Available PhD projects - humanities, education, psychology, music, business & social sciences

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Chief Investigator

Project title

Project description

Preferred educational background

Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka


Anxiety in persons with dementia

One in two persons with dementia experience anxiety. Anxiety often coexists with depression and is a significant contributor to a poor quality of life, increased progression and early institutionalisation. This project will investigate anxiety in persons with dementia using an existing dataset, and develop and test a psychological package to combat anxiety in persons with dementia attending hospital outpatient clinics. The package will include virtual reality, telehealth and online health modalities to increase access and effectiveness of the treatment.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

A background in Psychology,  Software engineering, web development and virtual reality is desirable.

*This project is available until July 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Associate Professor Valentin Zelenyuk


Improving Productivity: Theory and Application to Australian Hospitals

This project will significantly improve existing methods for analysing productivity and efficiency of economic
organisations, by generating new central limit theorems and new nonparametric frontier estimators for panel data. The new methods will be applied to Australian hospitals, to analyse their productivity and efficiency, identify the best-practices and their determinants and recommend improvements and necessary reforms. The high level of healthcare costs in Australia, about 5% of GDP, as well as their rapid and accelerating growth, imply that
application of our novel methods can save billions of dollars and, more importantly, thousands of lives.

Students will enrol through the School of Economics.

Either one or preferably a combination of these:

  • Applied econometrics,
  • Healthcare economics,
  • Applied mathematics,
  • Operations Research

And, in any case, must have strong interest in applied research on performance of hospitals.

*This project is available until November 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Professor Sara Dolnicar


Triggering pro-environmental behaviour in pleasure-seeking contexts

This project aims to reduce the environmental harm done by the 5th most polluting industry – tourism – by
triggering environmentally friendly behaviours in tourists rather than relying on government or industry action. Using field experiments, the effectiveness of newly developed theory-based measures to reduce plate waste at hotel buffets will be tested, resulting in: (1) a new theoretical understanding of pro-environmental behaviour in pleasure-seeking contexts which challenges current theories; (2) practical measures hotels can use to reduce plate waste. Given one billion tourists travel each year, such measures can substantially improve sustainability of tourism globally, regionally and locally.

Students will enrol through the UQ Business School.

(experimental) psychology

Professor David Copland


Stimulating aphasia recovery after stroke with daily music exposure

In this project, participants with aphasia (language impairment) will have MRI scans and language assessments at 2 week post-stroke. They will then receive either usual care alone or will listen to music daily (minimum 1 hour) for 2.5 months in addition to receiving usual care. All participants will then be scanned and re-tested at 3 months and 6 months post-onset. We will determine whether the addition of daily music listening to usual care has a clinically significant impact on aphasia recovery and measure effects on cognition, mood, and depression. Neuroimaging will determine how music listening impacts on language-related brain activity, brain structure and connectivity.

Students will enrol through the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Background in one or more of the following: Speech Pathology, Music Therapy, Clinical Linguistics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, NeuroImaging, Cognitive Neuroscience

Associate Professor Timothy Carroll


How do past actions and rewards bias goal directed movement?

It is often possible to perform the same physical task with movements that have very different characteristics. Current theories of sensorimotor control assume that the brain chooses from the abundance of possibilities by actively seeking the most accurate or economical way to move. By contrast, human movements tend to resemble previous actions, even if this results in inaccuracies or inefficiencies. This project uses innovative timing methods and brain recordings to test how the history of movements we have executed in the past, and the rewards associated with those movements, interact to affect subsequent movement execution. In so doing, the project should advance our basic understanding of how the human brain controls movement.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

Psychology, Exercise Science, Physiotherapy, Engineering, Biology.

Associate Professor Derek Arnold


Why does time seem to drag and fly?

People often note that the passage of time seems fluid, sometimes to crawl and sometimes to fly past. As yet it is unclear if this happens because of functional adaptations, that for instance allow you to process information faster when facing disaster, or if these sensations are inferred after the events in question. Nor is it clear if people experience time similarly, or idiosyncratically. This project will answer these questions, with long-term potential to inform artificial intelligence systems that rely on temporal sensitivity, to provide insight into conditions associated with impaired time perception, and to match people to suitable work-place roles based on how they experience the passage of time.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

You should have a highly-scored 1st class honours degree in experimental psychology, experience in planning, programming and analysing the results of human visual timing experiments. 

Preference will be given to applicants who also have experience in conducting EEG experiments.

Associate Professor Adrian Cherney


Optimising illicit dark net marketplace interventions

UQ PhD scholarship in illicit dark net marketplace interventions ($26,288 per year). This ARC Linkage project is a collaboration between the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Queensland, the University of Southampton and a range of industry partners that includes the Queensland Police, iDcare, Australia Post, Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection, and the Australian Crime Commission. The project draws on systems based analysis to assess illicit dark net forums and identify how personal information is stolen, bought and sold on the dark net. Outcomes include developing and testing a series of interventions designed to disrupt identify theft activities.  The project brings together researchers, practitioners, theories and methods from human factors, sociotechnical systems, criminology, and cyber security. One aim of this PhD is to examine the semantic and organisational structure of illicit dark net forums. The project is led by the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in partnership with iDcare (https://www.idcare.org/) and it is expected the PhD student will need to spend at least 2 days week at USC working with the project team. 

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

Background in criminology and cyber security /information technology
Preventing terrorism through community-based approaches

UQ PhD scholarship on countering violent extremism. This project aims to investigate the development, implementation and impact of policies and programs aimed at preventing terrorism through community-based approaches. This project expects to generate new knowledge about counter-terrorism policing and the prevention of violent extremism by examining policies adopted in Australia and abroad. Expected outcomes of this project include identifying models of best practice and ascertaining how community partnerships against terrorism can be improved. This PhD is part of broader program of research being undertaken by Associate Professor Adrian Cherney that comprises part of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. The successful candidate will also have the opportunity to work on other counter-terrorism/CVE related projects being completed by Associate Professor Cherney. Please contact Associate Professor Adrian Cherney for more information on 7 3365 6663 or a.cherney@uq.edu.au.

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

Criminology, or associated social science discipline.

Associate Professor Paul Henman


Government Web Portals as New Government Actors

Government web portals provide the entryway to online government, yet their effectiveness and role in contemporary government is unknown. This study examines the architectures, rationales, effectiveness and power effects of government web portals. The study uses new digital research methods (hyperlink network analysis and web experiments) to comparatively assess 10 hi-tech countries.

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

Multidisciplinary. Social studies of technology; public administration; media and communications; computer science.

Dr Kim Peters


Inequality: Consequences for societies' social and political vitality

The student will work with K. Peters, J. Jetten and F. Mols to understand the way in which inequality affects what people talk about (e.g., gossip, rumour and conspiracy theories) and how this in turn affects social cohesion and trust.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

Honours in psychology, with strong quantitative methodological training.

Professor Matthew Hornsey



Associate Professor Nicole Gillespie



Professor Karen Healy


Behind a moral shield: Responses to trust breaches in mission-based groups

Trust breaches among mission-based groups like churches and charities impact Australia’s most vulnerable populations. By highlighting the psychological and organizational factors that lead to inaction in the face of allegations, the proposed research has the potential to defeat organisational cultures of corruption, abuse and neglect. This project will also shed light on the ways that trust between mission-based groups and the community can be restored after a transgression. Finally, the project will generate new theories and models that account for how people respond when they are presented with disturbing information about a group that they care deeply about.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

Applicants are preferred from one of the following backgrounds:

(1) Psychology (Organizational or Social Psychology);

(2) Organisational Studies/Organisational Behaviour;

(3) Management studies.

Dr Annie Pohlman


How does torture become normal? Indonesia’s New Order regime, 1965-1998

This project aims to find out how torture became normal under the New Order military regime in Indonesia (1965 – 1998). By mapping the experiences of men, women and children, the research will investigate when, how and in which contexts torture was perpetrated, in order to map the historical spread and evolution of torture.

Potential PhD projects would focus on one of a range of in-depth case studies on torture and other grievous human rights abuses during particular periods or in selected locations, such as:

  • The ‘Petrus’ murders (mysterious killings/shootings) of suspected criminals during the early-to-mid 1980s;
  • Torture and ill-treatment against detainees held for criminal offences throughout the New Order;
  • Interrogation of political and criminal suspects under the Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste (1975–1999); 
  • Interrogation of political and criminal suspects in Aceh, particularly during the DOM (military operation region) periods of the 1980s and 1990s.

Students will enrol through the School of Languages and Cultures.

Indonesian studies or any of the following: Southeast Asian history/ human rights/ international relations/ history/ law.

Requires reasonably advanced Indonesian language skills; Tetum language skills an advantage (but not required) for a Timor Leste-based project. 

Previous study or time spent in Indonesia an advantage.

Dr Gary Osmond


Sport, Stories and Survival: Reframing Indigenous Sport History

This project aims to investigate the links between sport, community and identity in Aboriginal Settlements that were created and controlled by the Queensland Government during the twentieth century. A focus will be on how and why settlement inmates, both individually and collectively, engaged with sport, and the meaning of sport in communities.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

An Honours degree in sports history, or sports studies with a sports history focus, with grade 7. Applicants must have written an Honours thesis in a related area.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens


Understanding collaboration between the arts and sciences

This project undertakes the first cultural history of the experiment, from early modern science to contemporary experimental art. It focuses on the importance of collaborations between the art and sciences to this history.

Students will enrol through the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.

Honours in any relevant area of the humanities.

Dr Aude Bernard


Understanding the long-term decline in internal migration

Internal migration rates have declined continuously since the 1970s in most advanced economies, including Australia. This decline in human mobility has potentially profound implications for the functioning of the economy and for individuals’ aspirations, but remains poorly recognised and understood. This project aims to establish the onset and pace of the migration decline for a global sample of countries. It also seeks to identify the causes of this change by identifying linkages between the drop in migration rates and the broader socio-demographic transitions of the past 30 years in countries of interest to PhD students involved in this project.

Students will enrol through the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Social science, economics, geography, sociology, demography.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens


Understanding collaboration between the arts and sciences

This project undertakes the first cultural history of the experiment, from early modern science to contemporary experimental art. It focuses on the importance of collaborations between the art and sciences to this history.

Students will enrol through the School of Communication and Arts.

Honours in any relevant area of the humanities.

Associate Professor Shuang Liu


Ageing well in a foreign land: Identity, social connectedness, well-being

This is an ARC linkage project with Diversicare, a division of Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, as the partner organisation. The project advances knowledge of how to best harness and develop identity resources as concrete assets for enhancing well-being among older people from diverse cultural backgrounds. A mixed methods approach are used to: (a) identify the factors that contribute to social isolation and low well-being; (b) understand when and how engagement in ethnic and mixed cultural activities run by Diversicare enhances social connectedness and well-being; and (c) evaluate and determine key principles underlying effective identity-based interventions. The expected outcomes will lead to training programs for immigrant communities and aged care professionals.

Students will enrol through the School of Communication and Arts.

Communication, Sociology, Social psychology, Language & culture

Dr Francisco Perales


Sexual orientation and life chances in contemporary Australia 

The Australian Government is committed to equality of opportunity by sexual orientation through anti-discrimination legislation, but there is an alarming scarcity of information about the extent of socio-economic disparities between heterosexual and non-heterosexual people in Australia. This DECRA aims to deliver critical policy-relevant quantitative evidence to monitor outcome gaps by sexual orientation. Using a minority stress framework and leveraging innovative survey and administrative data, its goal is to provide first-time systematic Australian evidence of social stratification by sexual orientation across a diversity of life domains, and identify mechanisms driving the associations between sexual-minority status and life outcomes.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Social Science Research.

This project is suitable for students with experience in quantitative data analysis and who come from a social science background (e.g. sociology, economics, psychology, demography, public health).