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

Chosen a project? Find out what to do next.

Chief Investigator

Project title

Project description

Preferred educational background

Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo


Identifying genes causing melanoma and modifying the phenotype and exploring whether genetic fatalism affects sun-related health behaviours in high-risk individuals The proposed project will involve exome data analysis using multiple methodologies to identify new genes, better understand the role of known genes, and elucidate the role of modifier variants in melanoma susceptibility and prognosis. Psychological, behavioural and social factors will also be examined in family members undertaking genetic testing to assess factors associated with sun protective and screening behaviour prior to, and following, genetic testing. The outcomes of this body of work will provide important new knowledge on the aetiology and prognostic determinants of melanoma, and related health beliefs and behaviours. Undergraduate degree in Science or Psychology Ideally a Masters in Social or Applied Science

Dr Timothy Ballard


A new state of the art for understanding dynamic self-regulation

Seeking applicants with a first class honours (or equivalent) in Psychology for a PhD scholarship attached to a recently commenced ARC DECRA project. The project aims to develop and test a novel mathematical model that explains how people manage competing demands on their time and effort in a dynamic and uncertain environment. The project uses an integrative approach, bringing recent advances in mathematical psychology to bear on a problem of widespread interest within cognitive and organisational psychology. The expected outcome is a quantitative theory of dynamic human self-regulation that can accurately predict the choices that people make during goal pursuit and the time it takes to make those choices.

The project will provide the basic research that is needed to extend mathematical models of self-regulation to complex tasks involving rapid decision making (e.g., air defence).

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

The successful applicant will receive a scholarship to undertake a PhD on a project related to the above in the Dynamic Decision Making and Performance Lab within the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, which is led by Professor Andrew Neal and Dr Timothy Ballard. Experience using or willingness to learn advanced analytic techniques such as computational modeling and Bayesian statistics is desired, as is experience with or willingness to learn the R statistical programming language. 

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

Associate Professor Kim Nichols


Community-based STEM professional learning for teachers of middle years

This project, in collaboration with the Queensland Museum (QM), the Department of Education (DoE), Australian Catholic University (ACU) and QGC, integrates museum objects, industry professionals and STEM experts from the University and community in order to improve student academic gains, scientific language and proficiencies in Science and foster more positive attitudes towards STEM career.

The overall aim is to develop a sustainable professional development framework through a school-community-industry partnership; building connections between schools, museum and STEM professionals, and enhancing teachers’ knowledge of teaching science. It will be achieved through developing museum educators to in turn provide ongoing teacher professional development around STEM-based science curriculum that integrates museum objects and industry professionals, in order to develop a sustainable model to enhance teachers’ professional capacity in teaching STEM.

The PhD candidate will work under the supervision of Associate Professor Kim Nichols in collaboration with the Queensland Museum to develop learning resources and strategies for middle year teachers' professional learning.

Students will enrol through the School of Education.

  • A B.Sc with 1st or 2nd class honours and a teaching qualification 
  • Knowledge of the Australian Science Curriculum
  • Research experience around science curriculum
  • Must fulfil the PhD admission criteria for the University of Queensland, including meeting English language requirements

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

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.

Virtual Reality in Residential Aged Care

Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging field within residential aged care for the management of behavioural and psychological symptoms in residents. This project will develop and test a suit of VR applications in RAC facilities.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

A background in Psychology, design and virtual reality applications is desirable.

*This project is available until December 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 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.

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.

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

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).