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Dr Rebecca Vanders

What are your research interests?

  • Pregnancy and the maternal immune system
  • Respiratory viral infections during pregnancy
  • Asthma during pregnancy
  • Conditions related to women's health and infertility including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and preeclampsia

Why did you get into research?

My research is a passion fueled by my desire to help others live a healthy and fulfilling life. Being the mother of a beautiful baby boy, I understand the importance of having a healthy and successful pregnancy. There are numerous factors that are involved in the conception and development of a healthy pregnancy and my research focuses on helping women in these areas.

During my PhD I had the pleasure of working alongside and being mentored by several highly talented, intelligent and independent women in research. As I continue now as a post-doctoral researcher, I too want to be a dedicated woman in research who achieves and contributes greatly to the scientific community. Furthermore, I want my research to directly improve the quality of life for other women. 

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

To date my research has focused on improving health for pregnant women and I plan to continue this research throughout my post-doctoral career. In addition, I aim to broaden my research area by focusing my research in the area of women’s health, in particular issues relating to pregnancy complications infertility (e.g. endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome). 

The vision that I have is to improve the health outcomes for women and their children. I would love for my research to improve not only the success rate of pregnancy for many women but also to improve the quality of life for their children. 


Dr Vander's research has shown that important alterations occur in antiviral activity and key antiviral cells in pregnancy. However, intervention strategies can be used which improves maternal immunity.

She aims to help women experiencing conditions such as asthma, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and various complications during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and viral infection. In addition she also focuses on women’s health and ways in which the immune system is involved in helping or hindering a women’s fertility. 

Dr Vanders began her career at the University of Newcastle as a highly sought-after PhD candidate, with an APA scholarship and the prestigious Vice Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence. She already has a number of first author publications, and has presented her work at local, national and international conferences, including an oral presentation at the American Thoracic Society conference. She has been the recipient of many awards, both as a student, and more recently for both her publications and her conference presentations.

Her first publication, in the high ranking international respiratory journal Thorax, prompted an editorial on the link between asthma and pregnancy and abnormal anti-viral activity, and won her an award from the University for best publication by an RHD student. Another publication, in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, led to an interview and article with “Respiratory Update”, an online service for medical specialists. A third publication won her the Fukuchi Award for best original paper published in Respirology

Dr Vanders has recently been successfully awarded two fellowships, including the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Astra Zeneca Early Career Research Fellowship, and more recently a highly competitive NHMRC Early Career Fellowship. She has also been awarded several small grants from the University of Newcastle for her postdoctoral studies.

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • PCR
  • Western blot
  • Microscopy (including fluorescence)
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Multicolour flow cytometry
  • Primary nasal cell isolation
  • Primary cell culture at the air liquid interface
  • Clinical trials research
  • Plasmid development
  • Viral propagation, 


  • Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases
  • University of New England Golden Key
  • Society of Reproductive Biology 
  • Australian Society Medical Research
  • American Thoracic Society 
  • University of Newcastle, Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases
  • University of New England Golden Key
  • Society of Reproductive Biology 
  • Australian Society Medical Research
  • American Thoracic Society