SEIB/SIBRN PhD Students
We include profiles of some PhD students currently working with SEIB affiliated supervisors. Projects cover the whole spectrum from basic science discovery, clinical medicine, epidemiology and public health to service delivery and implementation research. Prospective students are welcome to contact SEIB at email@example.com for linkage to potential supervisors, or to make direct contact with any specific supervisors identified.
John Chan - Pharmaceuitcs involving formulation of novel anti-tubercular dry powder aerosols
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a debilitating economic, social and medical burden in developing nations worldwide despite a well-established oral treatment regimen. Our research focuses on targeted delivery to the pulmonary site of infection with novel inhaled anti-tubercular treatments. Lung delivery may allow for a reduction in current side effects, drug dosing levels and treatment time (6 months) associated with oral formulations. Our working formulation is an inhaled excipient-free antibiotic dry powder for maximum drug delivery to the lungs. Future formulations will focus on more specific targeting of TB-infected alveolar macrophages.
John has a Bachelor of Pharmacy from USYD. His honours project was on nebulisation of osmotic agents for cystic fibrosis.
John is supervised by Associate Professor Daniela Traini
Kavya Swaminathan - Antivirals against the influenza virus
Kavya Swaminathan is a PhD candidate in the Downard Laboratory in the School of Molecular Bioscience. Her research interests focus on studying antivirals against the influenza virus. Influenza outbreaks cause millions of deaths annually and antivirals play a critical role in controlling the virus. Her research involves application of high resolution mass spectrometry based approaches to study the binding of novel and existing inhibitors to the viral antigens. In the light of newly emerging resistant strains the approach is also being extended to characterize drug-resistant mutants of the virus.
Kavya won an outstanding achievement award from the Faculty of Science in 2012.
Kavya is supervised by A/Professor Kevin Downard.
Sharissa Latham - Membrane-cytoskeletal interactions in pro-inflammatory mediated vascular cell vesiculation
Microparticles (MP) are plasma membrane-derived submicron vesicles produced during physiological conditions, upon cellular activation and during apoptosis, in a process termed vesiculation. MP are carriers of biologically active surface, cytoplasmic and nuclear markers donated from their cell of origin, allowing them to regulate and exacerbate physiological processes such as haemostasis, proliferation, coagulation and inflammation. Elevated levels of endothelial derived MP are observed in numerous diseases, including cerebral malaria, sepsis or multiple sclerosis, increasingly supporting roles as a promoter of disease progression. Whilst modifications to phospholipid asymmetry, cytoskeletal-protein organisation and integrity have been implicated in vesiculation, the precise mechanisms of this process are not completely understood.
The project examines the mechanisms of agonist-induced endothelial vesiculation in vitro, in particular investigating the response to various inflammatory and immunopathological stimuli including tumour necrosis factor (TNF), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), interferon-γ (IFN-), and Plasmodium falciparum infected red blood cells (iRBC). The study aims to describe the precise cytoskeleton-membrane interactions required for membrane blebbing to occur, and explores a role for the actin-cytoskeleton in actively facilitating this phenomenon.
Sharissa is supervised by Prof Georges Grau and Dr Valery Combes
Dr Jen Kok - Respiratory Infections in Critical Care Setting
Dr Jen Kok is an infectious diseases physician, clinical microbiologist and research fellow at the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Laboratory Services, ICPMR, Westmead Hospital, NSW. His interests include respiratory viruses, in particular influenza; and infections in the critically unwell and immunocompromised hosts. He is currently undertaking postgraduate research in respiratory infections in the critical care setting, focusing on diagnostics, host responses and antimicrobial resistance.
Jen is supervised by Professor Jon Iredell
Karen Williams - Shiga Toxin producing E. coli
Cattle are a reservoir of the human pathogen E coli O157 which ‘colonises’ the intestinal tract of the animal and is shed in the faeces. The nature of this shedding is heterogeneous with regards both level and duration of shedding. This variation between animals and more specifically the phenomenon of super-shedding (>10000 cfu/g faeces) is poorly understood with significant public health implications.
This project involves a longitudinal study of cattle to monitor the levels of O157 excreted by cattle over time in the course of natural infection. This will provide a clearer picture of shedding levels and variances. The project will be looking at the patterns from an epidemiological point of view and aiming to identify risk factors that affect the level or duration of shedding.
In vitro studies to assess the nature of bacterial attachment to the bovine gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) will further investigate the nature of differential shedding. The use of primary bovine cells isolated from the GIT will be used as a model for adhesion trials.
Karen is supervised by Professor Michael Ward and is co-supervised by Dr Om Dhungyel and Dr Karren Plain.
Fatima El-Assaad - Pathogenesis of cerebral malaria: Plasmodium, microparticles and miRNA
Fatima El-Assaad is a final year PhD student whose research involves understanding the underlying pathogenesis that drives the manifestation of experimental cerebral malaria. Malaria ranks along with HIV and TB as one of the 3 greatest infectious diseases and continues to be a major global health problem, with half of the world’s population at risk. Cerebral malaria is characterized by coma and seizures in the presence of Plasmodium falciparum in the blood. Currently, there is no single treatment that allows for 100 % recovery. Despite better campaigns targeted at the eradication of malaria and the associated syndromes, the global burden still persists. Progress is hampered by emerging antimalarial resistance, problems in vaccine development and lack of health care resources in endemic countries.
Using available in vitro and in vivo models of malaria, her research focuses on the role of circulatory plasma microparticles in the progression of the syndrome, particularly describing their production, phenotype, tissue localisation and their ability to transfer pathology in healthy hosts. She is also testing candidate modulators of microparticle production, as potential therapies of cerebral malaria. Her work studies the potential role of microRNAs, regulators of gene expression and also the cytoadherence of Plasmodium berghei in the development of murine cerebral and non-cerebral malaria.
Fatima El-Assaad is supervised by Prof Georges Grau and Dr Valery Combes
Dr Greg Fox - Environmental and genetic risk factors for tuberculosis
Dr Greg Fox is an Australian Respiratory Physician, with a Masters of International Public Health. He has lived for over 3 years in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he is undertaking a PhD focusing upon environmental and genetic risk factors for tuberculosis. Greg is co-ordinating a tuberculosis contact investigation study among household members of tuberculosis patients in 8 Provinces throughout the country. His research interests include the clinical and public health strategies to enhance tuberculosis diagnosis, development of evidence-based policy in tuberculosis control and the contribution of host genetic susceptibility to disease burden in high-prevalence settings. He is a member of the Vietnam Stop TB Partnership, and has a strong interest in epidemiology and research training in resource-limited settings.
Greg is supervised by Professor Guy Marks and co-supervised by Professor Warwick Britton
Fadl Bdeir - Disease Outbreak Coordination
In this research, we aim to explore the patterns of inter-organizational response to disease outbreaks and develop social networks based measures for modelling and evaluating the coordination behaviour.
We argue that coordination behaviour in a highly dynamic context such as responses disease outbreaks represent nonlinear patterns leading to emerging group behaviour. We further apply social networks based theory such as "Structural Holes" and "Strengths of Strong and Weak Tie" theory for explore the effectiveness and efficiency of optimized social network structures for improve response and intervention effort for disaster.
Fadl Bdier is supervised by Professor Liaquat Hossain and co-supervised by Professor John Crawford
Christa Dewi - Reducing Tuberculosis in Eastern Indonesia
I work for a local NGO that focuses on providing primary health care, especially in remote areas in Indonesia, such as East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, as well as Timor Leste.
The topic of my research is 'The contribution of a community-based approach in reducing tuberculosis (TB) in Eastern Indonesia'. We would like to explore the effectiveness of community-based TB program in order to improve the identification, management and treatment of TB through increasing the capacity of the village health volunteers (VHVs).
Many Asian countries have a long experience of community contribution to TB care, but the documented experience in countries in Asia is scanty. Similar work has not been carried out in Indonesia despite the high incidence of TB and an absence of formally qualified health workers at a village level. Many areas such as Flores (the site of the research) is also a geographically difficult area in which to work.
Christa is supervised by Professor Lesley Barclay AO.
Hui Xin Ong - Epithelial Profiling of Controlled Release Antibiotic Respiratory Formulations
Respiratory tract infection is very common and represents the largest proportion of the antibacterial market. Rapid pulmonary antibiotic absorption and clearance suggest controlled release (CR) inhaled antibiotic formulations would be beneficial for the treatment of chronic infections. However, there is currently no standardised pharmacopoeia method to evaluate the in vitro release rates for respiratory formulations. This could be attributed to the lack of predictability and correlation between available in vitro to in vivo models for pulmonary drugs. Hence, the aim of this project is to develop and validate an airway epithelium model which is capable of monolayer differentiation and mucus production, for its effectiveness in predicting the release kinetics of controlled release antibiotic formulations delivered to the lungs. The formulations currently being investigated include liposomal ciprofloxacin and dry powder ciprofloxacin spray-dried with PVA.
Hui Xin is supervised by A/Prof Paul Young, A/Prof Daniela Traini and A/Prof Mary Bebawy.
Beryl Wen - Monocyte and microparticle membrane transfer to endothelial cells in a model of endotoxic shock
Septic shock, an aggressive disease state characterised by the body’s life threatening response to infection, is currently the chief cause of death from infectious diseases in developed countries. In Australia, sepsis occurs in 1-2% of all hospitalisations with mortality rates of up to 30%. Globally 18 million cases of sepsis occur each year despite the major advances in medical research, highlighting the need to unravel the pathogenesis rather than just focusing on the treatment of sepsis.
Complex interactions between endothelial cells and circulating monocytes are responsible for microvasculature dysfunction, especially during sepsis, septic shock, and other blood-brain-barrier pathologies due to Gram-negative bacteria. Microparticles are membrane-derived submicron vesicles that are associated with various diseases including infectious pathologies. However it is unknown whether microparticles derived from activated monocytes may contribute to inflammatory processes and notably vascular leakage.
This study aimed to analyse the physical interactions between endothelial cells and both monocytes and their derived microparticles generated by endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide, LPS).
Beryl is supervised by Prof Georges Grau and Dr Valery Combes