayley worked at the Garvan Institute to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of breast cancer. Hayley won the Shelston IP prize for Biotechnology in 2012, and was a People’s Choice Award for the Peter Farrell Cup, a Business Plan Competition (2011). Hayley commenced in the lab as a graduate research assistant in January 2015, and continued to bring new ideas and efficiencies to our laboratory operations, and was promoted to Laboratory Manager the following year. Hayley left the laboratory in 2017 and has expanded her interests into Dietetics and Nutrition.


Former students

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Saiuj Bhat, honours student, University of Western Australia (2016)

Outcome: Honours First Class

– Saiuj is a former honours student of the lab (2016) and is now in Medical School (2017 onwards). Little does Saiuj realise that he is a gifted histologist and resourceful bench scientist while he applied his skills to investigate the causative nature of disease-associated mutations to genes encoding RNA-binding proteins and cytoskeletal factors in neuronal migration disorder. When he was not studying for his medical degree. Or publishing excellent research.

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Alvin Djajadikerta, honours student, University of Western Australia (2016)

Outcome: Honours First Class

– Alvin undertook his honours year with Julian and Alistair Forrest as a UWA Bachelor of Philosophy student. Alvin applied BioInformatics methods to identify candidate genes for Brain Development and Disease. In 2017, Alvin was awarded a Cambridge Australia Allen Scholarship to undertake a PhD in Medical Science at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the cell biology of neurodegenerative disease. He is already publishing his research, yet is also very handy with the guitar.

Jiwon Shin, honours student, University of Western Australia (2015)

Outcome: Honours First Class

– Jiwon was an UWA honours student commencing in the lab in the middle of the 2015. Jiwon hailed from South Korea, and was a recipient of a prestigious Barry Marshall Scholarship to fully fund her studies to attain her Bachelor’s degree. Jiwon previously worked in Nobel Laureate Marshall’s lab. In her thesis, Jiwon investigated the functions of proteins in the nerve cells which help give them their appropriate shape to conduct electrical signals, and to make connections with other nerve cells. She attained First Class Honours.


Kelly Berger, honours student, University of Western Australia (2015)

Outcome: Honours First Class

– Kelly relocated from Melbourne to undertake her thesis project in our lab to investigate the genetic basis for autism spectrum disorder. Kelly was the recipient of a prestigious CTM Margaret Mills Chemistry Honours Scholarship (2015) to support her studies in the lab.

Stephanie Houston, honours student, University of Melbourne (2013)

Outcome: Honours First Class

– As a student in the lab, Stephanie attained the top honours mark for her cohort in the Bachelor of Behavioural Neuroscience, Monash University (2013). Presently, Stephanie is undertaking PhD studies in Melbourne on full scholarship.

Briony McGrath, honours student, University of Melbourne (2009)

Outcome: Honours Second Class

– Briony worked in the lab to understand the cellular functions of a novel player in neuronal development in the context of Down’s Syndrome. Briony went on to enrol in PhD studies on full scholarship in New South Wales. Since completing her PhD, Briony is applying her talents at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Linda ShuShan Lim, honours student, University of Melbourne (2003)

Outcome: Honours First Class

– Linda attained First Class Honours with Julian at the University of Melbourne, and then won an A-STAR scholarship to undertake PhD studies at Biopolis (Singapore). Presently, Linda is working in the industrial sector.

Caroline Roberts, Undergraduate Opportunity (UrOP) student (2012)

– Caroline worked in the lab and developed a novel assay to quantify the subcellular location of proteins within cells grown in a dish. She is currently undertaking PhD studies in Melbourne on full scholarship.

John Michael Davis, UrOP student (2010)

– John worked in the lab as a gene hunter to identify the genetic factors which are critical to the development of brain circuits. John is currently studying Medicine and plans to specialise in Neurology.