Masters Research Projects

The Accelerated Research Masters with Training is a one-year (36 credit point) research degree that will provide additional choice to students who want to continue their education in research as a pathway to PhD or to upskill for the next stage of their careers.


The course includes 12 credit points (four units) of research training and 24 points of research; all delivered using a trimester-based system, commencing in January 2022. At the completion of the course, students will have a globally recognised postgraduate degree and will have the necessary qualification and skillset to apply for Doctoral studies or embark on other career pathways.

The aRMT will also form the cornerstone of the Murdoch University Global Challenges initiative in which, during the initial trimester, you will work collaboratively with other aRMT students to tackle some of the United National identified Global Challenges by working collectively and bringing your specific disciplinary skills to tackling one of the world’s wicked problems.

 

How to apply

If you already have a project identified with a potential supervisor, please follow our application process.

Alternatively, a list of potential research projects have been identified below. Please make sure you have discussed the research project with a potential supervisor prior to submitting an application.

2022 Projects

  • Business
    Project Supervisor
    Technology and Employee behaviour: Filling the gap

    The pace of digitalisation has increased tremendously over the past couple of years. The Covid pandemic accelerated this further. A significant change in the way people work in organisation has taken place with technology contributing a major portion to this. The effect of this behaviour change is reflected not only in the productivity function but also behaviours employers are looking for in the new employees. This has implications for the jobs of the future. This research intends to look at the types of behaviours (then and now) to be able to develop a framework/model.

    Dr Arif Sikander
    Digital vs Traditional Business: Impact on Business Education

    The businesses of today have taken a major turn in terms of their new business models by employing new technologies. Digital technologies are being used to develop new value chains, new productivity functions and new performance parameters. To be able to maintain a competitive advantage and survive, the traditional business needs to look at these elements and see how best to incorporate in their traditional models. This research aims to explore the explore this current trend in the industry and what needs to be done to produce job-ready students to guide changes in business education.

    Dr Arif Sikander
    Digital competencies for the future HR professionals

    The HR Department of today has taken a radical shift from the traditional one. Digital technologies including VR have influenced the roles of HR professionals, both in day to operations and decision making. The style of working and the job role is changing. We need to have an in-depth look at digital technologies and the related competencies required to work in the future and remain employable. This research aims to explore the existing literature and highlight the skills and competencies required to redesign the role of HR professionals.

    Dr Arif Sikander
    Stress perception, Psychological well-being, and Leadership style in the new digital era

    Besides, work-related stress is also related to well-being, as such, we need to analyse if this stress confounds the association between digital skills and well-being. This research needs to explore the literature on digital skills required by leaders and their own psychological well-being. A hypothetical model will be developed which will be tested either in a high-tech manufacturing or service sector to determine the association between digital skills and well-being, and the influence of work-related stress on this relationship.

    Dr Arif Sikander
    Technology Management, Sustainability and Adaptive Resilience: The link

    In these times of uncertainty, having a resilient and sustainable technology strategy is vital to maintain a competitive advantage. Technology systems should be able to maintain their function even in case of disruptions to maintain continuity (sustainability). The issue of adaptive resilience has significantly gained the importance of late to technology systems. This research will look into adaptive resilience and its application/link to technology systems (in terms of sustainability). Integration of resilience capacity in technology systems should enhance adaptive resilience in technology systems.

    Dr Arif Sikander
    Business Model Innovations in the Covid-19 Pandemic

    Covid-19, which broke out at the end of 2019, has developed into a global pandemic. Covid-19 has been severely affecting people’s health and lives. As a highly infectious disease, meanwhile, COVID-19 has been generating a devastating impact on businesses around the world. Business organizations across industries have taken a variety of initiatives to develop new business models in response to the changing business environment. This project will investigate the initiatives business organizations have taken, the features of the new business models, and the possible impact of business model innovations on organizational performance. The project has the potential to develop into a PhD level research. Candidate requirement: good at numbers, and comfortable with quantitative research methods.

    Xiaowen Tian
    Corporate Environmental Sustainability Practices and Performance

    Global warming is a challenge to mankind. By undertaking corporate environmental sustainability practices in daily operations, business organizations can play a crucial role in the global battle against climate change. While some business organizations are proactive in undertaking corporate environmental sustainability practices, others are hesitant, if not reluctant, to take action for fear that these practices would incur too much cost to generate any substantial economic benefits. This project will investigate whether corporate environmental sustainability practices enhance or hinder organizational performance. The project has the potential to develop into a PhD level research. Candidate requirement: good at numbers, and comfortable with quantitative research methods.

    Xiaowen Tian
  • Engineering and Energy
    ProjectSupervisor
    An Experimental Study into the Formation of Chalcopyrite Inclusions in Sphalerite

    Sphalerite (ZnS) and chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) are important economic minerals of zinc and copper, respectively. Often, during ore formation, small inclusions of chalcopyrite may form within larger grains of sphalerite in a texture referred to as 'chalcopyrite disease' (CD). Due to the intricate nature of this mineral texture, CD often impedes the efficient metallurgical extraction of Zn and Cu; though, there remains a poor understanding on how CD develops in nature. This project will investigate the fundamental mechanisms responsible for the formation of CD. Laboratory experiments that mimic ore-forming conditions (temperature, pH, solution composition) will be conducted, and the samples will be analyzed to reveal their microscopic textures, chemical compositions and mineralogical features. It is anticipated that the insights gained from these experiments will have implications for extractive metallurgy, mineral exploration and fundamental geochemistry. Students with a background in chemistry, metallurgy, mineralogy, geology or related disciplines are encouraged to apply.

    Fang Xia
    Artificial intelligence-based navigation and formation control of mobile robots in smart agriculture

    Nowadays, multiple mobile robots are commonly used in the fields of entertainment, medicine, mining, rescuing, education, military, space, agriculture and many more. While performing the task of navigation and control, the robots are equipped with many intelligent equipments which are required to model the environment and localize its position, control the motion, detect obstacles, and avoid obstacles by using navigational techniques.

    The main goal of this project is to develop an artificial intelligence-based navigation and formation control of mobile robots to successfully manoeuvre and avoid collision in a cluttered environment.

    Hai Wang
    Planning of virtual power plant with high level of renewables

    Virtual power plants (VPPs) are the key components of future energy systemss. Increasing the level of renewables with the associated variability and uncertainty makes planning of VPPs complicated and time-consu,ing. The research goal would be to develop a fast planning algorithm to provide a cost-efficient strategy for VPP's planning including renewable and storage sizing and customes' contributions.

    Ali Arefi
  • Environmental and Conservation Sciences
    Project Supervisor
    Analysis of key climate drivers from the latest Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP) phase 6

    The Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP) phase 6 (CMIP6), provides the most up-to-date catalogue of climate simulations using the most up-to-date and latest climate models, and a vast library of model outputs are readily available from which many research questions can be tailored. For example, one question could be: "How well do CMIP6 models simulate southern hemisphere blocking and how do blocking patterns change in the future?". The student would need to have some background in atmospheric science, and some prior experience of using scripted programming languages such as Python/Matlab/R would be necessary. This would be a desk-only study and the availability of the data-sets makes this type of project well suited for an aRMT as no field work or data collection would be involved, but only data analysis of existing data-sets.

    Jatin Kala
    Susceptibility of invasive and native plant species to plant pathogens

    Invasive plant species can alter plant communities but can also pose a risk to native plants through pathogen accumulation. Invasive plant species may be less susceptible to some plant pathogens where they act as reservoirs that can increase transmission to native plant species. This project will determine the susceptibility of invasive and native plants to various plant pathogens through leaf/branch assays. The student will inoculate the various host material and measure lesion growth over time. Not only will this project enhance knowledge of host range of important plant pathogens, but also highlight possible hosts that may act as reservoirs or be less susceptible.

    Treena Burgess
    Pathogen accumulation in healthy vs disturbed forests

    Habitat fragmentation has resulted in forest fragments spread throughout other land uses (i.e. farming and horticulture). The edges of these fragments are more prone to human and animal traffic as well as increased access for invasive species including pathogens. This project will determine whether plant species along these disturbed edges accumulate more pathogens than plant species in the interior of the forest. Roots from multiple plant species in these two distinct areas will be collected and root fragments plated on selective media for culturing of potential fungal and oomycete pathogens.

    Treena Burgess
    Testing methodologies for plant-soil feedbacks

    Plant-soil feedbacks occur when plant species affect the abiotic and biotic properties of soils which in turn can alter the fitness of host plant species. Pairwise plant-soil feedbacks are informative as they measure the performance of two plant species in soils conditioned by themselves (i.e. home soils) compared to another species (i.e. away soils). There has been debate on appropriate methodologies for these types of experiments. Therefore, this project aims to test different approaches to plant-soil feedbacks; specifically, this project will compare using a full sample of home and away soils in comparison to using a small proportion of home and away soils (inoculated into sterilised soils).

    Treena Burgess
    An Experimental Study into the Formation of Chalcopyrite Inclusions in Sphalerite

    Sphalerite (ZnS) and chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) are important economic minerals of zinc and copper, respectively. Often, during ore formation, small inclusions of chalcopyrite may form within larger grains of sphalerite in a texture referred to as ‘chalcopyrite disease’ (CD). Due to the intricate nature of this mineral texture, CD often impedes the efficient metallurgical extraction of Zn and Cu; though, there remains a poor understanding on how CD develops in nature. This project will investigate the fundamental mechanisms responsible for the formation of CD. Laboratory experiments that mimic ore-forming conditions (temperature, pH, solution composition) will be conducted, and the samples will be analyzed to reveal their microscopic textures, chemical compositions and mineralogical features. It is anticipated that the insights gained from these experiments will have implications for extractive metallurgy, mineral exploration and fundamental geochemistry. Students with a background in chemistry, metallurgy, mineralogy, geology or related disciplines are encouraged to apply.

    Associate Professor Fang Xia
    Identifying optimal lures for feral cats.

    Feral cats can be difficult to monitor and control due to neophobia and trap avoidance behaviour, resulting in low detection rates and variable success of control measures. We will test a novel, long-life (up to 1 year) lure system to increase trap captures and reduce neophobic behaviour of cats and develop a smart camera to identify cats.

    Trish Fleming
    Identifying individual foxes from camera trap images

    Being able to identify individual animals is essential for population estimates. Animals such as foxes, which lack obvious distinguishing markings, can be difficult to individually identify. This project will examine novel ways to identify individual foxes from a catalogue of photographic images of a population of foxes in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Techniques developed in this project will be applicable across a wide range of species.

    Trish Fleming
    Quenda are fussy about their fungi

    A recent study lead by Murdoch University found that 80% of fungi identified in quenda scats were unclassified on global genetic databases. This indicates that they have never been genetically described before, representing a huge gap in knowledge. This project will compare fungi consumed by quenda with a broader sample collected form the environment to test the hypothesis that quenda are fussy eaters.

    Trish Fleming
    What do schoolie ravens eat, and where do they go when term is over?

    Australian ravens are problematic for many Perth schoolyards. They are super-smart animals that know how to undo backpack zips, open lunchboxes, and access bins. Their populations flourish around schools as they exploit discarded (or badly protected) play lunches and refuse. But what happens when term is over and students leave for holidays? Anecdotal stories suggest that these bullying birds head out into the neighbourhood where they cause havoc among small bird and reptile populations. This project will use a range of methods to find out what the birds are doing: following ravens using trackers, watching their exploitation of resources within schoolyards, and analysing their diet.

    Trish Fleming
    Monitoring tools for wary dingoes.

    Understanding how many dingoes are present in an area is an important piece of information necessary to guide their management. Many studies use passive infrared camera traps to monitor population numbers, assuming that estimates obtained through these cameras are robust and representative of actual numbers. However it is clear that dingoes avoid cameras – some stare into the lens, while others walk around the sensor field and therefore avoid triggering the camera. This project will address a simple question – can we alter camera trap position to increase the likelihood of ‘trapping’ camera-wary dingoes?

    Trish Fleming
    Feral cat movements in an arid landscape.

    An ongoing study in the Pilbara in northwest Western Australia that has been tracking feral cats has revealed interesting patterns in their behaviour, which we believe could reflect whether the animals are hunting or 'commuting'. This project will involve analysing the spatial patterns of cats to understand their movement ecology. This project will suit student who are strong in statistics, or would like to learn new statistical and spatial mapping approaches – great skills for future jobs.

    Trish Fleming
    The flora and fauna of wheatbelt gnammas and climate change

    Gnammas are rock pools at the top of the granite inselbergs scattered across southern WA. These gnammas have been found to contain rare species of aquatic plants and to have a much higher invertebrate biodiversity than gnammas in other parts of Australia and the rest of the world. Because gnammas are rainfed and unconnected to groundwater, they are unaffected by the salinisation that afflicts much of the wheatbelt, so they may be refuges from salinity. Little is known about the interactions between species in Australian gnammas or geographical patterns of species distribution. Food web structure in gnammas is also poorly understood. This project will either investigate the role of algae and leaf litter in gnamma food webs through sampling and experimental manipulation of leaf litter abundance or investigate patterns of alpha, beta and gamma diversity in gnammas.

    Belinda Robson
    Life history, diet and environmental tolerances of freshwater insects.

    Southwestern Australia is a biodiversity hotspot with a unique evolutionary heritage. Most aquatic insects in the region are endemic (found nowhere else) and relicts of cooler and wetter times (i.e. of Gondwanan origin). Little is known about the life histories, diet or environmental tolerances of these insects. A few studies show that some species have quite low tolerance of heat, whilst other species have shown surprising adaptations to withstand drying. Yet, knowledge of species life histories is essential for effective conservation. Many of these taxa will have important roles in the ecology of waterbodies (e.g. as shredders or algal grazers) but we do not know which taxa fulfil these roles nor how they will respond to continuing warming or drying. Within this topic, there are many options for students to choose which insect group they would like to study. Projects will involve field sampling but could also involve laboratory rearing of insect larvae and experiments to examine responses to warming and drying.

    Belinda Robson
    Life history and environmental tolerances of freshwater ostracods

    Ostracods are small bivalve crustaceans living in freshwaters in southwestern Australia. Little is known of their ecology, yet they may have large populations and high diversity. Other studies show that ostracods may be sensitive to salinity and show differing responses to wetland drying. For example, within one common family (Cyprididae) some species may enter dormancy as adults in drying wetlands, reviving quickly once wetlands refill; in other species, adults die but leave behind desiccation-resistant eggs that hatch once wetlands refill. Some species appear to show delays in hatching, but the cues for hatching are not known. Given the likely importance of these animals in aquatic food webs, we need to know more about their ecology and life histories. This project involves field sampling and rearing ostracods in the laboratory under different conditions, to investigate responses to drying, warming and cues for egg hatching.

    Belinda Robson
  • IT, Media and Communications
    Project Supervisor
    The evolution of social media influencers

    Social media influencers began as bloggers but in the last 10 years they have evolved and their influence has been harnessed by many brands and organisations. This project would involve interviewing bloggers who began blogging 10 years ago to hear their reflections on the changes in social media and influencer marketing.

    Catherine Archer
    Adult attitudes towards children

    Working for the not-for-profit organisation, the Valuing Children Initiative, the project would involve designing, distributing, and analysing a survey of Australian adults on their attitude to children

    Catherine Archer
    Women of colour in the Australian workplace

    Analysis of a major survey of women of colour in the Australian workplace, working with the not-for-profit group, Women of Colour Australia.

    Catherine Archer
    Parents' use of mobile phones

    Investigating the impact of parental mobile phone use on their children, through interviews with practitioners and parents.

    Catherine Archer
    Children as social media influencers

    Undertaking research on the ethics of children as social media influencers.

    Catherine Archer
    Social media influencers in Indonesia

    How has the Indonesian Government worked with social media influencers during COVID 19.

    Catherine Archer
    Any project with a focus on social media, social media influencers, and communication ethics Catherine Archer
  • Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry and Physics
    Project Supervisor
    Development of Antimicrobial coatings

    The project will take existing antimicrobial dyes and incorporate these into a range of polymer coatings. The student will obtain training in a range of characterisation techniques and use these to investigate the effectiveness of the physicochemical incorporation. This will be followed by microbial studies to test the antimicrobial properties.

    David Henry
  • Medical, Molecular and Forensic Science
    Project Supervisor
    Investigating the genetic factor(s) responsible for daptomycin resistance in Enterococcus faecium from Australia

    Daptomycin is an antibiotic used for treating infections caused by multi-drug resistant gram-positive bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Resistance to daptomycin is rare and the mechanism of resistance is unknown.

    The aims of the study are:

    1. To identify novel genetic factors associated with daptomycin resistance in E. faecium using bioinformatics
    2. To introduce the genetic factor(s) identified in a daptomycin-sensitive wild-type strain using molecular cloning
    3. To test the effect, if any, of the genetic factor(s) identified on daptomycin sensitivity.

    The project will involve:

    • Bioinformatics analyses using a range of open source software pipelines
    • Genomic DNA and plasmid extraction
    • Primer design and PCR
    • Molecular cloning techniques.

    Isolates for the project will be sourced from the Australian Group for Antimicrobial Resistance (AGAR) Australian Enterococcus Sepsis Outcome Program reference laboratory located at Murdoch University. The project will be performed at the Antimicrobial Resistance and Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory at Murdoch University.

    Professor Geoffrey Coombs
    The Impact of the COVID19 outbreak on the epidemiology of Neisseria gonorrhoeae in Western Australia

    To understand the epidemiology underlying the appearance and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoea (Ng), several molecular techniques have been developed including multilocus sequence typing (MLST), N. gonorrhoeae multi-antigen sequence typing (NG-MAST), N. gonorrhoeae sequence typing for antimicrobial resistance (NG-STAR) and whole genome sequencing (WGS).

    In Western Australia (WA), gonorrhoea is a notifiable disease and approximately 3000 cases are reported annually. A recent study showed Ng isolates circulating in WA consist of endemic lineages which likely evolved on-site as well as international lineages which were likely introduced by international and inter-state travel. In April 2020, the WA border was closed in response to the COVID19 pandemic, restricting the introduction of other Ng clones and allowing us to study the evolution and expansion rate of Ng clones already present in WA.

    The aims of the study are:

    1. To perform WGS on Ng isolated in Perth metropolitan area in 2019 and between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021
    2. To compare MLST, NG-MAST and NG-STAR profiles of Ng circulating pre- and post- COVID19 outbreak
    3. To determine the population structure of Ng, using core-genome phylogenetic analysis, pre- and post- COVID19 outbreak.

    The project will involve:

    • Whole genome sequencing
    • Genome assembly
    • Bioinformatics analyses using a range of open source software pipelines.
    Professor Geoffrey Coombs
    Molecular Characterisation of SCCmec IVa in Community Associated Methicillin Resistant S. aureus

    Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) was first reported in remote regions of Western Australia (WA) in 1992 and is now the predominant MRSA isolated in the state. To gain insights into the emergence of CA-MRSA, from 1995 to 2003 2,146 people living in 11 remote WA communities were screened for colonisation with S. aureus. Five CA-MRSA lineages were identified including four lineages harbouring the type IVa staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec (SCCmec) element (ST1, ST5, ST45 and ST8). The reason for the spontaneous emergence of SCCmec in multiple lineages is not known.

    The aims of the study are:

    1. Determine if the SCCmec IVa elements identified in the four lineages identified in the remote community surveys are genetically the same
    2. Determine if within a lineage the SCCmec IVa elements are genetically the same
    3. Determine if the SCCmec IV element within a lineage has evolved over time 
    4. Determine if the SCCmec IVa element in a “predominant” CA-MRSA lineage is the same as that found in a less frequently described CA-MRSA lineage.

    Bacterial whole genome sequencing (WGS) enables high resolution characterisation of bacterial pathogens. In this project long-read WGS will be performed using the MinION (Oxford Nanopore Technologies). The project will involve:

    • Bacterial DNA extraction and purification
    • Quantification of bacterial genomic DNA
    • Library preparation of DNA for sequencing
    • PCR
    • Sequencing
    • Bioinformatics analyses using a range of open source software pipelines.

    Isolates for the project will be sourced from the Western Australian MRSA reference laboratory located at Fiona Stanley Hospital. The project will be performed in the Microbiology Department at Pathwest Laboratory Medicine-WA, Fiona Stanley Hospital and the Antimicrobial Resistance and Infectious Diseases (AMRID) Research Laboratory, Murdoch University.

    Professor Geoffrey Coombs
    Molecular epidemiology of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium in Australia, 2018-2020

    Vancomycin-resistant E. faecium (VREfm) is responsible for an increasing number of hospital-acquired, antibiotic-resistant infections. VREfm isolates possess a van operon which harbours genes responsible for resistance to vancomycin. Presence of the vanA operon results in resistance to vacomycin and typically resistance to teicoplanin. Presence of the vanB operon results in resistance to vancomycin but typically susceptibility to teicoplanin. In Australia, approximately 50% of E. faecium isolates causing bloodstream infections have been identified as VREfm.

    As part of the Australian Enterococcal Sepsis Outcome Program (AESOP), the Australian Group for Antimicrobial Resistance (AGAR) conducts ongoing antimicrobial resistance surveillance on E. faecium isolated in blood. From 2018 to 2020, approximately 1,000 VREfm have been sequenced by the Antimicrobial Resistance and Infectious Diseases (AMRID) ResearchLaboratory at Murdoch University.

    Using whole genome sequences, the aims of the study are:

    1. To characterise the vanA and vanB operons currently circulating in Australia
    2. To determine the core-genome phylogeny of sepsis-causing VREfm in Australia from 2018 to 2020
    3. To investigate the association, if any, of antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes with specific phylogenetic clades of VREfm in Australia.

    The project will involve:

    • Whole genome sequencing
    • Genome assembly
    • Bioinformatics analyses using a range of open source software pipelines.

    Isolates for the project will be sourced from the AGAR AESOP reference laboratory located at Murdoch University. The project will be performed in the Microbiology Department at Pathwest Laboratory Medicine-WA, Fiona Stanley Hospital and the AMRID Research Laboratory at Murdoch University.

    Professor Geoffrey Coombs
    Genetic and genomic characterisation of emerging community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus disproportionately affecting Western Australian Indigenous communities

    Infections caused by Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) are a significant health burden in Western Australian remote Indigenous communities. Compared to the Perth metropolitan health regions, the Kimberley health region, experience a 70-fold higher rates of CA-MRSA infections. Over the last decade a phylogenetically distinct lineage of Panton-Valentine leucocidin (PVL)-positive CA-MRSA, ST5-IVc, has emerged in Northern Western Australia, increasing the numbers of infections year on year. Exacerbating the situation is a complete lack of genetic or genomic characterisation for ST5-MRSA-IVc strains. Ambiguity in the antimicrobial-resistance profile of ST5-MRSA-IVc isolates determined using automated antimicrobial susceptibility systems has unnecessarily restricted use of effective antimicrobials.

    We hypothesise there may be a genetic basis for the ambiguity in resistance profiles and that genetic adaptations specific to ST5-IVc have led to its pervasiveness in remote Indigenous communities.

    The proposed project will achieve the following Aims:

    1. Sequence the genomes of 150 PVL-positive ST5-MRSA-IV isolated over the last 10 years (15 per year) to help establish a robust phylogeny of ST5-MRSA-IVc lineage and moreover, establish if ST5-MRSA-IVc is indeed a single lineage
    2. Use long-read nanopore sequencing to create the first reference-quality complete genomes for 5-10 representatives of the PVL-positive ST5-MRSA-IV strains
    3. Carry out antimicrobial-resistance testing on all 150 sequenced isolates to establish if there is an underlying genetic basis for the misclassification of the PVL-positive ST5-MRSA-IV antimicrobial-resistance profiles by automated antimicrobial susceptibility system
    4. Use comparative genome analyses to establish features of PVL-positive ST5-MRSA-IV that have led to its pervasiveness in remote Indigenous communities.
    Professor Geoffrey Coombs
    Advanced TICKnology - using the latest methods to uncover tick-borne diseases

    Ticks are a major vector of disease and pose an immediate threat to animals and humans worldwide. As climate change and other contributing factors (land management and livestock movements) escalate, there is increased concern of more widely dispersed tick populations with the ability to spread pathogenic microorganisms. Understanding tick populations dynamics geographically and temporally will provide valuable insights into improving methods of tick control along with their associated tick-borne pathogens. Our group has a number of tick and tick-borne disease projects to offer. Please get in touch so we can design a tailored project to your interests.

    Charlotte Oskam
    Molecular characterisation of atypical enterococcal sepsis

    Enterococci are a major cause of sepsis in adults and cause approximately 10% of all bacteraemias globally. The two most common species that cause this disease are E. faecium and E. faecalis. In rare circumstances, sepsis can occur from non-faecium (NFM) and non-faecalis Enterococci (NFC). These cases of NFM and NFC have been increasing in Australia over the last eight years, with a range of clinical manifestations and various antimicrobial resistances.

    In Australia, as part of the Australian Enterococcal Sepsis Outcome Program (AESOP), the Australian Group for Antimicrobial Resistance (AGAR) conducts ongoing antimicrobial resistance surveillance on E. faecium isolated in blood. These isolates undergo whole genome sequencing, and their AMR genes have been well characterised. However, the non-faecium isolates that are collected from sepsis cases are not routinely genome sequenced. AGAR has a collection of 441 NFC and NFM isolates dating back to 2013 that have been phenotypically characterised but have not undergone whole genome sequencing.

    Christopher Mullally
  • Microbiology
    Project Supervisor
    Investigating the molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance in bacterial pathogens.

    A series of projects is available, all with the theme of molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance. Techniques used involve whole genome sequencing, bioinformatics analysis, molecular cloning and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. The pathogens we investigate include MRSA, VRE, Neisseria meningitidis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and E. coli.

    Shakeel Mowlaboccus
  • Psychology, Exercise Science, Chiropractic and Counselling
    Project Supervisor
    Improving working memory in individuals with MCI through combining aerobic exercise and non-invasive brain stimulation

    Working memory (WM) is crucial for daily functioning and maintaining functional independence. People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were found to have a higher risk of progression to dementia if they have WM deficits (Kirova et al., 2015). The current project investigates a 12-week multi-modal intervention involving aerobic exercise and non-invasive brain stimulation (NiBS) for improving WM capacity in individuals with MCI. Both approaches have been found to have positive benefits on WM functioning through facilitating the connectivity between brain regions (Hendrikse et al., 2017; Steinberg et al., 2019). The effects of aerobic exercise have been shown to be ‘global’ in nature, with improvements in connectivity distributed across networks in the brain (Smith et al., 2010). However, the lack of functional specificity of these effects limits the cognitive gains from exercise. NiBS has been demonstrated to be able to target specific network connections in the brain for specific cognitive functions (Reinhart & Nguyen, 2019). By capitalising on the global effects of exercise and the function-specific effects of NiBS, the combination of both techniques has the potential to bring about synergistic improvements in WM capacity. The research outcomes of this project will be instrumental in the development of a safe and cost-effective intervention that can improve the functional independence of individuals with MCI, and perhaps even lower their risk of dementia progression.

    Hakuei Fujiyama
    Blood flow restriction training for older people: Implications for neuroplasticity and pain reduction

    Exercise can improve health for older people, though many cannot tolerate vigorous activity. Low-intensity exercise with thin cuffs on the arms/legs too cause moderate BFR provides a solution. This multi-disciplinary study will investigate changes in muscle size/strength, as well as changes in how the brain controls voluntary movement, and the potential for BFR to decrease sensations of pain.

    Brendan Scott
    Blood flow restriction during warm-up activities to enhance physical performance

    Warming up before exercise can improve performance in a training session. There is some evidence that wearing thin cuffs on the arms/legs too cause moderate BFR could improve the effectiveness of a warm-up. This study will examine whether light BFR exercise in a warm-up can optimise physical performance in subsequent activities.

    Brendan Scott
    Investigating connectivity between motor areas in the aging brain

    Little conscious thought goes into the voluntary motor skills we use daily, such as reaching for a piece of food and bringing it to our mouth. However, importance of motor skills is brought into sharp focus following injury or disease: a stroke survivor can be reliant on external aid to perform even the simplest task due to loss of motor function.

    With age comes a gradual decline the ability to perform voluntary movements, which leads to an increase in falls, injury, and loss of independence. Understanding the neural causes of age-related movement deficits is the first step towards developing interventions that improve brain function and movement control.

    The aim of this project is to define relationships between age-related changes in brain function and age-related voluntary movement deficits.

    This project will use non-invasive brain stimulation (transcranial magnetic stimulation) to measure brain activity in the human motor cortex.

    Ann-Maree Vallence
    Community Exercise for persons with multiple sclerosis, changing Behaviour towards Aerobic and Resistance Exercise (BASE) in MS; clinical translation and comparison.

    Exercise might be the closest thing to a magic pill for some people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Exercise can help with mobility, fatigue and pain. In this project you will assist the Project BASE team to co-ordinate and deliver telehealth exercise to people living across Australia with MS. The BASE protocol will also be delivered by OTs, physios and EPs across Australia and you will have the opportunity to help us understand and improve the clinical delivery of telehealth exercise programme in clinical populations.

    Yvonne Learmonth & Fleur van Rens
    Personality traits and biological markers of future risk of dementia

    This project will examine the relationship between personality traits (e.g., neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness) and biological factors of future rick of dementia. We have access to data from the WA Memory Study to examine genetics as well as imaging and blood-based bio-markers of dementia. The student will be trained on the neuropsychological assessment of older adults and will learn collecting data towards their project as well as the WA Memory study. Strong statistical understanding will be beneficial.

    Hamid Sohrabi
    Hearing loss and imaging markers of dementia due to Alzheimer's diseaseWe have been collecting data on the peripheral as well as central hearing abilities of a relatively large group of older adults. This project will examine the relationship between imaging markers as well as hearing abilities of older adults and will investigate the effects of hearing loss on future risk of dementia. The student will be trained on the neuropsychological assessment and will learn about various measures of hearing abilities. They will collect data towards their project as well as the WA Memory study. Strong statistical understanding will be beneficial. Hamid Sohrabi
    Subjective cognitive decline: Informant versus self-reports in predicting cognitive decline

    Subjective cognitive decline or reports about decline in one’s cognitive abilities are considered as a relatively reliable measure to predict future risk of dementia. However, there are some discrepancies in research when self and informant reports are compared in relation to biological markers of dementia. This project will investigate which of these reports (self, informant, or a combination of these two) is reliably associated with bio-markers of dementia including imaging and genetic risk factors. The student will be trained on the neuropsychological assessment of older adults and will learn collecting data towards their project as well as the WA Memory study. Strong statistical understanding will be beneficial.

    Hamid Sohrabi
    Blood flow restriction (BFR) exercise to improve neuroplasticity and reduce pain

    Light-load resistance training with BFR can improve muscular size and strength, as well as reduce pain in those with injuries. However, we do not know how BFR elicits these benefits. To address this gap, his project will investigate neural responses (i.e. neuroplasticity) to light-load BFR resistance training, as well as changes in pain threshold and tolerance following BFR training. This work will recruit older people, and will be conducted in a multidisciplinary environment within Murdoch’s Centre for Healthy Ageing.

    Dr Brendan Scott
    Effects of blood flow restriction (BFR) on sports-specific skills

    Wearing BFR cuffs during sports training (i.e. soccer drills) can improve fitness in athletes. It is possible though that the cuffs could impair technical performance during sports-specific activities. This study will assess the effects of wearing BFR cuffs during team sport-specific activities, to determine whether wearing BFR cuffs decreases skill execution.

    Dr Brendan Scott
    Community based exercise prehabilitation in general surgery patients

    This joint Fiona Stanley Hospital/Murdoch University project will seek to expand upon the hospital based prehabilitation projects recently completed. While hospital based prehabilitation has demonstrated effectiveness in improving function capacity and surgical outcomes, remote/regional and those without transport are often excluded from these studies. This project will establish a community based prehabilitation program for patients scheduled for surgery.

    Dr Brad Wall
    The role of exercise in the long term recovery following burn injury

    This joint Fiona Stanley Hospital/Murdoch University project will investigate the role of exercise in the long term recovery phase following burn injury. The project aims to reduce the long term negative side effects and associated increased risk of chronic disease in this population.

    Dr Brad Wall
    Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors Using Early Time Restricted Feeding with or without Multimodal Exercise

    This project seeks to determine the effect of a particular dieting-strategy, called time-restricted-feeding (TRF), either with or without exercise on risk factors for type 2 diabetes (T2D). We are specifically interested in whether the combination of exercise with TRF is better for controlling blood glucose and weight measures in this clinical population, than using TRF without exercise. This is important, since TRF has emerged as a potentially important dieting strategy for weight loss, and there is some information which suggests it is good for longer term glucose control.

    Associate Professor Tim Fairchild
    Identifying the role of particular metabolic pathways in type 2 diabetes progression

    The muscles of people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) are less responsive to insulin binding, a condition known as insulin resistance, resulting in reduced glucose uptake into skeletal muscle and a prolonged high blood glucose level. High blood glucose levels in the long term can result in the development of a broad range of health complications such as kidney failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, an improved understanding of the mechanisms which initiate and promote insulin resistance, is critical for i) better management of blood glucose in individuals with T2D; ii) revealing novel therapeutic targets; iii) reducing the incidence of T2D. This project explores the shift in the processing of glucose within skeletal muscle, as a key mechanism in initiating and promoting skeletal muscle insulin resistance.

    Associate Professor Tim Fairchild
    Community Exercise for persons with multiple sclerosis, changing Behaviour towards Aerobic and Resistance Exercise (BASE); clinical translation and comparison

    Exercise might be the closest thing to a magic pill for some people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Exercise can help with mobility, fatigue and pain. In this project you will assist the Project BASE team to co-ordinate and deliver telehealth exercise to people living across Australia with MS. The BASE protocol will also be delivered by OTs, physios and EPs across Australia and you will have the opportunity to help us understand and improve the clinical delivery of telehealth exercise programme in clinical populations.

    Yvonne Learmonth
    Project SCORE; Determining the efficacy of a music-led walking program to improve motivation towards exercise in persons with multiple sclerosis

    Exercise is one of the most significant and effective treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS), yet many people with MS do not achieve levels of exercise associated with positive outcomes. This study will assess whether exercising to music will influence motivation to exercise. You will join the Project SCORE team and assist in delivery of the exercise program at Murdoch University, and be involved in data collection and analysis. This study would be appropriate for a student of psychology, physiotherapy, clinical exercise physiology or similar behavioural science.

    Yvonne Learmonth
    Perfectionism and aging in circus artists: a qualitative study

    Maladaptive perfectionism has been associated with decreased levels of mental health. Performing artists tend to report having higher levels of perfectionism than the general population. This study will take a retrospective approach to gain deep insight into circus artists’ perspectives on their levels of perfectionism through-out their circus careers, and how this affected their performance and mental health. Excellent verbal communication skills are required for successful completion of this study. Affinity with performing arts is preferred.

    Dr Fleur van Rens
    Testosterone to treat men with painful osteoarthritis of the Knee

    This study looks to identify if the addition of dermally absorbed testosterone to an exercise program for knee joint osteoarthritis will result in greater reductions in pain and improvement in function. This study is being undertaken in conjunction with staff from Fiona Stanley Hospital.

    Dr Alasdair Dempsey
    What do coaches want in injury prevention programs?

    This study will investigate what team sports coaches, from community level to professional teams want from injury prevention programs. Coaches can be skill or conditioning coaches. The influence of coach background and training time availibity will also be investigated.

    Dr Alasdair Dempsey
    Can external load during High Intensity Interval Training be reduced with heart rate-clamped exercise under blood flow restriction or systemic hypoxia in the elderly?

    High intensity interval training (HIIT) is an effective method of training for cardiorespiratory fitness and weight loss in many populations. It is also characterised by high external loads which may not be well-tolerated by load-compromised populations such as the elderly. Methods which allow for HIIT to be performed at lower absolute intensities without reducing internal load, such as hypoxia or blood flow restriction, may allow us to prescribe HIIT to load-compromised individuals. Therefore, the aims of this research are to determine to what extent external load is reduced in elderly people performing HIIT with blood flow restriction or systemic hypoxia when heart rate is clamped. Additionally, to determine the impact of low vs high cuff pressure and low vs high FIO2 on the external load response to HIIT in elderly people.

    Dr Paul Goods
    What is the impact of blood flow restriction or systemic hypoxia on proangiogenic factors, nitric oxide and inflammatory responses following High Intensity Interval Training in the elderly?

    Systemic hypoxia and blood flow restriction may allow us to apply high intensity interval training (HIIT) with load-compromised individuals, such as the elderly, due to reductions in associated external loads. However, it is unknown whether these strategies will result in similar pro-adaptive signals or inflammatory responses to regular HIIIT. Therefore, the aim of this investigation is to determine the impact of applying blood flow restriction or systemic hypoxia during a HIIT session with the elderly on nitric oxide (NO), HIF-1a, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) responses

    Dr Paul Goods
    Acute responses to single-leg versus double-leg cycling in patients with heart failure

    Single-leg cycle training has proved beneficial for improving whole body exercise capacity in patients with COPD (centrally-limited in exercise capacity); however, it is unknown whether this modality could be beneficial for patients with heart failure (also centrally-limited). This study will investigate the acute central and peripheral responses of patients with heart failure to a high intensity single-leg interval cycling, high intensity double-leg interval cycling and moderate intensity double-leg continuous cycling.

    Dr Nikky Gordon
    Group telehealth exercise classes for patients with heart disease living in rural and remote locations – feasibility and pilot study

    Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is known to reduce hospital readmissions, morbidity and mortality, and consequently reduces costs for hospital treatments, while also improving health and quality of life. Some barriers to CR participation in rural and remote locations include distance and lack of health services and health professionals to deliver CR. This study will assess the feasibility and effectiveness of a 12-week exercise program delivered by videoconferencing to a rural community.

    Dr Nikky Gordon
    Examining physical activity and sleep as modifiable risk factors for dementia

    Substantial evidence independently links physical activity and sleep to cognition and dementia risk. However, little is known about the interrelationships between physical activity and sleep, and their impacts on cognition and neuroimaging markers of dementia. This study will utilise world-class observational and interventional data to examine the interaction between physical activity and sleep on brain health in large cohorts of cognitively normal older adults. The outcomes of this work would contribute to the development of multi-domain lifestyle interventions to reduce dementia risk in older adults.

    A/Profs Stephanie Rainey-Smith and Belinda Brown
    How does the built environment affect the physical activity of people with Parkinson’s?

    The interaction between how we move and the built environment is particularly important for encouraging physical activity in people with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s. In this mixed methods study, you will co-design a research project alongside people with Parkinson’s, bringing together objective measures of people’s daily activity, physical capacity and their built environment alongside qualitative information from interviews. The results of this study will help shape future research aimed at improving personalised clinical management of Parkinson’s, and guide policy recommendations to better facilitate movement in people with Parkinson’s. Given the broad objectives, you will have flexibility to develop a research project that fits your interests and career development.

    Dr Brook Galna
    Validation of a web-based smart-phone application to measure cognition and motor function before and after sport-related concussion

    Sport is an important aspect of life for many students. However, some sports put players at a high risk of sustaining a concussion. Students who sustain concussion can develop short- and long-term cognitive, motor and social problems. Accurate and timely measurement of cognition and motor function both before and after concussion is critical for appropriate management and return-to-play decisions. However, the high cost, long testing duration and need for dedicated equipment for the current gold standard tests are prohibitive for many amateur sporting teams and those from low socio-economic countries. To address this, Cognisant, a not-for-profit organisation and Newcastle University, UK, has developed a web-based smart-phone application to measure cognition and motor function related to sport concussion. In this study, you will work alongside local and international researchers as well as Cognisant to validate the smart phone application and contribute to a normative database of cognitive and motor performance.

    Dr Brook Galna
    Does exercise-induced dehydration effect heart rate variability (HRV)?

    Fluctuations in HRV are used to monitor athlete readiness, guide training prescription, and identify potential over-reaching/training. There is some evidence to suggest that dehydration can alter some important HRV indices, however, it is not known if there is a threshold level of dehydration that must be reached before HRV is altered; if there is a dose-response relationship between dehydration and HRV; nor has a time-course for this relationship been identified, in other words, if the effect of dehydration on HRV is immediately apparent or delayed, and how long does the relationship last into recovery after exercise (with and without rehydration). Therefore, the goal of this project is to answer these unknowns.

    Dr Greig Watson
    Could mismatches between objectively and subjectively prescribed exercise intensity explain the large inter-individual variance in both perceptual and physiological responses to exercise observed in chronic disease cohorts?

    Ideally, subjective and objective markers of exercise intensity are surrogates for each other; generally, in healthy people, commonly used subjective and objective measures correlate highly. However, things like medication and surgery, and higher levels of anxiety, fatigue and motivation, may alter the effect of, and/or the relationships between, subjectively and objectively prescribed exercise intensity. Thus, consequently, depending on which method is used to prescribe exercise intensity, the perceptual and/or physiological responses to exercise may differ around worsening or improved health or treatment. The purpose of this project then, is to examine the effect of, and the relationships between, exercise intensity prescribed subjectively and objectively, on perceptual and physiological responses to exercise during different stages of health in people with chronic disease.

    Dr Greig Watson
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