Dr Michael Piper is a QBI group leader specialising in neural stem cell differentiation.

He graduated from The University of Tasmania with a degree in 1996, and then moved to The University of Queensland, working on his PhD in the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying embryonic kidney development at QBI’s neighbour the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

After receiving his PhD in 2003, he moved to The University of Cambridge, UK, studying how axonal growth cones navigate to their targets in the brain.

The discoveries he made led to an understanding of the mechanisms underlying axonal guidance at the level of the growth cone, and how navigating growth cones are able to reach specific targets within the developing nervous system.

“The brain is perhaps the most complex organ in the body, and malformations to the development of the brain during embryogenesis have severe outcomes that can have lifelong implications,” Dr Piper said.

Dr Piper left The University of Cambridge to take on a role at QBI in 2006, which then led to an ongoing joint position with QBI and the School of Biomedical Sciences in 2010.

He currently holds an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, and uses the cortex of developing and adult mice to understand the biology of neural stem cells within the brain.

His work is centred on how neural stem cells in the developing brain are instructed to differentiate into neurons and glia along the correct developmental trajectory, providing insights into how developmental disorders arise.

“We are also investigating how neural stem cell behaviour in the adult brain is regulated, work which will contribute to our understanding of normal brain function, and to disorders of the brain such as glioma,” he said.

“We are also applying our findings to different areas of the brain, including the cerebellum, and to different disorders, including schizophrenia and medulloblastoma.”

In the future Dr Piper is looking forward to utilising QBI’s next generation sequencing and emerging microscopy platforms, to further dissect the biology of developing and adult neural stem cells.

“QBI provides an ideal environment to perform world-class research that can have a meaningful impact on society as a whole.”