Our Researchers

Ko wai mātau

Meet Some of Our Researchers

Dr Tim Angeli

Senior Research Fellow, The University of Auckland


Dr Angeli is a biomedical engineer with cross-disciplinary research interests spanning the fields of engineering, physiology, medicine, and nutrition. His research focuses on developing new technologies for monitoring, understanding, and controlling gastrointestinal (GI) function. Tim is particularly interested in the underlying electrical control of the GI tract, which is a vital mechanism for regulating digestion. His research as part of the HVN Digestive Health team aims to improve clinical and physiological understanding of GI function in health and disease, and to developing new diagnostics and therapeutics for GI disorders. Tim is currently a Rutherford Discovery Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the Auckland Bioengineering, University of Auckland. Tim is also an avid fly fisherman, and has appeared on the cover of a number of domestic and international fishing magazines. 

Yanyan team

Dr Simone Bayer

Research Fellow, University of Otago

Dr Simone Bayer is passionate about gastrointestinal research. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition science from the University of Hohenheim, Germany and a PhD in Pathology from UOC. Dr Bayer recently published a review on possible mechanisms behind the green kiwifruit’s effects on constipation, joined the High Value Nutrition Digestive Health team in 2018, and led the design and delivery of a single-blind, cross-over, randomised controlled trial of two foods in adults with constipation-predominant IBS (COMFORT-PSYKI). She is committed to developing a career in gastrointestinal research and is currently treasurer of the New Zealand Society for Gastroenterology. She spent eight years working as a manager in a large bank before realising that science was her true passion.

Dr Karl Fraser

Senior Scientist, AgResearch


Karl’s main research focuses on the application of mass spectrometry to both targeted analytical chemistry and untargeted metabolomic analyses of mammalian samples, and he is currently applying these methods to human sample matrices to measure a range of metabolites. His current studies focus mainly on the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge human health key outcomes and understanding using metabolomics, the potential impacts of nutrition on these outcomes. He is an Affiliated Researcher of the Riddet Institute (Massey University) and an Associate Investigator for the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, as a valued member of all four Priority Research Programmes.

Xiaoxi Fu

PhD Candidate, The University of Auckland


Xiaoxi is currently involved in the High Value Nutrition | Infant Health Priority Research Program, and their Tranche 2 Seeding Through Feeding (SUN) study. She completed her Bachelors and postgraduate studies in Human Nutrition at the University of Otago, during which she developed a research interest in paediatric nutrition. After graduation, Xiaoxi worked at the National University Hospital (NUH) in Singapore as a geriatric research assistant before returning to the field of paediatric nutrition to pursue her doctorate. Xiaoxi uses her research-mindedness outside her studies to collect data on which yummy delicacies she ought to try next.

Kok Hong Leiu

PhD Candidate, The University of Auckland


Kok Hong Leiu is originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He received his Bachelors degree in Nutrition and Community Health and his Masters degree in Community Nutrition from the Universiti Putra Malaysia, a renowned public university in his homeland. He has experience in research and health promotion in different populations, such as primary school children, indigenous people and institutionalised elderly. He is an active member of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) and Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity (MASO). Currently, he is pursuing his PhD within the Metabolic Health program at the Human Nutrition Unit, University of Auckland under the supervision of Professor Sally Poppitt and Dr Ivana Sequeira. His research is on the increased risk of type 2 diabetes found in Asian Chinese populations, with a focus on nutrition interventions that may result in better glucose control. Kok Hong’s favourite sports are badminton and football, which help keep him active and healthy.

Yanyan team

Yanyan Li

Research Officer, Malaghan Institute


Yanyan is interested in the role of immune cells in metabolic health and disease, with a particular emphasis on how innate-like T cells behave in obesity-linked metabolic diseases. Her past work relates to phenotyping of circulating innate-like T cells in patients with obesity and type II diabetes. By studying the cytokine profiles of peripheral innate-like T cells in obesity and diabetic patients using multicolour flow cytometry, she hopes to further uncover the therapeutic value of innate-like T cells and the possibility of treating patients with immune-modulatory strategies. Outside the lab, Yanyan’s expertise is knowing which horror shows to binge-watch on Netflix.

Dr Amy Lovell

Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland


Amy is an emerging early career researcher and lecturer at The University of Auckland. She is a NZ Registered Paediatric Dietitian with a research interest in early life nutrition. Amy completed her doctorate as part of an RCT called the Growing Up Milk Lite Trial, where she investigated the effect of a Growing Up Milk on iron, and vitamin D intakes and status, dietary patterns and diet quality in 1 to 2-year-old children, publishing five peer-review articles. Amy lectures nutrition to students in the Food Science and Nutrition major, nurses and dietetic post graduates. Her ongoing research as part of the Infant Health High-Value Nutrition, Seeding Through Feeding (SUN) Study will further establish her as a key specialist in early life nutrition research. In her down time, Amy enjoys baking and delivering ‘dietitian approved’ treats to her friends!

Yanyan team

Dr Evelyne Maes

Senior Scientist, AgResearch

Evelyne is a Senior Scientist leading the proteomics platform at AgResearch in Lincoln and is a part of the Immune Health team. She completed her PhD and postdoctoral research in Belgium in clinical proteomics. In her current position, she applies her experience in mass spectrometry to lead multiple projects that study proteins and endogenous peptides in samples spanning the food value chain, from farm to fork. Besides her love for proteins, she enjoys exploring New Zealand’s beautiful outdoors.

Warren McNabb

Deputy Director, Riddet Institute


Warren’s research interests include nutrition for health, sustainable nutrition, human-microbiome interactions, and physiology and metabolism. Warren joined the Riddet Institute in 2016 as the Deputy Director. Prior to that, he was the Research Director at AgResearch Ltd. Warren has had science leadership roles in research programmes funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Riddet Institute CoRE, Marsden, the High-Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge, and New Zealand and international food industries. Warren has published >140 peer-reviewed scientific papers with >6400 citations and an h-index of 42 (Scopus). As an Associate Investigator, Warren contributes his expertise to both Healthy Digestion and Infant Health PRPs. 

Jack Penhaligan

PhD Candidate, The University of Auckland


Jack’s research interests are focused around the prevention of weight gain and insulin resistance through the manipulation of energy intake and energy expenditure. During his Masters at Imperial College London, he explored the influence of acute exercise on one’s subsequent appetite and energy intake via the putative release of anorexigenic gut hormones (GLP-1 and PYY). He is now investigating the involvement of postprandial thermogenesis in the progression from normal glucose tolerance to overt diabetes as part of the Metabolic Health team. Jack’s research aims are to augment postprandial metabolism through the ingestion of bioactive food ingredients and evaluate the impact on one’s insulin sensitivity and energy balance. Jack loves keeping active, especially through playing football. He has a black belt in taekwondo, which he counts on to keep him focused in the ‘fight against obesity’!

Dr Ali Rashidinejad

Research Scientist, Riddet Institute


Dr Rashidinejad’s research focuses on the oral delivery of bioactive compounds (in particular, polyphenols) via functional foods. While this generally lies in the development of methods/technologies that protect/encapsulate bioactives, Ali is specifically interested in the behaviour of bioactive compounds in the food matrix and gastrointestinal tract, with a focus on polyphenol-enriched functional food products. His research is both consumer and industry oriented since the functional foods can have substantial environmental and social impacts when made accessible to the community. Ali believes his focus on food innovation and development of functional foods is an answer to real-life questions, as he strongly believes in tasty food for health and nutrition, backed by credible science. Dr. Rashidinejad has more than 30 publications in high-ranked peer review science journals. He has contributed to a few books in Food Science and Nutrition, and has presented at various research conferences. Ali spends his spare time participating in triathlons, travelling, camping, and drinking copious amounts of green tea.

Amber Parry-Strong

Capital & Coast DHB


Amber is a New Zealand Registered Dietitian who works on investigator-led research trials related to nutrition, obesity and diabetes. She has been an investigator on trials in weight loss, dietary interventions, obesity prevention and micronutrient intake. Currently, she is involved in studies of novel blood glucose lowering agents in pre-diabetes and diabetes, and used her expertise as part of the Metabolic Health Tranche 1 project. In her spare time she runs a Garden to Table programme at her local school.

Dr Ivana Sequeira

Research Fellow, The University of Auckland


Ivana’s research interests and expertise include GI physiology (PhD, NZ), nutrition (MMedSc, UK), and metabolic disease which align well with her role within the Peak Nutrition for Metabolic Health Program (PANaMAH), at the Human Nutrition Unit, UoA; since 2016. She has been integral to the design and conduct of clinical studies, that have informed on ethnic-specific biomarkers of type 2 diabetes risk, and leads the MRI/S quantification of novel organ fat biomarkers in the Metabolic Health Program. She endeavours to explore alternative ‘passive’ mechanisms to augment nutrient absorption and ameliorate adverse health outcomes. Ivana practices yoga, greatly enjoys the outdoors and DIY projects, all which help her be mindful.

Dr Tommi Vatanen

Senior Research Fellow, The University of Auckland


Dr Vatanen holds a PhD in computational biology from Aalto University, Finland. He is a gut microbiome specialist with specific interests in infant gut microbiomes and fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). He is currently running a Marsden funded project to characterise the role of bacteriophages in FMT. He also leads the collection of gut microbial strains from New Zealand populations for global comparative research as part of the Global Microbiome Conservancy initiative. Perhaps surprisingly, Dr Vatanen also holds a Bachelor’s degree in classical music as a clarinetist.

Dr Catherine Wall

Research Fellow, University of Otago


Dr Wall is a Registered Dietitian and Research Fellow in the Gastroenterology Research Group at the University of Otago Christchurch. Her research ambitions are to improve New Zealander’s access to and awareness of scientifically supported nutrition and foods to optimise gut health.  She obtained her PhD in nutritional therapy for active Crohn’s disease from University of Otago Christchurch and completed postdoctoral research on nutrition screening and dietary management of inflammatory bowel disease at King’s College London, United Kingdom. Dr Wall’s current research is focused on understanding the interplay between nutrition and gut inflammation. Dr Wall is always on the look-out for new recipes with hidden vegetables! Some of her favourites include a beetroot, tofu, chocolate torte and kumara sticky date pudding.