Directorate and Operations Group

  • Professor Debra Waters


    Professor Debra Waters is the Director of Gerontology Research at the University of Otago, which an role split between the Department Medicine in the Dunedin School of Medicine, and School of Physiotherapy. She has been conducting gerontology research since 1996 and is an internationally recognized expert in the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function with ageing (sarcopenia), frailty, and falls prevention. She collaborates with colleagues in France, the US, Canada, Australia, and Asia and is a regular key note speaker at sarcopenia and frailty conferences. She also hold an adjunct research appointment at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in the US where she was the Associate Director of the Aging and Genetic Epidemiology Division and the New Mexico Aging Process study before coming to New Zealand in 2005.

    She is the Vice President for the New Zealand Association of Gerontology, an executive council member of the Australia New Zealand Society of Sarcopenia and Frailty and serves on the task force for the International Conf of Frailty and Sarcopenia based in Europe. She was the founder and former Director of the Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence Research Theme at the University of Otago, which is part of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics Global Aging Research Network.  She is also serves on the Southern Falls and Fractures Prevention Steering Group, which is a cross-sectorial group that provides leadership and advice for an integrated, sustainable, evidence-based model of care to reduce the risk of injury from falls and fractures in older adults.

  • Associate Professor Louise Parr-Brownlie

    Co-Director, Māori

    Associate Professor Louise Parr-Brownlie (Ngāti Maniapoto me Te Arawa) joined the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago in 2010. Louise completed her undergraduate and doctoral training at the University of Otago, and was appointed as a Postdoctoral and Research Fellows (2003-2007) at the National Institutes of Health in the United States. Her internationally recognised expertise is understanding how brain cell activity controls movement and characterising changes associated with Parkinson’s disease. She is working with bioengineers to develop a light-based brain stimulation technology that may be used in the future to treat Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. Louise has recently extended her research programme to examine anatomical and physiological changes in the brain associated with chronic pain and to investigate Māori community perspectives of neurosurgical approaches to treat neurological disorders and traumatic brain injury. Louise has been an invited speaker at prestigious conferences in the United States, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Janelia) and Gordon Research Conferences. She is on the Māori Advisory Board for Brain Research New Zealand – Roro Rangahau Aotearoa Centre of Research Excellence, is the Secretary of the International Basal Ganglia Society Council and has been on the Executive Committee for Te Poutama, the University of Otago’s Māori Academic Staff Caucus.

  • Jasmine Chu

    Business Support Co-ordinator

    Jasmine Chu has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Otago. After graduating she gained skills and experiences from holding various positions at University of Otago, including working for the External Engagement Division to assist the Events Hub and 150 years anniversary team. She also completed an internship with International Office, helping to develop their marketing content

  • Lisa Davis


    Lisa Davis comes to us from the Faculty of Law at University of Otago, where she has been working on a national-level research project on costs and delays in civil cases before the High Court. Having originally trained and worked as a community and social worker, Lisa is also a trained lawyer with previous experience in working as in-house counsel in the University’s Research and Enterprise Office. Over her career she has gained experience in engaging with different communities, working within community-funded agencies, and in managing funder relationships, as well as significant research and community projects.

  • Dr Lizhou Liu

    Assistant Research Fellow

    Dr Lizhou received her PhD from the University of Otago in 2017. Her main research interests are integrative medicine for health and well-being. Since completing her PhD she has been awarded a number of external grants including New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation Belinda Scott Clinical Fellowship, and New Zealand-China Non-Communicable Diseases Emerging Researcher Travel Grant.

  • Dr Vanisha Mishra-Vakaoti

    Communications Manager

    Vanisha has a PhD from the Australian National University with a background in Psychology and Social Research. She has previously worked as an independent research consultant, helping organisations plan and conduct research and produce knowledge products for a variety of audiences. Through her experience she has developed skills related to social impact storytelling and digital storytelling.