Undergraduate Research Opportunities


THRI provides a dynamic and supportive research environment for students including a research seminar series, research methodology workshops, and a dedicated writing space. We have a number of research projects suitable for undergraduate students through to doctoral candidates including:

  • Short-term research placements suitable for MEpi, MD Community Research, BSc Capstone Project, Summer Research Scholarships
  • Research year suitable for Honours, Bachelor of Medical Research or Master of Research projects
  • Longer-term research project suitable for MPhil or PhD

Developing a questionnaire to assess health professionals' knowledge of and attitudes towards Aboriginal traditional healing practices and bush medicine

Lead Investigator: A/Prof Ilse Bliganult (opens in a new window)

Contact: I.Blignault@westernsydney.edu.au

Location: Campbelltown Campus

Suitable for:
✓ Short-term research placement of 1 semester or less 
✓ Research year 
✗ Research term of 2 years or more

Requirements:

Epidemiology: Not required
Biostatistics: Not required
Qualitative interviewing: Not required
Survey design and collection: Will be trained/developed during the research project
Systematic review: Not required


Project description: 

Australia's First Peoples are believed to have lived on the mainland for over 60,000 years and on the Torres Strait islands for over 10,000 years. Despite concerns that traditional healing practices would eventually disappear due to the impact of colonisation, there is evidence of their continuing use in many parts of the country. The past decade has seen renewed calls for recognition of traditional and culture-based practices as part of an integrated, two-way approach to Aboriginal health care delivery. Such an approach is in keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Further, there is evidence that interventions that include opportunities for expression of cultural identities have beneficial effects for Indigenous people's health and wellbeing.

This project is part of a developing program of bush medicine research inspired by Bourke Aboriginal Health Service. The project aims to develop a draft questionnaire that can be used to assess health professionals' knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal healing practices and bush medicine and their views on such practices being integrated with, or used alongside, western medicine. Following pilot-testing, the questionnaire will be used as a basis for surveys of different groups of health professionals  including doctors, nurses and midwives and allied health professionals, as well as Aboriginal Health Practitioners and Workers.

Exploring health and housing outcomes among homeless individuals presenting to an inner-Sydney hospital: a data linkage study

Lead Investigator/Contact: Dr Elizabeth Conroy (opens in a new window)

Location: Campbelltown Campus

Suitable for:
✓ Short-term research placement of 1 semester or less 
✓ Research year 
✗ Research term of 2 years or more

Requirements:

Epidemiology: Introductory level
Biostatistics: Will be trained/developed during the research project
Qualitative interviewing: Not required
Survey design and collection: Not required
Systematic review: Not required


Project description: 
St Vincent's Homeless Health Service provides specialist health care to the inner-Sydney homeless population. The Community Outreach Medical Emergency Team (COMET) delivers primary health care clinics at drop-in services frequented by homeless people. Tierney House provides sub-acute care through short residential stays linked to outreach health care. This study extends previous research documenting the health needs of homeless individuals accessing the two St Vincent's services. Administrative data collected by COMET and Tierney House on all persons accessing COMET and Tierney House over a 1 year period was linked to St Vincent's emergency department (ED) presentations and hospital separations. A comparison group of patients presenting to ED or admitted to hospital during the same period was randomly selected using the identifier 'no fixed address'. The comparison sample was frequency matched to the COMET and Tierney House sample on age, sex and Indigenous status. This linked dataset allows for a number of research inquiries, for example, an examination of comorbid physical and mental health presentations. An additional linkage to the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection could also be explored which would allow analysis of contact with the homelessness system following discharge.

Mental health beliefs and use of mental health services by the Bengali-speaking community in Australia: a rapid review

Lead Investigator: A/Prof Ilse Bliganult (opens in a new window)

Contact: I.Blignault@westernsydney.edu.au

Location: Campbelltown Campus

Suitable for:
✓ Short-term research placement of 1 semester or less 
✗ Research year 
✗ Research term of 2 years or more

Requirements:

Epidemiology: Not required
Biostatistics: Not required
Qualitative interviewing: Not required
Survey design and collection: Not required
Systematic review: Experienced level required


Project description: 
Migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds face numerous linguistic and cultural barriers in accessing mental health care, resulting in under-utilisation of services. The stigma associated with mental disorders is another major barrier. For those who do seek professional help there is a scarcity of multilingual clinical tools and self-management resources. Bengali-speakers are a new and emerging community identified as having high mental health needs and poor engagement with formal services. This project aims to summarise the published and grey literature relating to beliefs about mental health and mental health problems and barriers to use of mental health services among the Bengali-speaking community in Australia. Project findings will inform the development of culturally-appropriate models of mental health care and clinical and community resources for this growing population group.

Personality dysfunction among people with opioid dependence and other substance use disorders

Lead Investigator/Contact: Dr Elizabeth Conroy (opens in a new window)

Location: Campbelltown Campus

Suitable for:
✓ Short-term research placement of 1 semester or less 
✓ Research year 
✗ Research term of 2 years or more

Requirements:

Epidemiology: Not required
Biostatistics: Not required
Qualitative interviewing: Will be trained/developed during the research project
Survey design and collection: Will be trained/developed during the research project
Systematic review: Not required


Project description: 
Recent debates have questioned the validity of distinct categories of personality disorder and there has been some movement away from a categorical system and toward a dimensional classification of personality dysfunction. This has been driven, in part, from the substantial comorbidity among the 10 personality disorders that suggests a high degree of symptom overlap. At the core of personality disorder is an inability to develop meaningful and satisfactory interpersonal relationships. The DSM-5 Personality and Personality Disorder Work Group had proposed a revised classification based on impairments in self-functioning and interpersonal functioning along with degree of severity across five trait domains – negative affectivity, dissocial, disinhibition, anankastic and detachment.
One population with a high prevalence of personality disorders is people with substance use disorder. Among individuals with opioid dependence specifically, comorbid personality disorder has been associated with greater severity of dependence and poorer treatment outcomes. This study will compare two different screening tools for personality disorder along with measures of interpersonal and social functioning among people accessing opioid substitution therapy. Participants that screen positive for a personality disorder will be invited to participate in an interview to further explore the impact of personality symptoms on general and social functioning, particularly relationships with others including treatment providers. This project has the capacity to support a couple of student projects that, for example, may wish to focus on different sub-populations such as injecting drug users not in treatment or people with problematic alcohol or benzodiazepine use.