Transformative and preventative health

Discovery to recovery: Translating basic and applied research to improve healthcare

Employs a multi-disciplinary approach that translates basic and applied research that also utilises big data analytics including machine learning to develop into new solutions that improve knowledge in mental health and physical disease for the betterment of healthcare.

Big biopsychosocial data analytics and predictive modelling

The proposed research project will involve working on the cutting edge transdisciplinary “Biopsychosocial Big Data”. The framework used to analyse this biopsychosocial big data will be aligned to the big data analysis framework. The big data analysis framework will define the research questions and their impact assessments at every stage of the analytics flow starting from data collection and data processing, choice of analysis type and analytic mode and finally evaluating impact of medications and interpreting the results using appropriate data visualization approaches. The research has significance since combining actionable big data with proven biopsychosocial model we will be able to address the physical, psychological and social drivers impacting member health and satisfaction.

Supervision:Assoc Prof Madhu Chetty (Principal), Prof Britt Klein (Associate), Dr Cameron Foale (Associate)

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Modelling and inference of gene regulatory network

Gene Regulatory Network (GRN) plays an important role in the understanding of complex biological systems. High throughput microarray gene expression data (or next gene sequencing data if available) is used for finding these regulatory relationships between genes. In this research we investigate novel modeling approaches for large scale reverse engineering GRNs. Comparative studies and robustness analysis using standard benchmark data will be used to show the superiority of the proposed methods. Real life data sets related to cardio vascular diseases (CVDs) or cancer data will be used to understand the probable underlying causes of diseases. Impact for drugs will also be investigated.

Supervision: Assoc Prof Madhu Chetty (Principal) and Assoc Prof Stuart Berzins (Associate)

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Structure based drug design for ovarian cancer

Cancer currently accounts for approximately 13% of global mortality, with ovarian and breast cancer two of the major causes of cancer-related deaths. In the pharmaceutical industry the structural detail of many important transmembrane ™ proteins, including those involved in cancer treatment, is not known. Accurate prediction of protein structure is of increasing scientific and economic importance as it greatly aids the ‘structure based’ design of new drugs for diseases such as cancer. This is because predicting 3D structure of proteins remains a major technical challenge. In this research proposal, we propose to develop suitable computational methods used in the structure prediction, ligand binding and drug design for cancer treatment. We will also validate results with suitable wet lab experiments.

Supervision: Assoc Prof Madhu Chetty (Principal), Assoc Prof Stuart Berzins (Associate), Prof Nuzhat Ahmed (FECRI) (Associate)

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Using RNA-Seq to determine the epigenetic effects on cardiac hypertrophy

An enlarged heart is the one of the main risk factors for many cardiovascular diseases. It is not clear which genes and transcripts are association with increased risk of cardiac hypertrophy. Our hypothesis is that non-coding RNA and / or the aberrant expression of long-non coding RNA (exciting new RNA molecules previously thought of as JUNK RNA) may be one of the drivers. We will be using next generation sequencing and a range of cutting-edge technologies to determine which long non-coding RNA are expressed on the heart. We will also investigate the epigenetic effects of exercise related to heart size and health.

Supervision: Prof Fadi Charchar (Principal), Prof Fergal Grace (Associate), Prof Stephen Harrap (University of Melbourne)

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Pulmonary needle free vaccination against infectious disease

Many of the key diseases of the human lung which are difficult to treat (e.g. influenza, tuberculosis) could be cured by efficient delivery systems for vaccine and/or drug therapy. Federation University Australia, the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, and the MicroNano Medical Research Centre at RMIT have developed a novel needle free deep lung delivery system for clinically relevant models. These projects will determine the therapeutic and anti-inflammatory delivery properties of a number of novel vaccines and drugs, and associated clinically relevant biomarkers against viral and bacterial infections effecting humans. The successful PhD candidate will work with internationally recognised institutions and spend time based at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza and the MicroNano Medical Research Centre at RMIT in Melbourne.

Supervision: Assoc Prof David Piedrafita (Principal), Assoc Prof Stuart Berzins (Associate), Aeron Hurt (Melbourne University) and Prof Leslie Yeo (RMIT).

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Biopsychosocial processes in the treatment of depression and the anxiety disorders

The main aims of the overall project is to examine the efficacy and engagement levels of biologically and psychologically focused digital health treatments for depression and anxiety disorders, and to further progress the identification of the complex associations between the operative psychological-biological-neurological processes and treatment response. Standard psychological and environmental measures will be captured, and the biological processes of main interest will include inflammatory, genomic and telomerase activity. We invite potential PhD students who have an interest in the above areas to apply.

Supervision: Prof Britt Klein (Principal); Prof Fadi Charchar (Associate), Assoc Prof Stuart Berzins (Associate), Assoc Prof Madhu Chetty (Associate)

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Big data analytics for holistic understanding of impact of exercise on health and disease

The totality of data related to patient health and wellbeing make up so-called “Big Data” in the healthcare industry. The advent of Big Data (Biobank and electronic health records) has opened new and exciting avenues to progress our understanding of interactions between exercise, ageing and the progression of chronic disease. For the purpose of big data analytics this raw data needs to be pooled, processed or transformed, at which point several options are available. The relevant four typical applications of big data analytics in healthcare would be considered; namely queries, reports, OLAP, and data mining. Visualization is an overarching theme across these four applications. Drawing from such fields as information technology, clinical physiology and exercise epidemiology, a wide variety of techniques and technologies will be developed and adapted to aggregate, manipulate, analyse and visualise big data that contribute to the generation of new knowledge of interactions between exercise, ageing and chronic disease.

Supervision: Prof Fergal Grace (Principal), Assoc Prof Madhu Chetty (Associate), Prof Britt Klein (Associate)

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Big data analytics for holistic understanding of impact of exercise, ageing and mental health

The totality of data related to patient health and wellbeing make up so-called “Big Data” in the healthcare industry. The advent of Big Data (Biobank and electronic health records) has opened new and exciting avenues to progress our understanding of interactions between exercise, ageing and mental health. For the purpose of big data analytics this raw data needs to be pooled, processed or transformed, at which point several options are available. The relevant four typical applications of big data analytics in healthcare would be considered; namely queries, reports, OLAP, and data mining. Visualization is an overarching theme across these four applications. Drawing from such fields as information technology, clinical psychology and exercise epidemiology, a wide variety of techniques and technologies will be developed and adapted to aggregate, manipulate, analyse and visualise big data that contribute to the generation of new knowledge of interactions between exercise, ageing and mental health.

Supervision: Prof Britt Klein (Principal), Assoc Prof Madhu Chetty (Associate), Prof Fergal Grace (Associate)

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Y chromosome non-coding RNA - a new paradigm of coronary artery disease in men

There is a well-known “male disadvantage” in heart disease – men develop and die of it more frequently than women. The cause of this disparity is still not clear and is not explained by many traditional risk factors such as diet. We have shown in a recent study that the male sex Y chromosome is associated with increased risk of heart disease. The current proposed project will utilize molecular and cellular techniques to study non-coding RNA in patients with coronary artery disease, in particular in relation to the immune system. This may improve our understanding of why men are more prone to heart disease and could help to develop sex-specific methods for prevention and treatment of heart disease in the future.

Supervision: Prof Fadi Charchar (Prinicple), Assoc Prof Stuart Berzins (Associate), Prof Stephen Harrap (University of Melbourne) (Associate)

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Injury prevention in active populations

Uses public health and epidemiological approaches in data-driven research to provide new information to underpin the development and evaluation of injury prevention measures for the benefit of all active populations.

Injury epidemiology

Proposed topic area: Catastrophic injury surveillance in Australian sport

This project is associated with the Australian Collaboration for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention, which is one of only nine worldwide to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee as a Centre of Research Excellence into Injury Prevention and the Promotion of Health in Athletes. While deaths are considered to be rare in sport, information and specific fatality rates for different sports and settings in Australia are limited because of a lack of robust data. Understanding the people/sports that are most at risk and the leading causes of deaths in sporting environments is a crucial first step toward implementing appropriate emergency management plans for the prevention of fatalities. The aim of this project is to develop and trial a minimum data set for a standardised, national approach to data collection for fatal incident reporting in Australian sport.

Supervision: Dr Lauren Fortington (Principal), Prof Caroline Finch (Associate)

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Implementation

Proposed topic area: Community sports safety – implementation of policy and procedures for emergency management.

This project is associated with the Australian Collaboration for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention, which is one of only nine worldwide to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee as a Centre of Research Excellence into Injury Prevention and the Promotion of Health in Athletes. This research project is aimed at improving the awareness, understanding and management of medical emergencies in community sport. The project will begin with an investigation of the Victorian Government Department of Health & Human Services (Sport and Recreation Victoria), automatic defibrillator program. The initial aim is to explore, using a mixed-methods approach, the implementation and maintenance from program participants toward intended emergency medical management, specifically in relation to cardiac preparedness. Following this, the PhD project will address broader issues of medical emergency prevention and management within the community sports setting extending to issues of significant trauma (e.g. head injury, spinal injury), environmental risk (e.g. heat illness, lightning strikes), asthma management, and other major/catastrophic health problems.

Supervision: Dr Lauren Fortington (Principal), Prof Caroline Finch (Associate)

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Sport surface safety

Changes in climatic conditions and improvements in artificial turf products, particularly over the past two decades, have resulted in artificial turf becoming an increasingly popular choice for sports fields and ovals in Australia for a variety of different sports. Despite the growing popularity of these surfaces, there are unanswered questions regarding the potential effects on athlete performance and safety. Two issues that are currently acting as barriers to the adoption of artificial turf surfaces include high surface temperatures and a perceived increased risk of injuries.

The surface temperatures experienced on artificial turf in the dry, hot Australian climate and the environmental and product-related factors contributing to the heat have been established. A PhD project could focus on developing a greater understanding of differences between elements of the artificial turf systems; the effects of the increased radiant heat on participants; and whether this may result in serious heat related health problems.

The perceived fear of abrasion injuries on artificial turf playing surfaces has also significantly impacted on the adoption of these surfaces, particularly in sports which involve frequent player-surface interactions. Research is needed to: fully understand the testing of abrasive properties of artificial turf; ascertain the incidence and nature of abrasions on such surfaces; and determine the effect of these injuries on playing behaviour.

Supervision: Dr Dara Twomey (Principal), Dr Lauren Petrass (Associate)

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Aquatic sports tourism injury and illness profiles

Based in the Federation Business School, the topic investigates and compares injury profiles and health outcomes for tourists using selected aquatic locations. The student will collect and analyse primary and secondary quantitative and qualitative data to identify injury and/ or illness risk factors to inform safety management practices through assessments of current risk prevention measures.

Supervision: Damian Morgan (Principal), Caroline Finch (Associate)

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Sport and recreation spatial

Undertakes research on sport and recreation participation, facilities and health outcomes, to support evidence-based planning and decision making in the sport and recreation sector.

Applications are encouraged from highly motivated and exceptional candidates to undertake research in an area relating to a research priority area of Federation University Australia - Sport and Recreation Spatial.

Sport and Recreation Spatial undertakes research on sport and recreation participation, facilities and health outcomes, to support evidence-based planning and decision making in the sport and recreation sector.

The successful candidate will either develop a topic related to the key areas of Sport and Recreation Spatial or can be specifically related to, the role of the coach in participation retention and drop-out in tennis. Applicants must have well-developed quantitative research skills and/or qualitative research skills with a background in a relevant discipline such as sports science, sports coaching, health promotion, public health.

Please see the Sport and Recreation Spatial website or contact Associate Professor Rochelle Eime for more further information.

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