Professor Maree Teesson

Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS) based at NDARC
June 2015
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drug sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... get to spend some quality time with my gorgeous family, read a book, watch my two fabulous girls play football, manage a football team, go for a run with my dog, hopefully do some gardening, go to a party and work on a grant.

I wish I’d never... let my daughters talk me into going on the dragon challenge ride at Harry Potter world. 

I’d originally planned to work... probably in the local shop on the NSW central coast. I know I didn’t have any idea about going to university. I was the first member of my large supportive extended family to go to university. I was very fortunate at high school to have a bright supportive peer group and we really worked together and supported each other to work hard and aim high. Maybe that’s why I love prevention research with adolescents? Why psychology? When I was quite young I asked a medical specialist I had seen “If you had your time over what would you do?” he said psychology and that set me off on the path. I was lucky.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... innovation, creativity, passion, attention to detail and a determination to answer some of life’s most complex questions. It takes a lot of determination to devote your life to research. Every day I count myself very lucky to work with exceptional people who use their skills to make a difference to people’s lives.

I’ll never forget... my colleagues, particularly Kath Mills, Cath Chapman, Frances Kay Lambkin, Nickie Newton, Tim Slade, nominating me for a Eureka Prize for outstanding mentor of young researchers. They did it in secret. We all turned up to the “Oscars of Australian Science” together and waited nervously for the winners to be announced. They were all there with me to share the excitement. To be honest I felt like I had already won regardless of the outcome, that nomination was very special to me. A definite career highlight.

If I had more time, I’d... cook more recipes from my current favourite cook books…and have my friends over to share the meals.

I’m most scared of... not having enough time to do all the new projects I’d like to do.

For my next holiday... we are off to Paris to celebrate a significant birthday… followed by a couple of weeks back home sitting on the beach at Hawk’s Nest on the NSW coast.  

I can’t get enough of... finding new places to eat. And chocolate!

I’m really terrible at... playing Mario Kart, I always come last. 

Career wise, I’m most proud of... all the fantastic researchers, PhD students and academics I have had the pleasure to mentor. The international and national collaborations that have led to new treatments, new prevention interventions and new epidemiological understanding of the problems.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... more compassion and understanding and exciting new treatments and responses. Harnessing the energy and creativity in today’s researchers, clinician’s and people with lived experience to make as big an impact as possible on tomorrow’s problems.

The sector’s biggest challenge going forward is... the drug and alcohol sector is creative and nimble and exciting, the challenge is to harness this and let the rest of the world know what is possible. Then hopefully we will have the investment needed in the sector.

Professor Maree Teesson

Professor Maree Teesson is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, and Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use. She is a ministerial appointed member of the NHMRC Health Care Committee and Professorial Fellow at the Black Dog Institute, UNSW, and was recently awarded the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. 

Maree has made a major contribution to Australia’s health and medical research effort in the field of mental health and substance use. In particular, she is known nationally and internationally for her research on the comorbidity between mental health and substance use disorders. She was elected as inaugural fellow of the Australian Academy of Health Sciences in 2015.