Research areas and laboratories

The Discipline of Biomedical Science is active in a broad range of research areas, reflecting the diverse interests and expertise of staff. The following list shows the major research areas and key researchers of the Discipline and their associates.

If you are a potential student please contact the person(s) listed in your area of interest or the persons listed on the right pane.


Antimicrobial Resistance Research

Elizabeth research pic

Leader: Dr Elizabeth Hegedus

Research Topics

  • Epidemiology of hospital and community acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Epidemiology of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) in the community
  • Emergence of microbes resistant to antimicrobial drugs
  • Strategies for prevention of antimicrobial resistance
  • Infection control

Research Staff
Dr Gary Lee - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Diana Oakes - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Catherine Willis - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Mr Geoffrey Coombs - Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Royal Perth Hospital WA

Dr Peter Knight - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Ming Wu - School of Biomedical and Health Sciences,
College of Health and Science, UNSW

Cardiovascular Control Research

Jaimie research pic

Leader: Dr Jaimie Polson

Research Topics

  • Programmed hypertension: the effects of maternal stress or exposure to raised glucocorticoid during pregnancy.
  • Command neurons in the midbrain: cardio-respiratory regulation in defensive and escape behaviours
  • The role of the hypothalamus in the cardiovascular response to environmental stressors such as psychological stress or exercise.
  • Cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction in congenital cardiac disease

Our interests lie in how the brain controls cardiovascular and respiratory regulation at rest and during certain behaviours, such as stress or exercise.

We use a multidisciplinary approach in studying the central nervous system control of blood pressure. Techniques include:

  • Radio-telemetry recording of blood pressure in conscious animals.
  • Neuroanatomical tract tracing using antero- and retrograde tracers.
  • C-fos mapping of activated brain neurons in response to activation of cardiovascular reflexes.
  • Electrophysiological recording of central neurons & peripheral nerves.
  • Brain microinjections of peptides and neuroactive substances.

Research is primarily carried out in the Discipline of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, Camperdown Campus.

Professor Roger Dampney - Discipline of Physiology

Professor Julian Paton - Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Bristol. UK

Professor Andrew Wolf - Professor of Paediatric Anaesthesia and Intensive Care. Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. UK

Cancer Research


Leader: Associate Professor Fazlul Huq

Research Topics

  • Design of novel platinum compounds cis-geometry and trans-geometry targeted to ovarian cancer
  • Platinum(II) complexes with multiple metal centres
  • Optimization of bioavailability of trans-platinums by modulation of leaving groups
  • Overcoming drug resistance in ovarian and colorectal cancers using drug combination
  • Proteomic studies
  • In vivo activity of selected platinums
  • Metal-induced toxicity and carcinogenicity
  • Molecular modeling analyses of metabolism of drugs and toxicants

Associate Professor Philip Beale - Department of Medicine

Associate Professor Charles Chan - Department of Pathology

Dr. Jun Qing Yu - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Prof Patricia Vit Olivier - Venezuela

Associate Professor Mohammad Danish - University of Gujurat Pakistan

Cellular Toxicology

picture of Diana Oakes

Leader: Dr Diana Oakes

Research Topics
Research interests include developing/assessing in vitro techniques that can be utilised to assess the toxic effects of chemicals (eg therapeutic drugs, occupational chemicals, complementary medicines). This allows subsequent risk assessment to be based on biological and toxicological plausibility.

  • Screening chemical mixtures for possible pro- or anti- genotoxic effects.
  • Assessing the in vitro DNA damage induced by novel chemotherapeutic drugs and associated mechanisms of cellular resistance.
  • Investigate the genotoxic effects of therapeutic drugs and chemicals that are associated with birth defects.
  • Other opportunities exist for PhD projects in collaboration with Dr. Helen Ritchie based at the Laboratory of Reproductive Toxicology in the Discipline of Anatomy & Histology, University of Sydney – based at Camperdown campus.

Professor Bill Webster - Discipline of Anatomy & Histology

Assoc. Prof. Fazlul Huq - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Elizabeth Hegedus - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Helen Ritchie - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Elite Music Performance Research

Bronwen pic

Leader: Dr Bronwen Ackermann

Dr Bronwen Ackermann (physiotherapist) is the founder and director of the University of Sydney research group: "Sound Practice: Australian Musicians Health in Performance". Associate directors are Professor Dianna Kenny (psychologist), Professor Tim Driscoll (epidemiologist and occupational physician) and Dr Mark Halaki (sports scientist and biomedical engineer). This team represents leading international experts in their fields of expertise.

The mission statement of the Sound Practice leadership team is: to investigate, evaluate and implement assessment and management strategies to provide best-practice solutions to optimise the physical and psychological health of the musical performer - from young to old, amateur to professional.

Research Topics

  • Electromyographic (EMG) studies investigating respiratory and facial muscle activation and coordination patterns in wind and brass musicians.
  • Injury prevention studies involving prospective surveillance of professional orchestral musicians
  • Developing a national educational curriculum aimed at improving health education of musicians
  • Studies investigating efficacy of interventions purported to reduce injury in the professional musician population
  • Studies developing an assessment tool and evaluating the validity and reliability of the components of this physical examination protocol
  • Examining the use of video feedback and developing coaching methods to improving performance biomechanics and reduce injury in musicians
  • Physical characteristic and injury profiling in various musical groups within the professional and tertiary student music population

Professor Tim Driscoll - School of Public Health

Associate Professor Suzanne Wijsman - School of Music, UWA

Professor Dianna Kenny - School of Education and Social Work

Associate Professor Nick O’Dwyer - Discipline of Exercise Science

Dr Mark Halaki - Discipline of Exercise Science

Professor Margaret Barrett, Head of the School of Music, University of Queensland

Prof Dr Med Christoff Zalpour, Physiotherapy Professor, Hochschule Osnabruck, Germany

Assistant Professor Christine Guptill, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Canada

Professor Peter Visentin, Faculty of Fine Arts (Music), University of Lethbridge, Canada

Hypermobility Disorders Research


Leader: Associate Professor Leslie Nicholson

Research Topics:
Hypermobility disorders (heritable disorders of connective tissue including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome).

This research incorporates:

  • Cohort studies of adults and children to establish the clinical presentation of the disorder/s
  • Identification of risk factors for sporting injury in these populations.
  • Quality of life measurement
  • Quantification of impairments (joint range/proprioception / balance)
  • Quantification of skin involvement
  • Clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of conservative treatment to minimise the impact of impairments
  • Injury surveillance of Australian professional soccer.
  • Femoral torsion (measurement and relationship to hip and lower limb injury)

Dr Louise Tofts The Children’s Hospital, Westmead

Dr Craig Munns The Children’s Hospital, Westmead

Assoc Prof Birgit Jull-Kristensen University of Southern Denmark

Dr Mark Hancock School of Physiotherapy, Macquarie University

Prof Kathryn Refshauge Discipline of Physiotherapy, Sydney University

Dr Claire Hiller Discipline of Physiotherapy, Sydney University

Research Assistants
Laurie Wellings

Muscle Research


Leader Dr Joanna Diong

Research Topics

  • Mechanical properties of muscles and tendons in contracture (loss of joint range of motion)
  • Ultrasound imaging of muscle fascicles and tendons
  • Functional musculoskeletal anatomy
  • Prognosis of musculoskeletal complications in neurological conditions
  • Hip fracture and other falls injury in older people
  • Evidence based practice in clinical research

Ongoing collaborations with research groups at The University of Sydney (Discipline of Biomedical Science, Exercise and Sports Science), Neuroscience Research Australia and The George Institute for Global Health.

Research Students

Master of Philosophy
Available project:
The effect of eccentric exercise on mechanical properties of the gastrocnemius in contracture after multiple sclerosis

Available project:
Shoulder muscle activation patterns

Molecular Neuroscience Research

Damian research pic

Leader: Dr Damian Holsinger

Research Topics
Neurodegenerative diseases

We investigate genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Down Syndrome.

  • Our investigations in Alzheimer’s disease have led to the development of a gene therapeutic approach using RNA interference that is currently undergoing pre-clinical assessment in our laboratory.
  • The investigations in Down Syndrome are focussed around two critical genes that are located on chromosome 21, the trisomy of which contributes to the Syndrome.
  • We have recently embarked on a project related to Parkinson’s disease that is investigating a key genetic mutation associated with the disease that is equally prevalent in both early and late onset forms of the disease. Understanding the contribution of this gene will enable us to develop therapeutic strategies.

Successful ageing

  • Centenarians are a key group of individuals that demonstrate resilience and successful ageing in the face of lifes’ travesties. These individuals must therefore have a unique genetic composition that has enabled them to successfully navigate the daily maladies of gene-environment interactions, which normally prove toxic to other individuals. We are currently investigating the presence of various allelic and single nucleotide polymorphisms that may contribute to successful ageing.

Dr Yong Chen - Post doctoral associate; Brain and Mind Research Instutute

Ms Rebecca Brown - PhD scholar; Brain and Mind Research Institue

Research Assistant
Aedan Roberts

Neurodegeneration Research

Picture of Kay Double

Leader: Associate Professor Kay Double

Research Topics

  • Brain cell death in neurodegenerative disease, particular in Parkinson’s disease, and developing new treatments to slow disease progression
  • Stem cells in healthy ageing and their potential for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases affecting movement and cognition
  • Development and application of new neuroimaging methods for the diagnosis of preclinical neurological disease
  • Clinical research with physiotherapists to understand the physiological basis of movement problems in Parkinson’s disease

Neurodegeneration Laboratory

Our research is primarily based at a custom-built laboratory at the Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) in Camperdown, although some clinical research is based at the Cumberland Campus.

Collaborations and student exchanges

Currently active research collaborations include projects with researchers in Melbourne, Adelaide, Germany, France and Finland, with regular exchanges of researchers and students.

Research Staff

  • Ms Veronica Cottam - Laboratory Manager

Performing Arts Medicine Research

Picture of Cliffton

Leader Dr Cliffton Chan

Research Topics
Dr Chan’s area of research is in evidence-informed management strategies to optimise function and performance in the working population, with particular interests in performing artists. Knowing when to draw upon suitable literature from the occupational and sport medicine domains is often necessary to guide best practice and research for performing artists.

This research incorporates:

  • designing and implementing targeted exercise programs for work-related musculoskeletal disorders, especially in musicians
  • developing and validating upper limb assessment tools
  • investigating the prevalence and impact of upper limb hypermobility in various sporting and the musician groups
  • injury prevention and management strategies for musicians

A/Prof Leslie Nicholson - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Bronwen Ackermann - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Luke Hopper - Edith Cowan University

Research Topics (available for honours & postgraduate students)

  • Upper Limb Hypermobility In University Instrumental Musicians
  • Development of an Upper Limb Hypermobility Tool
  • Differences in Shoulder and Scapular Kinematics Between Musicians With and Without Pain

Contact: to discuss your research questions and research possibilities.

Reproductive Toxicology Research

picture of Helen and Diana

Leader: Dr Helen Ritchie and Dr Diana Oakes

Research Topics

  • Role of hypoxia in abnormal development
  • Bradycardia and birth defects
  • Expression of ion-channel proteins during development

Professor Bill Webster - Discipline of Anatomy & Histology

Respiratory Motor Control Research

picture of Ron

Leader: Dr Ronald Balnave

Research Topics
Research in this laboratory concentrates on physiological links between the midbrain and brainstem respiratory centres involved in control of respiration. The dorsal and ventral respiratory groups, interconnected networks of respiratory-related cells, are part of the neural system controlling respiratory rhythm generation and respiratory motor output. The work in the laboratory is attempting to locate cells in these centres and observe their firing patterns during “normal” breathing and to observe changes in these firing patterns when the respiratory system is perturbed by alterations to central or peripheral neural inputs.

Current works

  • Brainstem mechanisms in the control of breathing – production of apnea
  • Interactions between peripheral inputs and midbrain centres in the control of breathing – vagus nerve and midbrain PAG

Dr Chin Moi Chow - Discipline of Exercise & Sport Science

Sensory Systems Research

picture of Aaron

Leader: Dr. Aaron Camp

Research Topics

  • Airplanes, submarines and even our humble phones use sophisticated guidance systems to allow them to navigate through the environment. Amazingly, vertebrates have used analogous systems for billions of years! These systems are our senses. My research investigates how sensory signals are combined to enable navigation through our complex world.
    (view Aaron's sensory systems flyer.)


  • Anatomical and physiological development of mouse and human vestibular (balance) organs.
  • Investigations into early visual processing in the mouse and primate visual system.
  • Integration of vision and balance in the cerebral cortex.

Dr Sam Solomon - Discipline of Physiology

Dr Rebecca Lim - University of Newcastle

Research Assistants
Mr Rajiv Wijesinghe

Shoulder Research


Leader: Associate Professor Karen Ginn

Research Topics

  • Electromyographic (EMG) studies investigating shoulder muscle activation and coordination patterns in normal subjects and patients with shoulder dysfunction
  • EMG studies evaluating shoulder exercises
  • Clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of conservative and surgical treatment for shoulder dysfunction
  • Studies investigating the aetiology of frozen shoulder
  • Studies evaluating the validity and reliability of components of the physical examination of the shoulder
  • Shoulder region profiling in various sporting populations

Dr Mark Halaki - Discipline of Exercise Science

Dr Ian Cathers - Discipline of Exercise Science

Research Assistants
Ms Robyn Adler

Mr Dan Tardo

Vision Research

Picture of Alan

Leader: Dr Alan Freeman

Research Topics

  • Ambiguous perception
  • Modelling the visual system
  • Rapid serial visual presentation

For more detail, please see Alan's research lab poster.


Dr. Urte Roeber - School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University

Dr. Elaine Wong - Discipline of Biomedical Science

Dr Padma Iyer - School of Medicine, Duke University, North Carolina, USA

Visual Neuroscience Research

Leader: Dr Jin Huang

Research Topics
If we ask: How do we see? How is the image processed? The answer lies in the eyes and rest of the brain.
Located at the back of the eye is the retina. It is light sensitive. It contains nerve cells (neurons) that are important in the first stage of visual perception and visual processing. One of the types of neurons in the retina is called ganglion cells. They project to other regions within the brain and are important in the modification of complex visual signals.

Ganglion cells also receive a variety of excitatory and inhibitory signals within the retina. Hence, the properties of ganglion cells depend on how these signals are integrated. An important aspect of this integration is related to the relative magnitude and timing of these inputs, as this helps to determine the spatial and temporal properties of ganglion cells.

However, we do not know at present exactly how these inputs to ganglion cells impact on their activity. To investigate this, we are using intracellular recording techniques to examine the changes in ganglion cells activity in response to different types of inputs. Our project also looks at the effects of drug-simulation on the responses of ganglion cells, as this can also help us in understanding the receptive filed properties of ganglion cells.

Current Work
Jin is currently working on the retina. Looking at the properties of ganglion cells using patch clamping techniques.

Community and professional engagements
Please follow this link to view Jin's community and professional engagements.

Dr Dario Protti - Discipline of Physiology