Postgraduate research students


David Chapman Daniel Sieveking Tony Succar Julia Morahan
David Chapman is in his final year of his PhD and has  been invited to present at two North Amercian research facilities. Daniel Sieveking received an Australian Postgraduate Award, as well as a postgraduate scholarship from GlaxoSmithKline and recently won the
Deans Research Prize for young researchers.
Tony Succar is now enrolled in a PhD while continuing to work as an orthopist. Julia Morahan is a recent PhD graduate and has since received the Bill Gole MND Research Fellowship.


David Chapman

“After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 2006, I completed a Graduate Diploma of Science in 2007 and found the year of concentrated research both challenging and rewarding. I am continuing my research training through a Doctor of Philosophy and have enjoyed the experience every step of the way.

“The opportunity to work at the forefront of medical research each day far surpasses any problems I have faced. Indeed, it has often been during the most challenging times when the most exciting developments have emerged. Studying at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research at the University of Sydney has not only exposed me to world-class researchers and facilities, but to the international research community through the institute’s many collaborations.

“I have had the opportunity to present my work at several national and international conferences, and have been invited to present at two North American research facilities. I am currently in the final year of my PhD and am looking forward to continuing my research career during my postdoctoral training.

“I would thoroughly recommend a PhD with the University of Sydney to all those thinking about a career in research. The course is the perfect way to immerse yourself in a highly professional and productive atmosphere, while gaining the credentials for a successful career in research.

“For my thesis I am investigating the role of airway closure and ventilation heterogeneity in the pathophysiology of airway hyperresponsiveness in asthma. Through my research, we have gained a further understanding of the mechanisms that lead to asthmatic airways responding too easily and too much to stimuli.”


Daniel Sieveking

“After completing a Bachelor of Science majoring in medical microbiology and immunology in 2001, I worked for a few years as a research assistant under one of Sydney Medical School’s supervisors. I turned this work into a PhD to take my research career further and open up more opportunities.

“I received an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA), as well as a postgraduate scholarship from GlaxoSmithKline Australia. Receiving these scholarships has enabled me to undertake full-time study for the last three years.

“I’m currently in the final year of a research PhD with Sydney Medical School. I’m studying at the Heart Research Institute, which is associated with the Central Clinical School.

“Doing a PhD teaches you how to develop an effective program of research and carry it out. It also lets you take the initiative and learn a variety of different skills and techniques for research. It’s inspiring to know that one day your research may contribute to new insights into disease processes or lead to new treatments.

“Keeping the momentum going throughout the PhD program has been challenging; you know it will be a long haul when you start out, but towards the end you start to get a sense of achievement.

“I would recommend that students who are considering a PhD first choose an area of research that excites them and then find a good supervisor. A good supervisor is someone who you can trust and who will give you good, much-needed guidance along the way.”


Tony Succar

“After graduating from a Bachelor of Applied Science (Orthoptics) I started work as an orthoptist. I went straight into postgraduate study because I wanted to deepen my understanding of eye anatomy and physiology, and apply this knowledge to eye health research. The master’s degree in Ophthalmic Science met my expectations and more. I learnt so much from the lectures and the clinical lab sessions. All the lecturers and staff at the University’s Save Sight Institute were fantastic, and Dr Con Petsoglou was really inspiring. We learnt highly specialised diagnostic techniques which I now use in my work as an orthoptist.”

“As the completion of a treatise is one of the requirements for the master’s, Tony was also able to pursue his interest in research during this coursework-based degree. His research project involved clinical trials with blind people, using contact lenses fitted with electrodes to electrically stimulate their retinas to determine if any could see phosphenes. Those who could were then assessed as possible subjects for the trial of a bionic eye. Tony is now enrolled in a PhD at the University of Sydney, while continuing to work as an orthoptist.

“The topic of my thesis is The Development, Implementation and Evaluation of a Virtual Ophthalmology Clinic. A number of years ago, my supervisor Dr John Grigg had a vision – to develop an interactive eye clinic that would revolutionise teaching in ophthalmology and allow students to formulate a diagnosis and management plan on virtual patients with simulated eye conditions, before practising on real patients. Today, we are in the exciting stage of trialling this innovative teaching program with Sydney’s medical students, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the ophthalmology curriculum. I chose to undertake the doctorate at Sydney because it has excellent resources and is a world-class institute for research.”


Julia Morahan

“I completed a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Sydney with the aim of pursuing a career in medical research. From there, I wanted to do a PhD at Sydney Medical School and was fortunate to receive a government scholarship – the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) – plus a ‘top up’ scholarship from the Sydney Medical School to support myself during my PhD. This removed the financial considerations of full-time study and allowed me to focus solely on my research.

“My research focuses on sporadic motor neuron disease (MND), a neurodegenerative disorder for which the cause is currently unknown. I investigated the possibility of a genetic predisposition to environmental toxinsleading to this disease. We found that some environmental toxins, pesticides in particular, appear to play a role and in some patients, a genetic polymorphism in a detoxification enzyme increased risk. My PhD work resulted in five publications in international journals, and my data has also been included in a large international meta-analysis of pesticides and MND.

“I have since received the Bill Gole MND Research Fellowship from the Australian MND Research Association and I am about to embark on further work into the genetics of neurodegeneration and multiple sclerosis at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford.”