Our people

The HCRA team brings together an experienced group of research professionals with a diverse range of skills to support our mission.

Laureate Professor Rodney Scott


Professor Rodney Scott is the Director of HCRA, Director of Molecular Medicine for NSW Health Pathology and Hunter and Genetics Program Leader in the School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle. Rodney is an internationally recognised leader in cancer genetics. Rodney is interested in understanding the mechanisms of disease so that more appropriate approaches to treatment can be developed to improve outcomes. His research first focused on the molecular aspects of bowel and breast cancer.  By studying the molecular basis of these diseases it has served as a springboard to study other diseases such as melanoma, ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia.

Rodney has been a co-Deputy Director since HCRA was named as a Translational Cancer Research Centre in 2014 and currently leads a program of over 30 research staff and is supervising over 20 post-graduate students working on multiple aspects of genetic research.


Email: Rodney.Scott@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4921 4974

Professor Chris Paul

Co-Deputy Director

Prof Chris Paul is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow with the School of Medicine and Public Health, Priority Research Centre for Cancer Research, Innovation and Translation and Hunter Medical Research Institute. Chris is a behavioural scientist with considerable experience in the development and evaluation of strategies for achieving behavioural change on an individual, system and population level. Her work spans preventive health issues and provision of patient care. Much of her early work was focused on cancer prevention and tobacco control, with an emphasis on the dissemination and adoption of effective behaviour change strategies. She retains a strong interest in cancer prevention and control, with a growing research portfolio relating to each of social disadvantage, chronic disease and health service delivery.

Chris has been a member of the HCRA Executive Committee since 2015 and is the Chair of the Implementation Science and Impact Flagship Program. She has made significant contributions to the operational and strategic direction of HCRA as a translational cancer research centre.


Email: Chris.Paul@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0693

Associate Professor Nikki Verrills

Co-Deputy Director

A/Prof Nikki Verrills research is focused on developing new therapies for treating cancer that target specific changes in cancer cells, but do not affect normal healthy cells. Her work is applicable to all cancer types, but the focus is primarily on two diseases: acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and breast cancer. Because Nikki's group take a basic scientific approach of better understanding the biology of a disease, and then developing drugs to target biological changes, the work is also applicable to other diseases. For example, in collaborative work the targeted drugs are showing great promise in a range of inflammatory diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema.

Nikki is a long standing member of the HCRA Executive Committee and is the current Chair of the Biomarkers and Targeted Therapies Flagship Program.


Email: Nikki.Verrills@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4921 5619

Ann Thomas

Research Operations Manager

As Research Operations Manager, Ann oversees the tasks of the operations team. Ann is also responsible for handling the financial side of HCRA Operations, managing the finances for all HCRA operational and research budgets. Ann has a diverse background in management and finance across the commercial, not-for-profit and tertiary sectors.  Ann holds a B Com (Finance) and an MBA.

Email: Ann.Thomas@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0856

Belinda Kerrison

Operations Support Officer

The Operations Support Officer role is to support the core activities and operational functions of  HCRA. Belinda is the first point of contact (both internally and externally) for our members across our partnering institutions. In addition to providing operational support, Belinda supports the HCRA Executive team. Belinda has a diverse background and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science.

Belinda is in the HCRA office Monday to Friday, 8.30am - 4.00pm.

Email: HCRA@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0439

Gemma Hulsing

Communications and Events Officer

The Communications and Events Officer role is responsible for developing and delivering HCRA communication initiatives and events and supports the activities of the wider team. Gemma has a background in Marketing and Communications and holds a Bachelor of Communications (University of Newcastle).

Gemma  is in the HCRA office Monday to Thursday, 9.00am - 4.30pm.

Email: gemma.hulsing@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0862

Sarah Nielsen

Research Operations Coordinator

Sarah contributes to the planning, organisation and delivery of high quality research support services provided by the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance.

Sarah is responsible for coordinating the transactional and budgetary aspects of finances relating to HCRA, contributing to strategic planning, advising committee members and Directors on operational, governance and strategic matters.

Sarah has over 20 years' experience working in diagnostic and research pathology laboratories and holds a Bachelor Degree in Science (Biology). She enjoys working to support the incredible efforts of the local cancer research community.

Email: Sarah.Nielsen@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0775

Siobhan McCague

Program Support Officer

Siobhan provides support to the members of HCRA, ensuring the effective and efficient coordination of research programs within the HCRA strategic plan. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the HCRA Research programs.

Siobhan is in the HCRA office Monday and Thursday, and every second Tuesday, 8.30am - 4.00pm.

Email: Siobhan.Mccague@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0857

Sarah Lukeman

Community Engagement Coordinator

Sarah is responsible for coordinating and driving consumer involvement in HCRA’s strategy and programs and engaging the community in HCRA initiatives. She takes a lead role in planning and delivering on HCRA community engagement activities and developing a culture of community partnership.

Sarah has been an active member of the HCRA Consumer Advisory Panel since she completed the CCNSW Consumer Involvement in Research training in 2016. Sarah has also done extensive advocacy work with Cancer Council NSW and Cancer Voices.

Sarah is in the HCRA office Monday and Wednesday, 8.30am - 4.00pm.

Email: Sarah.Lukeman@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4042 0174

Cassandra Griffin

Biobank Manager

As HCRA Biobanking Manager, Cassandra leads the biobanking team working across the Hunter Cancer Biobank, Sequential Blood Biobank and Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) Brain Biobank. Cass and the Biobank team coordinate investigator driven collections, assist with the scoping of new collection protocols for local research, provide high quality IHC and bespoke TMA services and work closely with the national and international biobanking community to ensure that we have the best possible resources and services available for our local researchers.

Cassandra has an eclectic background with experience in both clinical and laboratory research, as well as international experience in health communications and performing arts. She holds a BA (University of Newcastle) B BiomedSc (University of Newcastle) and MPH (University of Sydney).

Email: Cassandra.Griffin@newcastle.edu.au

Phone: 02 4921 7460

HCRA Executive Committee

HCRA is led by Laureate Professor Rodney Scott (Director), Professor Christine Paul (Co-Deputy Director) and Associate Professor Nikki Verrills (Co-Deputy Director) in conjunction with an Executive Committee comprising of research leaders from across the Hunter New England region.

The HCRA Executive Committee meets on a monthly basis to facilitate the implementation of our research strategy, providing expert leadership and support at a senior management level that is central to the adoption of a translational-orientated research framework and culture embedded in the Hunter New England health system.

View the HCRA Executive Committee Terms of Reference (PDF 131KB)

Laureate Professor Rodney Scott

E:  Rodney.Scott@newcastle.edu.au
P: 02 4921 4974
W: view research profile

Associate Professor Nikki Verrills

E: Nikki.Verrills@newcastle.edu.au
W: view research profile

Professor Xu Dong Zhang

E: Xu.Zhang@newcastle.edu.au
W: view research profile

Conjoint Associate Professor Stephen Smith

E: Stephen.Smith@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au
W: view research profile

Conjoint Professor Peter Greer

E: Peter.Greer@calvarymater.org.au
W: view research profile

Conjoint Associate Professor Jarad Martin

E: Jarad.Martin@calvarymater.org.au
W: view research profile

The University of Newcastle, Australia Hunter New England Local Health District Calvary Mater Newcastle Hunter Medical Research Institute Cancer Institute NSW