Brain gain

Neuroscientist Dr Lezanne Ooi has been to the other side. The experience working in the pharmaceutical industry was short-lived but valuable since it gives her absolute confidence in the career path she has chosen. 

In embracing the “freedom” of academia, Ooi has also discovered the enjoyment of teaching and training the next generation of scientists and a collaborative, encouraging environment at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI). 

Most strongly of all though, she is driven by the pursuit of a breakthrough: a game-changing insight into the mechanics of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Motor Neurone Disease – perhaps even a treatment or cure. 

Ooi works at the cutting edge of a branch of neuroscience that uses "reprogrammed" skin cells (that are donated by patients) for disease modelling and drug discovery. 

Having joined IHMRI from the UK in 2012, Ooi has undertaken a professional transformation of sorts – from a “bubbly” postdoc to the leader of a research team at the cutting-edge of neuroscience – but one that is paying dividends. Since joining UOW Ooi has earned $8.5 million in competitive research funding, published 22 journal papers, three book chapters and is further curating her international network of research partners. 

She is positive about the future of her field and the potential for making real inroads into dementia-related disease, predicted to affect more than 130 million people by 2050.  

“I am highly motivated by collaboration between local and external scientists, developing ideas and technologies and the very positive environment at UOW - this is only the beginning of what is possible here.”