Dr Emma Scotter

BSc (Hons), PhD (Pharmacology)

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Senior Lecturer


I am the head of the Motor Neuron Disease Lab at the Centre for Brain Research, University of Auckland.

My team researches various aspects of Motor Neuron Disease. Model systems range from cell lines and primary cells grown from post-mortem brain and spinal cord, to those tissues themselves. Of particular interest to me and my group are cells of the blood-brain barrier, and their ability to deal with proteins which take on aberrant structures (oligomers and aggregates). My lab uses molecular pharmacology, molecular biology, and neuropathology techniques to study the pathways by which cells recognise and respond to these aberrantly structured proteins. These include the ubiquitin-proteasome system and selective macroautophagy. Pharmacologically or genetically enhancing the ability of these systems to clear toxic proteins which accumulate in neurodegenerative disease has great therapeutic potential. 

I am a University of Auckland graduate (BSc (Hons) and PhD (Pharmacology)). I was awarded a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship in 2010 to work at King's College London. I remained at King's College for four years, investigating misfolded proteins in motor neuron disease. I returned to the University of Auckland in early 2014 after being awarded an Aotearoa Fellowship by the Centre for Brain Research.

I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2016 to support my vision of growing a national Motor Neuron Disease Research programme. I also received Marsden FastStart funding to investigate protein waste clearance in Motor Neuron Disease. My team and I established the NZ Motor Neuron Disease Research Network in 2017 with funding from MND NZ, which connects MND research groups across NZ.


If you would like to support our research, please consider visiting our Giving page.

Research | Current

  • Genetic screening of people living with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Dr. Richard Roxburgh)
  • Human motor neuron disease brain tissue characterisation (collaboration with NZ Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank staff)
  • Cellular modelling of motor neuron disease ("Disease in a dish")
  • Characterising primary brain cells grown from the post-mortem brains of patients with motor neuron disease (collaboration with Professor Mike Dragunow)

Teaching | Current

  • MEDSCI 717- Advanced Neuroscience: Neuropharmacology
  • BIOSCI 353- Molecular and Cellular Regulation
  • BIOSCI 758- Development, Differentiation and Disease

Postgraduate supervision

Current lab members

  • Dr. Molly Swanson, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr Siobhan Kirk, Research technician
  • Ms Charlotte Dunne, PhD student
  • Ms Serey Naidoo, PhD student
  • Ms Maize Cao, PhD student
  • Ms Kyrah Thumbadoo, PhD student
  • Mr Miran Mrkela, PhD student
  • Ms Laura Nementzik, BBMedSci Honours Student
  • Ms Serene Kim, BBMedSci Honours Student

Completions and previous

  • Ms Laura Nementzik, Summer student, 2018, Science Scholar, 2019, BBMedSci Honours 2020
  • Ms Kyrah Thumbadoo, Pharmacology Honours, 2019
  • Dr. Deidre Jansson, Postdoctoral Fellow (with Prof. Mike Dragunow)
  • Mr Ji Hun Yoo, Summer student, 2018
  • Mr Ben Zhang, Undergraduate research experience, 2018
  • Ms Sediqa Amin, BBMedSci Honours, 2018
  • Mr Andrew Siemens, Research technician, 2016-2018
  • Ms Maize Cao, Summer student and Science Scholar, 2017
  • Ms Sarah Waters, BBMedSci Honours, 2017
  • Ms Kylie Pan, Summer student, 2017
  • Mr James Bailey, King's College London medical elective student, 2015

I welcome enquiries from prospective Honours, Masters and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.


Scotter Lab in the press


Areas of expertise

  • Cellular modelling of neurodegeneration
  • Protein quality control and degradation pathways
  • Motor Neuron Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; ALS)
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • TDP-43 proteinopathies

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Faculty of Science Research Committee
  • Centre for Brain Research Early Career Researcher Committee

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.


Contact details

Alternative contact

Phone: 09 923 1350

If I don't answer, please email rather than leaving a message.

Primary office location

Level 4, Room 427
New Zealand

Social links

Web links