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Personal profile



Dr. Emma van der Westhuizen is an early-mid career research fellow within the Structural and Analytical Neuropharmacology Laboratory at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She received her BSc (Hons) degree from the University of Melbourne (Australia) and her PhD from Monash University (Australia). She has completed post-doctoral research at the University of Montreal (Canada) and at Monash University (Australia), as an independently funded post-doctoral scholar (NHMRC, Australia; CIHR, Canada; FRSQ, Canada).



Emma is a molecular pharmacologist, striving to understand the mechanism of drug action at a class of cell surface receptors termed, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs); with particular interests in ligand-biased signalling and biased allosteric modulation. Emma has a keen interest in designing novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. She collaborates with medicinal chemists, structural biologists and mouse behaviourists to design and test novel chemical entities to improve drug pharmacological profiles and reduce adverse effects. Emma's research goal is to bridge the gap between research capabilities and clinical possibilities, by translating lead compounds from the developmental and experimental phases through to pre-clinical and clinical use.


Understanding the signalling capacity of class A GPCRs is the major focus of Emma's research. She works to systematically characterise ligands to create pharmacological signatures of compounds at GPCRs expressed in heterologous and endogenous cell systems, increasing knowledge about how ligands direct signalling within cells. Her current projects aim to create novel muscarinic acetylcholine receptor allosteric modulators, to improve the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease, and to improve the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.


Publishing Highlights:

Emma has 31 research publications (7 reviews; 24 original research articles; 3 webpages). Her research has been cited 1808 times. Emma has a h-index of 17 and field weighted-citation index (2010-2019) of 2.76.

Research interests

  • G protein-coupled receptors
  • monoamine receptor chemical biology
  • acetylcholine receptor chemical biology
  • Rational drug design
  • Agonist-directed signalling bias
  • Cell signal transduction
  • Allosteric modulation
  • Neurodevelopmental and Neurodegenerative disease

Supervision interests

Supervisor for 3rd year research placement as part of the Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences degree

Supervisor for Honours degree in Pharmaceutical Science

Supervisor for the Enhanced doctoral training program

Monash teaching commitment

External positions

Post-doctoral research fellow, Université de Montréal (University of Montreal)

Nov 2008Nov 2013

Research Assistant, Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research

Mar 2000Apr 2001


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