Research and biostatistics team


The Growing Up in New Zealand team is a multidisciplinary group of researchers led by Associate Professor Susan Morton of the University of Auckland, in collaboration with researchers from Otago, Massey and Victoria universities. The researchers are supported by operations and interview teams who are responsible for communicating with the participants and administering the interviews.

Directors


Associate Professor Susan Morton

Associate Professor Susan Morton
Director, Principal Investigator

Susan is a specialist in Public Health Medicine and a Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology and Population Health at the University of Auckland. Susan also holds postgraduate qualifications in mathematics and statistics, and is an expert in life course epidemiology. She qualified as a secondary school teacher before transitioning into her medical career.

Her major research interests are in maternal and child wellbeing, intergenerational and life course effects on health and development, translational research and economic modelling of life course outcomes.

Associate Professor Cameron Grant

Professor Cameron Grant
Associate Director, Health and Wellbeing domain leader

Cameron is a paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland.

His research focuses on improving health in early childhood.

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Named Investigators


Dr Polly Atatoa Carr

Associate Professor Polly Atatoa Carr
Culture and Identity domain leader

Polly is a specialist in Public Health Medicine and an Associate Professor in Population Health and Equity at the University of Waikato. She has a background in molecular biology, and has broad research interests in population health and child development. Polly is particularly passionate about the elimination of health and social inequalities.
 

Associate Professor Elaine Reese

Professor Elaine Reese
Education Expert Advisor

Elaine is a member of the Psychology Department at the University of Otago. Her research expertise is on the role of parent-child interactions in children's development.

Dr Elizabeth Peterson

Dr Elizabeth Peterson
Psychosocial and Cognitive Expert Advisor

Elizabeth is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Auckland, and has research interests in the developmental and educational psychology. Most of her research is focused on trying to understand the factors and processes that lead to the development of successful and well-rounded youth.

Associate Professor Karen Waldie

Associate Professor Karen Waldie
Psychosocial and Cognitive Expert Advisor

Karen is a developmental neuropsychologist, and a member of the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. Her research interests include life-span development as well as the precursors and determinants of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Associate Professor Jan Pryor

Associate Professor Jan Pryor
Families and Whānau Expert Advisor

Jan was the inaugural Director of the McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families at Victoria University of Wellington, and has occupied the role of Families Commissioner. Jan's research focus is family dynamics, including family transitions.

 

Associate Professor Clare Wall

Associate Professor Clare Wall
Nutrition Expert Advisor

Clare is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland. Her research focus is the inter-relationship between nutrition and paediatric health outcomes. She has been researching this topic by measuring the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies in various paediatric populations and looking at the relationship between nutritional status, dietary intake and health.

 

Dr Te Kani Kingi

Dr Te Kani Kingi
Māori Theme Expert Advisor

Te Kani (Ngāti Pūkeko and Ngāti Awa) is the Director of Te Mata o te Tau, the Academy for Māori Research and Scholarship at Massey University in Wellington. Te Kani has particular research interests in psychometrics, mental health, and Māori development.

Dr Kane Meissel

Dr Kane Meissel

Kane is a Lecturer in Educational Psychology at the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. His research focuses on the use of advanced quantitative methodologies to identify and reduce educational disparities, as well promote equity and social justice for traditionally marginalised learners.

Dr Lana Perese

Dr Lana Perese
Pacific Theme Expert Advisor

Lana is a Principal Research Analyst at the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. She has been involved in a number of research projects related to Pacific peoples in New Zealand, focusing on gambling, addictions, health and justice.

Annette-Henderson-GUiNZ

Dr. Annette Henderson

Annette is a Senior Lecturer, Rutherford Discovery Fellow, and Director of the Early Learning Lab (ELLA) in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland. As a developmental scientist her research examines the development of prosocial behaviour (e.g., cooperation) in early childhood with an ultimate goal of understanding how and why people are (or are not) prosocial. Her particular focus is on the role that early parent-child interactions play on this development. Annette also conducts research examining the factors that promote children’s language development.  

Dr Renee Liang

Dr Renee Liang
Asian Theme Expert Advisor

Renee is a paediatrician, and her areas of interest are child health and adolescent health. Renee is also a poet, playwright and writer with links to the arts and Asian communities.

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Research Fellows


Sarah Berry

Sarah Berry
Senior Research Fellow

Sarah has a background in physiology and more than ten years' research experience specialising in genetics and genomics. She is interested in understanding the genetic basis of disease, and how genetics and the environment interweave to influence child development, health and well-being.

Dr Lisa Underwood

Dr Lisa Underwood
Senior Research Fellow

Lisa is a health service researcher with a background in psychology. She has a special interest in the mental health of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder.

Dr Carol Chelimo

Dr Carol Chelimo
Research Fellow

Carol is an epidemiologist with additional expertise in biostatistics. Her main research interests within Growing Up in New Zealand are paediatric obesity and childhood asthma. For her work on paediatrics obesity, Carol is generously funded by a Heart Foundation Research Fellowship. Carol is also involved in other research activities outside Growing Up in New Zealand.

 

Dr Emma Marks

Dr Emma Marks
Research Fellow

Emma's research largely revolves around studying the evolution of breeding behaviour, communication, sexual selection and mate choice in colonially breeding animal species. Emma is also affiliated with the Bioinformatics Institute and maintains a wide range of research interests relating to the evolutionary patterns of life.

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Biostatistics team


Rina Prasad

Rina Prasad
Lead Data Manager

Rina is Lead Data Manager with line management responsibilities at the study. She has extensive operational and clinical data management experience in national & international trials, epidemiological studies and research surveys. Rina’s interests lie in Clinical trial design, data management & analysis frame work. She is a past executive member of the Australasian Health and Research Data Manager’s Association (AHRDMA) and a current member of the Society for Clinical Data Management (USA)

Harrison-Kim-GUiNZ

Harrison Kim
Biostatistician

Harrison is a biostatistician and data analyst from the Statistical Consulting Centre in the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland.
He joined Growing Up In New Zealand in 2016 and has been involved in a number of projects providing statistical consulting, data anonymisation and analyses.
He has a great interest in biostatistics and anthropometry.
 

Dinusha Bandara

Dinusha Bandara
Biostatistician

Dinusha is a biostatistical consultant who has contributed to Growing Up in New Zealand since 2010, initially as a full time team member and now in an advisory capacity. She recently took up the position of biostatistician/research fellow at ASPREE, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University. She is also team member of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Australian Government’s key research body in the area of family wellbeing.

She is an analytical consultant with extensive experience in statistical consulting, biostatistics, health surveillance, large longitudinal studies including longitudinal clinical trials, data management and analytical project management.

Catherine-Choi-GUiNZ

Catherine Choi
Data Analyst

Catherine is a data analyst within the Statistical Consulting Centre at the University of Auckland, supporting the biostatistics team and researchers with data management and generally providing advice on all things data. She has been involved in data anonymisation for the purpose of external release.

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PhD students


Growing Up in New Zealand makes data available to other researchers across the university. Currently, seven PhD students attached to the Centre for Longitudinal Research are using our data to better understand the causal pathways that contribute to particular developmental outcomes for our children.

Jacquie Bay

Jacquie Bay
PhD student

Jacquie is researching how educational interventions can change long-term non-communicable disease risk. She is investigating the potential that multidisciplinary science education/science partnerships could deliver school-based intervention tools that facilitate development of scientific and health literacy through exploration of aspects of the non-communicable disease epidemic, a socio-scientific issue of relevance to young people.

Jacquie is the founding director of LENScience, an innovative science education programme, based at the University of Auckland. She has a BSc, MEd(Hons) and Dip Tchg from the University of Auckland.

Stephanie D'Souza

Stephanie D'Souza
PhD student

Stephanie’s research focuses on identifying factors that contribute to the trajectories of emotional and behavioural development during early childhood.

Using Growing Up in New Zealand data, she will investigate how sociodemographic measures, parental mental health, gestational factors and concurrent developmental abilities relate to psychosocial measures at ages 2 and 4.5 years.

Her research will help identify the greatest risk factors for poor emotional and behavioural development, as well as factors that increase resilience in cases of early environmental adversity. She will also monitor the trajectories of those with the strongest prosocial behaviour.

Stephanie has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and Statistics from the University of Auckland. She achieved First Class Honours in Psychology, where she investigated the environmental and genetic determinants of childhood depression. Stephanie’s PhD project is funded by the University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship.
 

Sarah Gerritsen

Sarah Gerritsen
PhD student

Sarah is exploring the influence of childcare on preschool dietary patterns and body size.

She is using data collected in Growing Up in New Zealand from the antenatal period to when the cohort children turn 4.5 years old, along with data from the Kai Time in ECE survey of early childhood education (ECE) services on eating behaviours, menus, physical activity and food-related policies in ECE settings. Analyses will focus on modifiable factors which could reduce the burden of obesity and obesity-related health issues on future generations.

Sarah previously worked at the Ministry of Health as a Senior Advisor in Population Health, and more recently in London as Research Manager for The Commission on 2020 Public Services, a cross-party think tank. She has an MA (Applied) in Social Science Research with distinction (Victoria University of Wellington) for her research on food insecurity among primary school students.

Mark Hobbs

Dr Mark Hobbs
PhD student

Mark is carrying out research into the factors contributing to serious skin and soft tissue infections (SSSTI) in children under five. New Zealand children experience a high rate of hospitalisation for these infections, with Māori and Pacific children disproportionately affected.

Using health information collected from the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort, Mark will determine how social, economic, ethnic, environmental, genetic and microbiological factors influence the occurence of the disease.

Mark completed his undergraduate medical training (MBChB) at the University of Auckland and subsequently underwent specialist training, predominantly in Auckland and Middlemore hospitals. He gained fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, qualifying as a specialist in general medicine and infectious diseases in 2014. Mark's PhD research is funded by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation through a Douglas Goodfellow Medical Research Fellowship.
 

Jin Russell

Dr Jin Russell
PhD student

Jin is researching life course pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children. She is using the health and developmental outcomes of children in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort over their first 54 months (4.5 years) to determine the socio-environmental factors that help them on healthy trajectories prior to school entry. The project will lead to a novel method for conceptualising and representing early child health inequities.

Jin is an advanced trainee in general paediatrics with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. She has a MBChB, PGDip (Paediatrics) from the University of Auckland. She developed an interest in the social determinants of child health and life course epidemiology while working as a Paediatric Registrar in Auckland. This doctoral project is funded by a Health Research Council Clinical Research Training Fellowship.

Rajneeta Saraf

Rajneeta Saraf
PhD student

Rajneeta is investigating whether lower vitamin D levels at birth increase the risk of hospital admission during infancy with Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI). Acute respiratory illnesses in children are the leading cause of death, hospital admission and primary care use. Average vitamin D blood levels in women and infants are lower and hospital admission rates for New Zealand children with respiratory illnesses are higher than in other developed countries. Rajneeta wants to find out if respiratory illnesses in early childhood are more frequent or more severe in children who have lower vitamin D concentrations at birth.

Rajneeta has a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Victoria University of Wellington), and a Master of Microbiology & Public Health from the University of the South Pacific and Fiji School of Medicine.

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