Summer research scholarships - applications now open
The Charles Perkins Centre aims to discover new, multidisciplinary solutions for easing the burden of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Through our Summer Research Scholarships we are offering full-time undergraduate students the chance to be involved in research to deliver new ways to prevent or manage the individual and societal impacts of these conditions.
Students on each project will receive a stipend of $300 per week (maximum of eight weeks). Projects can start as soon as the scholarship is awarded, but they must conclude by 28 February 2014.
Please submit your application by 30 September 2013.
View the guidelines and apply now.
The next generation of researchers
Five University of Sydney undergraduates recently completed a two-month research project made possible by the Charles Perkins Centre’s Summer Research Scholarships program.
Thanks to the generosity of donors who gave to our Research Scholarships Appeal, the young researchers were supported to carry out multidisciplinary research into the causes and effects of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Find out about their research in the profiles below.
Personal health information tracking
Bachelor of Engineering
Yu’s research was inspired by the increasing number of people pursing healthier lifestyles which typically requires changing behavior such as incorporating regular exercise or conscious eating. The challenge is to turn from isolated initiatives to lasting behavioural change. Technology can be used to track how this transition is occurring, analyse data from various sources and provide people with incentives to achieve their goal.
To explore this type of support, Yu worked with a first prototype of a tool called HabitVis where data about daily exercise is collected using a FitBit. This data is then stored and combined with other data to produce a figure of merit towards the achievement of a previously defined goal. During the project two web applications were designed to address the needs of motivation towards a healthier life.
People can see their progress towards the goal and once reached, they are rewarded with tangible items. This relationship between a user and a set of goals can be supervised by a second user that can make adjustments to the process. The prototype shows the feasibility of a connection between sensors, goals, and behavioural changes with a low adoption threshold.
“It’s an honour to work on a topic that is able to improve people’s lives, and this project also gave me a great opportunity to reflect on my knowledge and prepare for further research.”
The effects of dietary intervention on inflammation in overweight children with insulin resistance
Bachelor of Science (Advanced)/Master of Nutrition and Dietetics
Jing worked with researchers from the University and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead to explore whether inflammatory markers are associated with obesity and pre-diabetes in adolescents and if they are decreased following dietary intervention.
Chronic low-grade inflammation is a potential mechanism linking obesity with its metabolic complications. Jing measured a range of circulating inflammatory markers in previously collected blood samples from 108 overweight children with insulin resistance before and after a one year dietary intervention. She learned important scientific skills including how to plan experiments, perform serum assays, data analysis and interpretation, and how to write a research report.
“This project has allowed me to gain crucial insights into what the world of research is like. The skills I obtained from performing assays gave me practical skills in the laboratory. I also learned to analyse data on a software program.”
Study in vivo the metabolic effect of human recombinant EPO in lean animals
Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sport Science)
Adam’s scholarship enabled him to work with experts from the University, the Brain and Mind Research Institute, and ANSTO, to investigate the acute metabolic effect of erythropoietin (EPO) treatment in muscle and liver tissues of lean animals. Animals received EPO treatment, with tissues collected at different time points for analysis of glucose uptake pathway. EPO administration was found to greatly promote activation of the pathway, a common node in both EPO and insulin signalling. His discovery provides new understanding of the EPO signalling pathway, which may be of clinical relevance in metabolic disease.
“The scholarship has given me a rare insight into the research process as an undergraduate, with the knowledge and skills acquired valuable in my academic development.”
Physical activity regimes in middle aged - the impact of escitalopram on cardiovascular responses to stress: a randomised controlled treatment trial and the moderating effects of physical fitness
Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)
Camilla’s research project investigated the acute effects of a commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), escitalopram, on the cardiovascular response to stress. Participants received both drug and placebo treatment and had their heart rate and heart rate variability measured at rest and during stress.
The results found that escitalopram reduced cardiovascular responses to stress, which may lay the foundation for improvements in mood seen after three to four weeks of treatment. However, this stress buffering effect in the cardiovascular system was only seen in infrequent exercisers and not those engaging in frequent vigorous exercise. The attenuation by escitalopram was similar to the impact of physical fitness, suggesting equivalent effects.
“The scholarship gave me the opportunity transform my research project into a manuscript for publication in an international journal and work closely with a very experienced research team, who passed on advice and knowledge that will be invaluable in my future research projects.”
Vagal tone in children’s social interactions: a meta analysis
Bachelor of Science (Honours)
Sara is currently working with the autism team on the cardiovascular measures of heart rate variability and its relation to social interaction and behavioural coding and has published a meta-analysis on the role of oxytocin in emotion recognition in neuropsychopharmacology. Sara’s research project was a meta-analysis on the role of vagal tone and cardiovascular health in child social interactions.
The project included questions regarding the role of heart rate variability in psychopathology involving social dysfunction, how autonomic nervous system links between the cardiovascular system and central nervous system may underlie the development of social skills with age and how different tasks may be better or worse at indexing this.
“The scholarship has inspired my involvement in research and allowed me to publish in magazines and journals, helping me to get started in academia.”