Lisa Nicholas

Lisa Nicholas

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.


Dr. Lisa Marie Nicholas is a National Health and Medical Research Council C J Martin Fellow and Group Leader at the University of Adelaide.

The broad research aim of her group is to understand how a sub-optimal maternal metabolic environment both before and during pregnancy programs disadvantage in the offspring leading to health effects that persist across the life course.

Dr. Nicholas’ interest in the ‘Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)’ i.e. how an individual’s risk of disease can be programmed by in utero/early life exposure to certain environmental influences e.g. maternal obesity, was sparked by a series of lectures during her undergraduate Biomedical Science degree at the University of Adelaide. Consequently, she pursued an Honours research year at the University of South Australia with Prof. Caroline McMillen where she investigated how exposure to maternal obesity at the time of conception led to dysfunctional hepatic gluconeogenic signalling in the offspring in a sheep model. During this time, she produced a thesis, which earned her her a First Class degree, ranked first in her year and was awarded numerous prizes including the University Medal. Dr. Nicholas continued on to doctoral studies with Prof. McMillen where her research focused on understanding how the time around conception acts as a critical developmental window where metabolic disease risk is programmed in the offspring via epigenetic mechanisms in liver and skeletal muscle.

Following award of her PhD in 2013, Dr. Nicholas moved to Sweden to work with Prof. Hindrik Mulder at Lund University Diabetes Centre. During her two years in Sweden, her research identified mitochondrial transcription factor B2 as being essential for mitochondrial and cellular function in pancreatic β-cells in a mouse model. She was then awarded a C J Martin Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, which enabled her to leverage the research experience gained during post-doctoral training in Sweden with her experience in DOHaD and to apply it an area of science that fascinates her; that is how exposure to maternal obesity can program type 2 diabetes risk in the offspring through functional changes in pancreatic islets. For this, she spent four years at the University of Cambridge where she was mentored by Prof. Susan Ozanne. During this time, her research was also supported by grants from the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, the Isaac Newton Trust, Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation, the Society for Endocrinology and Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation.

Dr. Nicholas returned to Australia in 2020 to establish her own research group.

The rising rate of obesity worldwide has health implications for future generations since obesity during pregnancy increases obesity and type 2 diabetes risk in the offspring. Given that nearly half of women of child-bearing age in many populations are currently overweight/obese, it is important that we understand what factors are driving this metabolic disease risk in the child and how this occurs. Specifically, we are interested in investigating:

  • The sex-specific impact of exposure to maternal and postnatal obesity and their interaction on metabolic outcomes and pancreatic β-cell function in offspring
  • The epigenetic mechanisms regulating functional changes in the β-cells of offspring
  • Which of these mechanisms are also implicated in β-cell function in humans

Current Student Projects

Title: Sex-specific programming of type 2 diabetes risk - the role of islet epigenetics

Description: This project will investigate, using a mouse model, how exposure to maternal obesity alters the relationship between the epigenome, transcriptome and cellular function in pancreatic β-cells of offspring, leading to higher risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in males compared to females. Importantly, we will also determine whether methylation and transcription of these genes are also altered in human islets from T2D donors and whether these changes are associated with particular donor characteristics including sex, body mass index and diabetic status i.e. pre-T2D vs. T2D. This will inform us about whether these same genes are also implicated in the development and progression of T2D in humans.

Skills learned during this project: Working with primary human and rodent islets, animal models of obesity and diabetes and human beta cell lines, molecular biology techniques.

Project available for: Honours and HDR

Location: SAHMRI and Adelaide Health & Medical Sciences Building

Research Project Start: Semester 1 or Semester 2 2021

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  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2020 Senior Research Fellow University of Adelaide
    2019 - 2019 Analyst Costello Medical Consulting (United Kingdom)
    2016 - 2019 Research Fellow University of Cambridge
    2014 - 2015 Research Associate Lund University
    2007 - 2007 Business Analyst Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2019 Fellowship Company of Biologists Travelling Fellowship Company of Biologists United Kingdom
    2019 Award Danish Diabetes Academy Poster Prize Non-coding RNAs in Metabolic Disease Conference Danish Diabetes Academy Denmark
    2018 Award Society for Endocrinology Travel Grant Society for Endocrinology United Kingdom
    2018 Award Disease Models and Mechanisms Conference Travel Grant Disease Models and Mechanisms United Kingdom
    2017 Award European Association for the Study of Diabetes Travel Grant European Association for the Study of Diabetes Germany
    2015 Award American Diabetes Association Young Investigator Award American Diabetes Association United States
    2015 Award Lund Physiografen Society Travel Grant Lund Physiografen Society Sweden
    2014 Award European Association for the Study of Diabetes Travel Grant European Association for the Study of Diabetes Germany
    2013 Award Healthy Development Adelaide Travel Grant Healthy Development Adelaide Australia
    2011 Award Wellcome Trust Young Investigator Bursary Wellcome Trust United Kingdom
    2011 Award Sansom Institute for Health Research Travel Grant University of South Australia Australia
    2011 Award Women's & Children's Hospital Foundation Young Investigator Award, Runner-up Women's & Children's Hospital Foundation Australia
    2011 Award University of South Australia Division of Health Sciences Three Minute Thesis 3MT™ Competition, People’s Choice Winner University of South Australia Australia
    2011 Award Healthy Development Adelaide Travel Grant Healthy Development Adelaide Australia
    2010 Award Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI)/ Pfizer President's Presenter Award Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI)/ Pfizer United States
    2010 Award Sansom Institute for Health Research Travel Grant University of South Australia Australia
    2009 Award Network in Genes and Environment in Development (NGED) Laboratory Interchange Award Network in Genes and Environment in Development Australia
    2009 Award University of South Australia Medal University of South Australia Australia
    2009 Distinction Chancellor’s Letters of Commendation University of South Australia Australia
    2009 Award John Alexander Voules Brown Prize University of South Australia Australia
    2009 Award Novozymes Biopharma AU Limited Prize University of Australia Australia
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    English Can read, write, speak, understand spoken and peer review
    Malay Can read, write, speak and understand spoken
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2009 - 2013 University of South Australia Australia PhD
    2008 - 2008 University of South Australia Australia Bachelor of Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
    2002 - 2005 University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science)
  • Research Interests

Date
Title
Funder
Role
Amount

Jan 2016 - Dec 2017, Jan 2020 - Dec 2021

The transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of parental obesity - C J Martin Fellowship National Health and Medical Research Council Principle Investigator AUD 357,173
Sep 2018 - Apr 2019

Exploring sex-specific programming of islet microRNAs by maternal diet-induced obesity

European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes/Lilly Principle Investigator EUR 50,000
Jan - Aug 2018

Exposure to maternal obesity and epigenetic inheritance of β-cell dysfunction in offspring

Isaac Newton Trust Principle Investigator GBP 27,839
Oct 2017 - Sep 2018

Exposure to maternal obesity and epigenetic inheritance of β-cell dysfunction in the offspring

Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation Principle Investigator GBP 11,000
May 2017 - Apr 2018

The role of microRNAs in transducing the programming actions of maternal obesity on β-cell dysfunction in the offspring

Society for Endocrinology Principle Investigator GBP 10,000
Feb 2017 - Jan 2018

The role of microRNAs in transducing the programming actions of maternal obesity on β-cell dysfunction in the offspring and exploring their use as biomarkers

Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation Principle Investigator GBP 20,000
Jan - Dec 2016 Delineating the role of mitochondrial transcription factor Tfb2m in mitochondrial function and insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells Albert Påhlssons Foundation for Research and Charity Grant Principle Investigator SEK 150,000
Jan - Dec 2015 Delineating the role of mitochondrial transcription factor Tfb2m in mitochondrial function and insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells Albert Påhlssons Foundation for Research and Charity Grant Principle Investigator SEK 100,000

 

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  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2017 - 2017 Co-Supervisor Molecular mechanisms underlying the direct adverse effects of antenatal glucocorticoid therapy on the fetal heart University of Cambridge British Heart Foundation PhD Programme in Cardiovascular Research Doctorate Full Time Noor Teulings
  • Mentoring

    Date Topic Location Name
    2019 - ongoing Navigating a career in academia, career opportunities outside of academia, networking University of Cambridge Grace Cooper
    2019 - ongoing PhD studies, academic and non-academic career opportunities University of Cambridge Orla Woodward
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  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2011 - 2012 Board Member School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Board University of South Australia Australia
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2020 - ongoing Member QueersInScience South Australia QueersInScience Australia
    2014 - 2014 Chair Lund University Women in Great Sciences Annual Meeting Lund University Sweden
    2011 - 2012 Representative School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Research Management Committee University of South Australia Australia
    2011 - 2012 Convener Australian Society for Medical Research South Australian Scientific Meeting Australian Society for Medical Research Australia
    2011 - 2012 Co-Chair School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences Postgraduate Forum University of South Australia Australia
  • Community Engagement

    Date Title Engagement Type Institution Country
    2019 - 2019 OUT Thinkers Public Community Engagement Cambridge Science Festival United Kingdom
    2018 - 2019 Meet the Scientist Public Community Engagement Cambridge Science Festival United Kingdom
    2013 - 2013 Volunteer, International Diabetes Federation World Diabetes Congress Scientific Community Engagement International Diabetes Federation Australia
    2010 - 2012 Scientists in Schools Public Community Engagement The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Australia
    2008 - 2011 Science Alive! Public Community Engagement National Science Week Australia
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2017 - 2018 Board Member The Endocrinologist Society for Endocrinology United Kingdom
  • Event Participation

    Date Event Name Event Type Institution Country
    2018 - 2018 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physiology and Medicine Conference Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Germany
  • Review, Assessment, Editorial and Advice

    Date Title Type Institution Country
    2019 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review Journal of Molecular Endocrinology
    2019 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review EBioMedicine
    2014 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology
    2014 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review PLoS One
    2014 - ongoing Expert reviewer Peer Review British Journal of Nutrition

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