What does studying HDR in pharmacy look like?

17 October 2017


Higher Degree Research (HDR) in pharmacy is undertaken by a range of students, from aspiring academics looking to explore their passion to those seeking a competitive edge in their career.

HDR involves either a Doctor of Philosophy (Pharmacy) or Master of Philosophy (Pharmacy) thesis where a student conducts significant original research with the guidance of a research supervisor.

Meet some of our research students as they share their experiences studying and conducting pharmacy research at the University of Sydney.

Daniela Eassey

Thesis title: Patient perspective and experiences of living with severe asthma in Australia

What is the aim of your PhD research?

My PhD research aims to explore people's experiences of living with severe asthma. Aside from the compelling research, I also get to enjoy a lot of travelling as participants are recruited from different settings across Australia. The methodology involves audio or video recording participants, and encourages them to talk without interruption about all aspects of their asthma experiences.

What do you enjoy most about being a HDR student?

I feel privileged to be able to listen to people's stories and experiences of living with severe asthma, which helps in developing and conducting my research.

Persistence is key in tackling the challenges of a PhD. The dynamic path of research and knowing that this has never been done before gives me a thrill. I love taking in new information, learning new skills and pushing the boundaries of my knowledge.


Ardalan Mirzaei

Project title: Marketing and Service Quality in the Community Pharmacy Sector

What is the aim of your research?

Over the years, Australian community pharmacies have undergone many changes, including the emergence of pharmacies marketing themselves as being price competitive in order to attain market share. With the lack of research in marketing in community pharmacy, little is known about how this marketing method influences consumers' perceptions of service quality. I was curious to explore this.

The aim of my research is to characterise service quality in a pharmacy with a price focused marketing strategy and to estimate its influence on behavioural intentions.

What do you enjoy most about your research?

Our work examines how people view service quality in Australian pharmacies and what drives them to return to the pharmacy. Knowing that the work we do has developed results that can improve the service quality of community pharmacies is an unparalleled rush. Having real-world applications of very specialised work is challenging and it's joyous to see that we are able to do that. Being a HDR student has allowed me to find ways of translating my research into action.


Esteban Cruz

Thesis title: Development of antibody-targeted nanoparticles for cancer therapy

What is the aim of your PhD research?

I am working on improving cancer therapy to increase treatment efficacy and improve the harsh side effects that are common in conventional chemotherapy. More specifically, I am trying to develop a targeted delivery system that employs both nanoparticles and biomolecules to increase the specificity of the therapy. I decided to pursue this research project motivated by the possibility of addressing scientifically relevant questions that directly relate to the betterment of people's health.

What do you enjoy about your HDR study?

I really enjoy working in a collaborative and supportive environment, which inspires creative and progressive critical thinking. Managing a PhD project is certainly a challenge, but it comes with great rewards; especially in regards to the set of scientific and interpersonal skills that are acquired.


Josephine Touma

Thesis title: Ethnic differences in response to anticancer agents

What is the aim of your PhD research?

The aim of my research is to understand reasons for inter-individual variability in anticancer treatment outcomes, with a particular focus on small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). The same dose of a TKI prescribed in different ethnic populations, often results in different efficacy and toxicity outcomes, which may lead to therapeutic failure or life-threatening adverse drug events. Identifying factors that influence response to anticancer agents can help guide treatment choices to better utilise the life-changing drugs available.

What do you enjoy most about being a HDR student?

It's very rewarding and motivating knowing that my research can have an impact on patient outcomes and quality of life. Ultimately, we want to optimise the use of life saving cancer drugs, to improve the chance of treatment success and reduce the risk of side effects.

I am also very lucky to be working with a supportive group of haematologists, as well as experts in the fields of pharmacokinetics and ethnopharmacology. My supervisors have been a tremendous support, and their knowledge invaluable.

I also love that I'm always learning new things, and that I'm able to tackle new and exciting challenges each day.


Find out more about research in pharmacy

Pharmacy research at the University of Sydney focuses on improving health outcomes, and is structured around five themes that closely reflect the Australian Government's health priorities, and are cross-disciplinary in approach. These themes are; cancer, cardiovascular and diabetes, health services and patient safety, mental health and respiratory disease.

Learn more about research degrees in pharmacy at the University of Sydney.