Meet the Growing Up team
The Senior Management team is responsible for the strategic direction of the Growing Up in New Zealand study.
Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Paine
Sarah-Jane is Growing Up in New Zealand's Research Director. She is an experienced Kaupapa Māori epidemiologist and has been involved in an extensive range of projects investigating ethnic inequities in health and the determinants of health across the life-course.
Sarah-Jane was previously a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Tomaiora Research Group at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. She holds science degrees from the University of Otago and a PhD in Public Health from Massey University. She has taught Māori Health and Kaupapa Māori research methods across a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
Prior to becoming Growing Up in New Zealand's Research Director, she was a member of the study's Kaitiaki Group.
Debra has moved from the Operations Manager role, to act as Programme Director until a new appointment can be made. Key responsibilities of the Programme Director is to plan and deliver the strategic direction of the study in partnership with the Research Director. As the Operations Manager for Growing Up in New Zealand, Debra's key responsibilities included overseeing the field operations team and providing a link between our community, the study interviewers.
Professor Susan Morton
Susan is Growing Up in New Zealand's Foundation director. She is an expert in life course epidemiology and a specialist in Public Health Medicine.
Susan spearheaded Growing Up in New Zealand since it began and has developed an international reputation as a leader in longitudinal research. She was recognised for her contribution with the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2019. She now provides oversight, advice and expertise to the study as a Foundation Director.
Susan is also the Director of the University of Auckland cross-faculty Centre for Longitudinal Research - He Ara ki Mua.
Susan has a first class honours degree in pure mathematics and trained as a secondary teacher prior to undertaking her MBChB in Auckland. She undertook postgraduate training in paediatrics before being awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake a PhD in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Susan in passionate about child wellbeing and translating research to make a difference to life course health.
Dr Carin Napier
Carin is a specialist in food and nutrition, and was formerly an Associate Professor and Director of Research at the Durban University of Technology (South Africa). She retains the role of Adjunct Professor at that University.
A published academic with 24 articles in accredited journals, she presented her research at several International conferences. She has supervised and co-supervised many PhD and Masters’ students.
Her role at Growing Up in New Zealand is in research management and coordination, and she aims to further her research interests in food security and dietary diversity in New Zealand children.
The operations team work with the research team to implement the strategy and plans for Growing Up in New Zealand.
Avinesh is the Lead Biostatistician at Growing Up. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland, and Lead Consultant at the Statistical Consulting Centre (SCC). He is a biostatistician by training and has worked on many medical studies ranging from health surveys and epidemiological studies to multinational clinical trials in the fields of cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic diseases. His current research focus is on longitudinal data methods and statistical computing.
Sinead is helping to deliver statistical analysis for Growing Up in New Zealand. She comes to Growing Up with a Masters in Data Analytics and a Bachelors majoring in Psychology and Sociology. She has worked in both the public and private sector.
So-Yoon Park (Annie)
So-Yoon (Annie) has an Honors in Statistics, and did a Bachelors in Computer Science, Information Systems and Statistics prior to doing postgraduate study. She has an interest in medical statistics, particularly longitudinal data analysis and epidemiology.
Rebeca has tertiary qualifications in health sciences and commerce. She has a background of data analysis in the public health sector.
She facilitates the data access processes for Growing Up in New Zealand data users.
Rina has extensive experience in data management, observational studies and in international randomised trials. A past executive member of the Australasian Health and Research Data Manager’s Association, she has special expertise in trial and questionnaire design, quality management systems and standards and, data management and governance. Rina leads the data management for Growing Up in New Zealand.
Anushree is a Data Manager at Growing Up in New Zealand with over seven years’ experience in large clinical research organisations and the pharmaceutical industry. She has expertise in clinical research development systems, database maintenance, and clinical best practice. Anushree has worked on several interventional multi-site clinical trials in a range of therapeutic areas like oncology, focus on data and trial management.
Jeannie is a Data Manager at Growing Up in New Zealand with over 10 years of research experience both locally and internationally. Jeannie is skilled at longitudinal research data analysis, data quality management and governance. She has a great interest in marketing and psychology, and the wider research areas around child development. Her current role focuses on longitudinal data methods and management.
Penny has extensive experience as a quantitative researcher within market research companies and is a member of the Research Association of NZ. More recently she has held roles focusing on evaluation and project management. She holds a Masters degree in Human Geography and a Graduate Diploma in Business (Marketing).
Michelle has a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition (with Distinction) and a Master’s paper in Advanced Quantitative Methods combined with over 20 years of research experience both locally and internationally. Her experience includes research in the public health sector, food industry and market research agencies.
Talofa lava & Malo e lelei. My name is Savili and I’m of Samoan and Tongan descent. My role as the Pacific & Māori Participant Engagement Coordinator is to coordinate the field operations interviewers within my hubs and our Growing Up in New Zealand families, to ensure quality engagement as well as accurate data sets. My background is in health promotion and public health and I’m passionate about raising awareness around health within our communities. I have a 1 year old son who is very active and my husband and I speak only gagana Samoa (Samoan language) to him. Fa’afetai lava.
Krista is a mother to four adult children, three foster children and a grandmother to three grandchildren. Her home life is busy and full of fun. She's been involved in the Growing Up in New Zealand since the cohort children were three-years-old. Her passion for the study stems from an interest in the diversity of New Zealand families and a joy in seeing the study children change and grow from one visit to the next.
Julia has several years experience in communications of science and policy. She has worked writing, editing, and providing advice on communications strategy for government and non-profits, including having worked on another large longitudinal study (Asthma Multicentre Infants Cohort Study). She holds an MSc in Social Research Methods (with Social Psychology), a BSc in Psychology, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.
Mandy is an experienced administrator and provides support to the Programme Director, Research Director, and the wider team.
Sinn is the Finance Business Partner for Growing Up in New Zealand. She is a Chartered Accountant, with business partnering experience providing accounting services across a wide range of industries. Having previously worked in winemaking, manufacturing, construction and health, she is passionate in adding value to project management.
Julia has a Diploma in Cloud Engineering and has experience with AWS cloud solutions. She is providing support to external and internal users of Growing Up in New Zealand's information systems.
The Growing Up in New Zealand is led by multi-disciplinary research team made up of experts across the key research domains of the study. Many of the team combine their work at Growing Up with clinical, academic and research roles outside of the study
Dr Caroline Walker
Caroline’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms regulating health and disease. She is interested in the genetic and epigenetic regulation of health-related phenotypes. Previous research has focused on advancing our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms regulating fertility and the immune response by using high throughput sequencing technologies to quantify genetic variation, DNA methylation, gene expression and microbial diversity associated with fertility and the immune response.
Dr Hakkan Lai
Hakkan research focuses on looking at adverse health outcomes associated with harmful environmental exposures. He is currently focused on environmental epidemiology and looking at the health effects of exposure to environmental hazards in childhood. He has studied spatial and temporal distribution of air pollutant exposures and various health outcomes and is currently assessing the impact of climatic effects on drinking water quality and child health. He is also exploring the impact on indoor climate on child health.
Dr Emma Marks
Emma’s areas of expertise include behavioural ecology, bioinformatics approaches to ecological data, multivariate statistical analyses & longitudinal data and research methodologies (including the use of biological samples for genetic, epigenetic and microbiome analyses). Emma is also currently working on a funded project looking at the impact of house tenure, quality and income on child health and wellbeing.
Dr Rebecca Evans
Rebecca is a cognitive psychologist and musician. Her doctoral work involved studying jazz musician improvisation and the experience of playing ‘good time’ together. Her work in perinatal psychology focused on mother-infant relationships, with a special interest in maternal speech, singing and inter-personal synchrony. Her current research interests include music use and engagement; kapa haka; language development; whanaungatanga/family relationships; the early musical environments of tamariki in New Zealand; and the role of music in developing and strengthening social bonds.
Dr Denise Neumann
Denise’s doctoral work involved longitudinal analyses of associations between dialysis treatment and cognitive functioning, as well as psychosocial wellbeing in adults with chronic kidney disease. Her current research interests include children’s cognitive development from early childhood onwards, including inhibitory control and language. She is specifically interested what factors promote or hinder cognitive development of tamariki in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Dr Ben Fletcher
Ben has been involved in longitudinal research assessing nutrition and mental health, early childhood engagement settings for the promotion of Māori culture and well-being, and factors that influence patient-reported outcomes and disease severity to help inform medical practice. His doctoral work focused on nutritional interventions, specifically assessing the effect of vitamin C on mental health in healthy young adults. Ben's current research is investigating factors that may impact children's psychosocial and cognitive development in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Josie is a paediatric occupational therapist with work and research experience in the field of education. She did her master’s thesis on the practices and prioritisation of fundamental movement skills in Aotearoa New Zealand, merging her interests in health and education. Josie has a particular interest in understanding the factors from birth through to adulthood that influence the extent to which ākonga/students are enabled to reach their educational goals.
Karl completed his MSc in Plant Pathology at the University of Auckland, focusing on potyviruses affecting Cucurbits in the Pacific. He has worked in plant metabolomics at Royal Holloway, UOL on the development of more stress tolerant, carotenoid rich crops and RNA-Seq datasets. He has an interest in how different biological systems interact with each other.
Our Domain Leads work with the team to provide support and advice in the areas of:
- Family and whānau
- Societal context, neighbourhood and environment
- Health and wellbeing
- Psychosocial and cognitive development
- Culture and identity.
Associate Professor Polly Atatoa Carr
Polly is a public health physician within Child and Youth Health at Waikato District Health Board, Associate Professor of Population Health at the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) at the University of Waikato, and National Director of Training for the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine.
Polly's research, teaching and practice focuses on the broader determinants of child health and equity (such as housing, social justice, income and identity). Her work centres around critical influences on tamariki and rangatahi (within their wider context), at key time points, to achieve wellbeing. Polly’s research and practice prioritises working with Māori and Pacific communities (particularly Cook Islands) and prior to her appointment at the University of Waikato in 2016, she was Associate Director of Growing Up in New Zealand. She currently leads the Culture and Identity Domain, and supports research ethics, data collection, and analyses that contribute to policy translation and health equity across the study domains.
Dr John Fenaughty
John has a background in community psychology focused on youth wellbeing, particularly as it is impacted by victimisation, harassment and/or cis-heteronormativity, including within schooling and education settings.
John has extensive experience in undertaking community research, including utilising social innovation methodologies, to produce change for young people, educators, youth workers, community organisations and policy makers both nationally and internationally. His research is orientated towards goals of equity and inclusion.
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. Kane leads the education domain for Growing Up in New Zealand.
Dr Amy Bird
Amy’s research interests and expertise centre around parent-child interactions, and in particular how these interactions might be challenged among families experiencing mental health problems. Better understanding these interactions can help target and refine early family interventions. Amy has particular interests in parent-child conversations about emotional events, and in the intergenerational transmission of attachment security. Amy is also interested in the intersection of physical health with children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Amy has been involved with the Growing Up in New Zealand study from the antenatal data collection. Amy has worked as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Wollongong, and from 2020 at the University of Waikato.
Professor Cameron Grant
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.
Dr Pat Bullen
Pat is a Senior Lecturer specialising in youth development and youth mentoring in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. Her research and teaching focus on the factors that contribute to thriving during adolescence, particularly during times of transition. Central to Pat’s work is how research can be applied to enhance the human condition, by informing policy and practice. Pat contributes to the Health and Wellbeing domain for Growing Up in New Zealand.
Professor Clare Wall
Clare is Head of the Discipline Nutrition and Dietetics for the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland. Her focus is on nutrition and human adaptation, and her main research areas investigate the interrelationship between children’s nutritional status and their health. Her research spotlights pregnancy and early childhood in particular.
Dr Caroline Walker
Caroline is a molecular biologist with a focus on molecular mechanisms regulating health and disease. Caroline leads the Biological Sampling sub-domain for the Growing Up in New Zealand study. Caroline lectures in genomic and gene expression at the University of Auckland, and is an expert in genetics and epigenetics. Her earlier research focused on advancing knowledge of molecular mechanisms that regulate fertility and immune response.
Professor Karen Waldie
Karen is a developmental neuropsychologist. A member of the Department of Psychology and Centre for Brain Research (University of Auckland) her research interests include life-span development, as well as precursors and determinants of neurodevelopmental disorders.
Associate Professor Liz Peterson
Liz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Auckland. Her research focuses around developmental and educational psychology, and in understanding factors that lead to development of successful and well-rounded youth.
Associate Professor Dan Exeter
Daniel is a leader in epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Population Health, University of Auckland.
He has research interests in GIS, big data, data zones, geovisualisation (which interprets geospatial data through interactive visualisation), accessibility and health inequities.
Funded by the Health Research Council of NZ, Daniel led a team to develop the Index of Multiple Deprivation, a set of tools for identifying concentrations of deprivation in New Zealand. This collated multiple pieces of information, to provide insights for health providers into key areas of deficiency. In 2018 the project won a New Zealand Spatial Excellence Award for their work to empower communities.
Associate Professor Kate Prickett
Kate is the Director of the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families. Kate’s research is focused on the ways in which the connection between family contexts and children’s health and wellbeing is implicated in the intergenerational transmission of inequality. A particular emphasis of this research is to understand how interpersonal processes between parents and children are embedded within a complex array of proximate ecological settings (such as work and child care) and broader systems of stratification (e.g., gender, socioeconomic status).
Prior to arriving at Victoria University of Wellington, Kate was a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato and an NICHD postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies. She completed a Ph.D. in sociology and a M.A. in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Our Theme Leads work with the team to provide support and advice to recognise Aotearoa-New Zealand's ethnically diverse population.
Dr Renee Liang
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
Dr Te Kani Kingi
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. Te Kani is the co-Maori theme lead for Growing Up in New Zealand.
Dr Sarah-Jane Paine
Sarah-Jane is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Tomaiora Research Group at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. She holds science degrees from the University of Otago and a PhD in Public Health from Massey University.
Sarah-Jane is an experienced Kaupapa Māori epidemiologist with a range of projects investigating ethnic inequities in health and the determinants of health across the life-course. Sarah-Jane teaches Māori Health and Kaupapa Māori research methods across a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.She is a member of Growing Up in New Zealand's Kaitiaki Group.
Jacinta is Pacific Advisor to Growing Up in New Zealand and is a researcher focused on public health especially as it relates to Pacific children. She is also the Chief Executive of a private research consultancy (Moana Research) which is centred on the early years of life. Jacinta’s background includes work at a senior level of the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council.
Her passion and area of investigation for Growing Up in New Zealand is resilience amongst Pacific children in the cohort, which is the topic of her HRC-funded PhD project.
Dr Seini Taufa
Bio to follow.