Available research projects

Browse our current range of projects that are available to Master of Research applicants. You are not limited to choosing from this list of projects, they are just to give you an idea of potential research areas.

How to Apply

For more information, visit the How to apply for the Master of Research page.

Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Master of Research Projects

Supervisors: Simon Burrows and Tomas Trescak (Computing, Digital Humanities)
School/Institute: Digital Humanities Research Group / School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics / School of Humanities and Communication Arts

The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe (FBTEE) / Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment Project is an award-winning digital humanities project that seeks to track the movement of books around. It has been consulted by a scholarly community of thousands, and attracted a series of funding awards, most recently from the Australian Research Council for the ‘Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment’ (MPCE) project.

The project team would be keen for an MRes student with appropriate computing skills and an interest in human-computer interaction to assist in conceptualising, evaluating and enhancing a user interface for the benefit of the wider scholarly community, and to build an MRes project around this work.

Interfaces for interacting with humanities databases represent a particular challenge, because while users are generally subject domain experts, they are often unfamiliar with the underlying database technologies, and may not even be aware of the potential of such technology to address their research questions or visualise or analyse the data. Creating interfaces that introduce the user to this potential, while remaining flexible enough for use by those who are more familiar with the technology is an important problem.

The ARC-funded project Mapping Print: Charting Enlightenment has several large databases containing information pertaining to the French book trade in Enlightenment Europe, as well as access to further datasets from other linked databases, and a GraphQL layer that allows users to query across these data.

This research student will investigate the needs and expectations of users of these datasets through qualitative interviews, and user testing, for example recording and analysing video of people using the
existing front-ends to explore, browse, or solve particular tasks. This will be informed by the current state of the art on human-machine interaction, and will in turn inform the development of a new, user-centred interface that takes into account the particular needs of humanities researchers.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Ray Norris (Data Science, Astronomy)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

The force of gravity not only makes apples fall to the ground, but also keeps the Earth in orbit around the Sun, keeps the Sun in orbit around the Milky Way, and operates over unimaginable distances in space to keep galaxies whirling around each other. It also bends light, and “gravitational lenses” have been detected in space, caused by galaxies that distort spacetime and thus bend the light from distant
galaxies.

Our best description of gravity is still Einstein’s “General Theory of Relativity”, developed over 100 years ago. As far as we know, it still works perfectly over distances up to the size of the solar system. But what about larger scales? Some theories of the Universe predict that it should break over very large scales. For example, if we live in a multiverse, adjacent Universes could affect gravity on sizes of millions of light years.

So how can we possibly test gravity over those distances? It turns out that there is a way. The radio waves from black holes in very distant galaxies, billions of light years away, will be bent by the nearby galaxies that are less than a billion light years away. It’s a tiny effect that is almost undetectable, but we can use big data techniques to try to detect it.

The Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) is a major project, led by Norris, starting on CSIRO’s new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope in WA, which will provide data on millions of galaxies, many of which are billions of light years away.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to cross-correlate the millions of radio galaxies detected by EMU with the millions of much nearer galaxies detected by optical telescopes. These nearby optical galaxies should bend the radio waves from the distant radio galaxies, causing the radio galaxies to appear slightly closer to the optical galaxies than you would expect by chance. It is a subtle effect and will require millions of galaxies to detect it. Though it sounds conceptually simple, extracting the science from the data will be challenging because of the complexities involved and the large volumes of data. But modelling shows that we will have enough data to detect it.  You will play a key role in testing whether Einstein’s General Relativity still works over these large distances, or whether it breaks down on large scales.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Rodrigo N. Calheiros (Cloud Computing)
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Cloud computing has been around for nearly 10 years. During this time, different advances in unrelated areas changed considerably the landscape of cloud computing. For example, Internet of Things (IoT) is now a reality, and thousands of sensors are generating huge amount of data that need to be stored and processed somewhere.  More important, the analysis of this data needs to be processed quickly so the information can be actioned, and for that, the latency in connecting to usually distant cloud data centres causes unacceptable delays in the processing. Even when latency is not an issue, the volume of data (for example, streaming from different cameras) make the cost of data transfer to cloud data centres prohibitive. In summary, the model of centralized data centres seems to be reaching its limits in terms of adequacy for emerging applications.

Edge computing is emerging as a solution: in this model, part of the data is processed closer to the user, reducing the amount if data and computation that goes to the cloud.  Besides reducing latency and costs of using clouds, this model offers extra advantages in terms of data privacy (as data can be kept on the edge rather than on the cloud). This project will investigate solutions for challenges observed in this emerging model, including: high complexity for end users, application developers, and system administrators to use edge infrastructures; difficulty in the integration of different IoT sensors and edge devices; and difficulty in porting existing applications to this new model so it actually benefits from it. The target of this project is any one of these problems, or even another problem identified during the research. 

 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Seyed Shahrestani (Cybersecurity, Network Security)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

The Internet of Things (IoT) is drastically altering the ways businesses and organizations operate and how individuals interact with the world. A consequence of that, is a huge surge of data. It is estimated that the IoT-generated data is rising at twice the rate of computer-generated and social-networking data. To remain competitive, organizations must expand their data capabilities in the areas of incorporation, automation, and analysis.

The enterprises are beginning to take advantage of the opportunities that the IoT offers, by implanting smart sensors and actuators into their goods and services. This is drastically shifting the way businesses function and how people engage with the physical world. The complemented massive surge of data, treated by analytics, while innovative and even revolutionary, brings on many challenging problems. Notably, they can expose organizations to higher security and privacy risks.

Poorly secured IoT devices can be targeted, causing them to malfunction, or can be used for cyberattacks on other systems. The IoT and many of its objects are built around machine-to-machine communications and processes that tend to operate automatically, without human involvement and awareness. Things can expose user data and information and may have no clear way or protocol to warn the user when some security or privacy issues arise. As such, the things can cause serious privacy concerns for their users. This project aims to address some of these issues through utilization of modern approaches, such as Blockchain and deep Machine Learning. It should provide novel cybersecurity solutions for massively interconnected systems and improve their reliability while generating or handling Big Data.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Oliver Obst (Data Science)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Team sports like Soccer or Netball provide a rich environment to analyse interactions and performance of individual players and teams. Which player is most influential on the field, what can be said about interactions between players of a team, and can we predict effects of team strategies when we have not seen the two teams play each other?

The RoboCup Soccer Simulation is a program that allows to create simulated soccer teams (each consisting of 11 programs that control what the players do). The best of these compete in an annual world championship with participants from around the world, for now more than 20 years. The challenge is to create “players” that make the right decision for what the next best action is. These players are programs that can be created by a combination of programming and methods from machine learning and artificial intelligence.

With a large dataset of soccer matches that we collected from some of the best teams in RoboCup you can develop and test new methods for analysis of team sports that are then useful for professional sports like Soccer A-League. The data set can also be used for machine learning and programming of a new team that competes for the next world championship title in RoboCup.

Both possible directions of this project will require some programming experience (or at least enthusiasm to work on your programming), and a keen interest in Data Science or machine learning techniques like Deep Learning.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Simeon Simoff (Artificial Intelligence, Interpretability, Machine Learning)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

The field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and especially Machine Learning (ML) have evolved dramatically with the rapid increase of our capability to collect very large amounts of linked data. The availability of such data, representing the domain through many thousands of features, offers the opportunity to address real-world problems and automate complex tasks in our everyday life. These opportunities have led to a widespread industry adoption of machine learning and broader AI decision algorithms across diverse domains including science, health, finance, insurance, technology, and many other areas.

From interpretability perspective, many contemporary machine learning techniques remain black boxes, as the focus in the development of the ML algorithms has been on achieving high predictive performance. Whilst, classifiers like decision tree and naïve Bayes offer means for analysis and
interpretation, in many other high performing classifiers it is difficult to understand the contribution of individual features and the contribution of the interactions between them to the final prediction. However, users, including decision makers, usually need to have some understanding of how the outcomes have been derived in order to trust them. This may vary in different domains, for instance, an ML credit risk assessment may be taken with less questioning, then an ML cancer risk assessment or an ML security discriminator.

There is no agreement on the definition of interpretability. The goals of this project are:

  • to explore the notion of interpretability in machine learning
  • to develop computational definition and quantification of interpretability
  • to develop a method assisting with the interpretation of the results of a ‘black box’ machine learning model, chosen by the student. 

Proposed technique will be validated with data set(s), related to Greater Sydney, from the open data repository data.gov.au.

Desirable background knowledge: Understanding of the principles of machine learning; knowledge of some machine learning algorithms; practical knowledge of some open source data science tools, like Weka. Knowledge in programming in a contemporary language (e.g., Java, C++, C#, Python) will be beneficial.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Seyed Shahrestani (Health, Ageing well, Networking)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Internet of Things (IoT), smart homes, buildings, cities, and other environments can vastly enrich human experiences. Our experiences and quality of life are heavily dependent on the use of our senses and our cognitive abilities. Unfortunately, both can be subject to impairments.

The available data indicates that sight and hearing impairments are the two most commonly encountered ones. WHO estimates that worldwide 285 million people are visually impaired. It puts the number of individuals with a disabling hearing loss at 360 million, or around 5% of the population of the world. Cognitive abilities vary widely among people. While some deterioration of cognitive abilities naturally occurs with aging, some conditions may have more effects on them. Dementia is an example of such conditions. WHO studies indicate that more than 75 million people are estimated to be living with dementia by 2030.

Technology can play a significant role in improving the quality of life and independent living of the affected people. There are already an array of devices and technologies that can assist with some aspects of the physically or mentally challenged people. However, there is still much room for their improvements. With their potentially ubiquitous nature and immense growths, IoT and smart environments can play leading roles in these improvements. Digital senses, supplied through the permeating nature of the IoT and deployment of smart environments, can be of significant benefit to improving the quality of life for a person living with a sensory or a cognitive impairment. The project needs to investigate holistic and translational approaches to enhance the independence and integration of the affected people while supporting their caregivers.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Leo Zhang (Mechanical/Biomedical Engineering)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Bone tissue scaffolds, which act as temporary substitutes, provide essential mechanical support during healing and regeneration of bone trauma and defects. To date, tissue scaffolds fabricated by additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology have been widely used for load-bearing tissue repair in the tissue engineering community. Despite their current success, the biomechanical performance of scaffolds is one of the most important factors in bone tissue engineering.

Biological and mechanical functions are sometimes two conflicting design criteria of 3D printed scaffolds, thus a proper trade-off between these two attributes is critical. In this study, a systematic parametric analysis and subsequent design optimisation are proposed to investigate the effects of controllable fabrication parameters on fracture strength and permeability of bone scaffolds, followed by a multiobjective optimisation study to determine the optimal geometric parameters. The extended finite element method (XFEM) is adopted to model fracture behaviour in the scaffolds by correlating with the experimental tests, in order to evaluate the fracture strength of scaffolds. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations are implemented to analyse the permeability of the scaffold to quantify biotransport capacity.

The results are expected to demonstrate that biomechanical properties of scaffolds can be significantly increased by controlling particular geometric parameters during design and fabrication process, which is of certain implication to design of additively-manufactured scaffolds for load-bearing tissue engineering applications.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Simeon Simoff (Data visualisation, Artificial Intelligence)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Novelty in science and technology, be it in the form of new ideas, discoveries or entrepreneurial endeavours, is the major driving agent of creativity, innovation and change in our society. It is a fundamental highly complex concept, indicating the extent to which a research pathway deviates from established science. It is an essential feature of research outputs.

This project considers the novelty in research publications and uses the term conditional novelty, which reflects that novelty depends on time and prior knowledge. Conditional novelty can be defined as something that was unknown before a particular point in time that was discovered or created at that time, which implies the relation between novelty and respective “state-of-the-art” at that point of time.

Novelty is a multifaceted concept. The goals of this project are: 

  • to explore computational models and features for measuring novelty of scientific research publications in a specific knowledge domain, chosen by the student;
  • to develop method for measurement of novelty of scientific publications;
  • to evaluate the developed method using data set(s) of research publications in a specific domain(s).

The work will contribute towards the development of computational tools for discovery of scientific opportunities, which is part of Challenge 14 of the National Academy of Engineering Global Challenges.

Desirable background knowledge: Understanding the principles of computer methods for text analysis, machine learning form texts; practical knowledge of some open source data science tools, like R, Weka and visualisation platforms, like Cytoscape and NodeXL. Programming capabilities in a contemporary language (e.g., Java, C++, C#, Python) will be beneficial.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Oliver Obst (Data Science)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Object Tracking is an important problem in computer vision. Objects to be tracked could be pedestrians, cars, dogs, robots, etc., across subsequent frames of a video stream. Once the computer identifies a new object, the algorithm should assign the object a new identifier. Ideally, algorithm manages to maintain the same assignment of identifiers throughout the video, in the best case even when objects are occluded for a few frames.

A number of different object tracking approaches exist. Many of the best approaches make use of modern Deep Learning, that is, neural networks that are oftentimes too large or inefficient to solve the problem in real-time with limited computational resources.

For this project, you will look at some of these object tracking algorithms and investigate how to make them efficient enough to run them in real-time. This can, for example, be achieved by making the networks smaller, but in order to still achieve good tracking performance, this size reduction needs to be realised in a smart way. An alternative idea would be to use lower numerical accuracy in individual neurons of the network for speed-up, but still achieve high accuracy overall through clever design of the network or its training. 

The result of this project can lead to better object tracking for mobile devices or robots, to help making sense of their surroundings. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Liyaning Tang (Construction management; Public-Private Partnership; Big data analytics)
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

The increasing use of the Internet for many purposes is creating big data, many of which are generated from social media. These big data potentially could assist in obtaining valuable administrative information and even explore new social phenomena. Traditional ways of collecting data, such as questionnaire surveys, are time-consuming and costly. Therefore, the use of social media affords the opportunity to extract information that might be of benefit to the construction industry in a responsive and inexpensive manner.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Liyaning Tang (Construction management; Public-Private Partnership; Big data analytics)
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects was a trend in the last five decades all over the world. Due to the concession period is normally 25-30 years, there were many PPP projects, which have been returned from private companies to the public sector. This research focuses on how these projects work after returning to the public sector on both management and financial aspects, in hence to find out whether there are any improvements/changes can be made during PPP projects remain in the private sector’s hand.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Ray Norris (Machine Learning, Astronomy)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

There are millions of galaxies in the observable Universe, stretching right back in space and time to the
earliest days of the Universe, just after the Big Bang. We are trying to understand how they work, and in particular why some galaxies have supermassive black holes (SMBH) at their centre. These black holes, about a billion times the mass of the Sun, occasionally suck in a star or a cloud of gas, and then radiate vast amounts of energy. We can see this energy with radio telescopes as two jets of electrons squirting out from the black hole, travelling close to the speed of light.

On the other hand, some galaxies either don’t have a SMBH at their centre, or the SMBH is inactive. The radio emission from these galaxies is dominated by the gentler processes associated with the birth and death of stars.

We are trying to understand why some galaxies have active SMBH and some don’t, and how these SMBH affect the life cycle of stars. The first step is to figure out which galaxies have SMBH, and this turns out to be a hard problem. We plan to crack this problem using machine learning techniques.

The Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) is a major project, led by Norris, starting on CSIRO’s new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope in WA, which will provide data on millions of galaxies, about half of which host a SMBH.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to develop a machine learning algorithm to find the SMBH. You will train the algorithm on galaxies in which we have already determined which have SMBH and which don’t, using painstaking manual techniques. You will then apply the algorithm to the millions of galaxies in EMU, to find which ones contain the black holes.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Luke Barnes (Data Science, Astronomy)    
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

The Milky Way’s nearest galactic neighbour – of similar size – is Andromeda, located 2.5 million light years away. We know that Andromeda is moving towards us at about 300 km/s, which means that it will arrive at the Milky Way in about 2-3 billion years. What happens when it arrives?

Astronomers have simulated the collision and merger of massive galaxies, which is a relatively common process in the universe. We see many galaxies that seem to be in the process of collision. Using computer codes that model the interaction of matter under gravity, hydrodynamics and more, we can produce simulations of collisions that follow the gravitational pull of dark matter, gas and stars, the compression of gas disks, the resultant burst of star formation, and more.

What hasn’t been investigated, using these simulations, is what would happen to life forms in the galaxies? If life remained in the solar system, or on a similarly habitable planet, what would they experience during the collision. There are simple, back-of-the-envelope calculations that suggest that a star from Andromeda is unlikely to impact the Solar System on the first pass. But there are several aspects to this question that require more detailed simulations:

  • Will stars from Andromeda significantly increase the likelihood that, either during the collision or in the aftermath, a wandering star will upset planetary orbits in the solar system?
  • Will the burst of star formation create supernovae explosions and gamma ray bursts that affect life on Earth?
  • Will the reignition of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy affect any life that now exists near the centre?

This project will analyse simulations of the Milky Way-Andromeda collision to answer these questions.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Education

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Dr. Jacqueline Ullman and Associate Professor Tania Ferfolja (Equity, Social Inclusion and Education)
School/Institute: School of Education; Centre for Educational Research

Dr. Ullman and A/Prof Ferfolja are leading Australian researchers in the area of gender and sexuality diversity (GSD). Their research focuses on GSD in a range of educational spaces and organisations, and includes explorations of interpersonal relationships, curriculum, policy, and practice as well as questions of institutional and social discrimination and marginalisation.  Each has a strong publication record and both have been awarded large, competitive Category 1, 2 and 3 grants, including their current Australian Research Council grant exploring parents’ perceptions of GSD-inclusive curriculum nationally, and the ways that parents of GSD children navigate the schooling terrain for their child.

While their own work focuses on GSD and schooling, Ullman and Ferfolja have supervised higher degree research students exploring topics more broadly in the field, including topics related to gender (gender norms; gender ‘policing’; gendered violence; gender and power in social relationships) and GSD topics outside of educational spaces.  Additional related fields of study might include:

  • GSD diverse families
  • Community in/visibility of GSD identities
  • Workplace Inclusion/Discrimination related to gender/sexuality
  • Curriculum and Policy Analysis related to gender/sexuality
  • LGBTQI+ Social Movements (e.g. marriage equality)
  • GSD identities in educational institutions (including primary/secondary schooling; tertiary and post-school options)

Dr Ullman and A/Prof Ferfolja welcome contact from students who are interested in these or similarly affiliated areas to discuss future research support possibilities.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Loshini Naidoo (Refugee Education and community engagement)
School/Institute: School of Education

As the numbers of refugees and displaced persons worldwide continues to rise, it is inevitable that the number of refugee students in Australian education will
increase. There is an undeniable need for schools and universities to create enduring spaces for refugee background students by reconceptualising transition as a holistic process which extends beyond classroom walls and builds on the resilience and assets these students bring to learning. This research area suggests how we might reframe research into forced migration and education by posing challenges to standardised curriculum and the claims to quality education that underpin educational reforms. Rather we argue for a more responsive and situated curriculum, that helps to shape a narrative which incorporates and values the experiences of those affected by displacement. Schools have the potential to impact the lives of Australian students with a refugee background. Many of these young people have previous histories of interrupted schooling or have experienced trauma during times of displacement and forced migration. Combined with the further challenges of settling within an unfamiliar cultural frame, these students experience a range of difficulties as they navigate the terrain of Australian education. Australian students with a refugee background have prior learning experiences and are immensely resilient, passionate and determined to succeed in education. Opportunities to develop social capital and eventually economic and cultural capital within the school context can be enhanced with relevant pedagogy and policy. Providing direct and active learning experiences, the availability of a process for fostering transformative learning, the importance of pedagogy and the nature and importance of support when fostering transformative learning are linked to the tenets of human rights education. By bringing a critical human rights approach to bear on our responses to forced migration, means changing our position toward discourses that keep some people on the margins of society.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Loshini Naidoo (Social Justice Education)
School/Institute: School of Education

Loshini’s teaching and research is designed to introduce educators to the roots of social differences and social inequalities; to motivate and inspire engagement through critical pedagogy; to stimulate students to gain a critical understanding of the role of schooling in broader social contexts, including the relevance of sociological perspectives to this awareness. Her approach is to disrupt notions of self by asking students to step outside the centre and try to see life from the margins where many of their students live. This is a starting point for encouraging them to develop insights into their taken-for-granted and deficit thinking about marginalized, or unfamiliar groups.  She encourages pre-service
teachers to articulate a vision of teaching and learning within the diverse society we have become and then use that vision to infuse social justice and cultural issues throughout their teaching. Pre-service teachers are prepared to deconstruct the larger forces around them with the tools ( hammer, bell and songs) to connect the local to the global (Spalding, Klecka, Lin, Odell, & Wang, 2018) ‘We interpret the hammer as the tools (theories, ideologies, epistemologies, and practices) we have for learning and teaching about social justice. We see the bell as the means of sending a clear and persuasive message to educators and teacher educators about the relevance of teaching for social justice. We understand the song as the means to unite those who may agree on the goals of teaching for social justice’ (Spalding, Klecka, Lin , Odell , and Wang, 2018, p. 191)

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Health Sciences

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Andrew Bennie (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sport) 
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Sport plays an important and powerful role for many Australians. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, sport provides opportunities for social participation, social identity construction and meaningful engagement in the workforce (Campbell and Sonn, 2009). However, little is known about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences in sport officiating or management (administrative/governance roles on sporting clubs/organisations) roles. As such, further research is warranted to help develop a more detailed understanding of the pathways into sports officiating and management roles, as well as the facilitators and challenges experienced as they progress through opportunities in these roles.

This qualitative research project will involve multiple interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sports officials and managers across a range of team and individual sports from a variety of settings (local community right up to professional leagues). Data collected in this manner prioritises respect for the agency and voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, while enabling the first ever collation of in-depth stories about the lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in these roles. The findings will be particularly relevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, academics, policymakers, and sporting organisations interested in enhancing opportunities and developing pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in sport officiating and management roles.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Andrew Bennie (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sport) 
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Sport researchers have begun to appreciate the perspectives and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes in various global communities, yet little is known about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sport coaches. Considering sport can play a positive social, psychological, and physical role in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it is problematic that there is a dearth of academic literature exploring the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander coaches. This study aims to address this gap by being the first study of its kind to specifically explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ lived experiences in sport coaching roles.

Guided by ethnographic research strategies, this project will involve observing/interacting with a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sport coaches and their teams throughout a sporting season. The purpose will be to better understand how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live and work as sport coaches. Data will be gathered with coaches via informal observations and interviews during training, meetings, and competition settings. The coaches and researchers will engage in a range of self-reflective journaling (audio and written) to enable a thorough and rich description of the experiences.

This research will consider multiple team and individual sports, working with community based and professional sport organisations. Existing relationships include Netball Australia, Netball NSW, AFL NSW/ACT, National Rugby League, Australian Rugby Union, Athletics Australia, Football NSW, Football Federation Australia. The findings will be particularly relevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, academics, policymakers, and sporting organisations interested in better understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sport coaching experiences. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr. Amitabh Gupta (Physiotherapy)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The number of older adults living alone, who are otherwise healthy, demonstrate a decline in physical activity, greater time spent indoors with an increased risk of falling and trend towards fragility. Although there is evidence to support greater participation in physical activity and specific balance exercises, compliance and motivation to undertake such exercise or activity is not evident.

A novel, inexpensive, sensor-based technology has been developed to increase the amount of exercise and physical activity performed in the home by independent, older residents. This project will focus on developing the use of this technology to tailor it to individual needs and determine whether it is effective in increasing exercise and physical activity.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Arianne Reis (Physical Activity; Health Promotion; Public Health; Leisure Studies)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Despite widespread knowledge of the health benefits of physical activity (PA), high rates of sedentary behaviours, particularly during leisure time, still predominate worldwide (WHO 2010). In the context of high rates of physical inactivity during leisure time, many authors suggest that not only personal choices are responsible for the low rates of PA, but also that environmental and policy contexts can play an important role in the adoption of healthy behaviours, including regular and sustainable PA participation. Accordingly, many scholars have tried to assess the influence of the built environment on levels of PA, with results indicating that the built environment is indeed an important predictor for PA engagement. A particular focus of research in this field has been the characteristics of the neighbourhood of residence and their impact on PA behaviour of the local population. Results indicate that living in a more walkable neighbourhood increases the adoption of the habit of walking for exercise; physical activity resources (PARs) are less available in poor/minorities neighbourhoods; and the quality and maintenance of existent PARs is an economical strategy to increase PA participation.

In this context, the main objective of this research project is to evaluate the quality of public PARs available in mid to low income neighbourhoods in the Western Sydney region (or others).

The project will be very hands-on, with opportunity for quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, depending on the student’s approach to the study. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: David Lim (Health Service, Public Health)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Persons with disability seek more health care than people without disability and are consistently over-represented in admissions and face undesirable situations. Accurate and detailed information hospitalisation patterns and associated risk and protective factors for people with disabilities is essential for future planning and policy making. However to date there is significant paucity of data and information on rural populations living with disability and the impact on health services.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) reports the use of mainstream health services by people with disability (AIHW 2015). In 2015, 93% of persons with disability engaged a General Practitioner (GP), while 26% and 22% visited a hospital Emergency Department (ED) and were admitted to hospital, respectively. Importantly, there was an evident rural-urban difference in the use of primary care services. People with disability below 65 years old living in the community in outer regional and remote areas used GPs, medical specialists, dentists and different types of health professionals’ services less than people with those living in urban areas. However, they were more likely to visit a hospital ED for health issues that could potentially be dealt with by non-hospital primary care services (Lim & Geelhoed, 2015). People with disability living in outer regional and remote areas were 2.5 times as likely as those living in major cities to think that the care they needed could have been provided by a GP and admission to ED could potentially be prevented. It is difficult to fully understand the relatively high ED use and impact of preventable ED presentations and hospitalisation without comprehensive understanding of person level disability factors and complex systems level factors.

This proposed project is an extension of an existing project to examine the appropriate use of ED, and is intended to provide the pilot data for a further research grant. The overarching project aims is to understand factors that potentially influence the avoidable ED presentation and hospitalisation of people living with disabilities in rural and regional communities.

The candidate will explore a real-world problem and will gain experience in working with diverse stakeholders including individuals with disability and their caregivers, clinicians and policy-makers.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr. Kayte Jenkin (Medical science)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Obesity rates have steadily been increasing for decades, along with a number of obesity-related co-morbidities including Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). One therapeutic target identified for the treatment of obesity-related kidney damage is the endogenous cannabinoid system, known as the “endocannabinoid system”. The endocannabinoid system is a lipid signalling system, which mediates metabolic functions in a number of organs. The receptors which control cannabinoid signalling (CB1 and CB2) are expressed in kidney tissue, and these receptors can ameliorate the progression of symptoms of kidney disease when pharmacologically targeted.

This project aims to evaluate the effect on cannabinoid signalling via pharmacological intervention and the effects on downstream signalling pathways in renal proximal tubule cells. The outcome of this project will primarily increase our understanding of tubular dysfunction in the pathogenesis of CKD.

This project will suit a candidate who has an interest in pathology, physiology, cell biology or medical science. The project will provide the candidate an opportunity to experience and develop a range of skills including biochemical techniques, developing a research hypothesis, project management, and preparation of data for publication.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Simon Green (Exercise Science and Ageing)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Progressive loss of skeletal muscle is a natural part of the ageing process beyond about 60 years of age. However, the rate of muscle loss is highly variable between people and can manifest as moderate to severe muscle wasting, particularly when older individuals transition into aged care facilities. Muscle wasting contributes to reduced mobility and independence, predisposes individuals to a higher risk of falling and clinical complications, and increases the risk of developing serious chronic diseases.

The rate of muscle loss is sensitive to exercise and diet, although the optimal combination of exercise and diet for negating this loss in older people is not clear. Older individuals also experience changes in gastrointestinal physiology and appetite which contribute to a lower habitual intake of protein. To negate this, recommendations for protein supplementation have focused on essential amino acids; whereas recent research has cast light upon the considerable anabolic potential of the non-essential amino acid, glycine.

For the first time, this project will study individuals older than 60 years and test the effect of a program of exercise and glycine supplementation on anatomical, physiological and functional measurements related to muscle wasting. The project will be conducted in partnership with Bankstown City Aged Care and at its Wellness Centre where older people are already engaged in closely-supervised exercise programs.

This project provides an excellent opportunity for students to work within a strong research environment focused on improving the health and wellbeing of older people. Students will learn how to identify and tackle research problems, think and work rigorously in a scientific environment, improve their communication skills, interact effectively with people working in aged care, and perhaps set themselves up for a career in exercise science and aged care. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Bonnie Pang (Sociocultural Studies in Health, Sport, and Physical Activity, Chinese diaspora)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health/Institute for Culture and Society

What will you research on?
The research focuses on Chinese diasporic communities. The purpose of the research is to examine the relationship between health, sport, physical activity with the environment, the body, technology, inequality and identity. Students will have the opportunity to design their own research focus around these topics with Chinese-Australian communities. 

What research skills and soft skills will you learn?    

  • Students will learn to apply a range of research skills from an ethnographic research approach with particular emphasis on qualitative methods. This will include: individual interviews and focus group interviews, participatory visual methods, mobile ethnography, and art-based methods. 
  • Students will learn to understand and apply social theories and concepts (e.g. feminisms, masculinities, structure/agency, critical race theory, post-colonialism and others etc.) to analyse the research data using qualitative data software (e.g. NVivo). 
  • Students will further have the opportunity to lead and collaborate with community partners to organise health/sport/physical activity events for Chinese-Australian, communities. 

What could be the research impact? 
The research has the potential to significantly enhance health, sport, and physical activity experiences for young people – with a focus on Chinese diasporic communities - and the nation’s capacity to promote active, healthy and inclusive citizens in an increasingly ethnic and culturally diverse socio-cultural environment.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Bonnie Pang (Diversity and inclusion in health, sport, and physical activity)    
School/Institute: School of Science and Health/Institute for Culture and Society

What will you research on?
The research focuses on Chinese LGBTQ communities. The aim of the research project is to understand their experiences in community sport, music, and art engagement and the impact on health. Students will have the opportunity to design their own research focus around these topics with Chinese LGBTQ communities locally and globally (e.g. Hong Kong, UK). 

What research skills and soft skills will you learn?    

  • Students will learn to apply a range of research skills from an ethnographic research approach with particular emphasis on qualitative methods. This will include: individual interviews and focus group interviews, participatory visual methods, mobile ethnography, and art-based methods. 
  • Students will learn to understand and apply social theories and concepts (e.g. Bourdieu, Foucault, feminisms, queer theory etc.) to analyse the research data using qualitative data software (e.g. NVivo).
  • Students will further have the opportunity to collaborate with community partners (e.g. ACON, Hong Kong 2022 Gay Games committee) to organise and/or participate in community sport and music events for LGBTIQ Chinese communities. 

What could be the research impact?
The research has the potential to significantly enhance Chinese LGBTQ communities’ sport, music, and art engagement, and to promote active, healthy and inclusive citizens in an increasingly ethnic and culturally diverse socio-cultural environment.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Xian (Phoebe) Zhou, Chun–Guang Li (Cardiovascular studies, synergistic interaction)
School/Institute: NICM Health Research Institute

Combination therapy presents a systematic approach in tackling complex pathological conditions such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Curcumin and resveratrol are two well-known nutraceuticals for its powerful anti-oxidant activities. Such activity can protect cells from oxidative stress (an important risk factor for CVD) and prevent dysfunction of the endothelium (inner surface of blood vessels); which inhibits the development of CVD. Moreover, their combined use was suggested to exert enhanced biological effects and/or multi-target behaviour for various diseases. It is therefore plausible that the combination of these two compounds serve as a more suitable cardioprotective agent, rather than the singular compounds. This study aims to investigate the combined effects of curcumin and resveratrol in the protection of the endothelium against oxidative stress using cellular assays and animal models. Determining the combined activity of curcumin and resveratrol provides early evidence of a combination therapy that will assist in the current management of CVD.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Cherylea Browne (Neurology, vestibular neuroscience, brain stimulation, photobiomodulation)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS) is a rare neurological condition that affects the vestibular system, which particularly affects women, and has no cure. Symptoms of MdDS include a continuous swaying, rocking, or motion‐like feeling that typically arises following a motion experience such as traveling on sea. Studies have identified various areas within the brain which are overactive and also underactive in MdDS patients, which provides a target for intervention. It is estimated to affect 3 million people worldwide, though the diagnosis rate is poor. As the research of MdDS is still in its infancy, the underlying cause and aetiology of symptoms is currently unknown, and thus treatments for this condition are yet to be completely effective. Recent clinical studies have shown that repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) benefits MdDS patients by reducing symptoms, improving cognitive ability and quality of life. This study seeks to combine rTMS with photobiomodulation therapy. Photobiomodulation therapy is defined as the utilization of non-ionizing electromagnetic energy to trigger photochemical changes within cellular structures that are receptive to photons. The current and widely accepted proposal of the mechanism is that the low level visible red to near infrared light energy is absorbed by mitochondria and converted into adenosine triphosphate for cellular use. Photobiomodulation therapy is gaining momentum in the neurology sphere, particularly in dementia and Parkinson’s Disease research. Given the brain changes in MdDS, we propose that a combination therapy may benefit patients.

This project will include recruiting patients from NSW, delivering rTMS and photobiomodulation therapy, posturography measurements and patient follow up.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Simon Green (Biomedical Engineering)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Oxygen therapy is used in the treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Oxygen concentrators are commonly used to deliver oxygen to the patient and are widely used at home. The oxygen concentrator uses ambient air, concentrates oxygen and expels nitrogen, and pumps the oxygen to the patient via a tube and nasal flare. When sleeping, this way of delivering oxygen can often be problematic for the patient because the nasal flares can become dislodged or clogged, the connecting tubing can become entangled with the patient, the delivered air can irritate the nasal passages, and the passage of air via the nose is often not possible when mucus and swelling is present in the nostrils.

The long-term effectiveness of oxygen therapy is related to its efficacy during sleeping. There is a significant need to develop alternative ways of delivering oxygen to a patient’s lungs via the mouth, rather than relying exclusively on the nostrils. Masks might provide an alternative to nasal flares, but the use of masks during sleep is also problematic and can be difficult for the patient.

This project will focus on the development of an oxygen delivery system which can be adapted to existing oxygen concentrators but does not require direct contact between the system and patient. The project will involve experimental work measuring gas flows and concentrations, testing involving human subjects, as well as the design and manufacture of equipment.

This project is suited to an engineering student with interests in biomedical science. The project will involve technical work and experiments involving human subjects. Given the large market in oxygen therapy and problems with existing systems, there is long-term commercial potential in this project if an alternative mode of oxygen delivery can be discovered and proves to be effective. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Simon Green (Biomedical Engineering and Physiological Sciences)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The measurement of oxygen uptake and associated cardiorespiratory variables is commonplace in hospitals, universities, the military and sports institutes. These measurements are usually obtained using one of several commercial systems which range in price from approximately $50,000 to $100,000. Despite the high cost, there are questions about the accuracy of these systems and the implications this has for the research and practice based on the measurements these systems provide.

The basic purpose of these systems is to measure the flows of respiratory gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, between air and blood in the lungs. The basic operational principle of these systems is the same: to estimate the exchange (flow rates) of gases into and out of the lungs by measuring air flows into and out of the lungs and the fractions of gases in these air flows. Measurements of respiratory gases are delayed with respect to the measurement of air flows and this requires the two sets of measurements to be aligned. The accuracy with which this time alignment can be achieved is questionable. In addition, the changes in temperature and humidity of inflowing and outflowing air introduce additional sources of error which are not well defined.

This project will focus on developing a novel system of measuring pulmonary gas exchange which utilises a different principle of operation. This difference helps reduce problems associated with time alignment of respiratory signals and errors related to the temperature and humidity of inflowing and outflowing gas streams.

This project is suited to either an engineering student with interests in science or a science student with good mathematical skills and technical acumen. The project will involve technical work and experiments involving human subjects. There is commercial potential in this project, particularly if this system proves to be more accurate than conventional systems.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Caroline Smith, Carolyn Ee, Mike Armour (Healthy Women)
School/Institute: NICM Health Research Institute

The women's health programme at NICM Health Research Institute covers menstrual health of young women, pregnancy, infertility, menopause and gynaecological disorders.

Women are high users of complementary therapies and medicines (CAM). There is an emerging evidence base for the efficacy of many CAM modalities, little is known about the CAM health literacy of women and the factors involved in their decision-making process to use CAM for women’s health care. Health literacy refers to the extent to which an individual is able to search, obtain, and understand health information and their confidence in being able to apply this information in making decisions about their health. It is understood that health literacy plays an important role in women’s health, with lower health literacy levels being associated with poorer health outcomes.

We have recently completed studies to examine how women make decisions to use CAM and the factors that influence their decisions. The aim of this project will be to build on this study to develop and pilot test interventions to improve women's CAM health literacy that will encourage informed decision-making and evidence-based therapies to improve health. The focus of the project could be with different groups of women from culturally and linguistic backgrounds, or it could focus around a particular health condition depending on the candidate’s interest.

This study will address the gap in knowledge on the CAM health literacy needs of Australian women. Findings from this research have the potential to improve the CAM health litearcy of women by determining the best way to support Australian women  to make safe and informed decisions about CAM and will inform future interventions.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Kylie Steel, Mike Armour, Kelly Ann Parry (Skill Acquisition/ Women’s Health)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Very few studies in sport science engage female athletes as their subject base. Often this is due to the perceived impact of menstruation on consistent performance. Consequently, research that specifically addresses issues that may directly impact female athletes is limited. Of particular interest to this research group is the potential impact of menstruation on female athlete’s ability to consistently performance coordination tasks, and thus should this be a consideration in both training, performance and indeed research design.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: David Simmons, Freya MacMillan, Kate McBride, Milan Piya,
Tinashe Dune, Levi Osuagwu, Carolyn Ee, Frances Henshaw (diabetes and obesity prevention and management)

School/Institute: Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism Translation Unit
(DOMTRU)

Projects within DOMTRU fall within four key themes: descriptive studies (to identify intervention needs); prevention (strategies to prevent obesity and diabetes, as well as prevention of complications in those with diabetes); treatment (approaches for improving care of those already living with diabetes); and community activation and peer support (sustainable, community-based strategies to support healthy lifestyles and diabetes management). Our work focuses on those with disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes and complications of diabetes including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Pacific communities, women planning pregnancy, low socioeconomic groups and those living in rural areas. Expertise within DOMTRU spans diabetes epidemiology, integrated diabetes care service development, lifestyle behaviour change and monitoring, women’s health, cultural tailoring of interventions, community-engaged research and specific clinical expertise including optometry, general practice and podiatry. We also work with multiple external stakeholders including local health districts, primary health networks and advocacy groups in Australia and internationally (including in Tonga and New Zealand), to roll out models for diabetes prevention, management and surveillance. We have a strong focus on translation of our models into practice and policy and transferability of models that can be applied in diverse settings, for diverse groups.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: A/Prof Karen Liu, Dr Kristy Coxon, Nikki Tulliani (Occupational therapy / Rehabilitation / Health science)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Being able to get around is important for maintaining community independence in later life, and the well-researched memory encoding training program provides an excellent strategy for older adults to learn and switch to the public transportation system.

This project will adopt a memory encoding and learning training approach, developed by the supervisors of this project, to teach use of public transportation among older people when they retire from driving.  The project aims to enable older adults (who are making the transition from driving) to use public transport more efficiently and improve their quality of life through mastering the use of Opal cards and the NSW transportation systems.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Kate McBride and Freya MacMillan (Population Health, Chronic disease)
School/Institute: Translational Health Research Institute

Prevalence of obesity, an established risk factor for a number of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and muscular skeletal disorders, has increased dramatically in Australia and globally in the past 50 years. For example, relative to normal weight patients, obese cancer patients have poorer prognoses, resistance to chemotherapy and are their cancer is more likely to spread. Obesity is also the main precursor for diabetes, a disease that is now becoming a worldwide epidemic. Obesity can be reduced through lifestyle interventions, such as peer support programs, and in turn reduce risk of these chronic diseases.

This research project will evaluate the effectiveness of a peer support trial run through a hospital-based obesity clinic in South Western Sydney. This trial will involve evaluating the delivery of healthy lifestyle messages as well as mental health support by trained peer supporters recruited through the obesity clinic. Evaluation will include both quantitative and qualitative components as well as a health economic needs assessment and will involve working closely with stakeholders from across the region. This is a novel project that will, for the first time, assess the effectiveness of peer support to improve multiple chronic conditions in Australia, and further afield.

This is very timely, rich, hands-on and interdisciplinary work. The candidate will explore a real-world problem and will gain experience in working with industry and local governments.  The goal of the project is to provide urban planners, councils and developers with evidence-based alternatives to blacktop carparks that will help make Sydney cooler.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Andrew Bennie (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sport) 
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

This research project will involve the design and delivery of an innovative program that takes a unique approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community development by educating sport coaches to promote health within their communities through their sporting contexts.

For many years, sport has been used as a tool to connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with health, social, education, and employment opportunities. Currently, there are a broad range of worthwhile sporting programs delivered within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that focus on youth development, elite athletic performance, and school to work transition. However, there are no programs that utilise sport coaches as health promoting agents within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Informed by the Ngaa-bin-ya health and social program evaluation framework (Williams, 2018), this study will take place within and with the support of various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sporting clubs across a sports season. The coaches will receive formal coach accreditation training alongside a series of educational workshops related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander socioemotional wellbeing.

Data will be collected via mixed methods including interviews during and post-season, observations of coaches during training and competition fixtures, as well as post workshop surveys so as to gather data about the program’s impact on the coaches, their players, and local community.

This research will consider multiple team and individual sports, working with community based and professional sport organisations. Existing relationships include Netball Australia, Netball NSW, AFL NSW/ACT, National Rugby League, Australian Rugby Union, Athletics Australia, Football NSW, Football Federation Australia.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Nicole Peel and Dr Arianne Reis (Recreational Therapy)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Leisure and recreation participation has long been recognised as a human right and as a crucial part of what it is to be human. Despite this “common” knowledge, leisure and recreation are still not perceived as central in health policy discourse and practice, and individuals, communities and policy-makers struggle to “find the time” to fit in what is a fundamental activity for human development and wellbeing. In fact, the lack of engagement in leisure pursuits has been shown to lead to numerous negative health outcomes, including poor mental and physical health, and therefore more needs to be done to ensure individuals and communities have access to opportunities to engage in leisure and recreation.

Marginalised groups of society are particularly affected. Evidence shows that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds engage less in leisure pursuits than those from higher income groups, which then contributes to poorer health outcomes. Women, those with physical or cognitive disabilities, and elderly individuals are other minority and marginalised groups that have been shown to have less access to leisure and recreation opportunities.

Individuals who have been sentenced and spend time in correctional centres are another vulnerable group that has largely been deprived of access to leisure and recreation participation. The correctional system has historically denied inmates of opportunities to engage in leisurely pursuits but some non-traditional experiences have demonstrated the positive impact that such activities can have in curbing anti-social behaviour and improving the mental and physical health of prisoners.

This project will involve the implementation of a leisure-based intervention in a Sydney correctional centre to explore the impacts such activities can have on the overall wellbeing of inmates. Students will be closely supervised in this project but are required to be willing to engage in the delivery of such program.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: George Zhang & Xiaoshu Zhu (Safety of electroacupuncture)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The electroacupuncture procedure has a great similarity to that of an electrolytic cell, which involves a power supply, a type of electrolyte and electrodes. In the electrolytic cell, the additional electrical current can cause some non-spontaneous redox reactions on the surface of the electrodes. Some researchers have addressed the possibility of electrochemical corrosions (electrolytes) on the needle surface, which may have a negative impact on the patients. However, very limited studies have focused on the electrical stimulator itself which is most likely the reason for the corrosion of the needle but rather the alteration of the needle material. This research aims to fill that knowledge gap by conducting a cross-disciplinary study with engineering and chemistry sectors.

Ideally, the candidate should have an engineering or electrochemical background or have a certain understanding of these areas, with strong hands on ability and academic language skills. This research has the potential to be expanded to a PhD research focusing on the safety, effectiveness and efficacy of electroacupuncture.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr. Amitabh Gupta (Human Movement Science and Lower Limb Motor Control)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

This project will be focussed on examining the changes in neuromechancial characteristics of muscles and how they work synergistically with each other. This is especially relevant during acceleration and deceleration tasks in sport which is the most common moment that injury is sustained. The project will utilise different instruments and equipment aiming to allow the researcher to develop skills in a number of areas of human movement science as well as integrate basic science to clinical populations such as those who have had a muscle strain or overuse injury.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Simon Green (Exercise and Clinical Physiology)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Exertional breathlessness is a common symptom of many diseases and is a major limiting factor for exercise tolerance and physical activity. Exertional breathlessness is especially common in congenital heart diseases and usually attributed to low levels of oxygen in the blood. However, congenital heart diseases are often associated with normal levels of oxygen in the blood at rest and during exercise but known to result in early pathological changes to pulmonary blood vessels. In the most extreme state, these changes to the pulmonary blood vessels can lead to the fatal condition, pulmonary hypertension.

Exertional breathlessness is present in all forms of congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension; but the extents to which this symptom limits exercise tolerance and is affected by changes in blood oxygen versus pulmonary vasculature are not clear. The administration of oxygen-rich gas can target both of these pathological changes and provide an experimental approach to tease out their effects on breathing.

For the first time, this project will test the effect of oxygen administration on cardiorespiratory and symptomatic responses to exercise in apparently healthy individuals and those with congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension.

This project will suit students with clinical interests and backgrounds in exercise science, medicine and/or the physiological sciences. The technical and theoretical requirements of the project mean that students will be exposed to areas of ergometry, exercise testing and interpretation, cardiorespiratory physiology and testing, as well as echocardiography. The clinical experience of recruiting and testing patients combined with course-work might also help build a case for accreditation as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Freya MacMillan and Kate McBride (Diabetes prevention, health promotion)
School/Institute: Translational Health Research Institute

Diabetes and obesity rates are highly prevalent in Pacific communities. The highest proportion of Pacific people are in NSW, with the majority based in Western Sydney and South West Sydney. The majority of Pacific community members attend or are associated with a church, therefore targeting this groups through churches to intervene in the development of obesity and diabetes is a feasible approach. A peer support program has recently been piloted in four South West Sydney churches, and will now be upscaled to 48 churches across Greater Western Sydney and South Eastern Sydney.


This research project will evaluate the effectiveness of this program. This program will involve evaluating the delivery of healthy lifestyle messages by trained peer supporters recruited through the churches. Evaluation will include both quantitative and qualitative components and will involve working closely with the community. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Paul Marshall (The scheduling of exercise for trained individuals)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

For trained athletes during the competitive season, it is extremely difficult to maintain levels of strength, power, and fitness throughout the year.  The demands for match play, training time, and recovery mean that effective exercise programming is required.  Unfortunately, we have a lack of information profiling the fatigue of a full training week, thus clinical practice lacks the information it needs to help train athletes for performance and injury prevention goals.

Our program of research is leading the field with regards to measuring the recovery profile of training sessions used in competitive sport.  We have a strong track record in the area of industry funding, internationally recognized publications, and award winning research.  We are looking for students who have broad physiology skillsets and an interest in Sport and Exercise Science to join our successful research program in Human Performance.

The next series of projects we wish to pursue will examine either the physical cost and recovery profile of ‘double-day training’, i.e. a strength session in the morning and a power session later on, or the effect of training on consecutive days.  Our experimental models include measurement of muscle contractility, central motor output, and perceptual measures of wellness and fatigue.  If you want to be part of our successful applied sports science research program, please contact me to discuss some potential project ideas.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Rhiannon White (Exercise Psychology and Physical Education)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Not only does school physical education provide children and adolescents with opportunities to engage in physical activity, but positive physical education experiences contribute to positive attitudes towards physical activity more generally. However, despite the great potential that physical education occupies, many students report negative attitudes towards, and experiences of, physical education. This area of research attempts to understand how motivation leads to more active and more enjoyable physical education experiences, and better mental wellbeing. This area of research also includes examining factors that
contribute to poor experiences of physical education, such as embarrassment and poor competence, and trying to determine the different peer and teacher behaviours that lead to these negative experiences.

There are numerous project possibilities within this area of research including for example:    

  • Examining whether embarrassment is associated with reduced physical activity during physical education lessons.
  • Qualitatively investigating student perceptions on the causes of embarrassment within physical education. 
  • Assessing whether competence and levels of fundamental movement skills predict lower levels of embarrassment. 
  • Examining whether higher autonomous motivation is associated with lower embarrassment and improved wellbeing. 
  • Examining motivational and psychological differences between different sports and activities that are common in physical education. 

Understanding how to reduce embarrassment, increase motivation, increase physical activity within PE, and improve adolescents’ attitudes towards physical activity by providing positive emotional experiences in PE, has the potential to immensely improve both physical and mental health.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: A/Prof Karen Liu, Nikki Tulliani (Occupational therapy / Rehabilitation / Health science)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The project will involve the delivery of an open-skilled physical activity program to older adults who do not usually engage in physical activities and their older carers. Open-skilled activities such as tennis and basketball require individuals to respond to unpredictable and frequent environmental changes. Our pilot study showed that people engaging in open-skilled activities have better attention, inhibition and cognitive flexibility and self-evaluation than closed-skilled activities. This can help to promote a sense of healthy ageing. The open-skilled physical activity program will provide an opportunity for older adults to engage in active and healthy lives, to promote their health and wellbeing.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Clarice Tang (Exercise rehabilitation, advanced cancer, technology-led)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Exercise rehabilitation is an integral part of treatment for people with cancer but not everyone with a cancer diagnosis has the opportunity to participate in exercise rehabilitation. This is especially the case for people with advanced cancer who often have multiple co-morbidities that limit their ability to participate in programs such as inability to drive or leaving the home without a carer.

Technology-led rehabilitation otherwise known as telerehabilitation poses as a potential option to improve accessibility to rehabilitation programs for this vulnerable population. The use of telerehabilitation has been shown to be just as effective as face to face rehabilitation when implemented across a variety of chronic health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiac failure. There are also preliminary indicators that telerehabilitation can be effectively implemented for patient with advanced breast cancer and lung cancer. However, the use of telerehabilitation for people with other advanced cancer groups such as brain cancer has yet to be evaluated due to concerns over higher falls risk and reduced cognitive capacity among this population.

This research project will investigate the safety and feasibility of an exercise program that has been delivered via telerehabilitation for people with advanced brain cancer. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methodology, the candidate will ascertain the level of safety, dose response relationship between the program and person’s ability to complete the program, and the potential barriers to telerehabilitation for people with advanced brain cancer.

By doing this project, the candidate will have the opportunity to work closely with both academics within the university and other industry partners, and gain valuable clinical and research experience from working alongside other health professionals from various cancer services. More importantly, the results from this study will provide the foundations to establish telerehabilitation as an option for patients with advanced brain cancers. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Rhiannon White (Exercise Psychology and Physical Education)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The mental health benefits of physical activity are well established. However, it is important to understand how context may influence the relationship between physical activity and mental health so that interventions and policy guidelines can be tailored to maximise positive effects. Current evidence suggests that leisure-time physical activity is associated with stronger mental health benefits than some other types of physical activity (e.g., household physical activity, work physical activity, and sometimes active transport) however, very little is known about work-related physical activity and, why some types of physical activity are more beneficial.

There are numerous project possibilities within this area of research including for
example: 

  • Examining the relationship between work-related physical activity and mental health among people with different types of occupations to identify which occupations have a positive relationship between physical activity and mental health. 
  • Investigating whether motivation influences the relationship between different types of physical activity and mental health. 
  • Examining a range of factors that explain the varying strengths of association between physical activity and mental health. 
  • Determining whether indoor (e.g., cleaning and parenting) and outdoor (e.g., gardening) household physical activity have the same, or different, relationships with mental health, and why. 

This area of research helps to identify the types of physical activity that are likely to be the most effective in promoting mental health and preventing mental ill-health.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Caroline Smith (Healthy Women)
School/Institute: NICM Health Research Institute

The women's health programme at NICM Health Research Institute covers menstrual health of young women, pregnancy, infertility, menopause and gynaecological disorders.

Sleep disorders are common during pregnancy. During the first trimester there is increased daytime sleepiness, as well as total sleep time. Rising hormone levels during this period may partially account for these changes. During the second trimester there is an increase night time awakenings. Compression of the bladder, as a result of increasing uterine size, means more frequent urination. Other factors such as heartburn and increasing fetal movements may further fragment sleep. During the third trimester, physical changes cause significant discomfort and can impair the ability to fall asleep, as well as maintain sleep. 

Insomnia is identified when there is repeated difficulty with falling asleep, duration, consolidation, or the quality of sleep, and results in some form of daytime impairment. Recently, disturbed sleep has been regarded as a potential pathological agent in disorders of carbohydrate metabolism and gestational diabetes. Insomnia is also a risk factor for depression.

This study will examine the role of complementary therapies such as acupuncture or yoga in relation to assist with managing insomnia during pregnancy, as well as undertake research to increase our understanding of sleep disturbances during pregnancy. One of these modalities, acupuncture has been used to treat sleep disorders in non-pregnant populations. This study will examine the feasibility of conducting research using this treatment with pregnant women, and develop a treatment protocol for use in future clinical studies.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Mike Armour (Women’s Health)
School/Institute: NICM Health Research Institute

Menstrual disorders are highly prevalent amongst adolescent girls, and most commonly feature period pain and mood disturbances. Primary dysmenorrhea (period pain) affects around three quarters of all women during their reproductive life and is especially common in young women in their teens and early adult life, with around 90% of Australian adolescents experiencing menstrual pain. In school age and working women across a wide spectrum of social and cultural groups dysmenorrhea causes educational and work absence respectively, with most women not seeking medical treatment but often using over the counter treatments such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, rest or heat. Pharmaceutical interventions for menstrual pain are often only partially effective, and it is common that women will use traditional and complementary therapies such as herbal medicines or special diets to help manage their menstrual pain. There is some evidence that dietary herbs, spices and other traditional practices can reduce menstrual pain.   

These traditional therapies often vary depending on the cultural and religious background of women. We currently have very little information on the types of complementary and traditional therapies that are used by CALD and migrant groups in Australia for menstrual health including how they are used, what role they play as part of women’s overall healthcare and how effective women find these.

Opportunities exist for MRes projects within the scope of this program of research including surveys to explore broader understandings of menstrual health and usage of self-care, and focus groups or interviews to explore personal and individual experiences of using traditional self-care and how this fits into their overall healthcare.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Emma George (Health Science)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Sport fans form powerful social and psychological connections to their sports team. The feelings of identity, loyalty, validation and belonging associated with being a sport fan can enhance mental health outcomes and promote social inclusion. Professional sporting organisations are in an optimal position to promote positive health and social messages, and researchers are increasingly using professional sports organisations as an entry point to recruit and engage men in health promotion initiatives. Dr Emma George works with a number of health, sport and industry partners to design, deliver and evaluate the impact of health promotion interventions and community initiatives on health and wellbeing outcomes. Research opportunities exist for students with an interest in health promotion, mental health, physical activity and community engagement through professional sport.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Paul Marshall (Chronic low back pain)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Despite the best efforts of clinicians and researchers, the burden of chronic low back pain is not reducing.  Chronic low back pain is the musculoskeletal condition with the highest burden of disease in the world, in terms of years lived with disability. 

My research program explores several elements of the chronic back pain problem including; improving the design of exercise rehabilitation programs, exploring what people with back pain are afraid of about moving and their back, changes in postural control and the relevance of daily tasks to how symptoms are provoked, examining clinical datasets to profile the time course of change and understand why some people get better and others have no change at all (or get worse).

Through multi-disciplinary collaboration with physiotherapy, chiropractic, and health psychology, there are a range of potential Masters projects that can be designed for the interests of a student within my research area of chronic back pain.

If you are interested in helping to reduce the burden of chronic back pain, and want to join a research program with a strong publication and industry engagement track record, contact me to discuss ideas and thoughts you may have, as well as our ongoing projects.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Rebekah Grace
School/Institute: Translational Health Research Institute (THRI)

The Volunteer Family Connect Project is a randomised controlled trial looking at the effectiveness of volunteer home visiting in reducing isolation and improving parenting sense of competence for families of young children who are in need of additional support. This project is about mobilising community members to support those in need of additional help. We would like to attract to our team a Master of Research student who is interesting in one of the following projects: Looking at whether demonstrated positive outcomes from the program are sustained over time; assessing the appropriateness of this program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families; researching the processes of program scale up to new communities.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Rebekah Grace
School/Institute: Translational Health Research Institute (THRI)

This project employs child participatory, or child voice, methods to understand how young people perceive the appropriateness and effectiveness of the services designed to support them (including education, health, child protection, and early intervention services). We are interested not only in using creative and child-friendly ways to gather their perspectives, but also to work with children and young people in the design of service initiatives and, in partnership with service organisations, implementing and evaluating their child designed and led service initiatives. A Master of Research project would be embedded within the broader ReSPECT team.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Humanities and Communication Arts

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Abby Mellick Lopes (Design/Urban Studies)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

50 degree summer days will be the norm in Australian cities before mid-century (Lewis et al 2017). Western Sydney is particularly vulnerable, with summer temperatures that are several degrees hotter than coastal areas. At present, cooling demand is mostly met by air-conditioning in private, enclosed environments. Not only is this costly, but it sedates bodies and divides people from the outdoors and from each other. We are already spending 90% of our time indoors and in cars, and new developments in Western Sydney are still dominated by what geographer Ronald Horvath described as ‘machine space’: territories where cars have priority over people.

This project builds on the recent interest and research on ‘the commons’. Commons are places, resources, practices and knowledges shared (and cared for) by a community. (Gibson-Graham, Cameron & Healy, 2013). Parks, footpaths and roads are commons, but so is the air we breathe and the breezes that cool. These commons are crucial for the future well-being of people (and multi-species), living in Western Sydney. With ‘the rise of the great indoors’, existing cool areas in the hot city are often overlooked. Councils have developed strategies to revitalise these areas, however it is not a matter of ‘build it and they will come’. Communities needs to be involved as active collaborators in commoning these areas. 

Working in partnership with a local council mentor and utilising exisiting research and technologies produced at Western, this project involves studying access and use patterns related to cool commons such as shaded walkways, lakes, rivers and parks. It will identify problems and opportunities to inform the collaborative design and development of recreational spaces in Western Sydney. This project supports the development of skills in engaged research and co-design, and provides considerable scope for further research to support liveability in a climate-changing future.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Alison M. Moore (Gender History)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

The word ‘gender’ has existed in the English language since the seventeenth century, but unbeknownst to most current users of this word in the fields of gender studies, history of sexuality and gender history, the meaning of this word has undergone dramatic changes throughout its history. This project would entail a close study of the uses of the word throughout its history, tracing how it has been applied to the linguistic designation of nouns, and how it finally entered twentieth-century ideas to refer to characteristics of the sexes. There has been some scholarship on the re-invention of ‘gender’ in the second half of the twentieth century that has provided our current definition of it, but this work has not considered the longer history of the word, and how it became available to for these later uses. Providing a proper historical account of the word gender has value for current debates about the sex-gender distinction. By situating this distinction in long historical time, we can better appreciate the cultural specificity of our current conceptions.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Simon Burrows and Tomas Trescak (Computing, Digital Humanities)
School/Institute: Digital Humanities Research Group / School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics / School of Humanities and Communication Arts

The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe (FBTEE) / Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment Project is an award-winning digital humanities project that seeks to track the movement of books around. It has been consulted by a scholarly community of thousands, and attracted a series of funding awards, most recently from the Australian Research Council for the ‘Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment’ (MPCE) project.

The project team would be keen for an MRes student with appropriate computing skills and an interest in human-computer interaction to assist in conceptualising, evaluating and enhancing a user interface for the benefit of the wider scholarly community, and to build an MRes project around this work.

Interfaces for interacting with humanities databases represent a particular challenge, because while users are generally subject domain experts, they are often unfamiliar with the underlying database technologies, and may not even be aware of the potential of such technology to address their research questions or visualise or analyse the data. Creating interfaces that introduce the user to this potential, while remaining flexible enough for use by those who are more familiar with the technology is an important problem.

The ARC-funded project Mapping Print: Charting Enlightenment has several large databases containing information pertaining to the French book trade in Enlightenment Europe, as well as access to further datasets from other linked databases, and a GraphQL layer that allows users to query across these data.

This research student will investigate the needs and expectations of users of these datasets through qualitative interviews, and user testing, for example recording and analysing video of people using the
existing front-ends to explore, browse, or solve particular tasks. This will be informed by the current state of the art on human-machine interaction, and will in turn inform the development of a new, user-centred interface that takes into account the particular needs of humanities researchers.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Abby Mellick Lopes (Visual Communications)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts    

In 1977, Gary Anderson, a young graphic design student, won a competition for his recycling logo, based on 19th century mathematician Mobius’ famous strip. This logo is now a standard that tells
people everyday and all over the world, whether or not a material can be recycled. Shoot forward 41 years to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report Global Warming of 1.5 °C, in which complex science is translated into easily comprehensible graphics by information designers Angela Morelli and Tom Halsor. Circulating in the media and online, these graphics have become short hand for the Report, and critical evidence supporting the argument for urgent action and new policy on climate change. These examples demonstrate the importance of visual communications in the climate change story, and raise questions about the role of the image in environmental politics more broadly.

Since 1968 when astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission captured the famous image Earthrise, the role of images in environmental politics has been profound. Whether emotive or more technical in intent, disciplines of design including photography, illustration, animation, branding and increasingly information design, have been mobilised to communicate climate change and influence public awareness and environmental action in the latter part of the 20th and into the 21st century.

In spite of the contribution of visual language and storyelling, the role of images in communicating climate change have been overlooked and discussion of the agency of the image in environmental politics, largely missing. This project seeks to address this gap by answering the question: what is the role of visual communication in climate activism? Combining literature review and visual analysis, this project offers an exciting opportunity for a design researcher to contribute to understanding the socio-cultural influence of graphic design and visual language. There is considerable scope for the project to be tailored to individual interests and for it to be developed as a theoretical or practice-based PhD.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Abby Mellick Lopes & Alison Gill (Design/Cultural Studies)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

NSW is the highest per capita producer of waste in the world, largely dependent on landfill for disposal. China’s precipitous withdrawal from its role as a global recycler of western detritus via the National Sword policy, has put pressure on local and state governments to find ways to address what is now being referred to as a national waste crisis. Recently, the NSW Government released the draft of its Circular Economy policy, which highlights the need to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by keeping materials in use for as long as possible. Repair is signalled as a key practice in the transition to a circular economy. While there remains a demand for repair services, it is an area of material practice that has been undervalued and sidelined by the rise of cheap, short use-life products -  along with the skills and infrastructures that support it.

Repair has an image problem: it is seen as crafty, slow and difficult to access. Yet everyone has a repair story, and a valued repair that they are attached to – modelling exactly the ambition signalled in the circular economy policy, of ‘keeping materials in use for as long as possible’.  Building on existing studies of local repair cultures, the objective of this project is to gain insights into cultures of repair from the perspective of those already participating in it. In addition to the so-called circular economy, the rise of repair cafes, online demonstrator platforms and community initiatives reveal the allegiance of repair to share economies. It is anticipated that the study will involve mixed methods including interview, observation and visual ethnography. There is scope to tailor the project to particular areas of interest related to repair, and to collaborate with practitioners and other researchers interested in  the transition to more sustainable material cultures and economies.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Rachel Hendery (Digital Humanities)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

Crowdsourced transcription of older Australian documents such as newspapers, letters, journals or field notebooks is producing a steady stream of information-rich text that traditional approaches by historians, linguists, and other humanities researchers can barely keep up with.Methods of ‘distant reading’ from the digital humanities such as topic modelling, named entity recognition, word frequency and collocation analysis, geocoding of recognised place names, etc, can allow us to mine these texts to produce visual representations of the data within them, such as maps, network diagrams, charts, and other, more tailored visualisations.

This research project will explore the possibilities of applying such methods to a text corpus such as the ‘Howitt and Fison’ documents, or a corpus of e.g. early newspaper articles selected from Trove. Challenges will include potentially messy data (transcriber errors, missing formatting, inconsistent spellings), and connecting historical information to the contemporary world (e.g. where do place names as given in the 19th century documents refer to on a modern map? What relationship to people and organisations mentioned in the documents have to present day communities?).

There will also be technological and design challenges to address. The student will need to consider approaches taken for other kinds of materials (e.g. literary texts) or in other parts of the world, and to analyse and account for the different needs of the Australian context.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Roger Dawkins (Digital Education and Media)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

Typically, university courses are designed by academics to satisfy course learning outcomes, the strategic vision of the University, and government policy.

Technology is the main means of delivering the content of university courses today. Often content lives online, in a Learning Management System (LMS), and students are expected to access the LMS to obtain reading materials and video lectures.

Today, a big question is how well this technology is used to deliver course content. It seems that universities are finally realising what commercial industry realised many years ago about content delivery: the “set and forget” model doesn’t work. For academics, merely uploading content to a LMS does not mean students will engage with it.

“Design Thinking” is one solution being used by some universities. Involved is using designer’s work processes and human centred techniques to solve problems in creative ways. In this context, Design Thinking is used to investigate the problem of how to best deliver content to students. The “best” way is interesting and compelling, suits the technology, the students’ needs as well as their particular capabilities.

But this new approach to designing courses raises as many questions as it answers. For example, is a typical academic skilled enough to implement Design Thinking strategies? And how would the collaboration between digital teams and academics play out? All of this brings about potentially big changes to the “typical” course development process, where a single academic, on their own, updates reading materials and lecture content annually (or less frequently).

In this project we will analyse case studies on digital education and Design Thinking and implement focus groups involving academics, user experience designers, learning science analysts, digital consultants, and students.

If you are interested in technological innovation, pedagogy, and the intersection of universities and industry, then this research project is for you!

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Alison Gill (Visual Communication Design)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

The role of graphic design in creating a visual language and momentum for protest movements in Australia has been profound. A range of design media including photography, illustration, print making, logo, web and social media design have been critical to developing the graphic languages of activism and communicating protest for social movements such as the peace movement, women’s liberation, LGBTIQ rights, indigenous rights, social justice and the environmental movement. Clive Hamilton argues in his recent cultural history What do we want: The story of protest in Australia (2016) that all of these protest movements were started by a mere handful of people, but without the courage and activities of small fringe groups, the big transformations in Australian society would never have happened. Hamilton and others have considered which of Australia’s protest movements have been the most successful and why, yet that visual expression becomes a mechanism of inclusion in protest issues and the specific visual languages of activism are largely overlooked.

Apart from several notable exhibitions – like ‘Walls Sometimes Speak’ (1977) – that have documented the histories of political poster collectives in the 1970s and 1980s in Australia, the stories about the role of graphics in mobilising these movements and graphic agency in influencing public awareness and leveraging change need to be explored. This project seeks to address this gap by answering the question: what are the visual and graphic elements of resistance and political activism? Combining visual and content analysis with literature review, this project offers an exciting opportunity for a design researcher to bring design and cultural history together and contribute to understanding the social and cultural influence of visual languages of resistance. There is considerable scope for the project to be tailored to individual interests, select protest movements and campaigns, and for development as a theoretical or practice-based PhD.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Alison Gill and others (Visual Communications)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

This project explores the shared graphic language employed by amateur web designers in the mid-2000s. This practice-led design research is concerned specifically with webpage templates produced by amateurs during the early history of the WWW (world wide web), a part of tech history that is overlooked as non-professional and unworthy when considered in the development trajectory of rich media. Situating the study within the disciplinary frameworks of cultural studies and design, the project explores ephemeral amateur templates as significant cultural artifacts of a participatory community that risks disappearance. There is the opportunity to use mixed methods in the creative, research process – content analysis, literature review and information design – to evaluate the proto-technical and socio-cultural history of web design and build a creative outcome of a web-accessible database of amateur template designs. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Rachel Hendery (Linguistics)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

There have been many studies of grammatical change in a single language (e.g. recent changes in Gurindji) or for a single feature across a region/language family (e.g. change in position of the verb). Less is known about the overall typology of language change in our region. For example, are there parts of the Pacific where languages have undergone more rapid change than others, and if so, are there outlier languages there that nevertheless remained more stable? Have some Australian languages changed more thoroughly than others, and if so, why might that be? Is it the case that languages spoken on smaller, more isolated islands in our region have undergone more grammatical change, because speakers have had less stabilising influence from other communities, or less grammatical change because of less linguistic contact or multilingualism?

This research project will examine and compare previous work on language change in individual languages or features in order to understand broader patterns of change. The student will map these patterns and investigate potential explanations for their findings, which may include looking at migration or trade patterns, demographic or cultural change.

Depending on the student’s interests, the focus may be on phonological, morphological, syntactic change or a combination of these. The student may wish to focus on a sub-region of Oceania such as Melanesia, Polynesia, or Australia, although a cross-regional comparison may be more rewarding. The student may choose to restrict the time period of the investigation to pre-colonial languages, or a student with more sociolinguistic interests might actively choose to research the effects of colonialism on language change by looking primarily at 19th and 20th century language change.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Teresa Swist (Youth Studies, Health and Wellbeing, Organisation Studies, Public Space)
School/Institute: Institute for Culture and Society

Public libraries are viewed as inclusive spaces for people of all ages, cultures and interests. Library spaces, collections and events provide a variety of opportunities to relax, explore and interact. Moreover, as controversies about the veracity of knowledge and information abound in the digital age, libraries play an ever more critical role as trusted institutions and repositories of social memory. The role of librarians as intermediaries is also vital, their expertise supporting how collections are curated, resources are uilitised and events tailored for the needs of diverse community populations.

What is underexplored in research are the ways in which young people utilise public libraries in Greater Western Sydney. This research project will examine how young people with refugee backgrounds use libraries as spaces for learning, leisure and wellbeing. Participatory photo mapping is the proposed research method: participants take photos of a place, use these images as a basis for collaborative inquiry, and then share insights with key stakeholders. Highlighting impressions and ideas about public libraries, and how this relates to health and wellbeing, would be key project outcomes communicated to library professionals, health researchers and local services at a library exhibition event and online resource. These insights have the potential to inform how the future of library design, collections and community events better meet the needs of young people with refugee backgrounds.

This research is aligned with a major 5-year study (Wellbeing, Health & Youth) to develop an ethics of engagement with young people in adolescent health research. The proposed Master of Research project aims to generate insights into the role public libraries play in caring for young people’s health and wellbeing. Libraries provide critical, creative and community infrastructure for culturally and linguistically diverse populations, so understanding the formal and informal ways they contribute to the youth settlement process is crucial to explore.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr James Gourley (Literary Studies/English)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

How do modern and contemporary literary texts represent, envisage, and classify mental illness? Building upon contemporary work in literary studies on the centrality of the ‘negative’ emotions to 20th century literature (see Caplan, Trauma Culture [2005]; Ngai, Ugly Feelings [2007], Massumi, Politics of Affect [2015]), this projects seeks to recuperate these ‘negative’ emotions. Examining one or two novels from the 20th or 21st centuries (at the suggestion of the candidate, or in negotiation with the supervisor), the candidate will:

  • Define the affect or mental illness at play in the literary works;
  • Account for their changing history in the 20th and 21st centuries (for example, panic disorder was not listed as a mental illness in the DSM until after World War Two; prior to this it was classified as ‘hysteria’);
  • Compare and contrast the representation of the affect or mental illness in the literary texts;    
  • Link this representation to the text’s historical context.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Teresa Swist (Youth Studies, Climate Change, Higher Education,
Professional Practice)
School/Institute: Institute for Culture and Society

Climate change is one the key public health issues of the twenty-first century. The impact of climate change upon wellbeing and livelihoods across the globe is complex and an increasing focus of innovations across higher education, research and professions. What is central to this debate is how the issue of climate change cannot be addressed by disciplines, professions or sectors working in isolation - a transdisciplinary approach is required. Effects such as air pollution and extreme weather events are issues which all communities will increasingly face, so collaborative and intergenerational approaches are needed. Young people’s learning and values about climate change need to be communicated more prominently to inform higher education teaching, transdisciplinary research, as well as the future of professional practice.

The ways in which Australian undergraduate students view the interrelationship between climate change, health, cities and the law is currently underexplored. This research project will examine how young people studying environmental sciences, medicine, urban planning and law view climate change in relation to themselves, their chosen profession, and society. Narrative inquiry is the proposed research method: participants share their impressions and ideas via personal stories - and a key project outcome would be a collection of student podcasts for the general public. Broadcasting such insights has the potential to enhance the design of degree programs, the advocacy of professional bodies - as well as public health debates and research.

This research is aligned with a major 5-year study (Wellbeing, Health & Youth) to develop an ethics of engagement with young people in adolescent health research. The proposed Master of Research project aims to generate important insights into how young people view the climate change debate in relation to their learning and chosen profession. As the environmental and social determinants of health gain increasing attention, understanding how students view climate change responses and responsibilities are critical to explore. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Alison M. Moore (Medical Humanities)
School/Institute: School of Humanities and Communication Arts

Throughout world history, different societies have counted the sexes in varying ways. A much cited 1994 work by the historian Thomas Laqueur proposed that Western cultures, from Ancient times until the late eighteenth century, only considered there to be a single sex, of which man and woman were mirror reflections; and that with the rise of modern science, we developed the idea of there being 2 radically distinct sexes. But other scholars of extant African and Pacific cultures, and of early modern European and Islamicate cultures have recently challenged this notion showing that the sexes have often been counted in multiples greater than either 1 or 2, and that the mutability between them has often been an accepted part of cultural traditions. This historical question may have important implications for current questions about the legal status of non-binary sexes. Human Rights organisations around the world are currently reviewing the procedures that have been applied to intersex births throughout the Western world since the 1950s, with a new recognition that the forced surgical ‘correction’ of ambiguous genitalia is a violation of human rights with long-reaching implications for the lives of such individuals. When we consider both that changing sex, and being a third sex has been widely common across of long world history, the current rigidity of our modern concepts of the sexes appears neither traditional nor advisable. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Medicine

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Associate Professor Tim Karl (Behavioural Neuroscience – experimental mouse model
research)
School/Institute: School of Medicine

Schizophrenia is a chronic and disabling mental disorder that affects 1% of the world’s population. A complex interaction of environmental and genetic risk factors appears to be causal for the development of the disease. Preclinical research has been instrumental in advancing our understanding the impact of those risk factors, both in isolation or in combination, on behaviour and brain development. Our team models schizophrenia by developing multi-factorial mouse models combining genetic and environmental disease risk factors. Genetically predisposed mouse mutants are exposed to disease-relevant environmental factors (e.g. chronic cannabis abuse, poor diet) at critical stages of their development. Our team focuses on the neuro-behavioural characterisation of these models, applying a multitude of different neuro-behavioural phenotyping paradigms. This highly standardised research is necessary to determine disease-relevant interactions and to identify preventative and therapeutic measures for future clinical applications.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Poonam Mudgil (Eye health)
School/Institute: School of Medicine

The surface of the human eye is covered with an intricate and thin layer of fluid called the tear film which nourishes the cornea, keeps eyes moist and provides a smooth surface for light to pass through allowing a clear vision. Human tears act as first line of defence for protecting eyes against the external environment. Tears contain an assortment of proteins and lipids, many of which are known to be antibacterial. Healthy ocular surface has low microbial load. However, eye infections can happen due to trauma, improper tearing and contact lens wear. These infections can lead to ocular damage, corneal ulcers and blindness in severe cases.

In order to understand the healthy ocular surface and its role in innate host defence, this project will investigate normal microbial load of human tears and determine its antibacterial role.

Bacterial numbers from tears will be enumerated by aseptic culture techniques. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing techniques will be used to determine antimicrobial action of tears. Electron microscopy will be used to identify structural damages to ocular pathogens upon treatment with tear antimicrobials.

Findings of this study will help in understanding the role of tears in innate host defence of the eye and aid in devising natural antimicrobial treatments for eye infections.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Genevieve Steiner (Medical Science)
School/Institute: NICM Health Research Institute

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes a decline in cognitive abilities, and is conceptualised as a transitional stage between healthy ageing and dementia. It is estimated that up to 35 % of Australians aged 70 and older have MCI, and 15 % of those individuals will go on to develop dementia within a year. 

Dementia is now the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death in Australians aged 65 years and older.  There is currently no cure for dementia, and no way to stop the disease’s progression.  Although people with MCI have a significantly increased risk of dementia, it is difficult to determine which individuals are most at risk, and currently, this is usually ascertained from individuals’ symptom profiles using tests of neurocognitive function.  However, cognitive test performance does not necessarily have a simple relationship with extent of neuropathology or the risk of future cognitive decline.  Identifying the changes in the neuronal activity of these individuals may elucidate novel biomarkers for early stage Alzheimer’s disease that can assist with diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention. 

Electroencephalography (EEG), recording of the brain’s electrical activity, has improved to the rate where we can isolate the functioning of neuronal circuits.  This MRes project will focus on the use of EEG to measure the integrity of neuronal networks as a biomarker for MCI.  This will be used as a tool to differentiate individuals with MCI from healthy age-matched controls to provide a more accurate and sensitive diagnostic tool for people with the early signs of dementia.  

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Professor Wendy Hu (Medical and Health Professions Education)
School/Institute: School of Medicine

Despite critical need, attracting medical and health workforce to underserved areas such as outer metropolitan Sydney and rural Australia remains an enduring challenge. Using Design Based Research this theoretically informed project will take in new directions the evidence base for medical and health professions education in outer metropolitan and rural settings in NSW and Victoria, leveraging new and existing partnerships with research universities. The research will ask:  What does it mean to belong, identify with and imagine oneself living and working in underserved areas as a doctor and health professional?

Candidates will be involved in conducting reviews, collecting and analysing data using community engaged participatory methodologies, building on promising early results from community consultations to define the outcomes that matter to communities. The specific research question and design will be led by the candidate’s research development needs and interests. In the first instance, research outcomes will be used in selection processes for medical and health professions students, and in time will be used to design education and research programs in western Sydney and rural NSW and other underserved locations around the world. The field of medical education and training is inclusive and interdisciplinary by nature. Candidates from diverse disciplinary backgrounds are welcome.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Erika Gyengesi (Neuroscience, neuropharmacology)    
School/Institute: School of Medicine

Chronic, T-cell independent microglial activation, has been described in many neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). For sporadic AD, surmounting histological evidence points that chronic glial activation is part of the disease process. Microglia and astrocytes play a key role in the CNS’s innate immunity. Chronic microglial activation describes the chronic, CNS-specific, inflammation-like glial responses that do not reproduce the classic characteristics of inflammation, but cause. The inflammatory response is mediated by the activated microglia, which is considered as the hallmark of neuroinflammation.

In our study, we use a mouse model of chronic neuroinflammation combined with other transgenic animals (ChAT-eGFAP/GFAP-IL6 mouse) which has been shown to be as an established model of chronic glial activation and subsequent neurodegeneration and has a green fluorescent tag on the cholinergic neurons. Our preliminary investigation has indicated that in the GFAP-IL6 mice, fine motor skills already deteriorate from 6 months of age on. We have previously used this mouse model to evaluate the effect of the drug tenilsetam (anti-inflammatory, AGE inhibitor and metal chelator) and different curcumin preparations on chronic microglia activation in the GFAP-IL6 mouse.

The aim of this study was to further investigate the effects of LC on microglia and astroglia numbers and morphology in the GFAP-IL6 mouse, in parallel with motor and cognitive function during the aging process. The experimental work will involve behavioural studies, immunohistochemistry, bright field, fluorescent, confocal and electron microscopy analysis (unbiased estimation of cell numbers and 3D reconstructions of single cells) and molecular techniques such as Western Blots and PCRs.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Tim Karl (Behavioural Neuroscience)
School/Institute: School of Medicine

Alzheimer’s disease is neurodegenerative cognitive disorder with an inflammatory component. More classically, Alzheimer's disease is described by extracellular amyloid deposition (building senile plaques) and tau hyper-phosphorylation (forming intracellular neurofibrillary tangles). These processes also impact on a variety of neurotransmitter systems and increased lipid peroxidation is found in affected brains supporting a role for oxidative damage in this disorder as well. Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system (eCB) plays a role in immunity, neuroprotection (i.e. anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects) and can affect cognitive domains. Recent animal research suggests that manipulations to the eCB might have beneficial effects on the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease and disease-related cognitive impairments. Thus, my team evaluates the neuro-behavioural response of genetic mouse models for Alzheimer's disease to cannabinoid challenge with a particular focus on the effects of the non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD).

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Rose Chesworth
School/Institute: School of Medicine

Drug addiction occurs approximately 5 times more frequently in patients with schizophrenia than in healthy populations. It is unclear what causes this elevated rate of abuse. There is some evidence for genetic predisposition increasing risk for both schizophrenia and drug addiction, and also for drug abuse being a precursor for schizophrenia. Our team seeks to untangle this complex interaction, using animal models of genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, and behavioural tests of drug-taking behaviour. We have a $1M state-of-the-art behavioural facility which allows high throughput testing of all addiction behavioural tests, as well as other behavioural tests relevant to schizophrenia e.g. cognition, sensorimotor gating, social behaviour. We analyse brain tissue following the completion of behavioural experiments, to examine drug-induced neural adaptations and alterations to drug- and schizophrenia-relevant brain regions. In addition, we are starting to examine new therapeutic options for comorbid drug addiction and schizophrenia, to better treat both disorders. Through this research, we hope to determine how and why drug addiction occurs so frequently in patients which schizophrenia, and how we can best treat these two disorders.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Nursing and Midwifery

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Geoff Dickens (Mental Health Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

Coercive approaches to the management of self-harm are increasingly seen as unacceptable and the viability of so-called harm reduction approaches has been championed. However, little is known about the relative acceptability and effectiveness of various approaches. A recently UK-developed tool, the ASc-M, aims to quantify attitudes of nurses and patients about these issues. The study has the potential to inform training needs, ensure practice is informed by user-priorities, and that nurses feel consulted about acceptable practice.

Harm reduction approaches to care focus on achieving the consumers rather than providers aims and pragmatically address problematic areas in a bid to help minimise harm.  The application of harm reduction-based interventions to self-harm, such as supportive presence during cutting events or provision of sterile equipment, has been periodically debated among mental health service consumers and providers. However, reliance on the relative values- and ethics- related aspects has failed to move the debate forward. A recent development has seen the publication of the Attitudes to Self-Cutting Management Scale (ASC-ME) to help quantify the beliefs of key stakeholders about their implementation in inpatient mental health settings. Developed in Scotland the tool now requires further validation in an Australian context and a study with a large and representative sample of consumers and mental health nurses.

The study offers an opportunity to explore the needs of people who use mental health services, asking the central question how do we help them achieve their outcomes rather than those of the service. To explore mental health nurses and patients attitudes towards the management of self-harm (specifically self-cutting) in inpatient services

The project will involve consulting, amending and testing an existing tool to ascertain its suitability and feasibility for use in Australia and in the context of Australian mental health law and service provision. The student will identify the relative acceptability of multiple methods of management for self-harming behaviour (notably self- cutting which may facilitate a harm reduction approach). The project will very likely inform relevant policy and practice about self-harm management in the inpatient environment at both State and National levels.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Steve Frost (Clinical Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing & Midwifery

This study will evaluate the impact of a nursing-led delirium-prevention protocol (‘the intervention’) that is aimed at reducing the incidence, severity, and duration of delirium among adults admitted to ICU. Delirium has been estimated to occur in approximately 30% of adults admitted the intensive care. Delirium is associated with poor outcomes which include longer stay in intensive care unit, longer stay in hospital by 10 days and experience a prolonged duration of mechanical ventilation. The longer-term outcomes include long-term cognitive impairment, dependency in activities of daily living and 2-3 times higher mortality rate. The restlessness and agitation experienced by patients leads to increasing workload of ICU nurses who need to stay continually by the bedside to ensure the patients safety, thereby requiring one-to-one nursing care.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Steve Frost (Clinical Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing & Midwifery

The objectives of this project are to develop a screening tool that can be used to identify patients who are likely to be difficult in obtaining peripheral intravenous access and would benefit from early referral to a specialist vascular access service. Peripheral intravenous cannulation is crucial for the administration of intravenous fluids and medications. Up to one third of hospital admissions present with non-visible or palpable veins and require multiple attempts at cannulation. This can be traumatic for the patient, presents delays in the commencement of treatment, and increases the risk of device failure from phlebitis, thrombosis or catheter-related infection. Identifying patients who are likely to require multiple attempts at cannulation and develop a referral pathway to a dedicated vascular access team will improve patient outcomes and mitigate the trauma associated with having multiple needle sticks. Ultimately, it improves patient satisfaction as they experience a much less painful procedure.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Nicole Blay (Nursing Workforce)
School/Institute: School of Nursing & Midwifery

To assess the Child and Family Health workforce and workload. Research into the Child and Family Health (CFH) primary care workforce is sparse. What is known is that SWSLHD is an area with a projected population growth and that the demand for services will increase. This project will explore the CFH workforce and work activities to inform for future planning needs    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Professor Martin Christensen (Clinical Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing & Midwifery

To explore the experiences of family members visiting ICU patients in particular those feelings faced with entering the ICU. Research into family experiences of visiting a loved one in the ICU has identified a number experiences and feelings that range from disbelief, bewilderment, being scared and overwhelmed. However, there is very little evidence of the experiences of family members as the wait and congregate in the waiting room prior to entering the ICU. In particular, this study will explore what the meaning of the ICU door means to them.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Steve Frost (Clinical Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing & Midwifery

The objectives of this project are to optimise the implementation of and evaluate the effectiveness of a fractured ribs pathway across the South Western Sydney LHD. The current management is to transfer patients with fractured ribs that present to metropolitan hospitals within SWSLHD to the area Trauma centre (Liverpool Hospital) for monitoring, intensive physiotherapy and analgesia. The fractured ribs pathway offers an alternative pathway where patients receive intensive physiotherapy and pain relief at their presenting hospital.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Professor Martin Christensen (Clinical Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing & Midwifery

To explore the lived experience of male midwives. Research into the experiences of male nurses is well established in the literature. What is not known are the experiences of male midwives including male midwifery students. This study will use a descriptive phenomenological approach to explore the experiences of currently practicing male midwives. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Geoff Dickens (Mental Health Nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

Therapeutic leave (i.e. exiting the hospital when still an inpatient) is a key element of the therapeutic regime in mental health care. The management of the implementation of therapeutic leave for patients is central to the mental health nursing role. Despite this, the issue of therapeutic leave is almost evidence-free in terms of its use (e.g., what are its benefits, what is the optimum time of introduction, how should decisions be made), and its effectiveness. Almost all relevant research focuses on preventing ‘absconding’ i.e. unauthorised leave and there has been little space to develop proactive leave-related practice that actively benefits patients. Even very basic information, like what patients do and where they go on leave has remained unexplored. This leaves us with minimal information about what is helpful and what is not for service consumers.

This project focuses on a clinically relevant problem in mental health settings. Leave is valued by patients but its benefits may be less well understood by nurses. The proposed study will utilise a mixed methods design suitable for an exploratory study into a poorly understood area. Hospital records, survey questionnaires, qualitative interviews.

This project will be suitable for someone who wishes to engage with mental health service users in a practical and valuable topic area.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Geoff Dickens (Mental health/ Mental health nursing)
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

It has long been recognised that a key role for mental health nurses is to manage the social climate of the inpatient ward. A supportive social climate is associated with improved patient outcomes. A particularly important factor in mental health services is the extent to which people (both nurses and patients) experience the climate as being inherently violence preventative. Traditionally, measures including the Ward Atmosphere Scale (Moos) and the EssenCES (Schalast) have been criticised for being overly long, obsolete, and focused largely on forensic settings. The Violence Prevention Climate-14 (VPC-14) was developed in the UK as a brief tool to ascertain experiences of the violence prevention climate. The tool requires further examination to determine its suitability for use in Australia.

The project will involve adapting a tool developed in a forensic setting in the UK for use in acute settings in Australia. The tool is and should remain simple to complete, quick to administer existing UK-developed scale, the Violence Prevention Climate-14, to ensure it is fit for purpose for use with an Australian sample of nurses and patients. Investigation will involve testing hypotheses about the extent to which the social climate of inpatient wards is experienced as ‘violence preventative’, and in turn, how that relates to a therapeutically advantageous ward environment. The project will give the student the latitude to develop strategies and insights into how to improve the violence prevention climate

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Evan Atlantis
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

Overweight and obesity are terms used to define excess body weight in the form of fat causally linked to poor health and wellbeing. They are commonly classified using the body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared (expressed in kg/m2 units). While the BMI is widely used to measure population risk of health, studies consistently show that it variably predicts ill health. Therefore, risk stratification systems beyond BMI have been proposed. The Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) has become one of the most widely validated and researched clinical staging systems for obesity since it was introduced in 2009. In principle, the EOSS classifies people into five groups (0-4) according to the severity of their current weight-related comorbidities. As the EOSS is a relatively new and widely researched approach that is now being applied in Australian health care settings, an urgent summary and grading of the existing evidence is justified. Thus, the purpose of this project is to summarise and grade the existing evidence of the relationship between the EOSS and weight-related comorbidities using a rapid review method. A rapid review is a streamlined systematic review method. Rapid reviews are a form of knowledge synthesis in which components of the systematic review process are simplified or omitted to produce information in a timely manner (Tricco et al. BMC Medicine. 2015, 13:224).

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Evan Atlantis
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

Clinical obesity services (or clinics) variably provide medically-led intensive lifestyle interventions or support, psychological treatments, pharmacotherapies, as well as access to bariatric surgery when indicated and where feasible within Australia’s health care system. There is evidence of effectiveness for each of these interventions for the medical management of obesity, but only a small number of studies in Australian clinical obesity services have been published. Therefore, the purpose of this project is to summarise and grade the existing published evidence of clinical obesity services in Australia using a rapid review method. A rapid review is a streamlined systematic review method. Rapid reviews are a form of knowledge synthesis in which components of the systematic review process are simplified or omitted to produce information in a timely manner (Tricco et al. BMC Medicine. 2015, 13:224).

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Evan Atlantis, Paul Fahey, Ante Prodan
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

The National Association of Clinical Obesity Services (NACOS) is a collective of representatives of organisations providing clinical obesity services in Australia. The NACOS is committed to improving the quality of care for people living with obesity and its complications. To achieve this outcome, NACOS is leading a broad programme of activities including the proposed project titled ‘Decision Aid for Clinical Obesity Services (DACOS): the DACOS pilot study’. Indeed, preliminary work with NACOS commenced earlier this year including securing external funding from an industry partner, recruiting sites, and drafting the study protocol.Clinical obesity services (or clinics) variably provide medically-led intensive lifestyle interventions or support, psychological treatments, pharmacotherapies, as well as access to bariatric surgery when indicated and where feasible within Australia’s health care system. There is evidence of effectiveness for each of these interventions for the medical management of obesity, but there is uncertainty about how they may interact and potentially reinforce one another to improve health and economic outcomes in Australian clinical obesity services. The overall purpose of this project is to promote informed decision making on treatments and a high quality of health care for patients accessing clinical obesity services. To address this issue, we aim to benchmark outcomes in clinical obesity services and develop a decision aid tool using ‘real world’ data within the Australian health system.Specifically, we aim to:1. To evaluate and benchmark clinical obesity services (Phase I). The purpose of this phase is to evaluate and benchmark clinical obesity services using longitudinal routine data collections/service provision information. For example, to evaluate and benchmark the effects of currently used treatments and patient management on health outcomes (such as Body Mass Index [BMI] weight-related complications) and service outcomes (adherence and retention). This will produce real world information on the delivery clinical obesity care and measures against existing standards. This is an important first step in benchmarking and evaluating outcomes that reflect clinically meaningful improvements; i.e. key performance indicators of services.2. Use information from Phase I to develop a decision aid computer interface program (DACOS) for patients, clinicians, and/or both to project health and economic outcomes (positive and negative) of treatment decisions relevant to each clinical obesity service; i.e. test “what-if” scenarios at specific future time points (Phase II).The successful candidate will work with the research assistant to do data management tasks and create a database to analyse for their thesis. This involves extracting relevant information from routine data collections in medical records (paper-based) into an Excel spreadsheet from several study sites (clinical obesity clinics, most are public hospitals and few are private clinics)

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Lyn Francis
School/Institute: School of Nursing and Midwifery

The incidence of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse continues to grow in Australia and Internationally. There are courses for nurses to be recognised as Forensic nurses – this role is sort of a cross between nursing and law. The areas of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse for example need experienced nurses – what is happening in Australia? Are Forensic nurses recognised? Do we need Forensic Nurses? How do Forensic nurses see their role? Can their role be expanded?

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Science

Master of Research Projects

Supervisors: Ricky Spencer (Science and Environment)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Infectious disease is infrequently listed as a contributing factor to species extinction or endangerment. The IUCN Red List reports that in the past 500 years, 100 plant and 733 animal species are known to have gone extinct. Of these 833 known extinctions, only 31 cases (3.7%) have been attributed, at least in part, to infectious disease. However, the incidences are increasing and the impacts are rapid, meaning that management agencies are not equipped with tools to respond to large scale extinction events.

The overall goal of conservation is to mitigate the loss of biodiversity and preserve ecosystem services, species, and genetic diversity for the future. In this changing world, there is an increasing need for a “One Plan Approach” to develop multi-disciplinary conservation strategies that include the integration of in-situ (in the wild) and ex-situ (in zoological facilities) management processes when appropriate to do so.

Zoological institutions may contribute to conservation directly through different conservation translocation programs including reintroduction, supplementation, head-start programs, or rescue-rehabilitation-release efforts. Integration of in-situ and ex-situ components of conservation programs necessitates collaboration at all levels of conservation action including planning, implementation, monitoring and assessment, to drive adaptive management processes.

This project will work closely with the Australian Reptile Park, in conjunction with Aussie Ark, to establish an insurance and breeding colony for the endangered Manning River Helmeted Turtle. Multiple projects are available and relate to optimising “headstarting”, population viability, embryonic behaviour, captive breeding and husbandry, and juvenile survival. Candidates will be co-supervised by researchers at La Trobe University, University of Canberra and the Australian Reptile Park. Significant time will be spent with staff at the Australian Reptile Park and conducting fieldwork on the North Coast of NSW.  

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Thomas Jeffries (Microbiology)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Our research group in the School of Science and Health (the Western Microbial Systems Laboratory) employs a suite of next-generation sequencing based “ecogenomic” tools to study the ecology of microbiomes in a variety of habitats ranging from the human body to deserts and the ocean. We have a particular focus on the role of ecological theory in the colonization of surfaces by microbial biofilms. 

This project is integrated into the Indigo V Expeditions programme which harnesses citizen science to sample aquatic habitats globally and seeks to utilize the structure of the microbiome as an indicator of anthropogenic impact. Recently, collaborators have a developed an affordable 3D printed sampling drone which can be deployed in aquatic habitats and fractionate free-living microbes from those associated with particles such as the emerging contaminant of microplastics.  In this project, we will deploy this device in local Western Sydney waterways after periods of rainfall to target the microbial communities associated with incoming microplastic contamination. Next-generation DNA sequencing will be used to assess which microorganisms are associated with the surface of these particles and determine which ecological functions these may be carrying out. The candidate will also have the opportunity to work with the vast amounts of data being generated within the wider project encompassing microbiomes from the world’s oceans.

The ideal candidate for this project is somebody who is interested in both microbiology and ecology, and ideally with experience in molecular biology techniques and a willingness to learn bioinformatics tools.  

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Christa Beckmann (Avian ecology)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

In birds, colourful and elaborate feathers are important traits in mate choice. Distinct tail white patches are present in many species of birds, but they remain little studied. Some studies have shown that the white spots on tails of males indicate male quality, and influence female mate choice. In particular, most research to date has focused on species that are sexually dimorphic. This project will explore the differences between and variance within males and females in tail plumage colour in non-sexually dimorphic species. The candidate will be trained in trapping and banding birds using mist-nets, taking measurements and photographs of tail feathers, and behavioural observations.

I am open to other research ideas you may have – especially projects on birds.  

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Kylie Steel, Nicki Taylor, Kelly Ann Parry (Creativity/ Teaching)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Theory and practice surrounding the development of movement learning and control has changed little in the past six decades. There is often a reliance on one of two pathways which include a games based approach or a skills based approach. Rarely in these approaches however do practices encourage the learner or teacher to develop alternate and creative strategies to solve unique problems. This is in part due to the rigid nature of some practices that rely on simply practicing without understanding or the engagement of the learner in developing unique learning experiences. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to expose student teachers to methods for developing divergent thinking that may increase their creativity, which can then be applied to more engaged movement experiences for children.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Kylie Steel, Sera Dogramaci (NSWIS) (Skill Acquisition)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Visual search strategies have been investigated to a large extent in athletes, to improve their decision-making skills leading to improved competition performance. This area has not received as much attention in coaches, where their visual observations can determine what feedback is provided to their athletes. As such, this study seeks to examine the different visual search strategies of several diving coaches, with varying levels of expertise. This data will be coupled with verbal feedback provided to the athletes and undertaken in three different settings: 1. live viewing in training environment; 2. video footage obtained at training and displayed on a life-size screen; 3. video footage obtained at training and displayed on a small, hand-held screen. This study allows the candidate to undertake a project with strong ecological validity in an elite sporting environment, in a growing area of research which has implications across a variety of perceptual-cognitive paradigms. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Professor Janice Aldrich-Wright (Anticancer Drugs)
School/Institute: School of Science

Platinum complexes are currently among the most widely used cancer chemotherapeutics. They are incorporated into 50-70% of all cancer treatments and are expected to remain an essential part of cancer treatment for decades to come. Combination therapy, where a platinum drug is included into a mixture of drugs, has proved advantageous in mitigating some clinical challenges and delayed the onset of resistance. However, these advantages are lessened by the problems of effectively administering multiple drugs.


But what if we could combine the advantages of combination therapy with the efficiency of a single molecule?

Recent work at Western Sydney University has resulted in the first of its kind quadruple action platinum prodrug. Our prototype releases four bioactive moieties with different cellular targets but is significantly more potent than the sum of its components. The clinical advantage of this single drug with a single pharmacokinetic profile is that it is very effective against different types of cancer cells with poor prognosis. It also exhibits significantly activity in animal testing, in fact much better than the current clinical drug, cisplatin.

These platinum complexes, have us poised to make a major and unique contribution to the development of new platinum-based multi-action prodrugs for cancer combination therapy. This research is incredibly timely as there is
an urgent need for new and effective drugs for the treatment of resistant cancers. Consequently, this project will provide Australia with a significant foothold in a strategy which has the potential to transform current chemotherapeutic practices.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: William S. Price, Tim Stait-Gardner, Allan Torres, Gang Zheng, Abhishek Gupta, Scott Willis (Magnetic Resonance)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Early detection of tumours can significantly reduce the global burden of cancer and greatly improve the patient’s chances of survival. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is generally considered to be one of the most powerful diagnostic techniques. However, it often requires patients to be injected with chemicals containing gadolinium metal ions (i.e., gadolinium based MRI contrast agents or GBCAs) to obtain sufficient image contrast. GBCAs were previously considered to be generally safe, but recently gadolinium metal ions have been found to accumulate in the brains of patients after GBCA enhanced MRI examinations. In 2017, many GBCAs were banned from clinical use in Europe and several warnings and cautions were issued in Australia and the United States. There is a significant dearth of stable, efficient and cancer-specific non-gadolinium based MRI contrast agents. This project will address this urgent need and investigate various contrast enhancing options in MRI.

The Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility is a world class facility incorporating a suite of state-of-the-art high field NMR/MRI instruments. The BMRF and members of the NANO Group form the Western Sydney University Node of the Australian National Imaging Facility.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisors: Dr Thomas Jeffries, Dr Oliver Morton, Dr Michelle Moffitt, Dr Alexie Papanicolaou et al (Inter-disciplinary: Computer Science; Environmental Studies; Information Technology; Microbiology)
School/Institute: Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

While urban development is making our cities bigger and livelier, without evidence-based planning it degrades the environment within and around cities. Of particular concern is the quality of water: we use it for drinking and recreation but it is also connected to our food industries of agri- and aqua-culture. Significant prior work exists on how plants and vertebrates cope with infrastructure-related pollutants (e.g. heavy metals) but little attention has been paid on emerging threats caused by or associated with biological origins. Government policies on prevention are preferable to remediation, but prevention requires a reliable understanding of what these emerging threats are and how they interact.

One, we need new techniques in gathering (e.g. biological sensors), analysing experimental data (e.g. machine learning), integrating information (e.g. high performance databases), and disseminating it (e.g. IT-enabled citizen science) in a cost-efficient manner.

Second, we must consider pollution originating from both the infrastructure and all the organisms that inhabit it. For example, organisms such as birds can act as reservoirs and distributors of pathogens, bacterial and fungal, yet little is known about the relationships of their gut microbiota with waterways. Examining these microbiologically and conducting pathogenicity experiments with invertebrate hosts allows us to assess threat levels and inform government policy.

Third, these results need to be investigated in the context of future climatic scenarios and we need to therefore understand how pathogens cope with (for example) increased temperatures.

The supervisory panel is multi-disciplinary and will design specific projects to suit the skills of successful candidates. We welcome enthusiastic students with skills in microbiology, environmental sciences, computer science, or information technology. Candidates from Social Sciences or Law who wish to explore aquatic pollution are also welcome to get in touch with us, we will help them identify Western Sydney University co-supervisors in their field.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Oliver Morton and Colin Stack (Microbiology, Infectious Diseases)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The research in the laboratory focuses on understanding how pathogenic fungi and bacteria establsih infections. Many of the most important microbial pathogens are opportunist infectious agents that exhibit a genetic capacity to adapt to a variety of environments, which directly influences their ability to cause infection in man. This research uses interaction studies between microbial pathogens and phagocytic cells or invertebrate infection models to determine the factors necessary for the establishment of infection and evasion of the immune system. This research will utilise a wide variety of methods including gene expression analysis, proteomics, confocal microscopy, and traditional culture methods to observe and quantify how specific opportunist pathogens cause infection.

Projects on fungal and bacterial pathogenesis will be available. There will also be scope to test novel antimicrobial strategies such as photodynamic therapy.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Michelle Moffitt (Microbiology)
School/Institute: School of Science

Can we harness the power of defensive microbes to combat human disease or plant pathogens? In the unseen world of microbiology, bacteria, fungi and viruses are waging war against each other. Many use small chemical compounds as their weapons, while others compete for nutrient resources or cause parasitism. The first antibiotic drug, penicillin, was discovered from a fungus and many more of the antibiotic drugs that we use today were derived from compounds produced by microbes.

Defensive microbes live symbiotically with humans and plants, working with the host to help protect it from pathogens. Our research is to isolate and characterise novel chemical compounds produced by defensive microbes and harness them in the fight against antibiotic resistant human diseases or plant pathogens.

We have a group of fungal strains that are defensive microbes. They were discovered for their ability to parasitise or inhibit the growth of the plant parasite, rust. We are using a combination of fungal genome sequence analysis (bioinformatics), culturing techniques, mass spectrometry and assays to identify new compounds with antibacterial or antifungal activity. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Chris Cazzonelli (Plant Molecular and Environmental Biology)
School/Institute: Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Plants are natural chemical factories synthesizing health-promoting micronutrients such as the carotenoid provitamin A. A daily dietary uptake of this provitamin through plant-based foods is necessary for humans and animals to make Vitamin A, that promotes good eyesight, immunity and
general health. Carotenoids are colourful plant energy pigments found in plant flowers and fruits that provide micronutrients essential for human health (Cazzonelli, Functional Plant Biology 2011; 38: 833–847). The abundance of the carotenoid pigment provitamin A, can be limited in edible plant tissues and altered by the prevailing environmental conditions. In plants, carotenoids capture light, provide photoprotection and signal control over gene expression to regulate chloroplast to nucleus communication and plant development (Cazzonelli and Pogson, Trends in Plant Science 2010; 15: 266-274).

We have begun to unravel the genetic mechanism by which carotenoids self-regulate their biosynthesis to maintain cellular homeostasis (Alagoz, Arch Biochem Biophys 2018; 654: 172-184). This project aims to examine genetic and chemical mechanisms for carotenoid and provitamin A production that could be used as part of nutrition-promoting applications in crop improvement. Building upon our recent discoveries, we will demonstrate how a conserved genetic switch in a carotenoid biosynthesis gene can sense and regulate provitamin A levels.

Commercial and social benefits building on the expected project outcomes could include smart crop breeding programs with an end goal of enhancing national food security and Australian population health through improved nutrition. These benefits may also extend to international crop and animal management for regions where Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent, adding to possible commercial benefits for the Australian agricultural industry. Students will gain valuable experience in the latest physiological, molecular, biochemical and/or genetic sequencing technologies that are translational in crop biofortication, biotechnology and synthetic biology research.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Paul Simpson, Dr Liz Thyer (Paramedicine Education)
School/Institute: School of Science

Paramedics form an integral component of the Australian health system, providing unscheduled community-based care to people with injury or illness across the spectrum of acuity and severity.  The dynamic and often unpredictable nature of paramedic practice has led to the critical area of infection control being diminished in importance in recent years.

The paramedicine program at Western has commenced a program of research investigating infection control in paramedicine, incorporating education components in undergraduate programs and implementation of infection control standards in paramedicine industry.

The proposed suite of research will investigate aspects of infection control including cleanliness of operational emergency and non-emergency ambulances; hand hygiene practices in undergraduate education and patient care settings; adherence to infection control guidelines by paramedics; and creation and implementation of infection control standards in ambulance services and paramedic practice.

The Western Sydney paramedicine program has strong ties to major ambulance service providers in the government and private sectors, making it well placed to support students keen to undertake research in this important area of paramedicine-related healthcare.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Nicole Peel (Leisure Matters)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The research focuses on Leisure and the understanding that leisure is a common language for all individuals. The aim of the research project is to understand individual experiences of leisurenand the role leisure may play within life. Leisure includes: music, art and any recreational activity.  Students will have the opportunity to design their own research focus around these topics with marginalised individuals.

Marginalised groups include individuals: with a disability, in prisoner, in foster care, are ageing, with a mental illness, with a spinal injury, with a brain injury, war veterans, and any other group. Research will be undertaken with real people in real communities to work on real world problems. Creativity approaches are welcomely encouraged.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr. Ben Perry (Biomedical science)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The loss of skeletal muscle mass (muscle atrophy) is an increasingly common and ultimately debilitative outcome of aging, inactivity and disease. The substantial loss of muscle mass and strength is associated with reduced quality of life and increased mortality. One factor that can contribute to muscle atrophy is the negative physiological effects of prolonged and heightened inflammation, this is especially prevalent in cancer cachexia where hyper-inflammation drastically reduces muscle mass and quality of life for sufferers, and in genetic conditions such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms which cause inflammation-induced atrophy, and treatments to reduce muscle atrophy are urgently required. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is commonly found in fish oil, is emerging as a promising potential treatment to alleviate muscle atrophy in many circumstances. However, how DHA can reduce muscle atrophy remains poorly understood, and discovery of its mechanisms could lead to more targeted future treatments.

This research will explore the mechanisms of how inflammatory signalling contributes to muscle atrophy and investigate whether DHA can alleviate such atrophic effects. This research will not only investigate the cellular efficacy of DHA, but explore what parts of its cellular effects are beneficial for preventing muscle atrophy.

This project will allow the candidate to gain an in-depth understanding of cell culture methodologies and skeletal muscle, and the role of muscle atrophy in health and disease. This will give the candidate a broad and transferable range of skills for a future in biomedical science.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Feng Li (Metallo-supramolecular Chemistry)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The aim of this proposal is to design and synthesise several new classes of discrete spin transition metallo-supramolecular nanomaterials for applications in biology and medicine including DNA binding, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and drug delivery. There is wide opportunity to explore, for the first time, DNA binding for cellular targeting using spin-crossover (SCO) assemblies and to develop an innovative approach for probing DNA binding using such metallo-supramolecular materials that undergo motional or mechanical changes triggered by fine tuning the spin state of the switching sites. At the applied level, spin transition metallo-supramolecular assemblies are expected to spur the development of a new class of tumour-selective drugs and spin-activated MRI contrast agents that involve switching between paramagnetic and diamagnetic states. In addition, metallo-supramolecular assemblies exhibiting three dimensional cage-like architectures with mesoporosity will be designed as drug carriers to deliver a drug to a desired location and then release it by mechanically opening the door of the carrier in a spin-controlled manner.

While the focus of this project is on the design of metallo-supramolecular materials and evaluation of their molecular recognition properties and molecular imaging involving spin transition behaviour, it is anticipated that the materials produced will have potential applications in DNA binding, drug delivery and MRI contrast agents.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Feng Li (Metallo-supramolecular Chemistry)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The application of nanotechnology in nanomaterials for supramolecular systems has been a vigorous, fast-growing and fascinating area of current research with inorganic, organic, and biological processes and in environment. It is a highly interdisciplinary field with wide-ranging collaborations between chemists, physicists, biochemists, biologists, environmental scientists, engineers, theoreticians, mathematicians and others. Because the structure and properties of nanomaterials differ significantly from those of atoms and molecules as well as those of bulk materials, the synthesis of functional nanomaterials and new assembled nanostructures has been characterized by explosive growth derived in part from their use as models for metal-proteins in a substantial number of metalloproteins, their use as synthetic ionophores, the study of their associated magnetic exchange phenomena, their use as therapeutic reagents in chelation therapy, their application as antibiotics that owe their antibiotic action to specific metal coordination and, more generally, as hosts for specific guests.

This project is focused on three significant issues in the area of nanomaterials in supramolecular systems:

  • the use of designed metal-ion directed assembly for constructing new nanometer-scale supramolecular entities and the investigation of host-guest inclusion behaviour in metallo-supramolecular systems;
  • the construction of organic metal hosts for gas or/and solvent absorption in metallo-supramolecular systems;
  • the exploration of optical and dielectric properties of spin-crossover (SCO) materials and the development of memory effects and switching in SCO systems.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Chris Derry (Environmental Sustainability)
School/Institute: School of Science

A Master of Research (pathway to PhD) student is wanted for environmental research on nutrient removal by established stormwater wetlands on the Hawkesbury campus in a project assisting Sydney Water to assess wetlands as future green, nutrient-offset trading assets in terms of EPA requirements for protection of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River during a time of burgeoning urban development.  The research will involve hands-on evaluation of nutrient flux in water-, sediment-, plant- or air-mediated (nitrification-denitrification) pathways using field equipment with support from Sydney Water’s advanced analytical laboratories. Requirements are an environmental dedication, ability to work safely in an area where natural water, bushland and animal life (eg: snakes) may be encountered, some mechanical aptitude for developing specialised monitoring equipment, and a background in chemical, biological, and environmental science. Students from other areas (eg: forensic science) who wish to transition to environmental careers will be considered. Co-authorship of publications will be encouraged and the use of the MRes as stepping stone to PhD should be a student aim. This is an exceptional opportunity to engage in the important new field of green trading (nutrient-offset research) at foundation level facilitating the opening of career pathways with major regional and national role players.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: William S. Price, Tim Stait-Gardner, Allan Torres, Gang Zheng, Abhishek Gupta, Scott Willis (Magnetic Resonance)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

The student will develop novel chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) techniques for the study of proton exchange in solutions and tissues, focusing on the observation and quantification of the CEST peaks close to the water signal of diagnostically important metabolites such as myo-inositol and glucose in the NMR spectrum. If the newly developed techniques afford the distinction between metabolite and water signals in the water-proximate region in the experiments on phantom samples, they will be applied in animal experiments in the School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University.

The Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Facility is a world class facility incorporating a suite of state-of-the-art high field NMR/MRI instruments. The BMRF and members of the NANO Group form the Western Sydney University Node of the Australian National Imaging Facility.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Chris Cazzonelli (Plant Molecular and Environmental Biology)
School/Institute: Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Plants sense and respond to wind, rubbing, insect feeding, touch and mechanical stress by altering their phenotype; a phenomenon called thigmomorphogenesis. Thigmomorphogenesis results in developmental and morphological change to the plant that manifests as a shorter, stronger and hardier plant, better acclimated to the prevailing environmental conditions. Mechanical stress has been applied in agricultural systems for over a century in Asia; a practice where farmers stamp on wheat or barley to increase strength, promote dwarfism and prime stress tolerance. The molecular nature of how touching a plant regulates gene expression and promotes long-term stress acclimation remains enigmatic.

Evidence in our laboratory shows that epigenetic and memory forming processes regulate touch induced gene expression (Cazzonelli et al., 2014 Frontiers in Plant Science). We have demonstrated that a short period of mechanical stress can induce thigmomorphogenesis, a phenotype that can persist throughout plant development in the absence of continued stress. In this project, students could investigate the molecular mechanisms that prime epigenetic memory formation and promote stress acclimation in plants (e.g. Arabidopsis and/or tomato). Students can discover the physical and chemical barriers altered by mechanical stress and reveal how these promote resistance to insect herbivory and/or facilitate the hardening of seedling transplants.

Knowledge generated from this project can be translated to improve mechanical strategies that harden seedling transplants for the protected greenhouse and horticultural tree crop industries. Students will gain valuable experience in the latest physiological, molecular, biochemical and/or genetic sequencing technologies that are translational in agriculture, biotechnology and synthetic biology research.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Simon Myers (Molecular Cell Biology)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Axonal degeneration is the final common path in many neurological disorders. It is seen in its pure form in hereditary axonal neuropathies. The hereditary neuropathies are the most common group of diseases presenting to genetic counselling clinics with a prevalence of approximately 1 in 2500 population, thus affecting 8000 Australians. 

Although they are rarely fatal they cause lifelong disability and thus have significant economic impact, estimated to be $180M per annum in Australia. No specific treatment is yet available for distal axonal neuropathies.

Although hereditary neuropathies were initially classified as a single entity, there are now more than 50 different gene loci with at least 30 genes with mutations causing these disorders. Surprisingly, these genes have diverse normal functions and there is no common function shared between them. Many genes involved are related to intracellular membranes and organelles. As dominant mutations often cause disease by a 'toxic gain of function' mechanism their toxic function may be unrelated to their normal function.

Nearly all hereditary neuropathies produce disability through the common feature of axonal degeneration. Although much is known about the cell biology of many of the neuropathy genes, little is known about how they produce axonal degeneration. CMT2A, HSN1 and DI-CMT1B are distal “dying back” neuropathies which first affect the ends of motor and sensory nerves. Dying back has long been thought to be a result of an axonal transport problem.

A Selection of Projects Available (but not limited to):

  • Characterising lipid droplets found in sensory neuropathies
  • Identifying changes to the neuronal cytoskeleton caused by mutations in the house-keeping protein, SPTLC1 with respect to the protein Coactosin 
  • The role of Chloride Intracellular Channel Protein 1 in HSN1
  • Is there an active autophagic process happening in HSN1?
  • Characterizing the effect of Hypoxia Up Regulated Protein 1 on the mitochondria and the ER from HSN1 mutant cells 
  • To identify a set of MAM specific proteins that change in expression or localisation in sensory neuropathies.
  • To determine if oxidative stress is occurring in the HSN1 cells

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Paul Simpson, Dr Liz Thyer (Paramedicine Education)
School/Institute: School of Science

Paramedics form an integral component of the Australian health system, providing unscheduled community-based care to people with injury or illness across the spectrum of acuity and severity.  Tertiary education for paramedicine students involves engagement in work-integrated learning (WIL) where the student is embedded with an operational paramedic crew for a sustained period, applying their campus-based learning in the real-world context.  However, placement opportunities are limited by industry, resulting in paramedicine undergraduate curricula containing large amounts of simulation-based learning to complement industry WIL and provide an opportunity for learning in a safe and controlled setting.

While simulation is common in paramedicine undergraduate education, there is a relatively small body of evidence describing it when compared to what has been investigated in other healthcare disciplines.  The design of simulation, the degree of exposure required, and the level of simulation fidelity represent research opportunities in this space.

The incorporation of new technologies in simulation has become increasingly common in recent years, adding yet to be explored education opportunities in paramedicine education.  In 2018, the paramedicine program at Western commenced a suite of research exploring the use of 360-degree immersive simulation in undergraduate paramedic education.  The program has a state-of the-art immersive simulation facility that allows students to undertake simulation while a filmed environment is projected around them, enhancing the learning experience by increasing cognitive load and challenging situational awareness.

The immersive simulation research agenda seeks to explore the role and value of cutting-edge 360-degree immersive simulation technology on undergraduate student learning and engagement, and their preparedness to undertake supervised internships with state-based ambulance services. 

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Chris Derry (Environmental Sustainability)
School/Institute: School of Science

Since 2013 the School of Science has carried out advanced monitoring of stormwater biofiltration units in for the Councils of Sydney, Canterbury-Bankstown, Inner West, Strathfield and Bayside using Western Sydney University-designed equipment, with a view to advising on the performance efficiency of chemical pollutant removal by engineered field biofilters as decentralised water treatment systems. This is a high impact project given the implications for treated stormwater return to the Botany Sand Beds Aquifer as part of a potential large-scale water recycling initiative, and the improvement of water quality in impacted receiving waters such as the Cooks River, Port Jackson and the historical Botany Bay. Precision field monitoring is important to inform future engineering interventions and commercial initiatives such as the restoration of oyster beds and fishing operations in impacted receiving waters. While local government have accepted the use of the unique monitoring equipment designed by Western Sydney University and several substantial reports and international publications have been generated, full performance-validation of the equipment has not yet been carried out under strictly- controlled laboratory conditions. The M Res student will be guided in this endeavour by the supervisor, technicians and Council staff familiar with use of the equipment. Attachment as a co-author to a relevant publication is envisaged as is the potential opening of a career pathway in the environmental monitoring sector. The intending researcher should be well acquainted with environmental volumetric and chemical measurement in terms of accepted standard methods.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Thomas Jeffries (Microbiology)
School/Institute: School of Science and Health

Our research group in the School of Science and Health (the Western Microbial Systems Laboratory) employs a suite of next-generation sequencing based “ecogenomic” tools to study the ecology of microbiomes in a variety of habitats ranging from the human body to deserts and the ocean. We have a particular focus on the role of ecological theory in the colonization of surfaces by microbial biofilms. 

Biofilms are highly organized layers of interacting microorganisms which form on surfaces and which are of major concern to human health due to their ability to resist antimicrobial treatments and their role in disease progression. They are also relevant to both soil and the ocean as they form the basis of how microbial diversity is structured in these habitats. The recruitment of microorganisms to surfaces is governed by two competing forces: niche specialization (selection by local environmental conditions) and neutral theory (random recruitment of whoever “gets there first” as long as they can survive). A middle ground is “the lottery hypothesis” where competing organisms that are functionally similar and can survive are then selected randomly based on chance. This leads to highly dissimilar microbiomes in similar habitats such as surfaces with little environmental variation. 

This project will take an experimental approach to studying this by engineering cultured microbiomes of varying diversity and “competing” them to establish biofilms on artificial and biological surfaces to study the dynamics of biofilm establishment. Next generation DNA sequencing will be used to measure the diversity of these communities over time. The organisms and systems used may be tailored to suit the candidates interest.

The ideal candidate for this project is somebody who is interested in both microbiology and ecology, and ideally with experience in molecular biology techniques and a willingness to learn bioinformatics tools.  

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Paul Simpson, Dr Liz Thyer (Paramedicine Education)
School/Institute: School of Science

Paramedics form an integral component of the Australian health system, providing unscheduled community-based care to people with injury or illness across the spectrum of acuity and severity.  Clinical placements, or more specifically work-integrated learning (WIL), plays a critical role in providing undergraduate paramedicine students an opportunity to apply skills and knowledge learned on campus via theory and simulation to real world patients in an operational setting.  It is also believed to facilitate cultural and organisational learning through a sustained exposure to clinical practice and healthcare more broadly.

The Western paramedicine program incorporates one of the most diverse WIL programs in the country, consisting of domestic and international WIL opportunities, interprofessional WIL, and clinical placements in the private paramedicine sector.

In comparison to other healthcare disciplines, there are many gaps in knowledge relating to the value of WIL in paramedicine undergraduate education.  The proposed suite of research aims to explore models of WIL, structure of WIL, and evidence-based approaches to assessment of WIL.  The impact of WIL undertaken in international and non-traditional settings on graduate outcomes and preparedness for practice represents an exciting research opportunity building on research already published by Western paramedicine academics.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Liza Cubeddu, Doctor Roland Gamsjaeger (biochemistry and medical science)
School/Institute: School of Science

Humans have evolved multiple mechanisms to ensure the integrity of their genetic information, which is carried by DNA. Each cell suffers more than 100 000 insults a day to its DNA; therefore an effective DNA damage response is crucial for the maintenance of genetic integrity and for survival. One of the main outcomes of not upholding our genetic integrity is mutation; some mutations predispose individuals to developing cancers. The development of novel therapeutic agents for cancer treatment has been hindered because the basic molecular details of most human DNA repair pathways have not yet been resolved.

We have discovered two new human proteins, from the oligonucleotide binding domain family, that have critical roles in the DNA damage response. We are working toward a molecular understanding of the roles of these proteins using a combination of biochemical, functional and structural techniques to develop innovative therapeutics to selectively kill cancer cells.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Liza Cubeddu, Doctor Roland Gamsjaeger (biochemistry and medical science)
School/Institute: School of Science

It is well established that chromatin, which packages eukaryotic DNA, plays an important role in crucial biological transactions such as the maintenance of genome integrity (DNA repair). Recently, post-translational modifications such as acetylation marks on histone tails have been directly implicated in allowing chromatin to become “accessible” or “inaccessible” for DNA repair. This research investigates the role of bromodomain proteins as an effective ‘reader’ of acetylation marks on histones within a multi-protein complex termed Tip60 by using a combination of biochemical, biophysical and functional techniques.

The Tip60 complex is known to remodel chromatin to allow access for DNA repair to occur and is as such essential for genome stability and maintenance. Targeting Tip60 complex members represents a novel avenue to treat cancers as (1) overexpression of Tip60 components have been detected in various cancers including prostate, breast and colorectal and (2) defective DNA repair in cancer cells has been shown to be linked to molecular defects in the Tip60 complex. Thus, this program of research will advance our knowledge by re-defining some of the major players in the remodelling of chromatin for DNA repair and lay the groundwork for the future development of successful tailored therapeutics for the treatment of various cancers.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Social Sciences and Psychology

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Dr Sebastian Pfautsch (Urban Studies)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Worldwide, but particularly in a car-dependent country like Australia, carparks are omnipresent, unnoticed, yet necessary and unavoidable. Importantly, they are notorious contributors to urban heat island effects. Predicted trends in extreme summer temperatures paired with rapid urbanization across the Greater Sydney Basin create a situation where a fundamental rethinking of carpark design is urgently needed. However, physical evidence that can inform thermal design of carparks is currently missing.

Traditionally, carparks are 2-dimensional, bare spaces covered with blacktop. They absorb and radiate large amounts of electromagnetic radiation and prevent subsurface infiltration of rainwater. However, a range of alternative designs are available to create thermally smart carparks. Such designs include the use of pervious or reflective surface materials, establishment of natural or artificial shade structures like trees or sails and other means.

This research project will quantify the effectiveness of existing carparks in Sydney where technologies and materials have been applied to limit the impact of radiated heat from blacktop (e.g. Western Sydney Parklands, Flemington Markets, University of Sydney). Physical measurements are at the core of this project, ranging from infrared thermography of carpark environments to assessments of human thermal comfort. Questions related to spatial analyses, urban microclimate and material science will also be part of the study.

This is very timely, rich, hands-on and interdisciplinary work. The candidate will explore a real-world problem and will gain experience in working with industry and local governments.  The goal of the project is to provide urban planners, councils and developers with evidence-based alternatives to blacktop carparks that will help make Sydney cooler.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr. Garry Stevens, A/Prof Nichole Georgeou (Humanitarian and Development Studies)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Humanitarian
and Development Research Initiative (HADRI).

The concept of ‘Linking Humanitarian Relief, Rehabilitation & Development’ (LRRD) emerged in the 1980’s when the food crisis in Africa highlighted a funding gap between humanitarian assistance, relief, and development activities and the need to link short-term relief and longer-term development programs to support sustainable outcomes. Although this ‘common sense’ approach continues to be endorsed at a policy level (e.g. European Parliament, 2012), there are no accepted operational definitions regarding the nature of phase transitions or the working integration of these functions (Mosel and Levine, 2014) and debate persists as to whether LRRD can be implemented systematically and provide tangible benefits to the Aid sector and its beneficiaries (Christopolos, 2006, Stevens et al., 2018). Despite these shortcomings, there has been recent renewed interest in LRRD, with European donors in particular arguing that this model can provide an organising framework to support the operationalisation of more recent policy frameworks, particularly ‘resilience’, ‘disaster risk reduction’ and early recovery concepts (e.g. United Nations Development Program, European Commission, 2012, Mosel and Levine, 2014). This is a notable proposition given that there remains limited evidence of successful functional integration within LRRD programs themselves.

In the context of this debate, HADRI recently undertook a Systematic Review of literature regarding LRRD programs, including operational definitions of R-R-D integration, and identified program outcomes that are a function of successful integration. The review highlights the limited documentation regarding successful programs, including exemplars of program best-practice, that can support more effective LRRD and program outcomes. From this systematic review we aim to develop an evaluative framework that can be used by practitioners and policy makers.

This research project aims to create tools from the evaluative framework to test and evaluate operational effectiveness of LRRD programs. Such tools have the potential to improve program design and outcomes and will be developed in consultation with practitioners and academics through a project steering committee. The candidate will engage in developing country contexts and will have the opportunity to work with local organization’s in Nepal and Indonesia.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Geir Henning Presterudstuen (Gender Studies, Anthropology)   
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Students with a strong social sciences background and an interest in the intersection between material culture and social dynamics such as identity, belonging and power relations are invited to propose a project using fashion as an analytical category. Thinking of fashion as a modality through which people in any context experience cultural and social belonging and construct contemporary self-identities in dialogue with global popular culture, I am particularly interested in qualitative research projects exploring the relationships between gender, sexualities and (perceptions of) the body and fashion both in the material or non-material sense. I am also open to project ideas linking the political economy of fashion to social inequalities on the micro-level, or explore the ‘social life’ of particular garments, patterns, styles, body modifications, commodities etc. in particular communities.

The focus of this project invites inter-disciplinarity and enables students to develop research skills with a great utility both within the social sciences and humanities and a variety of industries.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr. Garry Stevens, Dr. Kingsley Agho (Humanitarian and Development Studies)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Humanitarian
and Development Research Initiative (HADRI).

Humanitarian Aid (HA) work is a compelling vocation but one characterised by exposure to field-based and organisational stressors which have significant implications for workers’ health and wellbeing. Connorton et al (2012) found these workers experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms than the general population, and rates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) comparable with military and emergency service personnel.

Despite these known issues, preventive mental health strategies and training for humanitarian work continues to receive little attention within employing organisations. This reflects, in part, traditional organisational priorities towards Aid recipients, but also the limited information available regarding stress coping and resilience among HA workers, particularly those factors amenable to change through training and organisational support programs.

Recent research on personal help-seeking with other worker and community populations has enhanced our understanding of how the ability to successfully elicit social support from others, particularly following distressing events, is associated with better mental health outcomes (Cornally, 2011, Clement, 2015, Stevens, 2019).

This study will use survey methods to examine HA worker attitudes and behaviours regarding personal help-seeking and the demographic, experiential and health related factors related to its utilisation in the context of work-related stress. Outcomes of the study can enhance training and support strategies for this worker population.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Tamara Watson, Kylie Steel, Gabrielle Weidemann (Cognitive psychology/sports science)
School/Institute: School of Psychology / School of Health/ MARCS
Institute

Cognitive skills like decision making, attention allocation, memory, pattern recognition and creativity are not factored in to talent identification procedures in most sports. This project will investigate cognitive attributes of emerging and successful sports people.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Renu Narchal (Bilingualism/Multiculturalism)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology/School of Psychology (Proposed for 2020)

Current world events and globalisation has witnessed an exponential growth in migration worldwide. As individuals migrate across continents, there is a need to facilitate access to supports and services for their good settlement post-migration. The demand for bilingual mediators though is on the rise, but hard to meet. In such instances, immigrants often depend on their children who adapt to the new culture, becoming more fluent in the language of the host culture faster than their parents. Without any formal training, bilingual children take on the role of cultural and linguistic brokers to translate and interpret for their parents and family. They assist in a variety of contexts both high-stakes (school, banks, government offices, medical and legal settings) and low- stakes (home, shops, conversations, movies). However, parents seldom acknowledge the visible contribution their children make toward settlement. The consequences of taking adult like responsibilities in differing contexts, has the potential to cause psychological distress or burden for some or a sense of efficacy and fulfilment for others. The invisibility of language brokers who are expected to mediate in various contexts may also impede family relationships and their acculturation in the host country.

Multifold aspects like ethnic identity construction, strategies employed by language brokers to assist or resist language brokering like, compassion toward themselves still remain under researched. Moreover, the experience of parents as users of brokering services and experience of other members of the family (e.g. siblings) remain under examined.

This project provides an opportunity for research in an important emerging research area within the Australian context with potential to inform policy and assist development of appropriate supports and services for culturally and linguistically diverse migrants. It offers an option to study language brokering in specific context/s and ethnic group/s utilising a mixed, qualitative or quantitative methodology.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Nicole Asquith (Criminology/Sociology)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Research into the lived experiences of LGBTIQ+ Australians consistently shows their increased risk of housing insecurity, mental illness, criminalisation, and decreased wellbeing. For the most part, the negative impacts on mental health, housing, wellbeing and engagement in criminal behaviour come from their position on the margins of our society; whether this is explicit exclusion, discrimination, and harassment from those opposed to sexuality and gender diversity, or the reduced familial and social support that may arise from coming out. This project aims to investigate the critical role of family exile in these pathways, and consider what (if any) developments are required to underwrite the missing familial and social capital elicited in family exile; whether this is derived from being thrown out of the family home, or choosing to leave the family home. This project will consider the experiences of LGBTIQ+ people from NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, and Western Australia.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Karen Soldatic & Corrinne Sullivan (Indigenous Youth Gender & Sexuality)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

This project will work with a team of researchers who are seeking to develop a range of culturally appropriate frameworks and supports to facilitate the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQA+ young people. This research will be the first to identify, document and build a nuanced understanding of the intersecting issues and challenges experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQA+ young people in Australia. The empirical literature highlights some of potential challenges faced by this group of young people. Young people are at a heightened risk of mental health issues and often face significant challenges regarding their SEWB as they transition into adult life. The period (12-25 years) encompasses two developmental phases – adolescence and young adulthood – that place demands on young people to increasingly individuate from family, achieve behavioural and emotional autonomy, and navigate their self-identity. Although some young people meet these developmental tasks with relatively little difficulty, for other young people these demands interact with internal and environmental risks to result in decreased SEWB and increased risk of psychological distress. Young people’s vulnerabilities are further heightened once sexuality, socio-economic background, place of residence (rural/urban/remote), disability, ethnicity or Indigeneity are brought into consideration. International research highlights the intersecting challenges faced by young, LGBTIQA+ Indigenous peoples who have very different help-seeking behaviours and are more likely to encounter barriers to service provision and support. By investigating the lived experiences and expressed needs of young Indigenous LGTIQA+ peoples, the anticipated project outcomes will include: a) building a set of measurable indicators that recognise and give meaning to Indigenous LGBTIQA+ young people’s experiences; and b) informing the development of intervention strategies at multiple levels to meet their needs (e.g. individual, community, sectoral).

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Nicole Asquith (Criminology/Policing)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

In the everyday working lives of rural and remote police officers, and in their engagement and relationship with the communities they serve, we may be offered evidence of the critical importance of propinquity in the co-production of law and order. If policing by consent is reliant on propinquitous relationships, then current operational and staffing practices that rely on the constant revolving of staff between stations and commands may be counterproductive to co-production of, and community engagement in, public safety. Can the ‘community policing’ undertaken by rural and remote police officers present us with a different vision of policing that does not see community engagement as a value-add to reactive crime control? Finally, this research may provide importance evidence of how and when the community is successfully deputised into the strategic priorities of policing services.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Sebastian Pfautsch (Urban Studies)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Population of the Greater Sydney Basin is predicted to reach 8 million by mid-2030. Towns and suburbs currently built across the western section of the Basin are expected to absorb the majority of this population increase. As a result of design and location of these new settlements, citizens will rely heavily on the use of cars. Consequently, industrial estates, shopping malls, hospitals, DIY centres and other businesses providing work, goods and services to the new citizens must offer sufficient parking space.

Carparks represent urban grey infrastructure, in contrast to blue (e.g. lakes and rivers) and green infrastructure (e.g. parks and street trees). Grey infrastructure is the primary source for heat island effects in the build environment to which carparks contribute disproportionally high amounts of radiated heat. 

It is unclear how construction of large carparks in the western part of the Greater Sydney Basin will intensify summer heat, especially as this region already experiences the highest summer temperatures of any location in the basin. 

This project combines collection of empirical data with remote sensing analyses. Measurements of air and surface temperatures of carparks will be collected along environmental gradients to document thermal trends. Remote sensing analyses will assist in classifying grey infrastructure and determining spatial extent of parking space.

If you are interested in finding the hottest carpark in Sydney and in exploring relationships between urban development, climate and geography, then this is your research project.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Geir Henning Presterudstuen & Andrew McWilliam (Anthropology, Migration Studies)
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Focusing on a clearly defined migrant community (to be determined in discussions between student and supervisor) with a presence in Greater Western Sydney the project will identify and analyse new forms of connectivity between migrants, their community of origin and/or the broader diaspora and the socio-cultural dynamics that make these possible. Grounded in a broadly speaking anthropological research tradition, the researcher will collect quantitative and qualitative research data focusing on the everyday, practical nature of the relationships between migrants and their home communities, including how these are mediated by new technologies and economic possibilities, as well as how they form parts of broader processes such as the cultural production of identity and kinship, reciprocity and mutuality.

Throughout the project students will develop specific research skills and apply these to real-time, real-life challenges with a view to inform decision-making on a number of levels. Insights from this research has the potential to be operationalised by a range of government or non-government actors and agencies with an interest in social inclusion, integration and economic change.    

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Gregory Cohen and Dr Moritz Milde
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

The objective of this project is to explore the performance of an event-based vision sensor in underwater conditions and across different light levels. This project will involve the development of an appropriate waterproof housing, and then the characterisation of the sensor performance in varying underwater conditions.Event-based vision sensors represent a low-power, low-latency and high-bandwidth alternative compared to conventional imaging sensor, such as classical CCD cameras. Event-based sensors sample, in contrast to conventional vision sensors, changes in temporal contrast rather than the absolute illumination in fixed intervals. The voltage which internally compared to a reference voltage is the log of the sensed photocurrent, enabling these sensors sense across a wide range of lighting conditions. Moreover, as each pixel operates independently of the other pixels, event-based vision sensors are optimally suited to be deployed in environments with a high-dynamic range.

Event-based vision sensors have shown great potential both in high-speed application and in Space Situational Awareness applications. Due to their sampling nature these types of sensors are ideally suited for environments with a wide range of illumination, which is dynamically varying over time. Both properties are challenging factors in underwater scenarios such as underwater navigation, classification of underwater objects such as underwater mines or environmental monitoring.This project represents a proof of concept that event-based vision sensors are suited for underwater observation with the potential of real-world underwater observation of sea-life, object identification in shallow and deep water and environmental monitoring.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Sebastian Pfautsch
School/Institute: School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Public playgrounds are key assets for parents and their children in cities. As access to nature and the outdoors is limited in metropolitan regions, playgrounds are often the only available spaces for ‘city kids’ to engage with nature and immerse themselves in outdoor play. Educational research has shown that outdoor play is crucial for cognitive development, physical fitness and learning of risk- and self-awareness. Moreover, playing outdoors helps nurture compassion for other human beings and nature and allows for positive socialisation.

Climate change and its effects on temperature is limiting the opportunity for outdoor play. Under increasing summer heat, the time spent in playgrounds is declining. This is mostly owed to the increasing frequency, duration and intensity of extreme heat – i.e. days above 35°C. It thus becomes very important that existing and new playgrounds are designed to be heat and UV resistant, which will help expanding the time they can be used.

Conventional playground design does not consider climate change effects. Sufficient shade is rare, use of materials and colours is generally not heat smart. Empirical evidence is missing that can inform climate-ready playground design. Knowledge how to design new and retrofit existing playgrounds to make them climate-ready is urgently needed, yet related research is at its infancy in Australia.

You will systematically assess heat and exposure to UV in public playgrounds. Next to field data collections, you will also be planning and executing scientific tests under controlled conditions. These tests will look at thermal performance of widely used surface materials. Novel primary data from your empirical work will be merged with existing knowledge from social, educational and health sciences. Through your applied, interdisciplinary research you will develop answers to a complex urban problem: How to preserve the positive effects of outdoor play on childhood development in a warming world?

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Business

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Dr Aila Khan; Dr Michael Lwin
School/Institute: School of Business

Social robots are humanoids which have been designed to socially interact with people. While industrial robots have been assisting us in manufacturing and transportation for decades, social robots are a fairly recent development. These robots have mostly been used by researchers in the areas of health (e.g. in aged care homes) and education (e.g. teaching of a language to primary school students).

More recently, these robots have been employed by businesses as ‘greeters’ (at hotel/airport concierges), information-providers (e.g. product location in a retail outlet) and even as entertainers (e.g. singing, dancing or telling jokes in a mall. It is expected that the number of robots will increase as organisations have found them a useful tool in engaging with stakeholders, especially clients.

In Australia, there is a limited number of social robots currently available. Most of these are with universities or research institutes. Researchers in the field of Human-Robot Interaction have been working with social robots for a decade now. Australians, unlike the Japanese are cautious of this new form of technology. There are concerns voiced around loss of jobs, safety, trust and generally, ethics in the use of social robots. Nevertheless, it is agreed that the use of such machines is on the rise.

It is, therefore important to evaluate how people perceive these robots. Moreover, it is also important to understand if such robots impact an employing-organisation’s image? Since technology is well-recognised to cause anxiety in some segments of the population, we would also be interested in evaluating people’s anxiety levels with reference to the robot. Previous research in Human-Robot Interaction has mostly been conducted from the viewpoint of the Engineering and Computing discipline. This study will provide an opportunity to report results from the perspective of marketing and business domains.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Felicitas Evangelista; Associate Professor Dilupa Nakandala; Dr Aila Khan
School/Institute: School of Business

An ever increasing amount of fruits and vegetables are being imported in Australia. Imports of fresh fruit increased by 19 per cent to $389 million in 2016-17. New Zealand and the United States accounted for more than 80 per cent of fresh fruit supply to Australia. Similarly, the import bill for vegetables has also increased with imports of fresh asparagus and garlic (from Peru and China) increasing by more than 250 per cent in recent years.

The increase in fresh produce imports has been of concern to a number of agricultural stakeholders. While imported fruits and vegetables provide consumers with cheaper, out-of-season, novel varieties, there have been questions raised about these items. Unregulated production methods, use of pesticides and contaminated water supplies in overseas farms have all been highlighted as potential threats to the fresh-produce quality.

The recent introduction of mandatory country-of-origin (COO) labelling provides a mechanism to ensure that Australian consumers are informed about the origins of fruits and vegetables they intend on purchasing. Previous research has shown that COO is regarded as an extrinsic cue for product quality. In the absence of more detailed information (e.g. production methods) consumers make judgments about a product’s quality from a country’s image which they may hold. This image may be formed of beliefs not just about a country’s products but also its more general characteristics including economy, workforce and culture.

However, consumer purchase of imported fresh produce is not just determined through cognitively assessing the foreign country’s image and resulting evaluation of the product’s quality. Researchers suggest that consumer ethnocentrism has a role to play as well. Consumer ethnocentrism refers to beliefs held by consumers about the appropriateness and morality of purchasing foreign products. Ethnocentric consumers view purchase of imported produce as wrong because they believe that it hurts the domestic economy, causes job losses and is outright unpatriotic. Non-ethnocentric consumers, on the other hand, evaluate the product on its own merit and do not let the COO alone, to negatively bias their opinion.

This research project will determine Australian consumers’ likelihood of purchasing imported fresh produce by factoring in the effects of COO. We will also model the impact of ethnocentrism on consumer purchase decisions.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Felicitas Evangelista; Dr Aila Khan
School/Institute: School of Business

Over the past 50 years, consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide (Lustig, Schmidt and Brindis 2012). Sugar consumption is linked to a rise in non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes), which the United Nations has now declared as posing a greater health burden worldwide than infectious diseases. There are three central risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases – tobacco, alcohol and diet. While tobacco and alcohol have been successfully regulated by many governments around the world, controlling people’s diet (or food) is more complicated and there have been no easy solutions.

Experts agree that similar to tobacco and alcohol, sugar has clear potential for abuse. Similar to the other two, sugar acts on the brain to encourage subsequent intake. There are a number of studies which have examined the dependence-producing properties of sugar in humans (e.g. Garber and Lustig 2011). Sugar dampens the suppression of a hormone which signals hunger to the brain. It also interferes with the normal signaling of the hormone leptin which helps to produce the feeling of satiety. Moreover, it reduces dopamine signaling in the brain’s reward center, thereby decreasing the pleasure derived from food, compelling the individual to consume more (Lustig 2010).

The link between ‘added sugar’ intake and negative health outcomes is widely recognized. This link is explained in two major ways: First, greater sugar consumption leads to an increased energy intake which is associated with weight gain, diabetes and dental decay. Second, consumption of higher levels of added sugars as a percentage of energy is usually accompanied with a lower intake of vitamins and minerals (Lewis et al. 1992). Intakes of calcium, a nutrient currently viewed as a particular health concern were especially low. Thus, a sugar-laden diet may also cause health problems due to the accompanying issue of a low-quality diet.

In view of health concerns associated with high sugar intake, recommendations have been made to industries to take steps to reduce the amount of sugar in processed foods (Barclay et al. 2008). This is in response to the now-accepted view that any societal intervention for reducing sugar consumption will not be successful without active engagement of all stakeholders. However, this task poses a major challenge for businesses, and their consumers. First, in some parts of the world, sugary soft drinks are often cheaper than potable water or milk. Also, consumers like the taste of sugar as research across all age groups demonstrates that consumers generally prefer foods with higher concentration of sucrose. Finally, the biggest challenge for businesses is to invest in reformulating their brands with less sugar, while also maintaining their market share (Chollet et al. 2013) and revenues.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the main contributors to increased intake of ‘added sugar’. In Australia, almost half of kids aged between 2 and 16 years consume a sugar-sweetened beverage everyday (ABS 2016). According to Diabetes Australia (2016) this could mean an additional weight gain of more than 6kg per person in one year. In view of these alarming statistics, different health bodies have strongly recommended the implementation of sugar tax, which would result in a higher price for the sugar-sweetened beverage products (ABC News 2016). It is argued that a higher price would influence public’s behavior towards sugar consumption. Up till now, such a suggestion of an added tax is not supported by any of two major political parties.

The current project’s main aim is to motivate consumers to undertake ‘behavior-change’ by encouraging them to move away from sugary soft drinks and adopt a sugar-free option. There are a number of behavioural change theories which attempt to explain the process. The most frequently cited theories include learning theories, self-efficacy theory, and theories of reasoned action and planned behavior. Learning theories propose that complex behavior is learnt gradually through the modification of simpler behaviours. Imitation and reinforcement play important roles in these theories which state that individuals learn by duplicating behaviours they observe in others. ‘Rewards’ are essential to ensure a repetition of the desirable behavior.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Duffy; Dr Aila Khan
School/Institute: School of Business

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) reveals that just one in 20 fathers take primary parental leave, with 95% of all primary leave taken by mothers. This statistic signals that within Australia barriers exist for men to share caring responsibilities. Inequality in caring responsibilities can have a range of consequences including dissatisfaction with work-family balance, organisations operating at diminished capacity and a reduction in women’s long-term career advancement. More than non-parents, parents have a gendered division of labour, with the burden of unpaid domestic labour and caring responsibilities largely falling to women. Research into parenthood, gender and work-family time across the United States, Denmark, France and Australia found that Australia was the country where the presence of children was associated with the greatest increase in a gendered division of labour. Although formally Australia has equal opportunity legislation, social policy and norms tend to reinforce traditional gender roles. Fathers in Denmark spent the closest amount of time caring for children as mothers do, which is believed to be the result of institutional support for mothers to work, policy encouragement for fathers to be involved in childcare and positive social attitudes supporting gender equality. This may explain why mothers in Nordic countries report higher rates of satisfaction with work-family balance then mothers elsewhere.

Research has shown that early involvement in caring responsibilities can establish greater involvement over time. The flow on effect might be that men taking less parental leave could reduce women’s long-term, paid labour. Additionally, taking parental leave negatively affects employers’ perceptions of hire-ability and career commitment of mothers but not of fathers, potentially hampering women’s career development. Best practice recommendations for parental leave policies specify that benefits must be equally available to all employees, regardless of their gender and/or caregiver status.

Generally speaking, gender bias in the context of promotion, performance evaluation, hiring and pay often works to the advantage of men. However, globally men are less eligible for and take parental leave less often than women (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2016; The Council of Economic Advisors, 2014). Men’s use of parental leave is significantly affected by organizational culture including the company's commitment to caring values, the company's level of 'father friendliness', the company's support for women's equal employment opportunity, fathers' perceptions of support from top managers, and fathers' perceptions of work group norms that reward task performance vs. long hours at work. This suggests that organisations have a pivotal and positive role to play in working towards gender equality. For this reason, this research project is focused on understanding the attitude of employees to parents (of both genders) who are employees who access either parental leave at the time of birth or flexible working conditions and other types of leave available to parents on an ongoing basis.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Duffy; Dr Aila Khan
School/Institute: School of Business

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) reveals that just one in 20 fathers take primary parental leave, with 95% of all primary leave taken by mothers. This statistic signals that within Australia barriers exist for men to share caring responsibilities. Inequality in caring responsibilities can have a range of consequences including dissatisfaction with work-family balance, organisations operating at diminished capacity and a reduction in women’s long-term career advancement. More than non-parents, parents have a gendered division of labour, with the burden of unpaid domestic labour and caring responsibilities largely falling to women. Research into parenthood, gender and work-family time across the United States, Denmark, France and Australia found that Australia was the country where the presence of children was associated with the greatest increase in a gendered division of labour. Although formally Australia has equal opportunity legislation, social policy and norms tend to reinforce traditional gender roles. Fathers in Denmark spent the closest amount of time caring for children as mothers do, which is believed to be the result of institutional support for mothers to work, policy encouragement for fathers to be involved in childcare and positive social attitudes supporting gender equality. This may explain why mothers in Nordic countries report higher rates of satisfaction with work-family balance then mothers elsewhere.

Research has shown that early involvement in caring responsibilities can establish greater involvement over time. The flow on effect might be that men taking less parental leave could reduce women’s long-term, paid labour. Additionally, taking parental leave negatively affects employers’ perceptions of hire-ability and career commitment of mothers but not of fathers, potentially hampering women’s career development. Best practice recommendations for parental leave policies specify that benefits must be equally available to all employees, regardless of their gender and/or caregiver status.

Generally speaking, gender bias in the context of promotion, performance evaluation, hiring and pay often works to the advantage of men. However, globally men are less eligible for and take parental leave less often than women (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2016; The Council of Economic Advisors, 2014). Men’s use of parental leave is significantly affected by organizational culture including the company's commitment to caring values, the company's level of 'father friendliness', the company's support for women's equal employment opportunity, fathers' perceptions of support from top managers, and fathers' perceptions of work group norms that reward task performance vs. long hours at work. This suggests that organisations have a pivotal and positive role to play in working towards gender equality. For this reason, this research project is focused on understanding the attitude of employees to parents (of both genders) who are employees who access either parental leave at the time of birth or flexible working conditions and other types of leave available to parents on an ongoing basis.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ann Dadich; Dr Aila Khan
School/Institute: School of Business

One in four Australians aged 16 to 24 years, experiences mental illness. These illnesses lower the quality of life of young people and their families, increase the risk of suicide and worsen the outcomes of other physical or mental health problems. Adolescence can be a difficult time for many young people. Amongst the many pressures experienced by teens, final exams are considered to be among the most stressful (Black Dog Institute 2019).

To address the prevalence of and implications associated with youth mental health issues, the Australian authorities have invested in a number of online initiatives. Initiatives include prevention programs disseminated through games, apps, social media platforms and other websites.

In this project, we are interested in investigating the effectiveness of these initiatives and to provide recommendations for future programs.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

Graduate Research School

Master of Research Projects

Supervisor: Caroline Smith (Higher Degree Research Education)
School/Institute: Graduate Research School

There is increasing interest in the health and wellbeing of higher degree research candidates, however little is known about their wellbeing and how their needs are being met. Undertaking a doctoral degree can be stressful at various times during the candidature and a number of factors can impact on candidate wellbeing including high expectations, financial stress, self doubt and sometimes the supervisory relationship.

This project will aim to explore the health and wellbeing of the HDR population, or it could focus on specific groups of candidates including women, mature aged candidates or international students.

A mixed methodology will be used, and could include interveiews and survey methodology.  The findings of this project will be used to inform how the Graduate Research School responds to the health and wellbeing needs of students at Western Sydney University.

Contact the Graduate Research School for more information about this project: grs.enquiries@westernsydney.edu.au

How to Apply

For more information, visit the How to apply for the Master of Research page.