Collaborative Research Network (CRN)

Projects

Element 1. Regional Science and Technological Innovation

Element 2. Regional Social and Educational Connectedness and Health Innovation

Element 3. Regional Landscape Change

Element 1. Regional Science and Technological Innovation

1.1 Metamodelling and optimisation

This project will combine Deakin University's event simulation-based meta-modelling capability with Federation University Australia's optimisation know-how to address challenging problems in complex systems optimization and simulation, and to provide solutions to regional decision-makers.

This project will develop low cost decision support tools for research communities and regional organizations. Regional industry faces challenging problems from the minimizing inventory costs to demand forecasting and adjustment, matching sales to capacity, production planning, and scheduling and environmental impact. The research challenge is in accurate estimation, time series prediction and the integration of effective optimization methods. Such problems in most real world applications are large scale and they may involve non convex objective functions with both continuous and discrete variables.  In addition, they may involve dynamic components such as predicting and responding to variations in demand, or in the pricing and availability of supplies.

The broad objective of this project is to develop and implement new methods which can be applied to such problems.

Research team: Prof David Gao, Dr Vera Roshchina (Honorary Research Fellow) and Chaojie Li (Federation University Australia); Dr Douglas Creighton, Dr Asim Bhatti, and Dr Hai-Lin Zhou (Deakin University)

1.2 FEA optimisation + visualisation

This project will study constitutive laws and physical behaviour of advanced materials, from organs and skin to nano surfaces, and from smart materials to multi-functioning structures.

This will be achieved by modelling complicated materials with reasonable constitutive laws, studying multi-scale and large deformation phenomena of modern materials/devices, developing unified methodology/theory/algorithms and the associated finite element methods, and advanced visualisation for effective communication and analysis.

Modelling, design, and simulation of these advanced materials must deal with non-convex and large scale deformation, which produce fundamental challenging problems in both theoretical analysis and scientific computations. This study will make an international significant contribution to the convex / non smooth mechanics, which is a rapidly developing, multi-disciplinary field of research embracing modern mechanics, mathematical analysis, material science, and scientific computation.

Research team: Prof David, Gao (Federation University Australia); Prof Peter Hodgson, Prof Saeid Nahavandi, Dr Douglas Creighton, and Dr Asim Bhatti (Deakin University); Prof Ray Ogden (University of Glasgow)

1.3 Decision support for supply chain management

This project will apply computational techniques from the fields of optimization, machine learning and constraint programming to problems of supply chain management. This project will focus on the scheduling and planning of freight transport operations.

Regional industry depends on the efficient and timely transfer, through a supply chain, of regional produce to domestic and international markets. Improvements in this freight supply chain are essential to maintain the viability and competitiveness of regional industries. The new methods of analysis and optimisation developed in this project will have broader application, to supply chains that underpin Australian manufacturing and industry. The supply chain problems themselves are large and complex, and therefore not amenable to simple methods of analysis – the more sophisticated approaches being developed and explored in this project are vital to delivering superior outcomes.

Research team: Dr Peter Vamplew, Dr Ning Ruan, Dr Eldar Hajilarov, and Dr Guillermo Pineda-Villavicencio (Federation University Australia); Prof Mark Wallace and Prof Kate Smith-Miles (Monash University); Sebastian Brand and Leslie de Koninck (National ICT Australia)

Top of page

1.4 eHealth

This following suite of projects apply computational techniques from the fields of knowledge management and intelligent decision support to enhance the wellbeing and health of residents.

1.4a Knowledge management and information technology for wellbeing

Health care in Australia is in crisis. The proportion of gross domestic product currently spent on the provision of health in this country is unsustainable. The shortage of health care professionals, particularly in rural areas is pressing. The burden of an ageing population with increasingly prevalent chronic conditions can clearly not be managed without a great deal of change and innovation. This project focuses on the development of sophisticated information portals and mobile technologies that aim to empower individuals to effectively manage their own wellbeing, and the health of loved ones. This project combines the information portal and knowledge management capability at Monash University with the intelligent decision support system track record at Federation University Australia.

Research team: Prof Frada Burstein, A/Prof Andrew Stranieri, Dr Sita Venkatraman, Dr Shamsul Huda, and Dr Sid Kulkarni (Federation University Australia); Dr Daswin De Silva (Monash University)

1.4b Broadband 3D Telehealth for the empowerment of patients

This project aims to produce three dimensional (and perhaps high definition) live video to allow clinicians located in specialist centres to work with remotely located patients.

Research Team: A/Prof Andrew Stranieri (Federation University Australia); Clinicians from University of Melbourne's Department of Psychiatry and School of Dentistry. University of Melbourne's ITS research group and its Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society

1.4c Online dispute resolution between patients and doctors and the role of emotional intelligence for resolving disputes related to electronic health record

This project aims to apply emotional intelligence measures to assist in online dispute resolution between doctors and their patients over their electronic health records..

Research Team: A/Prof Andrew Stranieri, Dr Shamsul Huda (Federation University Australia), Dr Jemal Abawajy and Dr Emilia Bellucci (Deakin); Dr Sita Venkatraman (NMIT)

Top of page

1.4d eHealth Platform

Professor Klein is a research leader in mental health and has established and directed two publicly accessible online mental health services. This project forms part of a larger Centre of Healthcare, Innovation, Research and Technology (HIRT) that involves the development of technologically-based health interventions through various platforms.

This Phase 1 project aims to produce an open source eHealth platform to allow the HIRT Centre to 1) build and evaluate numerous e-health programs and 2) to make this eHealth platform resource available (via open source) to healthcare practitioners and researchers enabling them to develop and trial their own programs without requiring substantial infrastructure funding or IT expertise. For this particular project we aim to develop an online transdiagnostic program for anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Research team: Prof Britt Klein, A/Prof Suzanne McLaren, Dr Mari Malloy, Dr Megan Jenkins and A/Prof Andrew Stranieri (Federation University Australia); A/Prof David Austin (Deakin University),

Other Collaborators:
Dr Joanna Mitchell (Wellbeing Manager AFL and Director – MindRoom),
Jordi Llonch (Director of Nitidum Pty Ltd),
Dr Lisa Clinnick (Department of Health).

1.4e Multi-sensor health applications

This project forms part of a larger Centre of Healthcare, Innovation, Research and Technology (HIRT) that involves the development of technologically-based health interventions through various platforms.

The aim of this Phase 1 project is to find a sensitive, accurate and valid measure of 'stress' or 'emotional state' via a wrist-based sensor device that can be synced to the users mobile phone and then transferred to a database. Once we are able to accurately detect physiological ANS/HRV emotional reactivity, we are then able to alert the user in real time and provide feedback/assistance.

Research team: Prof Britt Klein, A/Prof Andrew Stranieri, Dr Peter Vamplew, Dr Susan Lauder, Dr Venkatraman Subramanian, Dr Robert Layton, A/Prof Suzanne McLaren, (Federation University Australia), A/Prof David Austin (Deakin University),

Other Collaborators:
Dr Joanna Mitchell (Wellbeing Manager AFL and Director – MindRoom),
Mr Jordi Llonch (Director of Nitidum Pty Ltd),
Dr Lisa Clinnick (Department of Health).
Dr David Noble (Director – Uniti Wireless, BDI Health).

1.5 Development of biodegradable green packaging by harnessing the 'Lotus Effect'

This project will develop starch based biodegradable 'green' packaging from starch and other biological macromolecules such as chitosan and cellulose. As these macromolecules are hydrophilic in nature, a degree of hydrophobicity has to be created in the film surface. To this end, the 'Lotus Effect' prevalently seen in nature will be mimicked in this project to develop 'stand-alone' or 'primary' flexible packaging.

Two approaches are being trialled; firstly, commonly used emulsifiers are being used as molecular bridge between the natural wax and starch. Secondly, especially formulated 'functionalised amphiphilic macromolecule (FAM)' is being created to replace the emulsifier.

The importance of this project lies in the fact excessive and ubiquitous use of non-biodegradable petroleum-based packaging has polluted land, water and air. As the use and role of packaging in everyday use is increasing day by day, it is essential that 'green' packaging solutions are found that are biodegradable and are derived from renewable sources.

Research team: Delina Muscat (Federation University Australia); Prof Qipeng Guo (Deakin University)

Top of page

1.6 Delivering unstable bioactive ingredients into food and beverages

This will project will develop ways of delivering unstable bioactive ingredients, especially those that improve human health, into food and beverages.

Ingredients such as omega-3 oils, angiogenin, lactoferrin, vitamin E, vitamin C and many carotenoids require stabilisation to ensure their shelf-life in food and beverage products. Omega-3 oils are particularly challenging as they rapidly degrade to volatile aldehydes and ketones that have an "off" flavour even at low microgram levels. These ingredients are essential for good health. For example, the omega-3 fatty acids are essential in maintaining good brain growth and cardiovascular health.

The function and shelf-life of this class of unstable bioactive ingredients is commonly preserved through a process of 'microencapsulation'. Although there are various methods and technologies of encapsulation, the fundamental chemical and physical processes are not well enough understood to open up possibilities for food innovation and industry development. This project will contribute to human health as well as drive innovation in food industries to meet a growing consumer market for functional food ingredients.

Research team: Dr Amy Liu (Federation University Australia); Prof Colin Barrow and Dr Bo Wang (Deakin University)

1.7 Control of Local Storage for Photovoltaic Systems using Multiobjective Reinforcement Learning

Solar intermittency is as a key issue – both perceived and real – limiting the growth of distributed solar photovoltaic systems in Australia.  Since solar PV systems lack the inertia of conventional generation and wind systems, intermittency in irradiance can lead to steep and pseudo-stochastic generation ramping events across both second and minute time intervals.  As the share of solar energy in the network grows, so does the need to adapt network operation to solar variability.   However, there is increasing resistance to the use of traditional centralised responses as there is an argument that such methods would be too slow, too reliant on accurate forecasts and too costly to be effective when the share of solar energy becomes high.  More generally, there is a reluctance for the network to pay for corrective services for issues introduced on the customer-side.  These issues have been borne out in technical specifications this year, with Horizon Power imposing strict limitations on the ramp rates of distributed PV and requiring the inclusion of local storage.  The consequence is that the responsibility for (and cost of) smoothing the output of solar PV systems falls with the customer and must be achieved on-site.

In response, this project develops methods for dynamic intelligent control of local storage systems that can simultaneously guarantee legislated solar ramp rates, maximise battery life and achieve increased export earnings.  The project will apply contemporary multiobjective reinforcement learning algorithms to derive optimal control strategies, leverage the Renewable Energy Integration Facility for real-world systems testing and explore the benefits of using traditional lead-acid batteries, electric vehicles and thermal loads as energy storage devices.

Research team:  A/Prof Peter Peter Vamplew, Dr Richard Dazeley (Federation University); Dr Adam Berry, Mr Tim Moore (CSIRO Energy Technology); A/Prof Doug Creighton (Deakin University)

Top of page

1.8 An Intelligent Decision Support System for Risk Stratification of Emergency Department Patients

Healthcare is a dynamic and growing industry that currently accounts for $130 billion or 10% of Australian gross domestic product.  Hospitals are under pressure due to an ageing population, rising acuity levels, heightened community expectations regarding healthcare, and stretched budgets [1]. Over 31% of Australians attending hospitals wait longer than the recommended time for treatment [2].  As a result, innovative solutions are urgently needed to improve healthcare service and achieve a number of targets, which include increasing the percentages of patients admitted to hospitals within four hours upon their arrival at the Emergency Department (ED).

In this project, an intelligent Decision Support System (iDSS) is proposed that will provide an accurate categorisation of ED patients based on their symptoms, medical conditions, and demographic factors. Hybrid soft computing models that are able to learn autonomously are exploited to develop the iDSS.  In addition, the iDSS will be equipped with a rule extraction scheme to the iDSS so that it can provide explanation and justification of its predictions to medical practitioners giving them early knowledge about patients for better and quicker care provision.  The usefulness of the iDSS for stratification of ED patients will be evaluated in collaboration with Ballarat Hospital.

Research Team: Dr Julien Ugon, A/Prof Andrew Stranieri, A/Prof Peter Vamplew (Federation University); A/Prof CP Lim, A/Prof Doug Creighton, Dr A Khosravi (Deakin University)

1.9 Analysis of Malware for Discovering Authorship Features

This project aims to identify the authors behind malware by examining the clues left in malware, specifically authorship information. This research is important as it is the first systematic application of authorship attribution techniques to binary malware. Success in this project would lead to better intelligence and countermeasures against malware and assist law enforcement agencies in tracking down the criminals behind these attacks. We are applying for funds for world-leading software to analyse malware and a computer to separate malware development from our other systems to ensure other computers are not infected by malware in the course of the analysis.

Research Team: Dr Robert Layton (Federation University), Prof Jamal Abawajy, Mr Ammar Azab (Deakin University)

1.10 Surface Modification (coatings and roughness) to reduce ship drag

The development of superhydrophobic-nanoscopic coating (SHC) has important applications in the maritime industry providing "skin-friction drag reduction for ships' hulls, increase fuel efficiency, reduce corrosion,  prevent marine organisms  attaching to ship's hull,  enable harvest minerals from seawater,  lasting longer than traditional coatings, thus could save billions of dollars. However, the coatings' safety for the environment is an issue. International maritime organisation has regulations and policies about keeping water safe from dangerous additives.

Bio compatible Poly(methylmethacrylate) used in medical applications is considered in keeping with the safety regulations. PMMA has a good degree of compatibility with human tissue and does not contain the potentially harmful bisphenol-A sub units found in poly-carbonate. Fly ash, a by-product of coal power a regional industry in Victoria as the nano/micro filler, finding new commercial uses of fly-ash providing potential benefits to regional industry.

Research Team: Dr Sheila Devasahayam (Federation University); Dr Sri Banyopadhyay (UNSW); Prof Raman Singh (Monash University)

Top of page

1.11 Stochastic Modeling of Cyanobacteria Gene Regulatory Network with Time-delayed S-system Model

Bio-fuel production and carbon sequestration have been getting increasing attention in the recent years due to the dwindling fossil fuel reserves and global warming, respectively. Cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue green algae) are oxygen evolving photosynthetic organisms that play a key role in the harvesting of solar energy and naturally sequestering carbon dioxide. An emerging idea is to enhance its biomass production capability by re-engineering its naturally occurring biosynthetic machinery.  We propose to study this by developing accurate stochastic genetic network model and applying systems theory and computational intelligence techniques. Experiments are performed on computational grid to overcome computational complexity.

Research Team: A/Prof Madhu Chetty (Federation University); Prof John Beardall (Monash University); Prof Rob Evans (University of Melbourne)

1.12 Global Optimization and Applications to Transmissions of Season Flu and Pandemic Flu to Humans and among Humans

Due to the climate change the problem of transmissions of seasonal flu and pandemic flu (including swine flu, bird flu) to humans and among humans has become an important problem of particular relevance to regional populations due to the link to the agricultural industry. There is a big argument on mathematical models of flu (e.g. Science 324: 1557-1561, Science 325: 1071) and their numerical implementations regarding to the use of local optimization methods when the problems under consideration are actually global optimisation problems. This proposal aims to develop new global search methods that will show great improvements of existing solutions in these problems.

Research Team: Dr Musa Mammadov, Dr Jiapu Zhang (Federation University); Prof Rob Evans (University of Melbourne)

Top of page

1.13 A Reinforcement Learning-based Evolutionary Algorithm for Solving Multiobjective Optimization Problems in the Manufacturing Industry

As reported by the Prime Minister's Manufacturing Taskforce, the Australian manufacturing industry, which accounts for 29% of Australia's exports and 8% of Gross Domestic Product, needs to prepare for a new global environment that generates both new knowledge and new demands at a rapid pace.  It is recognised by the Taskforce that Australia's practical problem solving can be a great asset that can help add value through applied knowledge.  In line with this context, a novel computational intelligence-based model is proposed to undertake critical manufacturing decision-making problems that often entail multiple, yet conflicting, trade-offs, e.g. how to minimise the production cost without affecting the production throughput and product quality.

Capitalising on the applicants' previous work, a Reinforcement Learning (RL)-based Evolutionary Algorithm (EA) model is proposed to tackle multi-objective optimisation problems. The novelty of the proposed model is that both convergence and diversity properties of the EA solutions are combined through RL to achieve the theoretical Pareto optimisation front. More importantly, the model will provide multiple Pareto-optimal solutions so that decision makers can choose the most appropriate solution for the current problem.  In collaboration with participating companies, the RL-based EA model will be evaluated comprehensively using real-world manufacturing problems.

Research Team: A/Prof Peter Vamplew, Dr Richard Dazeley (Federation University), A/Prof CP Lim, A/Prof Doug Creighton (Deakin University)

1.14 Reputation, Trust and Game Theory based Competition in Online Trading Model to Boost Small and Medium Businesses

As online trading incurs low cost, it creates a door for small and medium companies to develop businesses, possibly international, and complete with large businesses. However, the major limitation for small online businesses is that the reputation of a seller is not clearly perceived by buyers. To bridge the gap, this project will develop an online trading scheme employing game theory and reputation and recommendation based models where sellers' reputation, buyers' recommendation, trustworthiness and participation incentive will be considered. The outcome will boost regional sellers' competitiveness and enable local buyers to find a better product at best price.

Research Team: A/Prof Joarder Kamruzzaman, Dr Gour Karmakar (Federation University); Prof. Bala Srinivasan (Monash University)

Top of page

Element 2. Regional Social and Educational Connectedness and Health Innovation

2.1a Young people in regional communities

The project is a three year study of the lives of young people in the communities of Beaufort and Ararat with a focus on understanding how youth engagement and social connectedness relate to important life situations. The study will ask how young people's position within their community influences their experiences of education and the kind of futures they imagine for themselves. The overall aim of the project is to tell the story of regional Australia by listening to the voices of young people and looking at their experiences in the context of their day to day community lives.

We feel that research of this kind is important for Australia. Young people are the future of regional communities, but they are often not listened to by those who have the capacity to influence their lives. By doing this research, we hope to create new knowledge about the capacities that young people in regional areas have to shape their lives. Young people's voices and experiences will be a critical lens through which policy responses can be developed that draw on the strengths of regional communities.

Research team: Prof John Smyth, Dr David Farrugia (Honorary Research Fellow), and Tim Harrison (Federation University Australia); Prof Johanna Wyn (University of Melbourne)

2.1b Regional youth homelessness project

This project is focused on the lives, identities, values and experiences of young people experiencing homelessness in regional areas in and around Ballarat. The project is aimed at understanding the way that experiencing homelessness influences young people's sense of self, and exploring the different resources that young people draw upon to survive this kind of inequality. These are understood in relation to the social, economic and political processes that have produced youth homelessness, as well as the different cultural ideas available to modern young people in building a sense of self.

The Regional Youth Homelessness Project aims to address the invisibility of regional young people in research about youth homelessness, as well as in the policy discussions that influence young people's lives. While homelessness remains a significant social issue in Australia, the lives and voices of young people experiencing homelessness are often absent from the perspectives used to understand their experiences. This, combined with the stigmatised nature of homelessness, means that youth homelessness constitutes a very profound form of social and political marginalisation. This project therefore aims to counter this marginalisation through research that recognises and listens to the voices of young people experiencing homelessness in regional areas.

Research team: Prof John Smyth, Dr David Farrugia (Honorary Research Fellow), and Tim Harrison (Federation University Australia); Prof Johanna Wyn and Dr Hernan Cuervo (University of Melbourne)

2.2a Social significance of risky behaviour in 'disadvantaged' regional communities

The project will be a three year qualitative study of the lives of young women in communities identified as disadvantaged. The focus will be on understanding how engagement with risk-taking behaviours, especially violent behaviours, impact on the lives of young women within communities identified as disadvantaged. The focus will be on health and wellbeing, educational engagement, and perception of life chances and aspirations.

This project represents an opportunity to explore an issue of social significance in and around the lives of young women and their understandings of, and participation in, behaviours which society deems risky. There will be a strong focus on the issue of aggressive behaviours being adopted by young women and its effect on their engagement and social connectedness within communities identified as disadvantaged.

Research Leader: Prof John Smyth (Federation University Australia)
Note: Project no longer active

Top of page

2.2b 'From the other side of the track'; life experiences and aspirations around regional social and educational connectedness in Horsham North

Communities officially designated as being 'disadvantaged' are rarely consulted about their lives and aspirations, except in tokenistic ways after decisions affecting them are made by others. The underpinning assumption is that these are dysfunctional and pathological communities, and that outsiders have the 'solutions'.

This project rejects these propositions and instead starts from the position of having a conversation with a community, in order to understand it. In the process of that extended conversation, this project will map the way a community thinks about itself, how it got to be the way it is, what forces operate to keep it that way, and the positive attributes it possesses that provide an alternative platform for reform. Out of the dialogue that will occur, the researchers will assemble a profile of what a 'community voiced' approach to community development might look like—one that is radically different from current official models.

Research team: Prof John Smyth, Tim Harrison, Dr David Farrugia (Federation University Australia); Dr Amanda Mooney (Deakin); Prof Johanna Wyn and Dr Hernan Cuervo (University of Melbourne)

2.2c Educating against the grain

This research project seeks to understand the experience of young people who decide to undertake a higher education program, whose educational history and trajectory has not positioned them for such study through 'normal' entry processes.

The research project will focus on the experience of a group of around 20 students undertaking the BA@Phoenix project.

BA@Phoenix attempts to provide access to higher education for students regardless of educational history, based on an expressed desire to learn. The aim of the program is that at the conclusion of the first year of study participants make the transition to complete qualifications in the School of Education and Arts at the Mt Helen campus.

The project will chart the experience of this cohort of students from commencement of the BA@Pheonix program through to completion of their university study. The students will be interviewed by the research team near the commencement of the program, at mid-year and at the end of year one.

Research team: Prof John Smyth, Tim Harrison, Dr David Farrugia (Federation University Australia); Dr Amanda Mooney (Deakin); Prof Johanna Wyn and Dr Hernan Cuervo (University of Melbourne)

Top of page

2.2d Exploring the impacts of neoliberalism and climate change policy on communities in the Latrobe Valley

The project will explore issues of place, identity and memory within communities facing uncertainty bought on by de-industrialisation, privatisation of government owned infrastructure, impacts of climate change policy and globalisation.

The project will bring together researchers from the Ballarat and Gippsland campuses of Federation University and Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. The research will be embedded in communities and work to develop shared understandings of complex social, political and environmental policy issues.

Research Team: Dr John Smyth, Tim Harrison (Federation University)

2.3a Early molecular causes of heart enlargement and failure

The abnormal enlargement of the heart, also known as cardiac hypertrophy, is one of the most potent risk factors for heart failure and premature death.

Small RNA molecules called microRNA are key controllers of gene expression and are play a role in the molecular mechanisms for cardiac diseases. The microRNAs are also amenable to a new developing range of treatment strategies.

We have developed a unique 'model' of human cardiac hypertrophy – the Hypertrophic Heart Rat– in which the heart has a reduced complement of smaller cardiomyocytes soon after birth, which leads to heart enlargement and failure later in life. In this project we will use a second generation neonatal hybrids of the Hypertrophic Heart Rat to examine the links between microRNA, genes and cardiomyocytes. Therapeutic interventions that inhibit microRNA will be tested for the impact on cardiomyocytes, with implications for the prevention/treatment of cardiac hypertrophy and its complications.

Research team: Prof Fadi Charchar, Dr Francine Marques, Priscilla Prestes and Sean Quarrell (Federation University Australia); Dr Claire Curl, Dr Stephen Harrap and Prof Leanne Delbridge (University of Melbourne); Dr Paul Levandowski (Deakin University)

2.3b Copy number variation and cardiovascular disease

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is estimated to cause 7.1 million deaths worldwide annually. The relative inadequacy of current treatments in terms of efficacy and side effects means that new approaches are needed. Since approximately 40% of blood pressure (BP) variation is genetically determined, molecular/genetic targets offer potential in this regard. There has been an intensive international search for genes associated with hypertension using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), but these studies have overlooked structural variations such as Copy Number Variations (CNV), which are likely to contribute to the condition.

This project aims to determine whether CNVs in the above physiologically strong candidate genes contribute to the pathogenesis of human hypertension 1) in collaboration with our AIS we will develop assays of copy numbers to our knowledge never used in Australia. 2) We will apply these assays to a large cohort from Australia specifically designed to study the genetics of cardiovascular risk to determine association between copy number and hypertension or other cardiovascular traits and we will follow up identified associations with large cohorts from the United Kingdom, and cohorts from other European populations. 3) To determine whether these changes in copy numbers in human subjects lead to potential physiologic mechanisms, we will determine if there is an increase or decrease in expression of these hypertension genes in the kidneys from normal and hypertensive subjects and develop an RNA knockout assays in vitro.

Research team: Prof Fadi Charchar, Dr Francine Marques and Priscilla Prestes (Federation University Australia), Prof Stephen Harrap (University of Melbourne)

Top of page

2.3c The Y chromosome and cardiovascular disease

Genetic variation within the male-specific region of the Y chromosome is associated with the risk of coronary artery disease, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors and possibly through a modulating effect of the Y on adaptive immunity and response to inflammation in a recent publication in the Lancet. The exact molecular mechanisms that cause this increase in risk are yet unknown. Novel data from our group have shown that the Y chromosome harbours non-coding RNA that may be involved in this association.

Furthermore we find increased expression in two Y chromosome genes in subjects at higher risk of coronary heart disease. In this project we aim to identify whether (i) microRNA and/or (ii) gene of the Y mediate this association between the ancient paternal lineages of the human Y chromosome and CAD.

Research team: Prof Fadi Charchar, Priscilla Prestes, Dr Stephen Myers (Honorary Research Fellow) and Elsa Molina (Federation University Australia); Dr Maciej Tomaszewski and Prof Nilesh Samani (University of Leicester); Prof Stephen Harrap (University of Melbourne)

2.3d Orphan nuclear receptors and cardiometabolism: insights into cardiac disease

This project will investigate the role of key metabolic genes; the orphan nuclear receptors and co-regulators prior to the development, or following cardiovascular disease in the spontaneously hypertensive rat model. We will investigate whether perturbations in these key genes are implicated in metabolic profiles amendable to the disease state.

Perturbations in cardiac energy metabolism and hypertrophic gene expression plays a key role in the pathology of cardiomyopathy. Given the pleiotropic effects of nuclear receptors in many disease states, extending the utility of nuclear receptor-based therapeutics will provide opportunities and strategies for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Cardiac hypertrophy and heart failure is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Dysregulation of genes implicated in energy status and metabolic processes in the heart play an important role in the disease state.

Research team: Prof Fadi Charchar and Dr Stephen Myers (Honorary Research Fellow) (Federation University Australia); Prof Nilesh Samani (University of Leicester); Dr Paul Lewandowski (Deakin University)

2.3e A functional genetic variant of FGF1 is associated with blood pressure in the general population

This project will investigate the role of FGF1 in modulating key genes implicated in hypertension and cell signalling in human kidney cells.

Uncontrolled and prolonged elevation of blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to a variety of changes in the myocardial structure, coronary vasculature, and conduction system of the heart. These changes can lead to the development of processes associated with congestive heart failure. Fibroblast growth factor-1 gene (FGF1) and its partner molecules were previously associated with human hypertension.

This study will provide insights into the role of FGF1 in controlling molecules and pathways implicated in hypertension and may provide a platform for novel therapeutic options.

Research team: Prof Fadi Charchar, Dr Stephen Myers (Honorary Research Fellow) and Dr Hannah Chew (Federation University Australia); Dr Maciej Tomaszewski and Matthew Denniff (University of Leicester)

Top of page

2.3f An in vitro study of the radiobiological effects of flattening filter free radiotherapy treatments

Flattening filter free (FFF) linear accelerators allow for an increase in instantaneous dose-rate of the x-ray pulses by a factor of 2–6 over the conventional flattened output. We are performing radiobiological investigations to determine the effect of these higher dose-rates on lung cancer cell response. This study will help determine optimum radiotherapy doses for cancer. It is a collaboration between physicist's  and biologists.

Research Team: Prof Fadi Charcha (Federation University Australia); Dr Paul Lewandowski and Dr Thu Tran (Deakin), Dr Moshi Geso (RMIT)

2.4 Peptide hormones and digestive enzymes in the platypus

This project will characterise pancreatic intestinal hormones and serine proteases using genomics and comparative histology and biochemistry.

Species diversity provides opportunities for finding novel molecules and targets for development of new therapeutic drugs. Among many unusual characteristics of the platypus is the vestigial stomach that is small, lacks glands, and does not produce gastric acid or digestive enzymes due to inactivation of the genes involved.

This study will be the first comprehensive characterization of the adaptive changes to a loss of gastric function and may lead to identification of new treatments of metabolic and dietary disorders including diabetes.

Research team: Dr Mark Myers, Dr Stephen Myers (Honorary Research Fellow) and Alex Nield (Federation University Australia); Prof Frank Grutzner (University of Adelaide)

Top of page

2.5 Insulin, zinc and glycaemic control in skeletal muscles

This project will investigate the role of intracellular zinc as a second messenger in mediating cellular signalling cascades implicated in glucose homeostasis.

Zinc plays a key role in the synthesis, secretion and action of insulin in both physiological and pathophysiological states. Recent studies highlight zinc's dynamic role as a 'cellular second messenger' in the control of insulin signalling and glucose homeostasis. Dysfunctional zinc signalling is of major significance as it is associated with several disease states including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

This study will help elucidate the role of insulin-mediated zinc signalling and glycaemic control in skeletal muscle and aid in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in this peripheral tissue. This previously unexplored concept would raise a whole new area of research into the pathophysiology of insulin resistance and introduce a new class of drug target with utility for diabetes pharmacotherapy.

Research team: Dr Mark Myers, Dr Stephen Myers (Honorary Research Fellow) and Alex Nield (Federation University Australia); Prof George Muscat (Institute for Molecular Biosciences, The University of Queensland, Australia); Prof Wolfgang Maret (King's College, London)

2.6 Harnessing human NKT and MAIT cells to provide effective immunity against cancer

This project will take advantage of new methodologies developed by the research team to investigate the role of two specialized immune T cell subsets in cancer and autoimmune disease. These are chronic conditions that place an enormous burden on the community and new treatments are urgently required. In a multi-pronged collaborative effort, we are characterizing the function of NKT and MAIT cells from tumors and the blood of patients with either cancer or autoimmune diabetes.

This project will advance our understanding of how NKT and MAIT cells contribute to human immunity, with a special emphasis on defining their role in providing effective immunity against cancer and for preventing autoimmune diabetes. The outcomes will help to develop new treatments for cancer and for type 1 diabetes that harness and enhance the functions of a patient's own immune system.

Research team: A/Prof Stuart Berzins, Prof George Kannourakis, Prof Fadi Charchar and Yosuke Minoda (Federation University Australia/Ballarat Cancer Research Centre); Prof Dale Godfrey (University of Melbourne); Dr David Ritchie and Dr Paul Neeson (Peter McCallum Cancer Centre); Prof Len Harrison (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute)

2.7 Exercise, genetics and health

The aim of this project is to better understand the impact of physical exercise and fitness on the expression and structure of genes that regulate cardio-vascular health. To this end, the research team has conducted several experiments on the effects of aerobic and resistance (ranging from an one training session to several years of regular training) on telomere length, genes regulating cardio-vascular function and telomere length and whole genome epigenetic profile. Ultimately the team strive to ascertain the mechanisms by which exercise confers good health to optimise exercise prescription or pharmaceutical intervention.

Research Team: Prof Fadi Charchar, Dr Francine Coelho Marques, Dr Brendan O'Brien, Joshua Denham, Warrick Chilton (Federation University Australia); Professor Maciej Tomaszewski (Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester), Dr Paul Lewandowski (Deakin University)

Top of page

2.8 Injury prevention and safe sport in regional and rural communities

This project addresses important sports safety and sports injury prevention issues, translation of evidence to the target groups that need to act on it and methods advances to underpin sports injury epidemiology research. Specific research themes will include:

  • methods advances in sports injury surveillance and coding systems; novel statistical applications to injury data and monitoring of both injuries and safety practices;
  • long-term prospective injury incidence cohort studies;
  • behavioural and observational studies of barriers and motivators towards the uptake of injury prevention measures, at the individual, club and broader societal levels;
  • randomised controlled trials and ecological evaluations of intervention effectiveness (e.g. exercise programs, protective equipment, return-to-play management guidelines);
  • identification of the key aspects of the sport implementation context needed to drive the adoption of safety measures and optimal processes for the translation of research findings into policy/practice

Research Team: Prof Caroline Finch, Prof Alex Donaldson and Dr Joanne Kemp (Federation University Australia); Prof Jill Cook, Shannon Grey, Tim Lathlean and Christina Ekegren (Monash).

2.9 Coalmine Fire; initial impact on health and wellbeing

The Hazelwood coalmine fire in February and March 2014 affected nearby Morwell and surrounding communities for 6 weeks with smoke, ash and raised carbon monoxide levels. Health professionals anecdotally reported that residents presented to them not only with respiratory effects but also more general health and wellbeing concerns related to the fire.

This project will create a narrative evidence base of the initial perceived impact of the Hazelwood coalmine fire on health and wellbeing (concerns and responses) in Morwell and surrounding communities.

This project will precede and complement a separate 10-year study to be funded by the Victorian Department of Health to identify any long-term health impacts from the fire.

Research team: A/Prof Pamela Wood, Dr Michelle Duffy, Dr Karen Crinall, Dr Belinda Morrissey,
Dr Sue Yell, Dr Monica Green  (Federation University); A/Prof  Darryl Maybery, Dr Matthew Carroll (Monash)

Top of page

Element 3. Regional Landscape Change

* Numerous projects are at various stages of development under each of the four broad project headings below.

3.1 Decadal variations in climate proxy records

This project will assemble the available decadel isotopic, climate proxy records (biological and sediment indicators) from Australian paleoclimate records to understand climate variations over the last two millennia.

Research Team: Prof Peter Gell, , Dr Giri Kattel, Dr Peter Dahlhaus, Dr Jessica Reeves, Haydn Swan and Dr Jon Tyler (Honorary Research Fellow) (Federation University Australia); Prof David Karoly, Dr Joelle Gergis, Dr Russell Drysdale, Dr Patrick Baker (University of Melbourne); Prof Peter Kershaw (Monash University); Prof Chris Turney, Prof Andy Baker, Dr Scott Mooney (University of NSW)

3.2 Identification and analysis of climate sensitive sites: Human Impact on Australian wetlands and estuaries

This project will assemble the available paleoecological data from Australian wetlands and estuaries to generate a regional synthesis of the relative impact of climate and catchment change on their condition.

Research Team: Prof Peter Gell, Dr Jessica Reeves, Dr Jasmyn Lynch, Dr Giri Kattel, Dr Michelle Casanova (Federation University Australia); Dr Russell Drysdale, Dr Patrick Baker (University of Melbourne); Prof Peter Kershaw, Prof John Beardall (Monash University); Dr Adam Pope (Deakin University); Prof Chris Turney, Prof Andy Baker, Prof Richard Kingsford, Dr Scott Mooney (University of New South Wales); Prof Jenny Davis (University of Canberra)

3.3 Climate change adaptation – fire, carbon and biodiversity

This project will explore the risks and opportunities for fire management, carbon sequestration and habitat restoration and biodiversity under a changing climate.

Research Team: Prof Peter Gell, Dr Grant Palmer, Dr Birgita Hansen, Prof Rob Wilby, Dr Sophie Bickford, Dr Jasmyn Lynch, Diana Kuchinke, (Federation University Australia); Dr Alan York, Dr Janet Cohn, Prof Rod Keenan, Dr Fiona Christie, Prof Mark Burgman (University of Melbourne); Prof Andrew Bennett (Deakin University); Dr Scott Mooney (University of New South Wales)

Top of page

3.4 Climate change adaptation – water and biodiversity

This project will examine the risks to water yield and quality, and waterway health, under changing climates and examine the adaptive capacity of human and natural communities.

Research Team: Prof Peter Gell, Dr Birgita Hansen, Prof Martin Westbrooke, Dr Singarayer Florentine, Dr Michelle Casanova, Dr Simon Cook, Dr Grant Palmer, Dr Ian Sluiter, Prof Rob Wilby, Dr Jasmyn Lynch, Dr Andrew Barton, Dr Michelle Graymore, Stacey Gowans (Federation University Australia); Prof Rod Keenan, Dr Peter Vesk, Prof Mark Burgman (University of Melbourne); Prof Ralph MacNally (Monash University), Prof Andrew Bennett (Deakin University); Prof Richard Kingsford (University of NSW)

3.5 Landscape restoration: Strategies and implications for environmental sustainability

In line with National, State and Institutional research priority areas, the Centre for Environmental Management (CEM) has contributed to the building of the nation's natural resources by establishing a strong profile in the relatively new field of Restoration Ecology. Through the CEM, collaborative research has been fostered between leaders in the areas of woodland tree regeneration, impacts of flood, fire and grazing, exotic invasions, recovery of damaged communities and vegetation management. One of the central contributions of this initiative has been in the assessment of past restoration efforts within the Water Catchment system which has enormous implications for Victoria's future food security. In addition, the University's Research Station, Nanya, with its diverse range of intact vegetation provides a valuable laboratory for research into a wide study of vegetation communities and is a unique opportunity for the University to showcase the outcomes of putting restoration approaches into practice.

Research team: A/Prof Singarayer Florentine, Dr Grant Palmer,Prof Martin Westbrooke, Dr Nick Schultz, Dr Michelle Graymore, Prof Peter Gell, Dr Penny Greenslade (Honorary Research Fellow), Dr David Cheal, Rosie Grundell, Stacey Gowans, Tim Simpson (Federation University Australia)

Other Collaborators
Dr  Augustine Doronila (University of Melbourne)
Professor. Per Milberg (Linkping University)
Dr Velupillai Rasiah (Senior Soil Scientist, Department of Natural Resource and Mines, Qld). (retired)
Dr Tricia Wevill (Monash University)
Dr Julian Di Stefano (University of Melbourne)
Dr John Wright (Parks Victoria)
Dr Adam Beaster (Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment Management Authority)
Dr Patrick Graz (University of Namibia)
Dr Rahayu Sukmaria binti Hj Sukri, (University of Brunei, Darussalam)
A/Prof Kushan Tennakoon, (University of Brunei, Darussalam)

Top of page