Position: Group Leader, Field: Immunology, Organisation: University of Otago.

Dr Joanna Kirman is an immunologist at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. She leads a group researching infectious diseases. Her areas of interest are immunology, vaccine development, and bacterial and viral infectious diseases (such as tuberculosis, respiratory syncytial virus and rotavirus).

Joanna has always loved biology. She studied biochemistry and microbiology as an undergraduate at the University of Otago. She did her honours degree year in the Department of Microbiology studying the immune response to tuberculosis infection in deer. Joanna says she enjoyed studying the immune system because of the way diverse and specialised cell types each with specific jobs interact to fight infection, like the body’s own personal defence force.

Being a scientist is a lot like being a detective – you have to think of cunning ways to solve problems and find the answers.

Joanna moved to Wellington to do her postgraduate studies at the Malaghan Institute with Professor Graham Le Gros. She subsequently moved to the National Institute of Health in Maryland, USA, to do her postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr Robert Seder. In the USA, she had the opportunity to work in the laboratories of many of the world’s leading tuberculosis researchers. Joanna returned to New Zealand in 2002 to set up her own research group at the Malaghan Institute in Wellington.

Joanna says, “Being a scientist is a lot like being a detective – you have to think of cunning ways to solve problems and find the answers. The best reward is knowing that these answers could help improve the health of so many people.”.

Joanna is a mum who loves to spend time with her family. She also enjoys the outdoors, reading and travel.

In 2012 Joanna Kirman took up a senior lectureship position at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Otago University where she continues to work on designing Tuberculosis vaccines to enhance protective immunity in the lung. You can read about her latest research here.

This article was based on information current in 2010 and updated in 2016.

    Published 2 November 2010, Updated 25 August 2016