Alzheimer’s Northland public forum - Lakshini Mendis & Helen Murray

16 September 2016

On the 16th of September, Brain Research New Zealand – Rangahau Roro Aotearoa and Alzheimer’s Northland presented a public forum and Q & A session with two of our talented young scientists who specialise neurodegenerative disorders of the ageing brain: Lakshini Mendis and Helen Murray. Dr Mendis and Ms Murray also visited Northern DHB where they conducted a seminar about their research for clinicians. filming of this seminar is below. 

Alzheimer's Northland visiting researchers: Dr Lakshini Mendis and Helen Murray and the Memory Walk
Alzheimer's Northland visiting researchers: Dr Lakshini Mendis and Helen Murray and the Memory Walk

Alzheimer's Northland visiting researcher: Dr Lakshini Mendis 


"This public forum was a really good opportunity to connect with the community and to provide them with insights into the research we do. I gained from this experience as well," Dr Mendis explains. 


"We got to learn more about the Alzheimer’s Northland facility for those with dementia, and how little things can make a difference in a people’s lives. For example, the use of contrasting colours in interior design was a really neat way to designate the bathrooms for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It was also interesting to share insights with the clinicians about the more novel assessments they conduct, and how it aligns with the research we are currently conducting."  


Alzheimer's Northland visiting researcher: Helen Murray 


“It was really rewarding to be able to share our work with the community and DHB staff. It was also great to see the new facility for the Alzheimer’s Association in Northland and gain some insight into the work they do. It gives us a new perspective on the meaning of our research.”


Northern District Health Board: Bronwyn Hedgecock 


"Thank you for providing the NDHB with the opportunity to listen to Lakshini and Helen present at the Grand Rounds on Friday. An official certificate of thanks is attached for their records if you could be so kind and forward onto them.

"This was a most interesting presentation and a wonderful opportunity to engage with cutting-edge research.

"It’s certainly a thrill to see any image from an electron microscope! There was a turn out of 51 people and we normally average 46 per session so it was an excellent turn out."  


Alzheimer’s Northland Manager: Kevin Salmon


"As you can see the talk was really well received and we were very proud to be associated with it. Thank you so much to all those concerned with this initiative, this was a huge success. Could you also pass on my thanks to Lakshini and Helen. I hope that our paths cross again in the future." 




Dr Lakshini Mendis, Assistant Research Fellow
Dr Lakshini Mendis, Assistant Research Fellow

Bio: Dr Lakshini Mendis, Assistant Research Fellow


Dr Lakshini Mendis is a University of Auckland doctoral scholar and New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Fellow. She completed her PhD project in 2016 under the supervision of Associate Professor Maurice Curtis at the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland.

Dr Mendis’s research focuses on understanding lipid differences in the post-mortem human brain in Alzheimer’s disease. She specifically uses a technique known as MALDI (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation)-IMS (imaging mass spectrometry) to investigate these differences.

Dr Mendis is one of the first researchers in New Zealand to apply this technology to study neurolipidomics. She has developed a unique workflow to analyse the big datasets that are generated via this technique.

She is passionate about good science communication, and has written for HDBuzz, NatureJobs blog, and Bitesize Bio.

She is also a strong advocate for women in STEM and volunteers as Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Scientista Foundation.

Watch Dr Mendis and Ms Murray's seminar for clinicians at Northern DHB

Helen Murray
Helen Murray

Bio: Helen Murray, PhD Student


Ms Helen Murray is a fourth year PhD student at the Centre for Brain Research and Brain Research New Zealand located at the University of Auckland.  In 2012 she completed a BSc in Biomedical Science with First Class Honours from the University of Auckland. 

Her honours project involved investigating cell loss in a transgenic sheep model of Huntington’s disease with Distinguished Professor Richard Faull and Associate Professor Henry Waldvogel.

Following this, she obtained a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship for her PhD project with Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, which examines neurogenesis and PSA-NCAM-mediated plasticity in the human Alzheimer’s disease brain.  The work presented in this paper was specifically funded by a Hope Selwyn Foundation Scholarship for Ageing Research.

Research from the Curtis lab focuses on human brain plasticity and how this may be altered in neurodegenerative diseases.