Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Karen Murphy

Main Campus
City East

Applications Close
05 Oct 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic only)

About this project

Help older Australians live healthy lives

If you are excited about building a career in the field of nutrition or health and concerned about problems faced by older Australians, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within the Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity. 

MedWalk is a 12-month MedDiet and walking randomised controlled trial in 160 older Victorians and South Australians. It is a dietitian-led intervention using behaviour change techniques designed to increase likelihood of long-term changes to diet and exercise habits. Preliminary results from South Australia show that participants significantly increased their adherence to the MedDiet and increased their walking minutes with resultant improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors   

Our project will determine if 12 months of dietary education and behaviour change techniques is adequate to maintain adherence to a MedDiet and walking program and sustain changes seen in cardiometabolic and cognitive outcomes. We also want to determine whether 6 or 12 months of this intervention results in greater sustained adherence to MedDiet and lifestyle changes and resultant clinical and biochemical health outcomes. 

Strong evidence shows that high adherence to a MedDiet reduces risk of many chronic diseases and risk factors conducive to healthy ageing. Whilst many factors determine dietary habits and behaviours, education, knowledge and overcoming ambivalence is a vital first step in initiating positive behaviour change by increasing awareness, motivation, and empowering individuals to act.  

This project will provide evidence supporting upcoming revisions to Australia’s dietary and physical activity guidelines for older Australians, as well as guide dietetic health care practice. We also want to help independent living and aged care facilities to initiate new strategies to achieve healthy ageing in Australia for years to come. 

You will join ARENA and become part of a well-established research team which is comprised of dietitians, post-doctoral fellows, biochemists, statisticians, exercise science staff, trial co-ordinators as well as other higher degree students. You will be trained in all aspects of dietary intervention trials and participate in laboratory work. Mentoring from national and international collaborators, including those experienced in behaviour change and statistics, will provide you with a valuable platform upon which to launch your career.  

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will undertake clinic visits at UniSA with the volunteers to collect data. You will analyse dietary food records, undertake data entry and receive training in handling blood samples. There may be an opportunity to travel to Victoria to collect data with the Victorian team (time permitting).  

You will learn how to undertake detailed statistical analyses to analyse the data under the supervision of the MedWalk study statistician.  

Participating in weekly team meetings and international investigator meetings, liaising with collaborators on the dietary inflammatory index analyses and attending a local and international conference – Nutrition Society of Australia, American Society for Nutrition, and International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity – will accelerate your communication and collaboration skills and abilities.  

If you wish, you can access a unique and career-advancing opportunity to undertake an international placement with one of our US or UK collaborators. We would encourage and support you in applying for a Maurice de Rohan travel fellowship.  

The opportunity to work on trials funded by the NHMRC with leading international investigators is a huge opportunity and will help you build your network.  

Upon graduation, you will have the training and skills that will distinguish you from other nutrition science graduates in this field. You will have experience in collaborating with world leaders in the nutrition, dietetic, psychology and health field and co-authoring publications, giving you a valuable advantage in the employment market.  

Where you’ll be based

You’ll be based in the ARENA research centre. ARENA investigates the role of exercise, nutrition and other lifestyle activities in improving clinical and health outcomes. Physical, psychological and sports performance in populations is studied across a wide cross-section of society, ranging from children to elite athletes and people with chronic disease. 

Our research focus ‘Healthy lives through healthy living’ centres around the grand challenge of tackling the growing epidemic of chronic diseases. We focus on real-world issues and bring bold ideas to create solutions which optimise health, function and wellbeing. 

Our mission is to be the leading Australian voice on a global stage by championing research in exercise, nutrition, preventative health and other lifestyle behaviours across the lifespan. In fact, we are well on the way to achieving this – currently ranked in the World Top 50 for Sport Science.* 

We work with diverse research partners, end-users and our communities to identify and evaluate solutions, and translate these outcomes into products and changes in policy and practice. 

*Ranked #35, 2021Shanghai Global Ranking of Sport Science Schools and Departments.

Supervisory team

Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders.  Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to applications from Australian or New Zealand citizens, and Australian permanent residents or permanent humanitarian visa holders. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Additionally, applicants who can also demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • A background degree related to nutrition, exercise physiology or psychology.
All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City East Campus  in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Thursday, 5 October, 2023

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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