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Position: Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, University of Otago. Director, Genetics Otago. 
Field: Pathology.

Julia did her undergraduate degree at Victoria University of Wellington in botany and biochemistry, but it was a short-term job in the UK that cemented her path as a scientist. She worked as a research assistant in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University. Several famous developmental biologists were working there at the same time, and Julia couldn’t help but be inspired!

You can’t top being part of a worldwide community advancing the line that divides the known from unknown. The view is spectacular.

When she returned to New Zealand, she completed a PhD in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, on the biology of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), before returning to her first love of developmental biology in postdoctoral work in Adelaide and Auckland. From this combined experience, Julia developed a strong interest in how cell division is co-ordinated with embryonic development and the use of zebrafish embryos as an ideal model organism for this kind of research.

Julia’s laboratory team at the University of Otago is trying to better understand how proteins that regulate chromosome structure during cell division also affect gene expression. This research is significant for both human developmental disease and cancer. Julia is passionate about the lab’s own research but also really enjoys collaborating with others on a variety of projects that involve exploring the fundamentals of biology. She also enjoys teaching in genetics and pathology and supervising research students.

Currently she leads a research team of both staff and students and finds it very rewarding to see the people in her lab develop as scientists and tell their own stories.

She is currently the Principal Investigator of the Chromosome Structure and Development Group, and the Director of the Otago Zebrafish Facility.

When she’s not busy in the lab, Julia enjoys spending time with her kids, listening to music and mountain biking (except when she crashes – which she says is way too often!).

Useful links

Watch this interview with Julia on her latest research collaboration that seeks to understand the genetic causes of gout.

Learn more about Julia’s research and the zebrafish facility by visiting the Chromosome Structure and Development Group website.

Read this article to learn more about the use of zebrafish in genetic research.

Julia is the director of Genetics Otago. Visit their website to learn more about the breadth of genetics research at the University of Otago.

This article is based on information current in 2011 and updated in 2018.

    Published 10 June 2011, Updated 21 July 2018 Referencing Hub articles