Higher Degree by Research Project Opportunities

The School of Health Sciences offers three higher research degree programs:

Details on applying for a research degree at UniSA can be found on the Research – How to apply page.

A full listing of UniSA Academics and their areas of interest can be found on the Directory of Reserch Expertise. In this website, a number of School of Health Sciences research staff who are keen to work with Masters by Research and/ or PhD candidates have listed their general areas of research or specific projects. If you are interested in a specific area you can search this page by using a ‘key word’ (keyboard shortcut ‘control-F’), otherwise please feel free to browse the opportunities below and contact our staff directly to discuss further. If you click on a staff member’s name you will be directed to their staff home page, where you can find contact information plus further details regarding their research interests and outputs.

Within reseach degree programs, every student (candidate) is supervised by a team or panel of supervisors. Within this team, an experienced supervisor (i.e. a person that has previously supervised at least one candidate through to completion of their degree) takes on the role of Principal supervisor. Part of this role is to organise the make up of the supervisory panel specific to the needs of the candiate and proposed research.

Before you submit an application for a research program, you will need to liase with a supervisor to develop an appopriate research program. The principal supervisor needs to be identified in your application. Within the University of South Australia, applications to research degree programs will not be considered without evidence that the proposed Principal supervisor has agreed (in principle) to supervise the applicant, and has liaised with the applicant to develop an appropriate research program.

In this website,  we have noted whether staff members are eligible to act as Principal supervisor for PhD candidates and/ or Masters by Research candidates, or are eligible to be Co-Supervisors.

If you have any questions regarding undertaking a Research Degree within the School of Health Sciences, please feel free to contact us at Health.Research@unisa.edu.au.

 

Research Areas and Projects

Dr John Arnold

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: Biomechanics, Sports Medicine & Science, Musculoskeletal Conditions.

Dr Helen Banwell

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: The impact of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) on gait and arm coordination. Is balance the key?
DCD affects 5 – 6% of school aged children and has impacts negatively in all aspects of life, including sporting and scholarly skills. The diagnostic criteria for DCD includes several measures of balance and coordination, however, little is understood on how much the DCD population is affected by balance when compared to typically developing children. This project aims to determine this and investigate whether improving lower limb balance positively changes upper limb coordination and function.

Other areas of interest include: Musculoskeletal conditions of the lower limb, Flat feet (children and adult), Biomechanics, Diabetes, Podiatry.

 Dr Clint Bellenger

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: training load monitoring in endurance and team sports, tolerance of training load in endurance and team sports, performance recovery, quantifying match and training demands in team sports

Dr Beben Benyamin

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (Masters by Research); Co-supervisor (PhD)

Title: The application of statistical genomic methods to understand complex diseases

Some examples of available student projects are: 1) The application of statistical genomic methods on large-scale ‘omics’ (e.g. genomics, epigenomics) data to understand the causes of neuropsychiatric diseases, such as motor neuron disease or schizophrenia; 2) Trans-ethnic genomic analyses to dissect the transferability of genomic findings in European samples into other populations, such as Asians; 3) Mendelian randomization methods to infer the causal roles of modifiable risk factors (such as smoking) on complex diseases.

Dr Angela Berndt

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

I am interested in studies that focus on rehabilitation, health, participation, quality of life or wellbeing outcomes. Special areas of interest include cognitive rehabilitation, neurosciences. Clinically specific expertise includes dementia and mental health of older people. Discipline specific expertise is occupational therapy. Research focus includes but is not limited to driving assessment and rehabilitation/ fitness to drive, clinical reasoning and decision making. Methodology skills include observational studies, quantitative approaches, descriptive qualitative, systematic reviews. Teaching research interests include graduate readiness and mastery of clinical reasoning.

Prof Eva Bezak

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Medical Radiations: Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease, novel therapies for treatment of cancer

My major research area is medical radiations, radiation therapy for treatment of cancer, targeted therapies, radiation biology, radiation modelling, novel imaging technologies, microdosimetry and others.

 Dr Terry Boyle

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (Masters by Research); Co-supervisor (PhD)

Title: Determinants of adverse patient-reported outcomes in cancer survivors

This project will use data from a cohort of 500 cancer survivors (breast cancer, colon cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma). Baseline assessment in 2013- 14 involved collection of sleep quality/duration, sedentary time and physical activity (assessed with an accelerometer), clinical, demographic and lifestyle factors, and patient-reported outcomes (health-related quality of life, fatigue, depression, cognitive functioning & unmet needs). Follow-up data on patient-reported outcomes was collected in 2017. Potential projects include (1) examining associations between sleep, sedentary and active behaviours and changes in patient-reported outcomes and (2) investigating determinants of poorer patient-reported outcomes and unmet needs.

Prof Jon Buckley

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

I am interested in projects related to monitoring performance and fatigue in athletes and/or cardiometabolic health effects of nutrition.

A/ Prof Kristin Carson-Chahhoud

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Using mixed reality and holographic technologies (iHealth) for delivery of smoking cessation treatment among patients admitted to hospital with tobacco-related illnesses

Establish a foundation for iHealth tools to aid delivery of smoking cessation treatment for patients admitted to hospital with smoking related illnesses.  This will be achieved through two stages: 1) Development of 3 iHealth smoking cessation resources for smartphone delivery, including 1 with augmented reality, 1 with virtual reality and 1 with holographic technology. 2) Evaluation of the practicality and feasibility of these smoking cessation resources for use by smokers admitted to hospital with tobacco related illnesses, ex-smokers and health professionals via: Qualitative research, including focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

Dr Ryan Causby

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Diabetic foot perception project (neuropathic pain)

The above project aims to investigate if motor representations are differentially affected in people with diabetes peripheral neuropathy, with and without pain (neuropathic pain).

Other areas of interest include:  Motor control; Diabetes; Musculoskeletal conditions; Biomechanics; Podiatry.

A/ Prof Alison Coates

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

My research investigates the role of nutrients, foods and dietary patterns on cardiovascular, metabolic and cognitive health. I have funded projects looking at snacking, weight loss, cognitive performance for which I am seeking students.

Dr Frances Corrigan

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Long term outcome of traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury is common, being the leading cause of death and disability in those under 45, with the incidence of the mildest form in concussion even higher.  Research projects available include investigating serum and imaging biomarkers in an ovine model of TBI to allow accurate determination of the severity of a TBI and correlation with behavioural outcome. Also investigation of the effects of a concussive insult in adolescence on pre-frontal cortical maturation.

Dr Robert Crowther

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: Basketball sport science and sports medicine

Dr Alyson Crozier

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Exploring the effectiveness of a 12-week Instagram-based intervention on physical activity patterns

Currently recruiting a Masters/PhD student for a project examining the effectiveness of different messaging techniques on physical activity (PA) patterns within a 12-week Instagram-based intervention. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive either current social norms (i.e., not many people exercise) or trending social norms (i.e., the number of people exercising is increasing) information. You will be involved with all aspects of the study from conceptualisation, designing messages, participant recruitment and data collection through to analysis, interpretation and dissemination of results. The project will be co-supervised with A/Prof Carol Maher.

Dr Janine Dizon

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

My area of interest is in teaching evidence into practice, developing guidelines and guidance for different conditions and developing implementation strategies tailored to the local context.

A/ Prof Jim Dollman

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Multi-disciplinary strategies for improving health behaviours in rural Australia

This program of research draws on current theories and ideas in exercise physiology, psychology and social marketing to develop and test strategies for improving the health of rural Australians. Individual-level and community-level factors are considered to improve psychologcal readiness to change lifestyles while concurrently changing social norms in rural communities to provide a context within which behaviour change is more likely.

Dr Katia Ferrar

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Katia has two broad streams of research focus: one in the field of physical activity and chronic health conditions and the other in the field of sociocultural factors and health. The scope of Katia’s interests regarding physical activity and chronic health conditions is broad, encompassing research into novel measurement tools such as momentary ecological momentary assessment and across a wide spectrum of health conditions including but not limited to osteoarthritis, low back pain, ME/CFS, and end stage kidney disease. She also has a strong research interest in social justice, particularly related to access to health services. Student learning regarding social justice and cultural competency is also an area of growing research interest.

Dr Danielle Girard

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: efficacy and underlying mechanisms associated with exercise therapy in chronic disease, side-effects associated with cancer and/ or its treatment (particularly cancer related fatigue and musculoskeletal health), neuromuscular fatigue, neuromotor performance, exercise-induced fatigue responses, mental illness, ageing, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

Dr Brenton Hordacre

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: Stroke rehabilitation and recovery, Neuroscience, Neuroimaging

Prof Elina Hypponen

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Disease Prevention with Precision: Identifying and Overcoming Individual Genetic Vulnerabilities

The Nutritional and Genetic Epidemiology Group has several opportunities for Masters by Research and PhD projects in the broad area of “Precision Health”. Projects are suited for health professionals, keen to obtain high calibre research training and to continue professional development by acquiring skills for assessing large pools of information from the viewpoint of an individual patient.  Studies are based on large datasets with detailed information on genetics, lifestyles and health. Examples: 1) Vitamin D supplementation: is it beneficial or even safe? (top-up scholarship of $20k/pa available) 2) Improving risk prediction to prevent cancer 3) Diet and cancer: establishing genetic evidence for a causal association 4) Phenome-wide study on physical activity and health.

Dr Maarten A Immink

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

I am available as a principal supervisor or as a member of a supervisory team for research projects related to skill acquisition, motor learning, motor control or motor disorders. Specifically, I am interested in understanding brain and cognitive factors necessary for effective skill training and movement rehabilitation approaches.  This includes identifying innovative solutions for enhancing human learning and performance through brain training techniques such as mindfulness meditation. I have expertise in using state-of-the-art neurocognitive techniques involving electroencephalography (EEG), neuroimaging and brain stimulation to understand processes that underlie human action.

 Dr Kylie Johnston

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

I am interested in collaborating with research candidates who have a clinical focus on real-life issues for people with lung conditions. This includes research on implementation of high-evidence based interventions in chronic lung conditions such as pulmonary rehabilitation; keeping active and mobile; improving care between hospital admission and home. I welcome collaborations on research that promotes the understanding, explaining and management of breathlessness. This includes work on creative well-being approaches in this area, like singing and yoga. My other area of research interest is teaching well the next generation of cardiorespiratory physiotherapists, especially developing clinical communication and the therapeutic alliance.

Dr Sara Jones

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: Diabetes and foot complications, Aboriginal Health, Rural Health services and delivery.

Dr Saravana Kumar

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: Health Services Research; Evidence-Based Practice; Allied Health; Physiotherapy; Complementary and Alternative Medicines; Evaluation; Public Health; Systematic Reviews; Implementation Science.

Dr Hong Lee

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Developing and applying advanced statistical methods to dissect the genetic architecture of complex traits and diseases

In this project, we will develop advanced statistical models that can be applied to a wide range of existing genome-wide association study (GWAS) datasets. Our proposed project is conceptually innovative and practically significant because it will address the key feature in biology, which relates to dissecting the complex mechanism of important human traits and diseases. The proposed statistical model implemented in a context of a novel design based on multiple GWAS data sets is a paradigm shifting-tool with applications to multiple industries.

Dr Sophie Lefmann

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Dr Lefmann is an experienced research supervisor with special interest in paediatrics, child development, clinical education and rehabilitation robotics. Passionate about combining teaching and research for best practice outcomes, Dr Lefmann welcomes enquiries from students with an interest in any of these areas.

Dr Ming Li

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: diet and cardio metabolic risk-study from a national health and nutrition survey; Cancer and its modifiable risk factors

A/ Prof Carol Maher

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

A/Prof Maher’s research focusses on lifestyle patterns (e.g. physical activity, sleep and sedentary behaviours) and health, in both the general and clinical populations. In particular, she is interested in technology-based approaches combining wearables, gamification and real-time notifications. A variety of Master’s and PhD project topics in this area can be shaped according to current funding opportunities and students’ interests. A/Prof Maher is committed to providing students with a high quality research training experience, encouraging students to work in a team environment, collaborate on publications, and support to attend developing courses and research conferences.

Dr Carolyn Murray

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: consumer perspectives of health services, social engagement and participation for people with dementia, workforce development of new graduate health professionals, qualitative systematic reviews, the influence of policy on practice.

Prof Tim Olds

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Life on Holidays: Fitness lost and fatness regained?

Over the summer holidays, as much as two thirds of the previous year’s learning gains are lost. Recent evidence also suggests that children get leaner and fitter during the in-school period, but become fatter and less fit over the summer holidays, perhaps due to differences in diet and activity patterns. However, few studies have tracked diet and activity patterns across the holiday period. This study will measure changes in fatness, fitness and academic achievement of children, initially in Grade 4 (age 9 years) across three successive years and relate changes to changes in diet and activity patterns during in-school and summer holiday periods.

This project offers a $10,000 per year top-up to an APA or UniSA PhD scholarship, of which $5,000 is added to the student’s stipend, and $5,000 can be used for project-related costs, such as conference travel.

Dr Catherine Paquet

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

My general research interest lies in the influence of contextual factors on chronic diseases, well-being and health-related behaviours. I am particularly interested in community (e.g. access to healthy food), and organisational (e.g. food marketing strategies) factors that shape dietary behaviours and how such factors can be changed to promote optimal nutrition across the lifespan. I have also an interest in the genetic and psychological markers that can help identify individuals more likely to be influenced by food-related cues in their environment.

Dr Bec Perry

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: cardiac sonography, detection of early heart failure and screening the athlete’s heart.

Dr Michala Short

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: radiation therapy, proton therapy, quality of life, cancer treatment.

Dr Katja Siefken

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (Masters by Research); Co-supervisor (PhD)

Katja’s primary research focus is on the prevention on non-communicable diseases through physical activity interventions in the Pacific Islands. She also has a strong interest in understanding the relationship between domain-specific physical activity and associated mental health outcomes. Besides, Katja has a deep interest in how sport and leisure-time physical activity can contribute to development outcomes (Sport for Development).

Dr Ashleigh Smith

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Understanding the relationship between exercise, ageing and neurophysiology

This project will use non-invasive brain stimulation techniques (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) to better understand the underlying neurophysiology linking exercise and brain health in older adults.

Dr Jacque Stephens

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: child population health, data science and epidemiology, health consumer decision-making, otitis media, vaccinology, surgery.

Dr Margarita Tsiros

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

As a physiotherapist, I am passionate about improving the physical health and wellbeing of children and adolescents. I conduct research across a range of paediatric topics including quality of life, strength, pain, fitness, motor skills, activity behaviours and developmental outcomes. I am also interested in how overweight/obesity influences aspects of physical function and well-being in children, providing insight into how we can set kids up for success in physical activity. My expertise predominantly relates to quantitative methodologies, and I have extensive clinical and research experience working with children and families. Feel free to contact me find out more about potential research projects for new higher degree research students.

Dr Deborah van Gaans

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Areas of interest: Spatial modelling, spatial analysis, health service planning, monitoring and evaluation, health informatics.

A/ Prof Marie T Williams

Supervisor eligibility level: Principal supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Chronic breathlessness is a common and debilitating symptom of a number of cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. While not as sexy or well understood as chronic pain, these two multidimensional sensations have a great deal in common - most notably that the intensity of the sensation rarely matches the degree of underlying pathology. Marie and colleagues are currently working on a number of ongoing projects including novel exercise strategies,  assessment of breathlessness in different clinical groups and whether and how  the way we ‘Explain Chronic Breathlessness’ to people living with this symptom, their families and health care professionals might be a way to change beliefs and expectations of this sensation.

Dr Shelley Wright

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

I am particularly interested in playfulness and well-being for either adults or children, as playfulness has been associated with adaptability and well-being in the literature. These constructs are important to consider in the context of resilience, and also in relation to providing therapeutic interventions for adults and children.

Dr Ang Zhou

Supervisor eligibility level: Co-supervisor (PhD and Masters by Research)

Title: Disease Prevention with Precision: Identifying and Overcoming Individual Genetic Vulnerabilities

The Nutritional and Genetic Epidemiology Group has several opportunities for Masters by Research and PhD projects in the broad area of “Precision Health”. Projects are suited for health professionals, keen to obtain high calibre research training and to continue professional development by acquiring skills for assessing large pools of information from the viewpoint of an individual patient.  Studies are based on large datasets with detailed information on genetics, lifestyles and health. Examples: 1) Vitamin D supplementation: is it beneficial or even safe? (top-up scholarship of $20k/pa available) 2) Improving risk prediction to prevent cancer 3) Diet and cancer: establishing genetic evidence for a causal association 4) Phenome-wide study on physical activity and health.

Areas of study and research

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