Team:Victoria Wellington/Team

Team Members
Team Victoria Wellington 2021 iGEM members - (Left to right) Back Row: Kae Watanabe, Manuel Blank, Kirby Brown, Azaria Sheppard Front Row: Neil MacMillan, Alexandria Linton-de Boer, Ben Roberts, Kelly Styles, Vincent Nowak, Lee Ann Zandra Tejada, Marshall Kennedy-Newton, Absent: Hannah Lee-Harwood, Mitch Ganley, Demelza Robinson, and David Ackerley (Supervisor)
Student Leaders
Vincent Nowak
Biology has been a passion of mine from a young age. Currently, I am in my third year of a PhD in biotechnology, previously having completed my BSc and MSc in marine biology, all at Victoria University of Wellington. My research focuses mainly on natural products produced by bacterial symbionts of marine sponges and encompasses bioinformatics, biology and chemistry. On a more personal level, I am interested in climate change, sustainability, astronomy, human behaviour and sports.
Neil MacMillan
I am a third year undergraduate student studying biotechnology and chemistry. Next year, I am to start my honours in biotechnology. I have a passion for our natural ecosystems and believe that biotechnology and synbio provide a great opportunity to combat the many issues that these systems are threatened by. This project has been the first stepping stone in realising this vision.
Alexandria Linton-de Boer
I’m a third year undergraduate student studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, majoring in Biotechnology and Molecular Pathology with passions in antibiotic resistance, synthetic biology, and biotechnological advances. Next year, I plan to continue to study science doing my Master’s degree. Doing iGEM has helped me explore my love for synthetic biology by doing lab work such as Gibson assemblies and a range of admin work and presentations while being one of the student leaders.
Student Members
Kirby Brown
I am a third year undergraduate student studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. I am completing a double major in Molecular Pathology and Human Genetics. Next year, I hope to do honours in bacterial pathology. I am passionate about immunology and pathology and hope to forge a career in biomedical research. This project has helped me to gain experience in the lab and drive my interest in scientific research.
Kelly Styles
As a 2nd year PhD student investigating bioactive natural products in diverse New Zealand fungal species, I have a keen interest in using synthetic biology to produce these natural products in a sustainable and efficient manner. I previously completed my MSc at the University of Auckland and then worked as a research assistant for Biotelliga Ltd., where I worked on their synthetic biology programme. I am a proponent of developing sustainable urban agriculture and closely follow the fields of human evolution and archaeology.
Kae Watanabe
I am a third-year undergraduate student studying Biotechnology and Molecular Pathology. After finishing my degree, I am hoping to start my Master's degree in 2022. I am genuinely interested in what I am currently studying, especially in fertilization, cancer research and microbiology. iGEM helped me gain more experience and knowledge in synthetic biology.
Marshall Kennedy-Newton
I am a first year student studying a double major in biotechnology and chemistry. I decided to join iGEM this year as I was intrigued by genetic engineering and synbio. Although I originally came to university to study nuclear physics, our project is what inspired me to change to biotechnology and pursue a career in biological sciences.
Demelza Robinson
Demelza was part of the iGem team in 2019 and attended the giant jamboree in Boston. She completed a conjoint BSc and BBmedSci at Vitoria University of Wellington and is currently undertaking postgraduate study here focusing on artificial intelligence.
Lee Tejada
I previously graduated with a Bachelor's degree at the University of Santo Tomas, Philippines - where I studied the antioxidant properties of Persia americana (Avocado) leaf extract. I discovered my passion for enzymes back when I did my summer internship at the E-cubed laboratory, University of Otago in 2017. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I returned to the MME lab (previously E-cubed lab) to do my Ph.D. My project is about creating an enzyme-based biosensor. Outside the lab, I enjoy cooking, going on food trips, traveling, and playing various sports.
Azaria Sheppard
Only a month from finishing my undergraduate degree in biotechnology, I have a passion for antibiotics and combating the emerging issue of multi-drug resistance in bacteria. I also have a strong interest in chemistry, genetics, bioinformatics and programming. I hope to build on the knowledge and experience I have gained at Victoria University of Wellington by completing a Master’s that incorporates my range of interests and prepares me for a career in antibiotic research. Outside of science, I enjoy creating art and spending time in the beautiful city of Wellington.
Ben Roberts
I am a fourth year undergraduate who is just about to finish a conjoint degree studying Mathematics, Physics and Human Genetics. From here, I hope to take a mathematics honours degree to further develop my quantitative skills. I have particular interests in mathematical statistics and human longevity. I hope to combine these in the future by applying the tools of mathematics to problems of disease. The iGEM project has provided me with valuable exposure and experience with the scientific process and techniques of molecular biology.
Hannah Lee-Harwood
Hannah is currently in her third year of studying towards a Phd in Biotechnology at Victoria University of Wellington. Her current studies cover a range of areas in biotechnology and synthetic biology including directed evolution, antibiotic resistance and protein expression.
Mitch Ganley
Mitch is currently in the final stages of his PhD at Vitoria University of Wellington and has been very much the driving force behind both the iGem teams at Victoria in 2019 and again this year in 2021. He has an extensive range of knowledge and practical expertise ranging from biotechnology and synthetic biology to immunology.
Manuel Blank
I’m in my final year of a PhD in biotechnology, working on natural product discovery through metagenomic practices. This is my third time being a part of iGEM - I find iGEM to be an education tool and a great way to work on a project outside of my PhD. Synthetic biology is an exciting tool for change and what draws me to it is how you can tinker with and explore life. It’s like a scientific sandbox!
Alistair Brown
Alistair is postdoctoral fellow in the Ackerley lab. His research primarily focuses on finding, characterising and utilising bacterial enzymes in the development of novel biotechnological applications. He is also interested in the antibiotic resistome and understanding how primordial enzymes with limited activity can rapidly evolve to be strong resistance elements
Team PI
David Ackerley
Professor of Biotechnology in School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington.
Dave is a microbiologist and enzyme engineer, with a primary focus on the discovery, characterisation, engineering and application of useful bacterial enzymes, and of novel antibiotics to counter the spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria. To achieve these aims he uses his specialty, tailoring enzyme activities by directed evolution.
Learn more about the Ackerley Lab's research at