MEET THE TEAM

We are a multi-disciplinary team, consisting of experts in the field of male health.

We are utilising unique and cutting edge transgenic mouse technologies to investigate the genetics and endocrinology of male health. 

Dr Liza O'Donnell

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SENIOR POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Liza completed her PhD at Monash University in reproductive endocrinology. She has a long history researching the endocrine and molecular regulation of the testis, in particular working in the area of male hormonal contraception and male infertility causes and treatments. Her recent focus has been on identifying biomarkers to diagnose testis function. Liza joined the Smith Lab as a Senior Research Scientist in 2020 and works on projects investigating new diagnostics and therapies to support optimal androgen production and fertility in men.

Dr Joanna Kelso

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LAB MANAGER

 

Joanna completed her Master’s degree in Science (Biology) at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. In 2011 she moved to Muenster in Germany to undertake her PhD degree in Vascular Biology and Immunology at the International Max Planck Research School. Her PhD focused on the importance of actin binding proteins in neutrophil transmigration process. In 2016 she joined a research group at University of California, San Diego as a postdoctoral researcher investigating the complexity of breastmilk sugars and their impact on the development of health and disease. Following her postdoctoral fellowship, Joanna relocated to Newcastle and in 2020 joined Prof Lee Smith’s research group as a laboratory manager.

Dr Mike Curley

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POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Mike completed a PhD in Reproductive Endocrinology at the University of Edinburgh in 2017 investigating the cause-consequence relationship between ageing and Leydig cell dysfunction. Mike is interested in mechanisms regulating the development, function and retention of androgen-producing Leydig cells in the testis - particularly in the context of ageing. His postdoctoral research combines innovative mouse genetics and gene manipulation viral vectors to target specific cells in the adult testis Using these tools to dissect novel paracrine signalling pathways modulating Leydig cell function, the aim is to identify factors within the testicular microenvironment amenable to manipulation to promote Leydig cell androgen biosynthesis and support lifelong health in men.

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Professor Lee Smith FRSB FRSN

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TEAM LEADER

Lee completed a PhD in molecular genetics at the University of Warwick, and postdoctoral training at the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit in Oxford, before moving to establish a research team at the University of Edinburgh in 2006. In 2017 Lee was appointed as Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Science at the University of Newcastle; in addition to this role, Lee continues his passion for research, with teams in both Newcastle and Edinburgh, focussed on undertanding the genetics and endocrinology promoting male health

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Dr Diane Rebourcet

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POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Diane completed her PhD at Lyon-Claude-Bernard University. Following this her postdoctoral career began at the University of Edinburgh in the Centre for Reproductive Health in 2011. During this time Diane had the opportunity to address the impact of endocrine disruption on the male reproductive system development and function. Following a successful career in Edinburgh Diane was recruited in 2018 by the University of Newcastle as a Postdoctoral Research Associate. Diane’s current research focuses on understanding the mechanisms and regulations affecting the reproductive system, with particular interest in androgen biosynthesis and the subsequent development of new approaches to potential therapies to benefit male health.

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Dr Anne-Louise Gannon

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POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Anne undertook her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2014 investigating the role of adrenal hormones on male life-long health. Thus far, her research focus has been on the role of nuclear receptors in adrenal cortex regulation. In 2018, she was recruited by the University of Newcastle as a Postdoctoral Research Associate to continue this work whilst developing and establishing a new laboratory. Anne’s current interests centre on developing novel biotechnology to target the adrenal cortex, whilst further elucidating the role of adrenal androgens in adrenal regulation and androgen driven diseases.

Dr Karen Kilcoyne

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POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Karen completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2014, focusing on identifying adult Leydig stem cells and investigating the importance of fetal androgen action in programming adult reproductive health. Her successful post-doctoral positions in the Centre for Reproductive Health, combined research in both human and animal models to explore androgen action in developing fetal gonads and their role in testicular dysgenesis syndrome in adulthood. Since 2017, her current research with Professor Lee Smith investigates the development of a single injection sterilant for animals, via a lentiviral system. Karen is an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy and teaches at the University of Edinburgh.

Sarah Smith

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Shanu Parameswaran

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SENIOR RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Sarah completed her BSc Biology and PGCE at UCNW, UK, beginning her Research Assistant career in 1995, working in Plant Genetics and Biotechnology, then Entomology at Horticulture Research International UK. In 2000, she joined the Genotyping and Sequencing facility at the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, UK, then moved to researching a muscular dystrophy mouse model in 2002. After this, Sarah joined Oxford University investigating mouse models of Narcolepsy. A move to the Roslin Institute ARK Genomics, UK, followed in 2006 where she subsequently helped develop their Illumina next-generation sequencing capability. In 2013 she moved to the Molecular Biosciences Core Facility at Edinburgh University and joined the Smith Group in 2014 to be responsible for genotyping their mouse lines. Sarah relocated to Australia and joined the Smith Group in 2020 resuming her genotyping role.

RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Shanu completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Hons) at RMIT University in 2016, investigating the expression of MCT8 transmembrane transporter in the brains of TTR null mice. Shanu then joined the HIV Neuropathogenesis laboratory at RMIT University as a Research Assistant. Here, she investigated the viral persistence of HIV in the human brain. In 2020, Shanu moved from Melbourne to Newcastle to begin work for the Smith Lab as a highly valued Research Assistant.

Natalie Reed

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RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Natalie completed her Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Honours at the University of Newcastle in 2018, studying the role of the JAK/STAT pathway in follicle activation in the ovary and the implications on female fertility. Following this Natalie joined the Smith Lab soon after their new lab had relocated to Australia. The Smith Lab's investment in a wide variety of science disciplines makes this a perfect place for a curious minded Research Assistant like Natalie.  Natalie is now an integral member in the running of this multidisciplinary team.

Ben Lawrence

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PHD CANDIDATE

Ben completed his Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Class I Honours at the University of Newcastle in 2020, studying the role of interleukin-22 in uropathogenic Escherichia Coli urinary tract infections. Following this Ben received a PhD scholarship with the Smith Lab where he is now utilising a vast array of laboratory techniques to gain a further understanding of the androgen production pathways in men and how this can affect sexual development, virilisation and fertility.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

Dr Laura O'Hara

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ASSOCIATE MEMBER

 

Laura undertook her PhD with Lee at University of Edinburgh from 2007-2011 researching androgen receptors in the epididymis. After post-doctoral contracts with both Professor Lee Smith and Professor Tom Freeman at the Roslin Institute, Laura was promoted to Academic Track Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in 2018. Her current role combines both research in Edinburgh and teaching at the Edinburgh joint institute at the University of Zhejiang in China. Laura’s research interests are focused on the roles of steroid hormones in the hypothalamus and pituitary.

ALUMNI

Dr Annalucia Darbey

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ALUMNI POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

 

Annalucia completed her PhD as part of the Tissue Repair Programme at the University of Edinburgh in 2018 focussed upon the targeting and repair of adult testicular somatic cells through viral gene therapy. Following recruitment to The University of Newcastle as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2019, Annalucia now continues to investigate deliverable transgenics and their potential applications in the adult testis. Development of this novel technology will permit the investigation of the genetics underpinning male fertility and androgen production and will lead to the development of novel bespoke therapeutics and contraceptives fulfilling a currently unmet need for millions of men worldwide.