Executive committee

President – Heather Hendrickson heather.hendrickson@canterbury.ac.nz

Heather HendricksonHeather is an Associate Professor of Microbiology in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch. Heather completed her PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 before beginning as a Human Frontier of Science Long Term Fellow in the Biochemistry Department of Oxford University. Heather’s research group has two primary components. They study important evolutionary transitions in microbiology such as the evolution of cell shape and the ecological drivers of bacterial virulence using a combination of experimental evolution, bacterial genomics, cell biology and genetics. Heather is also working on the discovery, fundamental biology and practical application of bacteriophages. Heather’s group works on bacteriophages that impact primary industries in New Zealand including those that infect Lactobacillus, Pseudomonas, Mycobacterium and Paenibacillus. You can find her on twitter as @DRHHNZ and her lab website is HendricksonLab.co.nz

Vice-President – Gavin Lear g.lear@auckland.ac.nz

Gavin LearGavin Lear is a Professor at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. The Lear group explores the complex interactions among microbial communities and the varied environments that they inhabit. We investigate how microbial communities adapt to human influences such as pollution events and agricultural management, as well as to natural variability in environmental conditions. A key goal of our research is to use microbial responses to such events as a quantitative indicator of the impact of human activities on environments. We have a broad-range of interests in both pure and applied aspects of environmental microbiology and are keen to help motivated individuals investigate diverse research interests, including: (i) the role of microorganisms in maintaining environmental health and productivity, (ii) advanced molecular methods to assess microbial community diversity, function and distribution, (iii) microbial diversity and biogeography, and (iv) the use of microorganisms for the bioremediation of polluted environments. You can find Gavin’s lab on line: https://gavinlear.wordpress.com

Secretary – Helen Withers helen.withers@mpi.govt.nz

Helen WithersHelen is currently a Senior Advisor (Microbiology) in the Science Risk Assessment Team which is part of the Biosecurity Science, Food Science and Risk Assessment Directorate, Regulation and Assurance Branch at the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). Helen completed her undergraduate studies in food microbiology at the Department of Microbiology and Genetics at Massey University before heading to the UK. She gained her PhD in Molecular Biology at the Department of Genetics, Cambridge University, studying plasmid stability and the role of site specific recombination in that process. From there she moved to Uppsala University in Sweden, where she was a post doctoral researcher investigating the role of regulatory RNA in the control DNA replication. After 5 years in Sweden she returned to the UK to take up a Medical Research Council (MRC) Career Development Fellowship at Nottingham University to study bacterial communication (quorum sensing) and its impact on the control of the bacterial cell cycle, particularly DNA regulation. She returned to New Zealand in 2003 as a lecturer in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology at Auckland University; and after a few years moved to AgResearch at Ruakura and then on to the Hopkirk Research Centre in Palmerston North as a Senior Scientist. Here, Helen’s research focussed on food safety and in particular on shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and their association with cattle. In 2013, she moved to MPI and continues to support the food sector, particularly the meat industry.

Treasurer – Nick Heng Nicholas.Heng@otago.ac.nz

Nick HengNick graduated in 1998 with a PhD in (gut) microbiology from the University of Otago, moving up in the microbiological world with post-doctoral experience in rumen microbiology in the USA, and finally settling on oral microbiology back at the Otago Faculty of Dentistry, where he is currently an Associate Professor. Nick’s research focuses on microbial genomics, specialising in next-generation DNA sequencing and bioinformatics. His other research interests include the biology of antimicrobial proteins (bacteriocins) targeting pathogens of humans and other animals.

Student Representative – Cam (Carmen) Hoffbeck chof451@aucklanduni.ac.nz

Cam HoffbeckCam Hoffbeck is a second year PhD student at the University of Auckland, studying microbial symbioses with tuatara. She also serves as a Graduate Student representative on the School of Biological Sciences Equity Committee at University of Auckland, and as a GTA and TA for several undergraduate courses. Cam earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the United States before coming to New Zealand for her PhD. She is very passionate about research outreach within and beyond academia, and in student participation in university organizations and societies.

Brent Seale brent.seale@aut.ac.nz

Brent SealeBrent is currently an Associate Professor at the Auckland University of Technology. He has been an active member in the NZMS since first joining in 2006 as a student during his PhD. Between 2007 and 2009 Brent was the first student representative to be appointed to the executive. He was the co-chair for the NZMS conference organizing committee in 2017 and served on the organizing committee for the conference in 2023. Brent remains active in the food microbiology and public health group of the society with research in food safety, biofilms and antibiotic resistance. The society has facilitated the sharing of his research, fostered new collaborations and built lasting friendships. Brent is committed to ensuring that new microbiologists in the society have the same wonderful experience and looks forward to contributing to the NZMS executive to help enhance the positive experiences for current and future members.

Kristi Biswas k.biswas@auckland.ac.nz

Kristi BiswasKristi is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Medicine at Auckland University. Kristi works at the intersection of clinical microbiology, immunology and microbial ecology. She has focussed on studying human-microbe interactions in the ear, nose and throat of diseased and healthy people. Kristi’s earliest work largely focused on observational studies of microbial diversity. Currently, she seeks to understand the in situ function of these communities and the mechanisms underlying disease. To this end, she uses proteomics, metagenomics, transcriptomics and histological approaches, in addition to recent work in the laboratory with biofilm reactors and nasal epithelial cell cultures.

Manpreet Dhami DhamiM@landcareresearch.co.nz

Manpreet DhamiManpreet is a Senior Researcher (Molecular Ecology) at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research. Her research is focussed on the eco-evolutionary processes that shape microbial communities in host-associated and environmental systems. Most recently, she has been working with kiwi microbiomes, their assembly in captive reared birds and impacts on health. She is also studying the microbial mediation of Mānuka-honeybee foraging interactions. Previously at Stanford University (2014-2017), she studied how competition and resources influence the nectar microbiome. She was awarded her PhD by the University of Auckland in 2013 researching the symbiotic relationship between the scale insect, a keystone species in New Zealand beech forests, and novel Bacteroidetes bacteria. Between 2012-2013, she worked as a Research Scientist for the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Stephen On stephen.on@lincoln.ac.nz

Stephen OnStephen On is Professor of Microbiology, and Head of the Department of Wine, Food and Molecular Biosciences, at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where he is responsible for under- and postgraduate programmes in microbial food safety and biotechnology. Stephen has previously worked in Government research organisations in New Zealand, Denmark and the UK. Stephen’s research interests have been fuelled by a keen interest in microbial taxonomy, and thereby improved diagnostics (for identification and subtyping, using both phenotypic and molecular methods) for emerging (and emerged!) pathogens of humans (notably foodborne) and animals. These interests are now expanding to microbial aspects of production and spoilage of wine and beer. He is Secretary for Subcommittees for the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP), and Chairman of the ICSP sub-committee on the taxonomy of Campylobacter and related bacteria. He has contributed to various expert advisory groups at the request of the World Health Organisation, Ministry for Primary Industries and the World Bank-sponsored Global Food Safety Partnership and acted as an expert witness for the food industry. He has published over 170 papers thus far, and has received three awards* for his contributions to the field.

*2001: WH Pierce Memorial Prize from the UK Society of Applied Microbiology “for an outstanding contribution to bacteriology”.
2014: New Zealand Business Events Award presented by Rt Hon Minister Steven Joyce for securing the 18th International Workshop on Campylobacter, Helicobacter and Related Organisms (CHRO 2015) for New Zealand.
2017: New Zealand Microbiological Society Distinguished Orator Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to microbiology in New Zealand”.

Eddie Smolinski Eddie.Smolinski@fonterra.com

Eddie Smolinski​Eddie is a process microbiologist within the Fonterra Co-operative Group based at the South Island site Clandeboye. Microbiology career began as a Medical Scientist researching Community Heath disease within the Pilbara and Kimberly regions of Western Australian. Current focus aligned to process anomalies associated with facultative thermophiles and biofilm development.

Annie West annie.west@auckland.ac.nz

Annie WestAnnie is a Genomics Aotearoa Postdoctoral Research Fellow working with Dr Kim Handley at Waipapa Taumata Rau The University of Auckland. Annie completed her PhD at the same institution under the supervision of Professor Mike Taylor on the microbiome in threatened species conservation. Her research on kākāpō and takahē revealed key information regarding the impact of conservation management on the gut microbiomes of both species that has important implications for future management practice (some of which have already been implemented). She now investigates strain heterogeneity and salt tolerance strategies of abundant bacteria, particularly Actinobacteria, across the Waiwera estuary as part of the Genomics Aotearoa (GA) Environmental Metagenomics project. As a GA postdoc, a key facet of Annie’s research is to develop user-friendly bioinformatics pipelines for the assessment of strain heterogeneity in metagenomics data that are available to the wider community. You can find her on twitter as @anniegwest.