About the Institute | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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About the Institute

USC's Thompson Institute is a world-class hub for research, teaching and clinical services for Australia's most pressing mental health issues.

Our work is focused around four central themes:

  1. Clinical services provision

  2. Advocacy for patients and their carers

  3. Conducting ground breaking translational Research

  4. Education and teaching

This integrated CARE model - the first of its kind in Australia - puts us at the forefront of research for some of Australia's most pressing mental health issues, including dementia, suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder and youth mental health.

The Thompson Institute is named after local philanthropists Roy and Nola Thompson, who donated A$7 million to building the project in 2015, followed by a further A$3.6 million for MRI imaging equipment.

In 2017, the Australian Government allocated $5 million to help the Thompson Institute create clinical treatment programs to improve youth mental health and support suicide prevention.

Our Director, Professor Jim Lagopoulos, has been involved with neuroimaging research for more than 20 years.

Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute


The Thompson Institute Board was formed in 2017 and replaced the QMNI Foundation Board. Board members are:

Professor Maxwell Bennett AO (Chair)

Prof Maxwell Bennett AO is Professor of Neuroscience and holds the first University Chair for ‘research recognised internationally to be of exceptional distinction’ He graduated in Electrical Engineering and did his doctoral research in Zoology at Melbourne University. He then turned to the brain sciences and was appointed to the second Personal Chair at Sydney University, after Lord May, at which time he was awarded the largest personal Centre of Research Excellence by the Australian Government. His over 300 papers are concerned with research on synaptic connections between nerve cells in the brain. This research led to the discovery that novel transmitters exist at synapses, the first to be identified in fifty years, for which he received the major award in biology and medicine in Australia, the Macfarlane Burnet Medal of the Academy of Sciences. His subsequent discovery that molecules exist at synapses which guide their reformation after nerve injury was recognised by an invitation to give the opening Plenary Lecture to the World Congress of Neuroscience in 1996. Bennett's research then showed that there are silent synapses, in which nerve terminals are physically present but do not release transmitters. This has had important implications for changes in the brain responsible for learning and memory and was followed by appointment in 2000 as an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).

Professor Bennett has written seven books concerned with the history and philosophy of the brain and mind, of which the most recent are, with his colleague Peter Hacker, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, Neuroscience and Philosophy and History of Cognitive Neuroscience. These have created much interest as indicated, for example, by a recent invitation to give a talk on this subject at the United Nations in New York on the date of 9/11. Amongst the organisations he has initiated to promote science and brain research are the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, the main lobby group for science in Australia, the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience, as well as Brain and Mind Research Asia/Pacific. Professor Bennett founded the Brain and Mind Research Institute seven years ago, and with the raising of over $80 million and four juxtaposed buildings, now has seventeen research professors concerned with the amelioration of diseases of the brain and mind.

Chancellor Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Ret'd)

Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Ret’d) has served as Chancellor of the University of the Sunshine Coast since 2017. He was awarded the Knight of the Order of Australia in 2015 for extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit in service to Australia, through distinguished service in the Australian Defence Force and continued commitment to serving the nation in leadership roles. View Sir Angus's full profile.

Professor Helen Bartlett

Professor Helen Bartlett is the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the Sunshine Coast. She brings extensive international experience, having held various leadership roles across Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Professor Bartlett is a research specialist in health and aged care. View her full profile.

Professor Jim Lagopoulos

Professor Jim Lagopoulos is director of the Thompson Institute and has been involved in neuroimaging for more than 20 years, attaining significant expertise in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Jim's research has gained him an international profile and he has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles in some of the highest-ranking international journals. View Jim's full profile.

Roy Thompson AC

Roy Thompson AC and two others founded the Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue in 1977. Roy sat on the Board for more than 35 years and was a significant contributor throughout this period, up until a merge with Careflight in 2013.

Roy and his wife, Nola, began providing philanthropic support for the University of the Sunshine Coast with a major gift in 2011. They have provided further major gifts to USC and scholarships for our students annually since. Having built successful hospitality and property development businesses in the Sunshine Coast, the Thompson’s wish is to leave a legacy in this region. The Thompson’s have become champions of the vital importance of universities in creating opportunities for people and driving change in communities. With a drive to give back to their community they have chosen to partner with USC to achieve the biggest impact they can possibly achieve.

Roy and Nola’s generous support of the Thompson Institute of over $10m has provided the building where TI is based and the MRI, enabling the establishment of the SCMN-TI and the Nola Thompson Centre for Imaging.

In June 2017 Roy and Nola Thompson were named the Queensland Higher Education philanthropists of 2017 at the Queensland Community Foundation’s philanthropy awards in Brisbane. On Australia Day 2018, Roy was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to the community. In April 2018, Roy and Nola were awarded with USC honorary doctorates for their generosity and contributions supporting the University.

Jenny Morawska

Jenny Morawska (BA Macq., DipEd UTS, GDip Sc ANU, MSc ANU, MBA Sunshine Coast) is a member of the USC University Council and president and CEO of The Morawska Group. Jenny has extensive experience in executive leadership and management, gained in executive roles in large, complex domestic and international organisations, in multiple industries, and in both private and public sectors. View Jenny's full profile.

Natasha Read

Natasha Read (MBA, B. Comm, GAICD, FAIM) has been involved in the management of organisations and people since 1989. Originally undertaking an undergraduate degree in Commerce majoring in Marketing and Human Resource Management, she has pursued a focus on organisational structure and success. With a successful career in Human Resource Management, she has broadened her career to include strategic and operational management. Seeking to consolidate this experience, she completed a Master of Business Administration and gained commercial expertise in retail property management.

Participating in a range of not-for-profit and volunteer activities both nationally and internationally and active membership in professional associations has enabled her to take a very-open minded and lateral approach to the field of management. With over 17 year’s commercial experience, she has established a reputation for a pro-active and committed approach to the management of individuals, teams and organisations. Natasha holds multiple board positions on the Sunshine Coast.

Kevin Hegarty OAM

Kevin Hegarty OAM has had a long career in executive leadership positions in health. He was a Chief Executive in the Queensland public health sector for 17 years, almost 14 of which was as Chief Executive of the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service and its organisational predecessors. He had the unique experience of being the Chief Executive at the time the government announced the decision to build the Sunshine Coast University Hospital in 2005, through to its successful opening in 2017. He relinquished the Chief Executive position in June 2017.

Kevin is committed to using his considerable leadership experience to support the continued advancement of the health sector on the Sunshine Coast and wider region. He is an independent consultant providing services including: organisational governance, design, strategic direction and performance, assurance and risk management, leadership mentoring and executive coaching.

He is also Board Member of Building Queensland and Powerlink Queensland.

For three years until October 2020, he was Associate Professor of Health Management within the Office of the USC Vice Chancellor and President. He maintains his long-term close relationship with USC through an Adjunct Associate Professor appointment with the Thompson Institute and as a Board Director and Company Secretary.

In the 2019 Australia Day Honours List, Kevin was awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his service to public health administration.