Undergraduate and Masters Research Opportunities


The projects listed below are suitable for undergraduate and Masters students. The projects are updated twice yearly in November and May in time for students to meet with potential supervisors before commencing their placement or capstone unit the following semester. The projects are classified as either single semester or research year projects to fit the scope required for different degrees:

  • Single semester suitable for research placement, dissertation or research project units e.g. MEpi, MPH, MHSc or BHSc
  • Research year suitable for Honours, Bachelor of Medical Research, Master of Research and MD projects

If any of the projects below are of interest, please contact the academic supervisor directly and organise a time to discuss the project with them.

If you are an undergraduate or masters student and would like to enquire about volunteer research opportunities, you will need to contact THRI academics directly. Please peruse the projects currently being conducted by THRI academics on the ‘Our Research’ page and contact the academic lead for a particular research area or the lead investigator for an individual project. Not all projects will have the capacity to support a student volunteer as there will be a minimum level of skill or experience required to undertake some project tasks.


Mental health, mental health literacy and mental health promotion initiatives in refugee and other culturally and linguistically diverse populations

Lead Investigator: A/Prof Shameran Slewa-Younan (opens in a new window)

Contact: s.slewa-younan@westernsydney.edu.au

Location: South Western Sydney Local Health District and Western Sydney Local Health District

Suitable for:
✓ Single semester suitable for research placement, dissertation or capstone research project
✓ Research year suitable for Honours, Bachelor of Medical Research, Master of Research, MD project

Requirements:

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


Project description: 

Resettled refugees and other minority groups have mental health inequalities, with higher reported levels of psychological distress but low uptake of mental health care. Evidence suggests that poor “mental health literacy” (MHL), namely, poor knowledge and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems, is a major factor in low or inappropriate treatment seeking among individuals with mental health problems. Our group has conducted several studies of MHL and its association with help-seeking behaviors among resettled Iraqi and Afghan refugees in Australia. We have confirmed that help seeking is indeed uncommon among individuals in these communities, even among those with clinically significant levels of trauma-related psychopathology, and that key aspects of MHL, such as awareness and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems, are a factor in this. Our findings indicate the need for innovative and culturally sensitive health promotion and early intervention programs that seek to bridge the gap between Western, biomedical models for mental health care and the knowledge and beliefs of resettled refugee populations and those who work with them. To date we have used these findings to inform the development and evaluation of mental health promotion program for refugee groups  and community leaders with the aim to promote early, appropriate help seeking where this is needed. Students will be involved in aspects of these programs from developing curriculum to assisting with ongoing evaluations.


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

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

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

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.