Dr. Leask's scientific career started out with her PhD thesis research (2010-2014) in honeybees asking the biological question how does environment impact the phenotype of an organism via molecular mechanisms. She was fortunate to be offered a postdoctoral position based in the laboratory of Prof Julia Horsfield (Pathology Department, UoO) developing a bioinformatics and molecular pipeline that assigns regulatory function to non-coding variants. This research was the beginning of a successful collaborative research relationship between Julia Horsfield, Tony Merriman (Department of Biochemistry, UoO) and Megan and in 2018 she began working as a post-doctoral fellow (supported by a Lottery Health post-doctoral fellowship) in the Merriman laboratory gaining knowledge and training with regards to complex disease and association studies. At the end of 2018 she was successful in applying for an HRC Maori Career Development Award which focussed on identifying Māori and Pacific missense variants and in 2020 she gained an HRC Emerging Research First Grant looking to assign function to regulatory loci that are linked to these Māori and Pacific missense variants. She is currently based at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where she continues to work with Polynesian genetics.
Dr. Leask's research projects aim to assign function to genetic variants that are associated with health and disease using bioinformatics, zebrafish and cell assays. She also works with Māori and Pacific genetic data to identify clinically-relevant genetic variants that are unique to Māori and Pacific people. The long-term outcomes of this work has the potential to reduce health disparities and improve genetic equity in these population groups.