- Dr Niliksha Gunewardene has expertise in stem cell biology and auditory neuroscience. She graduated from the University of Auckland in 2008, with a bachelor’s in biomedical science, and postgraduate diploma in medical science. She then pursued a master’s project under the supervision of Professor Srdjan Vlajkovic investigating the application of adenosine receptor agonists for hair cell regeneration in Cisplatin-damaged cochleae. In 2011, Dr Gunewardene undertook a PhD with Assoc. Professor Bryony Nayagam at the University of Melbourne. Her research focused on investigating the potential of induced pluripotent stem cells for auditory neuron replacement in the deaf cochlea. Her PhD was nominated for the Deans prize for excellence and resulted in several peer-reviewed publications, which led to her accepting a post-doctoral research fellow position in 2014 at the Eaton Peabody Laboratory and Harvard Medical School. At Harvard, she worked under the guidance and mentorship of Professor Albert Edge. Here, she focused her research on the epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms that guide hair cell differentiation and regeneration. Research from this project resulted in the filing of a US patent and several publications. Following her 4-year stint in Boston, she returned to Melbourne and joined the Bionics Institute to continue her research in auditory neuroscience. Dr Gunewardene’s main research interests are to investigate the molecular signalling pathways governing inner ear cell fate specification and develop strategies to regenerate the sensory cells of the deaf mammalian cochlea.