Position: Senior Lecturer, Researcher Field: Dysphagia research, speech and language therapy, communication disorders and Neurosciences Organisation: University of Canterbury, Van der Veer Institute for Parkinson's & Brain Research

Swallowing, it is something we all do all day, everyday. We never give it a second thought unless something goes wrong with the systems in our body that allow this important event to take place.

This is where Maggie-Lee’s work comes in, based at the Van der Veer Institute for Parkinson’s and Brain Research in Christchurch, Maggie-Lee uses the latest technologies such as endoscopy, MRI, EEG and small pressure sensors called manometers to study swallowing.

Maggie-Lee is discovering the biomechanics of how we swallow and the way the different parts of the brain plan, carry out and signal the muscles in the throat to perform this very important but often unnoticed event.

When asked what drives her work Maggie-Lee says

It’s fascinating, stimulating to always challenge yourself to find what you don’t know.

Maggie-Lee admits that through most of high school science wasn’t a top priority. As time went on however she learned the excitement of discovery. And soon found the more she learned the more she realised she did not know and the more she wanted to know.

This was a theme that was to repeat, after gaining a BSc and MA from two Texas universities and having 18 years post qualification experience as a speech and language therapist Maggie-Lee tired of telling her patients that she did not know what was causing their swallowing problems (dysphagia) or how to best treat them so she packed her bags and went to find the answers!

After completing her PhD in Vienna, Austria she arrived in New Zealand on the first day of the new millennium. Maggie-Lee now calls New Zealand home and sees herself as a true Kiwi. While Maggie-Lee loves being involved with science in New Zealand and finds the help from others and the creativeness in this country a real bonus, she also loves the opportunities her job offers for travel, to see the world and share her research with other scientists both locally and abroad.

When she isn’t busy in her lab or teaching at the university Maggie-Lee can be found with her two mutts, reading or planning her next journey to an exciting destination.

This article is based on information current in 2007.

    Published 23 July 2007