Position: Associate Professor, Field: Human cellular immunology, Organisation: Maurice Wilkins Centre

Associate Professor Rod Dunbar has a medical degree and a PhD, but has also worked as a musician, a writer and a script consultant for Shortland Street. He certainly typifies the creativity required to be a successful scientist.

Rod completed his medical degree at Otago University and spent a year working as a doctor before taking time out to work as a freelance writer and musician. (His medical background allowed him to work as a story consultant on Shortland Street during its early days.) He then completed a PhD in Wellington, followed by six years at the University of Oxford, England. He returned to New Zealand 2002 under a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship and set up his laboratory at the University of Auckland in 2003.

Rod is a principal scientist at the Maurice Wilkins Centre (first formed in 2003), which brings together eight major research groups within the University of Auckland and a network of collaborators throughout the country.

Rod is enthusiastic about the research going on at the centre.

The unique thing we do in the Maurice Wilkins Centre is to try to put together people from different scientific disciplines to target diseases that are important to New Zealanders.

He says "We like to work in those spaces which are really very adventurous and very novel, because we believe that, for New Zealand to get ahead, we need innovation-driven science that is genuinely world-leading. New Zealanders are highly creative, as well as being very comfortable with new technology, so that can add up to some very innovative science. Our research centre aims to pull together all these local strengths.”

Rod’s main research area is human cellular immunology, especially the development of therapies for cancer that utilise the immune system, such as vaccines against melanoma.

As part of his research work, he supervises PhD students undertaking full-time research projects, often sharing the supervision with senior scientists from other scientific fields. Hayley Reynolds is one such student and her research project is a great example of the cross disciplinary research that the Maurice Wilkins Centre specialises in.

This article is based on information current in 2008.

    Published 29 July 2008