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School of Medical and Health Sciences

The following list provides information on projects currently open to new research students. For more information on each project please contact the nominated supervisor within the project description.

This page will be updated as opportunities become available so please check back regularly.

Nutrition and Dietetics

Project Outline:

Microplastics have been detected in seafood, water, soil and other food items around the globe, but there is little literature available surrounding quantification of human consumption in the context of usual diets.  
The PhD scholar will determine the quantity and type of microplastics present in the food supply, firstly by examining how much we are excreting and relating this to dietary intake. The project involves developing laboratory methods to separate and quantify microplastic particles from the complex biological matrix comprising human faecal samples.
The laboratory methods for this project have potential to be expanded and tested for the determination of microplastics in foodstuffs on Australian supermarket shelves, providing world first risk assessment of microplastic contamination of the food supply

Desired skills: Background in Public Health, Environmental Health and/or Food Science. Laboratory skills desirable.

Project Area: Occupational and Environmental Health, Nutrition and Dietetics

Supervisor(s): Professor Amanda Devine, Dr Angela Genoni, A/Prof Mary Boyce, Prof Anas Ghadouani (UWA)

Project level:  Masters, PhD

Funding:  Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2021

Project Outline:

The embedding of behaviours at an early age is key for setting the scene for a healthy lifetime relationship with food, even when food offered is wholesome. We need to equip parents with the tools and confidence to respect their children’s cues and provide calm, connected meal times. This research aims to develop and evaluate group parenting interventions in a longitudinal cohort.

Desired Skills: Background in nutrition and dietetics, experience with families/children desirable.

Project Area: Nutrition and Dietetics

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Therese O'Sullivan

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020/2021

Project Outline:

The initial aim of the project is to identify the current trends of oral health status among Western Australian children aged 0-5 years and establish evidence of the awareness and implementation of positive oral health preventative practices by primary care-givers and the socioecological factors associated with these practices.

Young children presenting to Emergency Departments (ED) and subsequent hospital stays due to dental conditions are recorded as the highest cause of acute yet potentially preventable hospitalisations in Western Australia, despite the WA Governments focus on a strategic direction of prevention.

Although there is a National and West Australian commitment to strategies aiming to reduce the significant impact of poor dental health on people and communities, research data identified an increasing trend in both early childhood dental issues and the associated costs, although specific data regarding children aged 0 – 5 years is still lacking. The significance of the economic impact is evidenced through the high budgetary commitment allocated to childhood oral health interventions for children aged > 5 years, and although dental health data is available relating to children aged > 6 years, there is limited data that shows the trends and significance of younger childhood dental health. There is also limited data focusing on primary care-giver influence on early (pre 5-years) prevention beyond brushing. A link is established between the potential risk dietary intake has on oral health outcomes, particularly with sugar sweetened beverages. Low socioeconomic communities were at a higher risk of childhood dental health issues, though elevated incidence of dental issues were identified across all socio-economic sectors.

Poor oral health in young children is a growing concern with the potential future negative health impacting the individual as well as representing a significant cost burden on the WA state health budget. Limited data exits to support a clear preventative strategy regarding the influence and outcome potential of a care-giver driven strategy and implementation. Further investigation is warranted to establish early childhood (0-5-years) dietary habits on potential future dental health issues, the current state of early childhood presentations for emergency dental hospitalisations and the potential outcomes that a preventative strategy focused on the primary care giver has on early childhood oral health outcomes.

Desired Skills: Health promotion and/or nutrition

Project Area: Public Health/Health Promotion

Supervisor(s): Dr Ruth Wallace, Dr Lesley Andrew

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Overweight, obesity and mental health concerns are key health and developmental issues affecting children and their families, underpinned by sub-optimal nutrition, low physical activity levels, sedentary behaviours, and poor social and emotional development. Family Daycare (FDC) provides education/care for 12,350 WA children in unique home environments where optimal health can be promoted using a whole setting approach.

FDC Educators play a pivotal role supporting child health and wellbeing and are mandated to do so: “Healthy eating/physical activity are promoted and appropriate for each child” (ACECQA, 2018). Research demonstrates FDCE work in isolation (Goldsborough, 2016; Martynuik, 2016), and a recent FDC Association report reveals that many feel they lack support. An Australian study of FDC highlighted the disparity between nutrition knowledge and confidence to provide nutrition advice (Wallace & Mills, 2019), although the state of play regarding physical activity is not known.

FDC is valued by parents because of the flexibility this form of childcare provides for those who live and work in rural and remote areas, or who work irregular hours. Wallace and Mills (2018) identified FDCE as a pivotal source of support for Australian families, and although FDCE are not comfortable having sensitive conversations with parents about their children, others report that parents are more comfortable approaching their FDCE than any other healthcare professional they deal with, highlighting the opportunity to upskill FDCE for this valuable conversations.

A recent report by FDCA (n=1200+ FDCE), the key industry body, describes the demographics of the FDC workforce as entirely female, aged between 30-50 years, with the majority holding the minimum Certificate III qualification or diploma. Most FDCE have specifically chosen the industry for various reasons. Many have worked in a different ECEC setting previously, and prefer the more intimate nature of a FDC service compared to a centre-based service, whilst providing the opportunity to work at home and care for their own children. This report highlighted the need to recruit more FDCE as numbers are diminishing and there is a danger that families may not be able to tap into this valuable resource. Increasing levels of compliance to policy and increasing amounts of paperwork is adding to the burden of running a FDC service. FDCE work in isolation and are comparatively low-paid. They encounter difficulties such as a lack of leave and entitlements, a lack of recognition for their important work, a lack of support from their coordinator or service, and no support if they are sick or want to take leave. This may result in FDCE continuing to work whilst they are sick, or need a break, which could result in increased levels of stress and anxiety, and a myriad of associated health problems.

These factors may be forcing FDCE out of the industry or may be reflected in the quality of the care and education provided. FDCE already feel undervalued, and are often perceived as mere ‘babysitters’, and may result in a lack of perceived role adequacy and legitimacy. Again this may contribute to reduced physical and mental health, which is not conducive to providing a healthful environment in which young children can thrive. Although the FDCA report highlighted the barriers to becoming or remaining a FDCE, it did not present FDCE perceptions of their own physical and mental health, or the impact on the quality of the education/care provided.

The main goal of this project is to understand the health of the FDC environment, with the view of developing supporting strategies and/or resources. There are three stages:

  1. Gathering information and making connections
  2. Conducting an audit of the FDC environment
  3. Developing strategies/resources to support health and wellbeing in FDC

Desired Skills: Public health; health promotion; nutrition

Project Area: Public Health and Nutrition/Health Promotion

Supervisor(s): Dr Ruth Wallace; Dr Karen Lombardi; Dr Leesa Costello; Dr Lesley Andrew; Prof Amanda Devine; Ros Sambell

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:
The Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) environment offers a significant setting to influence the nutritional status of young children during critical periods of growth and development. However, recent research has indicated the nutritional quality of food provided in this setting is often sub-optimal. Inadequate food budgets may be an influence given the common misconception that healthy eating is expensive, and low food budgets are associated with poorer quality diets. The SNAC study provided qualitative data from a small number of ECEC services which suggested that food budgets varied widely in their dollar value and items included, staff lacked autonomy over food purchases and lacked confidence to request food budget increases (Wallace, 2016). However, there is a paucity of research literature about the adequacy of food budgets in the ECEC sector.

This Honours project would involve a qualitative study of enablers and barriers, in relation to food budget affecting food provision compliance of ECEC menus, and compare the cost between menus which comply with the core food recommendations according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines {2013), and those which do not comply. This will build on previous quantitative research which has costed menus from 30 ECEC services. This study will allow for a deeper understanding in relation to the food provision and food cost. This data would be used to inform a food literacy intervention that supports the provision of healthy food on a limited budget in the ECEC setting, and could inform rigorous food budget policies to support the provision of nutritious foods to children at ECEC.

Research Question:

  • To what extent do food budgets affect the nutritional quality of food provided at ECEC services in Perth, Western Australia?

Project Area: Public Health and Nutrition

Supervisor(s): Professor Amanda Devine; Ros Sambell; Dr Ruth Wallace

Project level: Honours, Masters by Coursework

Population Health

Project Outline:

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a physically demanding task. Research clearly shows that overall CPR quality decreases as a function of time due to rescuer fatigue. Understanding the factors that influence CPR performance over time is imperative, as startlingly only a minority of healthcare workers can adequately meet minimum basic life support guidelines of maintaining 100–120 compressions per minute to a depth of at least 5 cm.
As compression depth is a factor of the force produced whilst pushing down on the patient’s chest, rescuer’s weight may be responsible for an improved CPR performance. This research seeks to evaluate the effect of a simple, yet to-date unexplored, option that could be useful to improve CPR performance and reduce the impact of fatigue-related associated with CPR. This being the use of a simple weight-vest.

Research question:
What impact does the wearing of a weight vest have on rescuer CPR compression rate and depth?

Desired Skills: Exercise Science; Paramedicine; Nursing

Project Area: Exercise Science; Paramedicine

Supervisor(s): Dr Brennen Mills, Dr Favil Singh

Project level: Masters

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020

Project Outline:

Novel Subjective Measure: We recently developed an internationally validated tool to measure a subclinical, reversible stage of pre-chronic health that we coined the 'Suboptimal Health Status' (SHS), which is a physical state between health and disease characterised by 1) the perception of health complaints, general weakness, chronic fatigue, and low energy levels during the past 3 months; and 2) as a subclinical, reversible stage of chronic disease.
Novel Objective Measures: Complex and branching carbohydrate moieties that attach to proteins (referred to as glycans) are potentially novel markers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, where N-glycosylation is the most common post-translational protein modification contributing to the heterogeneity of protein action, which is advantageous for adapting to a changing environment.
Thus, a combination of N-glycome and SHS measures, taking into consideration the structure, function and role of the glycans, is proposed in this project where we hypothesise that N-glycome profiles, dysregulated in the presence of even mild subclinical disorders and in combination with subjective SHS measures, may be real-time indicators for the interaction between predisposition and the environment, and serve as important early screening tools for chronic diseases.

Desired Skills: Basic Knowledge in Biology or Epidemiology

Project Area: Public Health; Epidemiology; Biology

Supervisor(s): Professor Wei Wang

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020

Project Outline:

The glycome is the entire complement of sugars, whether free or present in more complex molecules, of an organism. An alternative definition is the entirety of carbohydrates in a cell. The glycome may in fact be one of the most complex entities in nature.

Glycosylation, the covalent attachment of sugar moieties (glycans) to proteins, is a significant process in the endoplasmic reticulum and theGolgi apparatus. More than 50% of all proteins within the cell undergo such modification. When bound to proteins, they affect their structure, function, stability, folding, half-life, trafficking, solubility, and their interactions with other proteins.

Glycans vary in terms of glycosylic linkages, position of the hydroxyl group on the anomeric carbon, the number and type of constituent monosaccharides and the degree of branching. Subsequently, their attachment to protein increases the complexity of the proteome.

Based on how glycans are bound to proteins, glycosylation can be classified into
(1) N-glycans,
(2) O-glycans,
(3) C-linked,
(4) glypiation, and
(5) phosphoglycosylation.

The HGP is a consortium of research groups with expertise in glycomics that share a common goal of aiming to understand glycan structures and functions in humans. Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States joined the HGP that will support the analysis of glycans in 30,000 human samples by the end of 2021.  ECU team joined the HGP as one of the funding members by contributing the personalised medicine perspective via population-based study of variability of the human IgG glycome.

Desired Skills: Qualitative and quantitative statistical analyses
Basic knowledge on Genetics and Epigenetics.

Project Area: Glycosylation;  Immunity , Omics

Supervisor(s): Professor Wei Wang, Dr Lois Balmer and Dr Alyce Russell

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: March 2020

Project Outline:

We have many ideas for research projects investigating Clostridium difficile, an antibiotic resistant superbug which causes both healthcare-associated and community-associated infections. Our One Health-focussed group consists of microbiologists, epidemiologists, doctors, nurses and veterinarians.

We are investigating several aspects of C. difficile including:

  • Epidemiology of C. difficile infection
  • C. difficile in wild and production animals
  • Environmental sources of C. difficile
  • Genotypic and evolutionary aspects of C. difficile

Desired Skills: Background in microbiology, public health, biomedical science or related subjects.

Project Area: Microbiology, Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Supervisor(s): Prof Tom Riley, Dr Deirdre Collins

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

This project builds on a recently completed PhD that investigated the university experiences of women nurse students in an intimate relationship (married or de facto). This study identified the structural and personal challenges these women experienced during their time at university. The study highlighted the importance of gender as a key influence on their progress. It also revealed the extent to which being a female nurse student impacted on the intimate relationship itself.

As these influences are likely to continue through the transition to the workplace on graduation, this study proposes to explore the early career experiences of recent female nurse graduates who are in a heterosexual intimate relationship. Using a qualitative interpretive approach, it will ask how being in an intimate relationship influences the career progression of women graduates. It will also investigate the impact of this career on the intimate relationship itself.

The rising proportion of mature-age women entering the nursing profession and the projected nursing workforce shortage supports the significance of this study.

Desired Skills: Qualitative research skills, interviewing skills

Project Area: Public Health, Gender, Nursing

Supervisor(s): Dr Leesa Costello, Dr Ken Robinson, Dr Julie Dare, Dr Lesley Andrew

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Semester 2, 2020

Project Outline:

A global rise in life expectancy comes with an increased burden of serious life-long health issues and the need for useful real-time indicators of the ageing process. We propose to investigate the value of biochemical profiles of lgG N-glycosylation in blood as clinically relevant biomarkers to differentiate healthy from accelerated ageing over a 25-year period in the well-characterised existing Australian cohort of the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study (B HAS). Most human biological processes rely on N-glycosylation of proteins to regulate their function, but these events appear sensitive to environmental changes, age and the presence of disease. Specifically, variations in N-glycosylation of lgG can adversely affect inflammatory pathways underpinning unhealthy ageing and chronic disease pathogenesis. We have previously shown in several European and Chinese population cohorts that lgG N-glycan profiles can serve as dynamic indicators of ageing, able to discriminate between normal and accelerated ageing by highlighting a discrepancy between a body's age in years of life (chronological age) and its age in terms of health status (biological age). We have also revealed that selective combinations of lgG N-glycan structures associate with biological hallmarks of pre-chronic disease states when biological age precedes chronological age, and we have verified the validity of these lgG N-glycan combinations as predictive risk profiles of unhealthy biological ageing in these international cohorts. This study will now address the usefulness of lgG N-glycan profiles as real-time indicators of ageing among Australians by (i) studying lgG N-glycosylation retro- and prospectively in BHAS, (ii) capturing the influences of genetics, environment and time on lgG N-glycosylation in BHAS, and (ii) validating newly discovered lgG N-glycan risk profiles by comparing them to available findings from African, Chinese and European cohorts previously established for a similar   purpose.

Research Questions:

lgG N- glycan profiles present as real-time indicators of the interaction between genetic predisposition and the environment. lgG N- glycans serve as predictive biomarkers when health is evaluated in the context of age, based on the proposition that specific lgG N-glycans:

  1. Identify variations in responses to maturation, ageing, and environment across the life course at a population level
  2. Facilitate early risk prediction of chronic disease development
  3. Serve as prognostic indicators for the benefit of targeted preventative and disease treatment interventions.

Project Area: Medical Science

Supervisor:  Professor Wei Wang

Project level:

Cardiometabolic Health

Project Outline:

Evidence is emerging that cruciferous and allium vegetables may exert superior vascular and metabolic health benefits in comparison to others. These vegetables contain specific nutrients and other bioactive compounds that are found almost exclusively, or at relatively high levels, and could be particularly beneficial for vascular and metabolic health. However, little is known regarding how these vegetables effect vascular and metabolic health.

This research project will delve into understanding the vascular and metabolic health benefits of organosulfur compounds found in cruciferous and allium vegetables in human studies.

Desired Skills: Understanding of nutritional biochemistry.
Ability to work as a team or independently, and manage time across multiple demands whilst maintaining a high level of accuracy and productivity.

Project Area: Nutrition

Supervisor(s): Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst, Professor Jonathan Hodgson, Dr Ari Shafaei Darestani

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship, School Scholarship Available

Start date: Semester 2, 2020

Project Outline:

Evidence is emerging that cruciferous and allium vegetables may exert superior vascular and metabolic health benefits in comparison to others. These vegetables contain specific nutrients and other bioactive compounds that are found almost exclusively, or at relatively high levels, and could be particularly beneficial for vascular and metabolic health. However, little is known regarding the mechanisms involved.
This research project will delve into understanding the mechanisms of particular organosulfur compounds found in cruciferous and allium vegetables in animal models.

Desired Skills: Sound experience in working with animal models.
Understanding of nutritional biochemistry.
Ability to work as a team or independently, and manage time across multiple demands whilst maintaining a high level of accuracy and productivity.

Project Area: Nutrition

Supervisor(s): Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst, Professor Jonathan Hodgson, Dr Natalie Ward (Curtin), Dr Vance Matthews (UWA)

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship, School Scholarship Available

Start date: Semester 2, 2020

Project Outline:

Evidence is emerging that cruciferous and allium vegetables may exert superior vascular and metabolic health benefits in comparison to others. A particular set of compounds called organosulfur compounds, are found almost exclusively, or at relatively high levels, in these vegetables, and could be particularly beneficial for vascular and metabolic health. However, to date, no studies that have systematically reviewed the literature.

This research project will involve systematically compiling literature on the vascular and metabolic health benefits of organosulfur compounds found in cruciferous and allium vegetables from animal and human studies.

Desired Skills: Understanding of nutritional biochemistry. Ability to work as a team or independently, and manage time across multiple demands whilst maintaining a high level of accuracy and productivity.

Project Area: Nutrition

Supervisor(s): Dr Lauren Blekkenhorst, Professor Jonathan Hodgson

Project level: Masters

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Semester 2, 2020

Cancer and Oncology

Project Outline:

This project will investigate the value of autoantibodies as biomarkers of immunotherapy induced immune related side effects. High-throughput protein microarray data will be analysed and in-house bead-based immunoassays will be developed. This study will also include patient recruitment, histology-based experiments and some cell culture experiments with focus on B cells. Additionally, the project will enable the PhD candidate to apply other multidisciplinary research approaches to ascertain the impact of treatment induced immune related side effects on the quality of life and cognition of melanoma patients.

Desired Skills: Experience in

  • patient recruitment
  • statistical analysis of large datasets
  • cell culture/ immunohistochemistry
  • immunoassay development

Project Area: Oncology/Immunology

Supervisor(s): Dr Pauline Zaenker

Project level: PhD

Funding: VC Research Fellow PhD Scholarship available

Start date: January 2021

Project Outline:

In this project aims to investigate the value of autoantibodies as diagnostic and prognostic melanoma biomarkers. High-throughput protein microarray data will be analysed and in-housed bead-based immunoassays are developed. This project may also include histology-based experiments and patient recruitment.

Desired Skills: Experience in immunoassay development and statistical analysis of large datasets.

Project Area: Oncology/Immunology

Supervisor(s): Dr Pauline Zaenker

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship, VC Research Fellow PhD Scholarship may be available

Start date: 2020/2021

Project Outline:

Uveal melanoma (UM) is the second most common subtype of melanoma. Distant metastasis develops in the liver in up to 95% of cases. Once metastatic disease has been detected, 80% of patients die within 1 year, and 92% die within 2 years. Metastatic UM lacks effective treatments. Immune checkpoint blockade provides benefits to patients with cutaneous melanoma and other types of cancer, but not to UM.


The mechanisms for the development of metastases in the liver remain unclear. We hypothesise that specific cell programs drive tumour cells to metastasise to the liver which can be targeted for therapeutic intervention.


Using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of UM tumours, we have identified potential communication networks between cancer cells and other cells within the tumour microenvironment.


The project aims to validate these cell-to-cell communication networks using in vitro and in vivo models. The study will involve the generation of CRISPR knockout cell lines, using mouse model to mimic the metastatic process and testing of drugs to block key signalling pathways and  
Exceptional graduate students with a strong academic track record in a biomedical cell biology and genetics Biochemistry, Cancer Biology or a related discipline are encouraged to apply.

Desired Skills: Previous experience on genetics, molecular biology, cell culture, animal models will be desirable.
Good writing and critical thinking skills are required.

Project Area: Cancer Research

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Elin Gray , Dr Weitao Lin

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020/2021

Project Outline:

Agents to hinder MAPK activity have shown to be effective in controlling melanoma. However, resistance arise within a year in most patients. Discovery of drug combinations that can prevent cellular adaptations that potentiate treatment resistance are critically need.
This project aims to use high content screening to evaluate synergistic drug combinations to control melanoma proliferation and survival. The project will also involve scrutinizing the cellular and molecular mechanisms that mediate this synergism.

Desired Skills: Previous experience on genetics, molecular biology, cell culture, animal models will be desirable.
Good writing and critical thinking skills are required.

Project Area: Cancer Research

Supervisor(s): Dr Weitao Lin and A/Prof Elin Gray

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020/2021

Project Outline:

Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) carries the genetic footprint of existing tumours in the body and is a potential biomarker for monitoring patients during clinical course. However, ctDNA is often present in small concentration in the blood and thus, improvement in methods for the analysis of this blood-based biomarkers must be prioritised to fully realise its biomarker potential.  This study aims to leverage cutting-edge sequncing technologies and novel bioinformatics pipeline to improve ctDNA analysis. Such methods will then be utilised for early detection of disease relapse in melanoma patients.

Desired Skills: Previous experience on genetics and molecular biology will be required. Bioinformatics skills or using R will be helpful.

Project Area: Cancer Research

Supervisor(s): Dr Leslie Calapre and A/Prof Elin Gray

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020/2021

Neuroscience and Neurorehabilitation

Project Outline:

During eccentric and concentric contractions the muscles require different neural control of the movement. For example, eccentric exercise has previously been shown to have a greater effect on acute changes in brain excitability than concentric exercise (*Latella et al. 2019). This project seeks to expand on  previous work by Latella et al. (2019) to investigate what happens in the non-exercised limb. This research is important because these responses may contribute to cross-education (the process whereby the opposite arm or leg gets stronger following repeated unilateral arm or leg training). This means that exercise of the “good” arm or leg may be helpful in maintaining muscle strength during limb immobilisation, or improving strength in the affected limb after stroke. The mechanisms by which unilateral training improves strength in the other limb are not fully understood, but changes in both hemispheres of the brain following exercise are thought to be responsible. This research will provide a greater understanding of the neural contribution underlying the cross education effect.

Desired Skills: Preferably some knowledge and experience in the field of neurophysiology, brain stimulation and exercise.

Project Area: Neurophysiology, exercise

Supervisor(s): Dr. Onno van der Groen, Dr. Chris Latella, Prof. Dylan Edwards, Prof. Ken Nosaka

Project level: Masters

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: June 2020

Project Outline:

All human movement occurs through muscle contractions that are controlled by motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. These cells are controlled by signals from the motor parts of the brain.  Magnetic brain stimulation and electrical stimulation of nerves can help us understand how the brain and spinal cord control movements to perform tasks under different conditions in health and disease.

Projects can be developed in areas such as

  • Maximal muscle performance: understanding how the nervous system drives the muscles and adapts with strength training
  • Central fatigue:  understanding how the nervous system contributes to muscle fatigue and impacts performance
  • Plasticity in the nervous system: using interventions to alter the nervous system

Desired Skills: Interest in control of human movement, exercise, neurophysiology or motor impairment. Project will require hands-on studies with human volunteers.

Project Area: Control of human movement

Supervisor(s): Professor Janet Taylor

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

General guide with specifics of project to be determined further:

To explore ways of enhancing rehabilitation services and quality of life for Aboriginal Australians after acquired brain injury.

To explore contexts of care along the rehabilitation journey from acute through to community; client-health professional interactions and relationships; health-professional decision-making and models of care.

Supervisors are able to manage projects using a range of research perspectives and methodologies.

Project Area: Communication Disorders Research Group
Speech Pathology and Allied Health

Supervisor(s): Professor Elizabeth Armstrong, A/Prof Deborah Hersh, A/Prof Erin Godecke, A/Prof Natalie Ciccone

Project level: Masters, PhD

Start date: 2020

Project Outline:

General guide with specifics of project to be determined further:

To explore effective, timely rehabilitation options for people with communication disorders following acquired brain injury (for example stroke, traumatic brain injury); intervention efficacy, dosage, treatment fidelity, factors influencing outcomes and treatment implementation.

To explore contexts of care along the rehabilitation journey from acute through to community; client-health professional interactions and relationships; health-professional decision-making and models of care.

Supervisors are able to manage projects using a range of research perspectives and methodologies.

Project Area: Communication Disorders Research Group
Speech Pathology and Allied Health

Supervisor(s): Professor Elizabeth Armstrong, A/Prof Deborah Hersh, A/Prof Erin Godecke, A/Prof Natalie Ciccone

Project level: Masters, PhD

Start date: 2020

Project Outline:

These projects will help to  identify the  prevention and diagnostic methods for the Alzheimer’s disease. These projects will use invitro and invivo methods to identify the suitable therapeutic agent. Large number of assays  will be utilized.

Project Area: Alzheimer’s Disease

Supervisor(s): Dr Binosha Fernando, Professor Ralph Martins

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

During fatiguing exercise, accumulation of metabolites in the muscle activates sensory nerve fibres that result in sensations of muscle pain and fatigue. Feedback from a fatigued muscle impairs motor performance which uses the fatigued muscle. That is, it contributes to central fatigue. Feedback from a fatigued muscle can also impair performance with other non-fatigued muscles of the same limb. Some aspects of how fatigue-related sensory feedback affects non-fatigued muscles remain in question. Studies in human participants will assess neuromuscular function with and without fatigue-related feedback.

Research questions

  1. Is performance of a non-fatigued muscle reduced more by the combined feedback from two fatigued muscles than by feedback from one fatigued muscle?
  2. Does feedback from a fatigued muscle increase the effort required to perform a task with a non-fatigued muscle?
  3. Do the effects of fatigue-related feedback on performance continue after the end of exercise?
  4. Can fatigue-related feedback impair performance when fatigue is produced by electrical muscle stimulation?

Desired Skills: This project will suit students with an interest in exercise and neuromuscular fatigue. It will require hands-on studies in human participants.

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science

Supervisor(s): Professor Janet Taylor

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Human movement occurs through muscle contractions that are controlled by motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. These cells, which are called motoneurones, are primarily controlled by signals from the motor parts of the brain. In some conditions, such as spinal cord injury and stroke, muscle weakness occurs because signals from the brain to the spinal cord are reduced. One way to improve muscle strength may be to amplify the descending signals by increasing the strength of connections in the spinal cord. It has been proposed that exposure to brief periods of low oxygen may help strengthen connections in the spinal cord, and hence improve motor performance in people with incomplete spinal cord injury or stroke. This process is not well understood in humans. Thus, studies will assess the effects of exposure to brief periods of low oxygen with neurophysiological testing in humans.

Research questions

  1. Does a brief period of low oxygen result in release of serotonin onto motoneurones in the spinal cord in able-bodied people?
  2. Does a brief period of low oxygen result in release of serotonin onto motoneurones in the spinal cord of people with incomplete spinal cord injury?
  3. Does one session of brief periods of low oxygen alter muscle responses evoked by stimulation of the brain and nerves, and/or alter voluntary motor output in able-bodied people?

Desired Skills: This project will suit students with an interest in motor control and neurophysiology. It will require hands-on studies in human participants.

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science

Supervisor(s): Professor Janet Taylor

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

All human movement occurs through muscle contractions that are controlled by motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. These cells, which are called motoneurones, are primarily controlled by signals from the motor parts of the brain. However, signals from the brainstem are thought to be able to modulate the responses of the spinal motoneurones and enhance their activity. This involves the release of neuromodulators, serotonin and noradrenaline, to affect the motoneurones in the spinal cord. Although these neuromodulators may be critical for human motor performance, when, where and how they are released is poorly understood. Studies in humans will assess aspects of neuromuscular performance to determine whether voluntary contractions or mental stress increase neuromodulator release and enhance motoneurone activity.

Research questions

  1. Does voluntary contraction enhance motoneurone activity in muscles that are not contracting?
  2. Does mental stress enhance motoneurone activity?
  3. Are the effects of voluntary contraction on motoneurone activity in muscles that are not contracting related to release of serotonin?
  4. Are the effects of mental stress on motoneurone activity related to the release of noradrenaline?

Desired Skills: This project will suit students with an interest in motor control and neurophysiology. It will require hands-on studies in human participants.

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science

Supervisor(s): Professor Janet Taylor

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain is characterized by accumulation of aggregated beta amyloid (AB) in neurons. A systemic failure to clean up the toxic (AB) protein aggregates is a major cause of neuronal loss and cognitive decline in AD. Our recent findings have shown that enhancing autophagy, a housekeeping pathway upregulated during starvation, removes AB aggregates and protects against toxicity. Currently, our research is targeted towards identifying protective genes and chemical modulators of autophagy that reduce AB accumulation and neuronal cell death in the AD brain.

Research Questions:

  1. What autophagy proteins are changed in AD brain and how does it correlate to AB levels?
  2. Identify potent autophagy modulators that reduce AB accumulation and_ toxicity in neuronal cells.

Project Area: Medical Science

Supervisor: Dr. Prashant Bharadwaj; Dr. Eugene Hone; Professor Ralph Martins

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Project Outline:

The relationship between sleep, cognition (measures of memory and thinking), and brain imaging markers of Alzheimer’s disease is incompletely understood. Consequently, the supervisors are offering two Honours projects; one examining the relationship between objective measures of sleep (actigraphy) and cognition, and one examining the association between objective sleep measures and markers of brain health determined by neuroimaging (MRI and PET). Students will utilise data collected from an established and well-characterised cohort of older adults.

Research Questions:

  1. Is poor sleep quality associated with smaller medial temporal lobe brain structures (e.g. hippocampus), less brain glucose utilisation and higher brain Aβ burden compared to good sleep quality?
  2. Is poor sleep quality associated with poorer performance on cognitive tests of attention, episodic memory and executive function compared to good sleep quality?

Project Area: Medical Science

Supervisor: Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith; A/Prof Michael Weinborn

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Project Outline:

Mitochondria are important targets of the AB peptide. There is mounting evidence for mitochondria-specific AB accumulation, AD-related mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptotic cell death. Though antioxidant targeted therapeutic strategies are popular, mitochondrial targeted therapeutic strategies may be more effective for neuro protection against AB toxicity. Despite the positive links between sodium butyrate and amyloid beta, the relationship between sodium butyrate and mitochondria has not been fully characterised. Understanding the mechanistic insight of sodium butyrate on mitochondria may be the first step in developing the effective therapeutic agent for Alzheimer's disease. The proposed project will directly evaluate the effect of sodium butyrate on mitochondria which has been dysfunctional due to the deposition of amyloid beta.

Research Question:
The overall purpose of this work is to identify the effect of sodium butyrate on mitochondria which has been dysfunctional due to the deposition of amyloid beta, and in doing so gain new insight into the potential suitability of this compound as therapeutic agents for AD.

Project Area: Medical Science

Supervisor(s): Dr Binosha Fernando

Project level: Honours, Masters

Project Outline:

Measuring and predicting rates of cognitive decline and the rate of accumulation of the pathognomonic features in Alzheimer's disease (AD) are fundamental to understanding the origins of the disease. It is also essential for the implementation of more efficient clinical trials and secondary prevention studies. In both cases, it is critical to accrue this knowledge at the preclinical stages of AD. In cognitively normal (CN) older adults, abnormally high levels of beta-amyloid are associated with relentless decline in cognition. However, at the preclinical stage of AD, there remains considerable between-person variability in the rate of cognitive decline.  Furthermore, this variability in rates of change extends beyond cognitive deterioration to the rate of accumulation of the pathognomonic features that are characteristic of AD, namely the rate of accumulation of beta-amyloid and Tau as well as rates of cortical atrophy. While we have previously reported that single genes such as Apolipoprotein E (APOE) and the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), both individually and combined, account for some of this variation in cognitive decline the effects of other genes remain unclear especially when their effects are combined (i.e. polygenic risk profiles). Further the genetic underpinnings of pathological change are yet to be determined. These studies will leverage extensive existing genetic (genome wide SNP and next generation sequencing), epigenetic (genome wide methylation) and longitudinal data from the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of Ageing.

Collaboration: This project involves collaboration with the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of Ageing participating research organisations of which ECU is one.

Several research projects are available and will be offered based on current research priorities, but will focus on developing polygenic risk and methylation profiles of rates of change in preclinical AD.

Desired Skills: This project is predominantly utilizing extensive existing data. Whilst there will be within project skills development background skills and knowledge in data analysis is highly desirable.

Project Area: Medical Science (Neuroscience/Genomics)

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Simon Laws; Dr Tenielle Porter

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start Date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Undertake investigations looking at the impact of the interaction between genetic/epigenetic factors and lifestyle factors (namely sleep, physical activity and diet, including metabolic factors, eg. Insulin Resistance) on both the risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and related clinical (memory performance) and imaging (atrophy and brain beta-amyloid burden).  Understanding the gene-lifestyle interactions can help ascertain what genetic factors underpin lifestyle associations as well as providing the initial steps towards individualised implementation of lifestyle interventions. Multiple a priori genetic candidates have been chosen for each research area, based on prior evidence with respect to the lifestyle area of choice as well as unbiased discovery-based approaches that will utilise large publically available datasets.

These studies will leverage extensive existing genetic (genome wide SNP and next generation sequencing), epigenetic (genome wide methylation) and longitudinal data from the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of Ageing. We have multiple projects on offer across many of the aforementioned lifestyle areas.

Collaboration: This project involves collaboration with the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of Ageing participating research organisations of which ECU is one.

Desired Skills: This project is predominantly utilizing extensive existing data. Whilst there will be within project skills development background skills and knowledge in data analysis is highly desirable.

Project Area: Medical Science (Neuroscience/Genomics)

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Simon Laws; Dr Tenielle Porter
Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith (Sleep/Diet studies)
Dr Belinda Brown (Murdoch University) (Physical Activity studies)
A/Prof Giuseppe Verdile (Curtin University) (Insulin Resistance)

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start Date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The world's population is growing older due to improved healthcare and nutrition. As a result, Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevalence is rapidly increasing. Cognitive decline is the progressive loss of cognitive functions, including memory, and may lead to dementia of which AD is the most common type, accounting for 60 - 80% of cases. The focus of the current research climate is shifting from understanding AD pathology and diagnosis to primary prevention and intervention strategies. Diet represents one potential intervention strategy accessible to all. Therefore, the current study proposes to investigate the association between two dietary patterns, namely the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) and an inflammatory dietary index (IDI), with cognitive performance using the resources and leveraging existing data from the established Western Australia Memory Study

Research Questions:

  1. To investigate cross-sectional associations of two dietary patterns; MeDi and IDI with baseline cognitive performance. Hypothesising higher MeDi adherence and lower IDI is associated with increased cognitive performance on a range of cognitive assessments compared with lower MeDi adherence and higher IDI.
  2. To investigate longitudinally the association of these two dietary patterns with cognitive change over a three-year follow-up period, using a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests. Hypothesising higher MeDi adherence and lower IDI at baseline is associated with reduced cognitive decline over 36 months on a range of cognitive assessments compared with lower MeDi adherence and higher IDI.

Project Area: Medical Science

Supervisor(s): Dr Samantha Gardener; Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith; Dr Hamid Sohrabi

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Sports Science and Exercise Medicine

Project Outline:

The proposed series of studies will provide the sporting sector with an overview of how elite athletes manoeuvre different setbacks during their career. This series of studies will investigate athletes missing the opportunity to compete at the ‘top level’ in their sport, how they cope with injury, and the transition to life after retiring from competitive sport. The prospective studies bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate the ways in which athletes prepare, cope (or not), and transition to life after sport.

Desired skills: Applicants must demonstrate strong knowledge, skills and interest in either exercise physiology/science/psychology/ mental health and wellbeing/ or other relevant academic fields.

Project Area: Exercise Sport Science/Exercise Medicine/Psychology

Supervisor(s): Dr Caitlin Fox-Harding, Associate Professor Joanne Dickson

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2021

Project Outline:

The proposed healthy lifestyle workshops will provide the community with access to adjunct pregnancy care for both the childbearing woman and their partner. This will address gaps in health promotion research via the interconnected specialties of exercise science, nutrition/dietetics, nursing/midwifery, and psychology/wellbeing. The prospective studies brings together a truly interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of healthy lifestyle workshops on the wellbeing of pregnant women and their partners.

Desired skills: Applicants must demonstrate strong knowledge and skills in exercise physiology/science and mental health/wellbeing, nutrition, public health, sleep science, or other academic fields.

Project Area: Exercise Sport Science/Exercise Medicine

Supervisor(s): Dr Caitlin Fox-Harding

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2021

Project Outline:

To alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, inclusion of exercise in routine psychological treatment is very effective. However, it is difficult to motivate patients to exercise regularly, as motivational impairments are often concomitant with mental health conditions. Goal motivation gives people a sense of purpose and direction. This project consists of a series of subsequent phases for ongoing community-level study investigating how goal setting strategies assist people with mental health issues to regularly participate in physical activities to improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Project Area: Exercise Sport Science/Exercise Medicine

Supervisor(s): Dr Caitlin Fox-Harding

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2021

Project Outline:

Adaptations within the central nervous system during exercise training strongly contribute to improved muscle performance and force capacity. However, the specific sites and mechanisms of modulation and adaptation within the nervous system remain unclear. One potential candidate is the intrinsic property of motoneurons (nerves that directly innervate muscle fibres) known as persistent inward currents (PICs). PICs are characterised by the ongoing and repetitive firing of the motoneuron in response to excitatory input. This research aims to investigate the effects of both chronic exercise history, and exercise training on motoneuron behaviour and function.

Research questions:
1.How do motoneurons respond to sensory (afferent nerve) versus voluntary (descending signals from brain) excitatory input?
2.Does motoneuron function and behaviour differ between individuals with chronic exercise training history (i.e. strength or endurance athletes) compared to those who are inactive?
3.Is the behaviour of motoneurons upregulated after an exercise (strength or endurance) training intervention, and subsequently downregulated after a period of detraining?

Desired skills: This project will suit students with an interest in strength and conditioning, and neurophysiology. It will require hands-on studies in human participants.

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science/Neurophysiology

Supervisor(s): Dr Chistopher Latella, Prof Janet Taylor, Prof Tony Blazevich

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2021

Project Outline:

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a physically demanding task. Research clearly shows that overall CPR quality decreases as a function of time due to rescuer fatigue. Understanding the factors that influence CPR performance over time is imperative, as startlingly only a minority of healthcare workers can adequately meet minimum basic life support guidelines of maintaining 100–120 compressions per minute to a depth of at least 5 cm.
As compression depth is a factor of the force produced whilst pushing down on the patient’s chest, rescuer’s weight may be responsible for an improved CPR performance. This research seeks to evaluate the effect of a simple, yet to-date unexplored, option that could be useful to improve CPR performance and reduce the impact of fatigue-related associated with CPR. This being the use of a simple weight-vest.

Research question:
What impact does the wearing of a weight vest have on rescuer CPR compression rate and depth?

Desired Skills: Exercise Science; Paramedicine; Nursing

Project Area: Exercise Science; Paramedicine

Supervisor(s): Dr Brennen Mills, Dr Favil Singh

Project level: Masters

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2020

Project Outline:

Extrinsic feedback is critical to the enhancement of motor skills; however the way in which this feedback is provided has the potential to influence the desired outcome. It is common for instructors (teachers, coaches and clinicians) to provide a visual demonstration; however, given the constraints faced by an individual with a clinical condition; it is currently unknown whether their ability to translate and use the perceptual image they see is enhanced when this visual presentation   is of one's self, rather than the 'typical' 'able-bodied' demonstrator. Based on the dynamical systems theory of Motor learning, an individual is thought to self-organise to a movement pattern dependent on the constraints that are imposed on their individualised system. This theory therefore suggests that visual feedback relative to one's self and their own constraints would provide a better visual representation from which to modify their movement, opposed to a movement pattern that is quite different and largely unobtainable due to one's own individualised constraints. Feedback must also    be individualised and therefore personalised visual feedback, together with verbal cues may serve to further enhance the ability to effectively modify a human movement pattern. The participants must be in their final phase of a post-op rehabilitation program for a total hip replacement (THR) and free   of any other lower limb MSK conditions, degenerative neuro-musculoskeletal conditions or ambulation aiding devices. Participants (n = 40) will be randomly assigned to one of the   following feedback strategies: demonstration by instructor with verbal cues (n = 20) or visual feedback of self with verbal cues (n = 20). Participants will be recruited from ECU Exercise physiology clinics and other Exercise Physiology and rehabilitation services in Perth. The outcomes of this study will increase our understanding of effective feedback strategies in clinical populations.

Research Question:

  • Does the type of visual feedback provided to a client affect their ability to modify their movement pattern when performing a sit to stand task?

Desired skills: This Honours project will be suited to an Exercise Science or an Exercise Physiology graduate.

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Annette Raynor

Project level: Honours

Project Outline:

The primary aim of this study is to investigate the effects of a supervised eight week exercise program on executive function, communication activity and communicative quality of life for people with aphasia (PWA) after stroke. A secondary aim of this study will be to examine the attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of people with aphasia regarding participation in a structured physical activity program.

Research Questions:

  1. Does increased physical activity improve executive function in those with post stroke aphasia?
  2. Does increased physical activity improve activity and impairment based communication outcomes in people with chronic aphasia?
  3. A secondary aim of this study will be to examine the attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of people with aphasia regarding participation in a structured physical activity program.
  4. Does increased physical activity improve stroke and aphasia related quality of life?

Desired skills: The Honours student must be an exercise scientist or accredited exercise physiologist with experience in exercise prescription and delivery and an interest in motor control and neuroscience.

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Annette Raynor

Project level: Honours

Project Outline:

Quercetin is a flavonoid found in fruits (e.g. cranberries, blueberries, grapes, apples) and vegetables (e.g. onions, peppers), especially in their peel portions. Quercetin supplementation has previously been associated with enhanced endurance capacity and improved endothelial function in humans. To date, the effects of quercetin on performance are ambiguous. However, a recent review reported that quercetin has the potential to improve performance by 2.8% in healthy individuals. Recent studies on an enzymatically modified isoquercetin (EMIQ) indicate that this form of quercetin has enhanced bioavailability even compared to isoquercetin and quercetin. No studies to date have examined the potential benefits of EMIQ on athletic performance. Considering the increased bioavailability of EMIQ, performance benefits may even be observed with lower supplementation dosages and/or shorter loading protocols.

Research Question:

  • Can EMIQ supplementation improve simulated cycling time-trial performance in well-trained cyclists?

Project Area: Exercise and Sports Science

Supervisor(s): Dr Marc Sim; A/Prof Chris Abbiss

Project level: Honours, Masters

Occupational and Environmental Health

Project Outline:

Microplastics have been detected in seafood, water, soil and other food items around the globe, but there is little literature available surrounding quantification of human consumption in the context of usual diets.  
The PhD scholar will determine the quantity and type of microplastics present in the food supply, firstly by examining how much we are excreting and relating this to dietary intake. The project involves developing laboratory methods to separate and quantify microplastic particles from the complex biological matrix comprising human faecal samples.
The laboratory methods for this project have potential to be expanded and tested for the determination of microplastics in foodstuffs on Australian supermarket shelves, providing world first risk assessment of microplastic contamination of the food supply

Desired skills: Background in Public Health, Environmental Health and/or Food Science. Laboratory skills desirable.

Project Area: Occupational and Environmental Health, Nutrition and Dietetics

Supervisor(s): Professor Amanda Devine, Dr Angela Genoni, A/Prof Mary Boyce, Prof Anas Ghadouani (UWA)

Project level:  Masters, PhD

Funding:  Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2021

Project Outline:

Grasses, scrub and trees in Australia vary by region and the combustion of the “bush” vegetation generates atmospheric emissions comprising particulates, organic vapours, semi-volatiles and gases1. There is limited information regarding the physicochemistry and toxicology of bushfire smoke, and characterisation of smoke based on fuel “bush” type has not been systematically done for Australian vegetation, leading to over-generalisations, potential under-protection, and insufficient information for manufacturers of respirators to design more tailored respirator solutions. In addition, public health measures are generic, which may be problematic for sensitive sub-populations, and does not account for variability2,3,4,5. This application addresses gaps in evidence on the hazards, exposure and physiological impacts of prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke. Robust data will be generated by developing and implementing a multi-state standardised protocol for the collection of representative smoke samples that will be stratified according to vegetation and climate characteristics, providing authorities with information about the types of contaminants they might anticipate during particular fire events and will aid in the selection of appropriate personal protective equipment, not only for inhalation exposures but also to prevent dermal absorption. This is of particular importance for volunteer firefighters who may work for extended periods, with limited opportunity to replace contaminated clothing. The results of this proposed study will inform the development of effective preventative public health measures that can be deployed during prolonged bushfire smoke exposure conditions.

A comprehensive health translation package will inform the development of effective preventative public health measures to be deployed during prolonged bushfire smoke exposure conditions. This will ensure that the scientific data is effectively communicated to all stakeholders in an appropriate form. Researchers will co-create concepts, activities, resources and messages with key stakeholders to translate research into evidence-based practice. This will also be relevant to health service providers, community organisations, and career firefighter organisations. The information gained from this project will enable health authorities to better advise the population on the short- and long-term health risk associated with bushfire smoke exposure and recommend the best methods of controlling exposures.

Desired Skills: Occupational Hygiene / Toxicology

Project Area: Occupational and Environmental Health

Supervisor(s): Prof Jacques Oosthuizen; A/Prof Sue Reed, Dr Martyn Cross

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship; Potential for NHMRC Funding

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Any research that involves noise exposure assessment and / or health surveillance work, particularly if related to ototoxic chemicals, or noise and heat.

Desired skills: MPH by research / Master of Occupational Hygiene and Toxicology

Project Area: Occupational Health

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Sue Reed, Dr Martyn Cross, Dr Joseph Mate (contact: A/Prof Jacques Oosthuizen)

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2018

Project Outline:

No trapping is currently completed at the domestic terminal as the risk of exotic mosquitoes is low. Aedes aegypti (Dengue mosquito) is present in QLD but is unlikely to survive the trip to Perth (no direct flights – stop over at Ayres rock). It would be interesting to complete a mosquito survey of the domestic terminal prior to international flight arrivals to determine the refractory nature of the airport terminal and the possibility of mosquitoes becoming established at the domestic terminal. Establish a baseline mosquito fauna for future reference if exotic mosquitoes are later detected at the domestic terminal.

Desired skills: Environmental Health major (UG)

Project Area: Environmental Health

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Jacques Oosthuizen, A/Prof Peter Neville, Kerry Staples

Project level:  Masters

Start date: 2018/2019

Project Outline:

Ovitraps are used for mosquito surveillance (particularly for exotic mosquitoes). Usually the ovitrap has a sticky film attached to the top inside of an ovitrap container to capture the mosquitoes as they land on this surface to lay eggs in the water stored within the container. The sticky film is difficult to handle and remove without damaging the caught insects and people usually end up covered in the sticky substance making it difficult to inspect multiple traps. Also the sticky substance can cover the surface of the water which may impact the attractiveness of the water for egg laying.

Desired skills: Environmental Health major (UG)

Project Area: Environmental Health

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Jacques Oosthuizen, A/Prof Peter Neville, Kerry Staples

Project level:  Honours

Start date: 2018/2019

Project Outline:

Any research that involves chemical exposure assessment and / or health surveillance work.

Desired skills: MPH by research / Master of Occupational Hygiene and Toxicology

Project Area: Occupational Health

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Jacques Oosthuizen, A/Prof Sue Reed, Dr Martyn Cross

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2018

Project Outline:

This study will examine heat exposure levels of workers in the North of Australia who work a FIFO roster and spend their off-swing in colder climates. Various physiological indicators of heat acclimatisation will be determined at the end of their time on-site and again upon their return from their time off site. This research will inform industry of the ideal FIFO rosters in order to ensure workers remain fully acclimatised and/or will advise on strategies to re-establish full acclimatisation as soon as possible after their return to work.

Desired skills: Master of Public Health (by Research)

Project Area: Occupational Health

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Jacques Oosthuizen, A/Prof Chris Abbiss

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2018

Project Outline:

This study will examine exposure levels and strategies employed by outdoor workers, such as farmers with high physical work demands, to cope with heat stress.

Desired skills: Master of Public Health (by Research)

Project Area: Environmental Health

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Jacques Oosthuizen, Dr Martyn Cross

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: 2018

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