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EARLY /MID-CAREER REPRESENTATIVES

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LAUREN BLEKKENHORST

Lauren is an early-career cardiovascular researcher in the Nutrition & Health Innovation Research Institute at Edith Cowan University. She leads a research program to better understand the cardiovascular health benefits of different types of vegetables and their bioactive constituents, as well as finding new and improved ways to increase vegetable consumption at a population level to reduce the burden associated with cardiovascular disease.

 

Lauren is a passionate advocate for raising awareness of the burden associated with cardiovascular disease, and to promote the need for further funding for early- to mid-career researchers to continue to discover new knowledge to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease in Australia. She wants to be part of the change to increase cardiovascular research funding to support early- and mid-career cardiovascular researchers across WA universities and affiliated institutions to retain their research careers in their respective cardiovascular fields.

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JING PANG

Jing commenced as a Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia Medical School in 2019. Her research is centred on inherited high cholesterol and premature heart disease, a condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH). She has made a significant contribution to developing an FH program in Australia, integrating specialist departments in hospitals with key collaborations in primary care, health economics, health psychology, implementation science, family support groups, industry, government and international collaborators.

 

Jing has contributed to over 100 peer-reviewed publications in high-quality referred journals and currently holds an NHMRC Investigator Grant. Although still in the early stages of her own academic research career, Jing is keen to promote a diverse research culture by encouraging research across disciplines and career stages.

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SIMONE RADAVELLI BAGATINI

Simone is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Nutrition & Health Innovation Research Institute, School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University. Her research focusses on investigating the link between diet, stress, mental health and cardiovascular disease. In particular, she aims to develop new strategies to increase fruit and vegetable intake, alleviate stress levels and improve mental and heart health. Her long-term research aim is to better understand how and why greater consumption of fruit and vegetables (and its constituents) improves mental health and whether these improvements are related to better blood vessel health

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NICOLA GRAY

Nicola is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National Phenome Centre (ANPC) at Murdoch University. Nicola’s principal expertise are in analytical chemistry and her research activities involve the development and application of mass spectrometry methods and metabolic phenotyping workflows to problems in clinical medicine and population health. Since joining the ANPC in 2019, Nicola has initiated and led the implementation of targeted, high-throughput metabolite phenotyping workflows and is establishing an academic research program in cardiometabolic diseases. Nicola’s scientific outputs focus on novel method development, disease biomarkers, biomarkers of nutritional intake and exploring the interaction between diet and diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

 

Nicola is passionate about educating the next generation and mentoring junior scientists, and through serving on national and international committees within her discipline strives to contribute to the global effort of supporting early-career and female scientists.

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HANANE BELHOUL-FAKIR

Hanane is a final-year Ph.D. student at Curtin Medical School and Targeted drug delivery, Imaging, and Therapy laboratory at Harry Perkins Medical Research Institute. Hanane has extensive international experience in both industry and research. Her Ph.D. focus is on atherosclerosis, the leading cause of cardiovascular events, investigating the link between this silent disease and vascular injury, as well as identifying markers in human atherosclerotic plaques that could be potential therapeutic targets.

Hanane’s aim is to translate her research into clinically meaningful applications toward normalizing or reversing disease progression in metabolic diseases particularly cardiovascular disease and peripheral artery disease. Her vision is to increase WA cardiovascular research exposure nationally and internationally through fund provision and continuous support of early to mid-career WA cardiovascular researchers.

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LAKSHINI HERAT 

Lakshini is a Research Fellow at the Royal Perth Hospital Research Foundation, currently working at the Translation Research Laboratory - Dobney Hypertension Centre, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Western Australia. Her pre-clinical research focuses on identifying pleiotropic mechanisms of anti-diabetic treatments in the context of cardiometabolic disorders and related complications. Lakshini's long-term goal is to translate research findings into new therapies to improve health outcomes for cardiometabolic disorders and related complications.

 

Passionate about advocating for the representation of women in STEM, Lakshini dedicates her time to mentoring, educating, and inspiring the next generation of scientists.

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VANESSA TENAGLIA 

Vanessa is a PhD student with a strong foundation in microbiology. Vanessa has worked on projects in microbiology at Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) and The University of Western Australia (UWA). Vanessa’s research focus has involved studying bacterial-bacterial interactions, host-pathogen interactions, and antibiotic resistance mechanisms. Vanessa graduated from a Master of Infectious Diseases at UWA in 2022 in which her thesis aimed to study bacterial-bacterial interactions in the upper respiratory tract of children. Vanessa joined TKI in 2023 as a research assistant and has worked within the Strep A Pathogenesis and Diagnostics team where she is completing her PhD. Her doctoral research aims to understand the mechanism of Rheumatic Heart Disease caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS). Of particular interest is the pathways of progressive cardiac damage observed in this condition. Vanessa’s research interests remain in microbiology and infectious diseases; however, she is excited to become more immersed in cardiovascular research and is focused on translating her findings into tangible outcomes for patients.

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BENJAMIN BARTLETT

Ben is an early career Research Associate and newly appointed Research Development Officer (RDO) at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. His research interests are on the role of obesity and respiratory infections in long-term cardiovascular disease risk. His PhD focused on understanding the underlying mechanisms which contribute toward the pro-longed 10-year elevated risk following pneumonia.

 

Outside the lab, Ben is a passionate advocate for the broad risks associated with cardiovascular disease and exploring strategies on the ways we can reduce this risk. In his newfound role as RDO, he is driven to bring fresh initiatives to fellow researchers and assist with applications that will broadly help the community live longer, healthier lives.

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