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PhD Opportunities

At IPAN, we think of our PhD students as the research stars of the future. We are committed to offering our PhD students a supportive, positive and successful path to achieving their PhD. Find out about PhD opportunities at IPAN, and hear from past and present students and supervisors about their experiences.

Identifying plasma-derived extracellular vesicles as biomarkers markers of onset and severity of motor neurone disease (MND)

This project aims to establish a biomarker profile by investigating changes in plasma-derived EV protein content during disease initiation, progression and recovery using a novel mouse model of MND.

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HDR Scholarship – Engaging and supporting first-time fathers in the promotion of healthy eating and active play from the start of life

This research project focuses on engaging and supporting first-time fathers regarding healthy eating and active play from the start of life and forms part of the broader INFANT (Infant feeding, active play and nutrition) effectiveness and implementation trial being conducted across Victoria.

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Using novel telehealth strategies to change the delivery of nutrition care in community living older adults with malnutrition

This PhD project aims to determine whether personalised dietetic interventions delivered via telehealth are effective for improving dietary intake (including energy and protein intake), nutritional outcomes (including weight, BMI and hand grip strength), as well as measures of sarcopenia and quality of life.

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Nutrition communication in the media

Nutrition communication and miscommunication are identified as key emerging priorities for the discipline of nutrition science by the Australian Academy of Science and the American Society for Nutrition. Nutrition science is often criticised for the appearance of controversy and for causing public confusion. The overall purpose of this project is to examine the communication and miscommunication of nutrition science through the media lifecycle examining source, content and audience factors.

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Perceptions of personalised nutrition among stakeholders

Personalised nutrition involves leveraging human variability to provide tailored dietary advice to optimise heath. It is also one of the four pillars of the decadal plan for the science of nutrition in Australia. Using the biological and behavioural characteristics of a person to design dietary messaging may be more effective for improving dietary patterns than “one size fits all” approaches. However, our understanding of how to design and implement personalised nutrition approaches is limited.

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Understanding barriers to increasing legume consumption

While the evidence on the health benefits of plant based diets and legumes increases, consumption remains low. Increasing consumption of legumes is likely to have important health benefits, and as an alternative source of protein may have an important role in decreasing reliance on meat consumption while maintaining protein intakes. Many population groups consume excess protein but inadequate vegetable consumption.

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Understanding temporal eating patterns

Temporal eating patterns refer to the timing and distribution of food intake, or eating occasions, across the day. Increasing research suggests that the timing of food intake, not just the total amount of nutrients or foods, may be important for health and well-being. Research shows that health and wellbeing are affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our internal biological clock, or circadian rhythms, and our external environment.

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Eating patterns in children and adolescents

Eating patterns refers to the ways in which foods are consumed together in discrete eating occasions (e.g. meals and snacks), and includes measures of eating occasion patterning (frequency, size, timing/time of day, spacing of eating occasions, meal skipping), eating occasion format (food types, food combinations) and eating occasion context (includes the eating location, presence of others, activities occurring while eating).

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Personalised nutrition: leveraging dietary, biological and behavioural data

Personalised nutrition involves leveraging human variability to provide tailored dietary advice to optimise health. It is also one of the four pillars of the decadal plan for the science of nutrition in Australia. Using the biological and behavioural characteristics of a person to design dietary messaging may be more effective for improving dietary patterns than “one size fits all” approaches. However, our understanding of how to design personalised nutrition approaches is limited.

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Information Technology for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease

Patients with CVD require support at home and out of hospital settings where they spent most of their time. However, such interventions are often difficult to implement and expensive. Using information technology, we aim to improve risk factors monitoring, self-management and develop a new model-of-care for secondary prevention of CVD in Australia and globally.

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Understanding healthy fat consumption in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Diet is one of the cornerstones of type 2 diabetes management and healthy dietary fats are known to provide several metabolic benefits. However, the relationship between recommendations from healthcare professionals, patients’ perceptions and consumption of healthy fats is not well understood.

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A comparison of the role of testosterone in male and female human skeletal muscle growth

Despite representing 50% of the human population, females remain significantly understudied in the area of muscle physiology, meaning that our current knowledge is mostly inferred from findings from male only cohorts. A typical example is the role played by testosterone, a male sex hormone that regulates skeletal muscle growth. We know that testosterone is also present in females, albeit at concentrations about 10-fold lower than typical male level.

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Exploring how exercise, oxidative stress and antioxidant treatment regulate insulin action in type 2 diabetes mellitus

The impact to society and health implications of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2D) are well-characterised, yet the specific mechanisms behind T2D development, disease progression, and treatment strategies targeting the root aetiology remain elusive. Excess oxidative stress has been linked to impaired insulin action (the body’s ability to respond to insulin and metabolise glucose) and the subsequent development of T2D.

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Understanding implementation effectiveness of school-based physical activity interventions in Australia and Internationally

There is a major knowledge gap in the evaluation of both intervention effectiveness and implementation in diverse school-based settings.Successful implementation of interventions outside of controlled research conditions is a complex process, often influenced by contextual and setting-specific factors affecting intervention uptake, delivery and sustainability. Understanding how to implement interventions in practice, whilst retaining their effectiveness, is critical to achieving population-level health improvement.

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Collaborating with secondary school students to design active schools

Just one in ten adolescents meet physical activity guidelines, and our research has found that up to 70% of the school day is spent sitting. This project aims to use a co-design approach with secondary school students, teachers and key education and health organisations to develop novel strategies to increase adolescents’ physical activity at school. This could include changes to the school environment, embedding physical activity into the school curriculum, or specific activities during recess and lunch breaks.

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Using the Youth Activity Profile tool to determine just how active children really are

It is important for government, schools, teachers, parents and others to capture accurate estimates of children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour in Australia. It is also of benefit to compare how Australian children are tracking compared to other countries such as the US, UK and Europe. The Youth Activity Profile (YAP) has been shown to accurately estimate US primary school children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour and provides the potential to monitor compliance with physical activity guidelines.

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Are school outdoor spaces active places?

Only one in four children currently meet physical activity guidelines. As children spend a significant proportion of their daily waking hours in school, schools are an important setting for the promotion of physical activity. However, little is known about what features in school outdoor spaces facilitate or restrict children’s activity, and how and why children use these spaces. Such information has the potential to inform the design and development of school outdoor spaces in the future.

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Investigating the projected benefits of living in a 20-minute neighbourhood

Opportunities exist within Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) to undertake a PhD related to an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project. The project will assess the projected lifestyle benefits associated with the 20-minute neighbourhood. A 20-minute neighbourhood is one where everyday destinations are easily accessible.

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Cognition and Ageing

Cognitive frailty is an emerging concept which refers to the presence of both frailty and cognitive impairment. Currently the mechanisms which may link cognitive impairment to physical decline in muscle mass, strength and function are poorly understood. This project aims to improve our understanding of the risk factors and underlying physiological changes which contribute to concurrent decline to brain health and mobility.

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The impact of exercise combined with dietary supplementation on musculoskeletal health in older people at risk of cognitive decline

Population ageing is leading to an increasing number of people living with cognitive impairment and dementia, which has been associated with an increased risk of falls and injuries. Sarcopenia or the age-related loss in muscle mass, strength and function, is now recognised as a growing public health concern, increasing the risk of low trauma fracture, disability, morbidity, and reducing quality of life in older people.

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Is park visitation associated with reduced stress levels?

We are currently undertaking research on park visitation in urban environments and we are interested in measuring the impact of park visitation on stress levels.  In this project, the PhD student will start by undertaking a systematic review of the literature on the impact of exposure to natural outdoor environments on physiological and psychological stress levels.  The student will then design and conduct one or more experiments among park users.

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Improving management of debilitating spinal pain

This project will investigate the effects of behavioural and exercise interventions in a multidisciplinary team in people with severe limiting lower back pain.

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Personalized, digital health exercise and nutrition solutions to optimize musculoskeletal health and function

Musculoskeletal conditions, including osteoporosis, falls and fractures, are a leading cause of disability and injury-related hospitalization globally. Current best practice clinical guidelines endorse the use of exercise and nutrition interventions with lifestyle risk factor management to reduce falls and fracture risk, but few evidence-based interventions have been translated into practice and uptake and long term adherence to most effective centre/community exercise-nutrition programs is often low/poor.

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Novel telehealth approaches for delivering lifestyle programs for older adults with chronic disease

A number of chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and sarcopenia (the age-related decline in skeletal muscle mass and function), contribute to loss of independence and poor quality of life in older adults. Current guidelines endorse the prescription of exercise and nutrition interventions to maintain health and independence, however older adults with chronic diseases are among the least likely to engage in these recommendations.

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Environmental sustainability of children’s dietary intakes

The nexus between nutrition and environmental sustainability of populations’ diets is increasingly being recognised as a vital factor in public health – whether it’s locally in the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019-23, or internationally in the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health.

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Macronutrient intakes in early life and their impact on growth and adiposity development

Obesity risk starts in early life and it tracks through the life course. Infancy and early childhood provide a unique and critical window for obesity prevention. The programming effect of early nutrition in promoting later obesity has been increasingly recognised. Emerging studies have examined the impact of early nutrition on later obesity risk, and high protein intake during infancy has been reported as a pivotal risk factor. However, research on macronutrient intake trends in early childhood is limited.

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Engaging and supporting newly arrived refugee parents in the promotion of healthy eating and active play from the start of life

This project provides an opportunity to explore how evidence-based infant feeding information and best practice parenting programs, including the potential for implementation of the INFANT intervention, can best support and reach Victorian refugee families.

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Collaborating with secondary school students to design active schools

Just one in ten adolescents meet physical activity guidelines, and our research has found that up to 70% of the school day is spent sitting. This project aims to use a co-design approach with secondary school students, teachers and key education and health organisations to develop novel strategies to increase adolescents’ physical activity at school.

Read more