Theresa Pankhurst


Theresa Pankhurst (descendent of tribes Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou) graduated in 2021 from Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington with a PhD in Biomedical Science under the supervision of Dr Lisa Connor. Her PhD research focused on improving mucosal vaccine design against respiratory viruses, by harnessing lung-resident innate-like T cells as cellular adjuvants.

Following her PhD she joined the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research as a Postdoctoral Fellow for the Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (VAANZ) – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo, where she designed and conducted immunogenicity testing on a range of vaccine candidates for COVID-19. In 2022, she became the inaugural recipient of Te Urungi Fellowship that has enabled her to incorporate aspects of Te Ao Māori (The Māori world) into both her research journey as well as her personal journey as Māori.

Te Urungi Fellowship has also provided her with the opportunity to gain international expertise in vaccine immunology, where she is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Linterman Laboratory researching germinal centre responses to mRNA vaccination, and how human secondary lymphoid tissues change across the lifespan.