Available research projects

Browse our current and upcoming research projects that are available to HDR applicants.

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.

Education

Master of Research Projects

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.    

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)

Health Sciences

Master of Research Projects

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. 

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

The research focuses on Chinese-Australian 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. 

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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

The research focuses on LGBTIQ Chinese communities. The aim of the research project is to understand their experiences in community sport and music engagement and the impact on health. Students will have the opportunity to design their own research focus around these topics with LGBTIQ Chinese 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. 

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

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.    

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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    

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.    

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.

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. 

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.

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

Science

Master of Research Projects

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.

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.

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.    

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.

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.

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.

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.