Faculty of Science

Preventing, diagnosing and treating disease

A selection of current projects in this research theme is listed here.

We welcome you to discuss other research project ideas with us. To do this:
Domestic students can contact the Graduate Research Coordinator at the School or Centre in which you wish to undertake research.
International students can use our online enquiry form, which helps us match your research interests with a potential supervisor.

Genome mining of virulent small molecules in human fungal pathogens
Using a combination of functional genomics and chemical/synthetic biology tools, this project aims to discover novel biological active compounds from fungal plant pathogens and investigate their roles in causing plant diseases.
Limiting damage following mild traumatic brain injury
We have shown that mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, results in oxidative stress in brain cells as well as cognitive deficits. In this project we will explore the damage further and design and test treatment strategies to improve function.
Investigating the role and formation of sub-nuclear bodies in disease
Sub-nuclear bodies called 'paraspeckles' are important in driving cancer progression and in other disease states. This project will dissect the molecular interactions underpinning paraspeckles as a route to development of novel therapies that alter paraspeckle prevalence in diseased cells.
Understanding the spatial changes in cancer during therapy using computation
Developing and optimizing cancer therapies involves examining the multitude of combinations of interventions that are available or being developed, and this cannot be achieved with traditional experimental methods. We wish to use computational modelling as a means to simulate the spatial changes in cancers resulting from interventions and, subsequently, to use that modelling to build an optimal intervention strategy.
The role of the prenatal environment in child development
Much of the focus in research on language development has been on genetics and the early social environment. Instead, this project will use novel methods to investigate the influence of the prenatal environment on the development of language in infancy and early childhood.
Steroids and long-term outcomes in the preterm infant
Our overarching research goal is to understand the impacts of steroid treatment on the long-term outcomes of preterm subjects.  Our specific focus is the balance between the impact of postnatal steroids on neurodevelopment and the cardiorespiratory system.
Stem cell mechanobiology
This project will enhance our understanding in mechanotransduction (cells transduce biophysical/mechanical signals into biochemical signals from cell membrane to nucleus) to program stem cells and to design biomaterials for stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Ultrahigh-resolution optical microscopy deep in tissue: A nanoscope-in-a-needle
By miniaturization of advanced optical imaging, sensing and spectroscopy systems into a hypodermic needle – a nanoscope-in-a-needle – it will be possible to study the structure and function of living biological systems in their native, three-dimensional environment up to centimetres deep in soft tissue but with unprecedented nano- and micro-scale resolution.
Fixing the ailing heart
We have identified a link between the entry of calcium into the heart and the supply of energy in the mitochondria. Calcium entry occurs via the L-type calcium channel. One way that the channel can influence energy production is through the movement of cytoskeletal (structural) proteins within the muscle cell. We activate the L-type calcium channel and use this to report mitochondrial function when testing treatments to improve cardiac function.
Placental vascularity
An optimal environment in pregnancy is crucial for appropriate fetal development and long term adult health outcomes. This project will use state-of-the-art imaging techniques to understand the pivotal role that the placenta plays in this process. We aim to better comprehend how disturbances in placental vascular development can impact on fetal growth and development. From this we aim to develop therapeutic interventions to enhance placental vascular development in compromised pregnancies.
Probing the roles bacteria play in infant health
Projects described here will be to design and synthesize molecules of interest for use in biological studies with the beneficial bacteria to understand how these bacteria process these important oligosaccharides.
Tackling carbohydrate-processing enzymes head on
The projects in this research area will investigate a wide variety of enzymes ranging from those in humans that have been implicated in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, dysfunction of carbohydrate metabolism and neurological diseases, to those in bacteria that are involved in antibiotic resistance and correct digestion.
Understanding and modifying risk of suicide
According to the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Joiner, 2007; van Orden et al., 2010) death by suicide is a product of a thwarted sense of belongingness, combined with the perception of being a burden on others. When combined, the person begins to think about suicide but must acquire the capability. Our research group is using this and other theories to investigate the risk of suicide.
Revealing the structural basis of gene regulation in paraspeckles
This project uses the tools of structural and molecular biology to investigate the protein:protein interactions central to gene regulation. Disturbances in these processes can lead to serious conditions including cancer. We aim to better comprehend the molecular basis of these changes, and so develop targets for use in rational drug development.
Targeted nanoparticles to deliver novel combinatorial treatments for secondary degeneration following neurotrauma
In this project, the student will generate nanoparticle based therapies to deliver combinations of calcium channel inhibitors directly to oligodendrocyte precursor cells, critical for maintaining myelin in tissue vulnerable to secondary degeneration following neurotrauma.
The Testosterone and Exercise study
We are investigating the independent and cumulative effects of testosterone administration and combined aerobic and resistance exercise training on cardiovascular health related outcomes in men.
The Brain Breaks study
The Brain Breaks study is a randomised control trial funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). We are investigating the effect of exercise with and without breaks in sitting time on cognitive function (primary outcome) and brain blood flow (secondary outcome), using state-of-the-art transcranial doppler technology, on older and overweight/obese subjects (55-80 years).
The Preventia study
The Preventia study will compare the effects of 6 months of land-based walking versus water-based on the health and function of arteries in the brain, and investigate whether one type of exercise is more effective to improve memory and cognition.
Exercise as medicine: Optimising the interventions to maximise the benefits
The aim of this project is to investigate the phenomenon of 'responsers' and 'non-responsers' to exercise training. Specifically, this study will test whether the pattern of responsiveness is linked to a trait that has been inherited (genetic) and/or the modality of exercise undertaken.
Filling the risk factor gap: How does exercise exert its cardiovascular benefits
Our research goal is to understand the beneficial effects of exercise on vascular function and health, with a specific focus on the role of blood flow and blood pressure.
A new type of exercise to improve the health of patients with heart failure
The purpose of this project is to comprehensively investigate the relative effectiveness of eccentric exercise training (ET), a novel training paradigm in patients with heart failure. Our aim is to compare the effects of ET to those of conventional concentric training (CT) in a superiority trial, where both forms of exercise are performed at a matched cardiovascular intensity i.e. an intensity that elicits the same heart rate response.
Sleeping your way to healthy arteries: Testing the mechanistic links between sleep, exercise and cardiovascular risk
This project will explore the link between vascular function and sleep.
Influence of the built environment on young children’s physical activity
This research investigates the influence of the childcare and neighbourhood built environment on the physical activity levels of young children attending childcare.
Influence of the built environment on child health and development
The project will examine the influence of the neighbourhood and home physical environment on early child health and development.

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