Higher Degree Research Opportunities

Select a research stream below to view the current opportunities and projects on offer at NICM Health Research Institute.

To register your interest in a project, please contact the lead supervisor. For information about applying for higher degree research and scholarships, please contact the Graduate Research School.(opens in a new window)

For any other queries, please contact Professor Jerome Sarris, NICM Deputy Director and Director of Research.


Healthy Women

The women's health program at NICM covers menstrual health of young women, pregnancy, infertility, menopause and gynaecological disorders.

Project TitleAim/sSupervisor/s
Acupuncture for weight loss in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a systematic review and qualitative study
  1. The project will conduct a systematic review on acupuncture for weight loss in PCOS, including search of Chinese databases.
  2. Focus groups/interviews of health professionals involved in care of PCOS patients to explore their views on acupuncture as an adjunct to weight loss in PCOS will also be undertaken.

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Carolyn Ee
c.ee@westernsydney.edu.au

The role of acupuncture with achieving weight loss prior to gynaecology surgery
  1. To undertake a feasibility randomised controlled trial of acupuncture compared with a wait list control.

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Carolyn Ee
c.ee@westernsydney.edu.au

Development of a treatment protocol for pre birth treatment
  1. To undertake focus groups with pregnant women to explore their views towards pre-birth acupuncture.
  2. To develop acupuncture treatment protocols for cervical ripening for women.

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Mike Armour
mike.armour@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Debra Betts
d.betts@westernsydney.edu.au

Complementary therapies to assist with anxiety disorders in young women
  1. To undertake a literature review of CM modalities used to assist with managing anxiety.
  2. To examine women's interest to participate in a clinical study.

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Carolyn Ee
c.ee@westernsydney.edu.au

Provision of health information to women on CM
  1. To examine health literacy and decision making regarding women's health.

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Mike Armour
mike.armour@westernsydney.edu.au

Developing, implementing and evaluating a model of care for integrative women's health in an academic clinic
  1. Involves conducting a systematic reviews.
  2. Qualitative research on how to integrate well-evidenced complementary therapies into routine care for female reproductive health (pregnancy and birth/fertility/gynaecology).

Dr Carolyn Ee
c.ee@westernsydney.edu.au

Developing, implementing and evaluating a model of care for integrative women's health in an academic clinic
  1. Involves conducting a systematic reviews.
  2. Qualitative research on how to integrate well-evidenced complementary therapies into routine care for female reproductive health (pregnancy and birth/fertility/gynaecology).

Dr Carolyn Ee
c.ee@westernsydney.edu.au

The impact of the menstrual cycle on professional and semi-professional female athletes: a mixed methods study
  1. To explore the potential impact of menstruation, PMS and dysmenorrhea on training and sports performance.
  2. To explore the feasibility of therapeutic interventions for PMS/dysmenorrhea based on diet, exercise and lifestyle.

Dr Mike Armour
mike.armour@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Barriers to healthcare in women with chronic pelvic pain
  1. To explore the experiences of women with chronic pelvic pain, with and without a diagnosis of endometriosis.
  2. To develop guidelines for both groups of women that can be used to help improve the groups access to healthcare resources.

Dr Mike Armour
mike.armour@westernsydney.edu.au

Healthy Minds

The neurological and mental health program at NICM focuses on the prevention and treatment of dementia and neurocognitive decline and improvement of mental health in response to integrative medicine treatment.

Project TitleAim/sSupervisor/s
Regulation of tight junction proteins claudin and occludin by herbal medicine in endothelial cells This in vitro study will assess the action of herbal medicine on the expression of tight junction protein critical to the blood brain barrier function.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

 Functional connectivity in older adults Neuroplasticity is thought to be one of the mechanisms behind cognitive reserve – the reason why cognition declines in some people and not others as we age. This project will identify neuroplastic mechanisms by exploring how task and resting-state brain networks change with age.

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Siobhan Schabrum
s.schabrun@westernsydney.edu.au

Electrophysiological correlates of decision-making strategies in older adults Older adults tend to use strategies that emphasise task accuracy over speed, where young adults, typically do the reverse, emphasising speed over accuracy. There are distinct changes in brain function with age, but it is unknown whether any of these changes are actually due to the task strategy, rather than age-related pathology. This project will explore this important question by assessing differences in the brain function that underpins decision-making strategies in young and older adults.

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Phoebe Bailey
p.bailey@westernsydney.edu.au

Complementary medicine use by people living with dementia When conventional therapies are limited people living with chronic diseases such as dementia use a wide range of complementary medicines. The aim of this project is to assess the global prevalence of complementary medicine use by people living with dementia.

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Electrophysiological biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease This project will triangulate data from a range of sources in order to identify novel, inexpensive, yet widely available biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease. Applicants with a background in neuroscience, anatomy and physiology, medical science, or computer science would have a distinct advantage.

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Using plasma concentrations of a standardised multi-herb formula to assess trial medication compliance Assessing drug plasma concentrations provides an objective measure of compliance in clinical trials. This pharmacokinetic project will assess the plasma concentrations of a multi-herb formula in samples collected from people with mild cognitive impairment participating in a clinical trial.

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

A multimodal mind-body exercise program for people living with dementia and their carers: The Tai Chi Challenge Dementia is the leading cause of disability in older adults, and second leading cause of death in Australia – currently there is no cure. Non-pharmacological therapies that may slow disease progression offer the greatest chance of reducing disease burden. Tai Chi is a multimodal mind-body exercise that has been shown to improve cognition, physical function, activities of daily living, and reduce falls in older adults at risk of cognitive decline, and may be beneficial for people with dementia. This Australia-first project will assess the feasibility and efficacy of a Tai Chi program designed specifically for people with dementia and their carers.

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Alan Bensoussan
a.bensoussan@westernsydney.edu.au

Healthy Lives Through The Cancer Journey

The cancer care program at NICM focuses on understanding how integrative medicine may assist with cancer management and side effects of conventional cancer treatment.

Project TitleAim/sSupervisor/s
The role of acupuncture and complementary therapies in weight loss in breast cancer survivors
  1. To describe the prevalence of use of complementary therapies to manage weight gain in breast cancer survivors.
  2. To conduct focus groups/interviews of BC survivors to assess feasibility and acceptability of acupuncture for weight loss.

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Carolyn Ee
c.ee@westernsydney.edu.au

Anticancer actions of Chinese herbal medicines This project will investigate the anticancer actions of Chinese herbal medicines in vitro and in vivo.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Henry Liang
h.liang@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Xiaoshu Zhu
x.zhu@westernsydney.edu.au

Chinese herbal medicine for hot flushes in breast cancer survivors: A randomised, placebo-controlled, cross-over, multi-central clinical trial This project explores evidence of effectiveness and safety in the area.

Associate Professor Xiaoshu Zhu
x.zhu@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Alan Bensoussan
a.bensoussan@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Paul de Souza
p.desouza@westernsydney.edu.au

Chinese herbal medicine for chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy: A randomised, placebo-controlled, multi-central clinical trial This project explores evidence of effectiveness and safety in the area.

Associate Professor Xiaoshu Zhu
x.zhu@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Alan Bensoussan
a.bensoussan@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Caroline Smith
caroline.smith@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Paul de Souza
p.desouza@westernsydney.edu.au

Healthy Hearts

The cardiovascular and metabolic health program at NICM focuses on understanding how integrative medicine can assist with the prevention and treatment of various cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Project TitleAim/sSupervisor/s
Neuroprotective and angiogenic effects of herbal medicine in zebrafish This project will assess the neuroprotective and angiogenic effects of herbal medicine and its key bioactive components using the zebrafish model.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

A pilot randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial to evaluate the effects of NXQ for ischemic stroke There is a lack of pharmaceutic options for ischemic stroke. This pilot trial aims to evaluate the clinical effectiveness and safety of NXQ in patients with ischemic stroke during the rehabilitation period.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Alan Bensoussan
a.bensoussan@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Hosen Kiat
hosen.kiat@chi.org.au

In vitro activity of a standardise herbal formula Nao Xin Qing (NXQ) for the treatment of stroke
  1. To assess the antioxidant activity and effect on endothelial dysfunction of the components of the standardised herbal extract, NXQ.
  2. To determine the synergistic or additive nature of these components.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Effectiveness and safety of a standardised herbal formulation on diabetic kidney disease Diabetic nephropathy is one of the common causes of renal failure. This clinical study aims to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of a standardised herbal formula in patient with diabetic nephropathy.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Alan Bensoussan
a.bensoussan@westernsydney.edu.au

Leaf extract versus olive oil supplementation on biomarkers associated with cardiometabolic risk and glycaemic control and serum antioxidant levels This clinical study will investigate the effect of supplementation of Olive leaf extract versus Oilve oil on metabolic risk factors BP, BSL, HBA1c, LDL-, HDL & T-cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting insulin and insulin growth factors, inflammatory markers, and glutathione peroxidase and various extracellular antioxidant proteins.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Alan Bensoussan
a.bensoussan@westernsydney.edu.au

Association between vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids with cognition assessed by a computerised battery To determine the association between vitamin D and omega-3 status and cognition as assessed by a computerised battery and EEG testing. Serum vitamin D and fatty acid status will be measured and vitamin D and omega-3 intake from foods will be assessed by a validated food frequency questionnaire.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Genevieve Steiner
g.steiner@westernsydney.edu.au

Nutrient supplementation and complementary medicine use in people with type II diabetes This project will assess the use of nutritional supplements and complementary medicine practices by people living with type II diabetes.

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Discovery of new therapeutic agents from natural products and their derivatives This projects will study the synthesis and bioactivity of analogs of active natural compounds for various medical applications.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Feng Li
feng.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Mourad Tayebi
m.tayebi@westernsydney.edu.au

Molecular mechisms of insulin resistanceThis project will study the molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance, using new and advanced techniques.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Sai Wang Setos.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Mourad Tayebi
m.tayebi@westernsydney.edu.au

Exercise and ageing healthThis project will study the effects of individualised exercise programs on ageing health, involving smart devices and big data analysis.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Synergy of food ingredients and herbal medicinesThis project will study the mechanisms of synergy of selected food ingredients and herbal medicines.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Phoebe Zhou
p.zhou@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Mitchell Low
mitchell.low@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Deep Bhuyan
d.bhuyan@westernsydney.edu.au

Bioactivity of Australian propolisThis project will study the chemical property and bioactivity of Australian propolis.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr George Li
g.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Deep Bhuyan
d.bhuyan@westernsydney.edu.au

Effects and mechanism of actions of herbal medicines in vascular reactivity This project will investigate the vascular effects of Chinese herbal medicines for the treatment of hypertension, stroke and/or diabetes-related vascular complications using both ex vivo and in vivo models.

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Hosen Kiat
hosen.kiat@chi.org.au

Effects and mechanism of action of natural products in vascular calcification This project will examine the effects of natural products for the management of vascular calcification, a major characteristic of atherosclerosis. Both in vitro and in vivo models of vascular calcification will be used in this project.

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Mitchell Low
mitchell.low@westernsydney.edu.au

Role of autophagy in atherosclerosis This project aims to elucidate the role of autophagy in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. Both cell and rodent based model as well as state-of-the-art gene editing technique will be employed in this study.

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Mitchell Low
mitchell.low@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Multi-omics study of the effects of herbal medicine in zebrafish model of chronic ischemia This project will evaluate the neuro- and cardio- protective effects of herbal medicine using 'omics' approach.

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Effects and mechanism of actions of herbal medicines in neurovascular unit (NVU) This study aims to develop novel herbal formula for the treatment of cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. The effects and mechanisms of action of herbal preparations will be assessed using a co-culture model of neurovascular unit.

Dr Sai Wang Seto
s.seto@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang
d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Policy and Evidence Translation

The integrative medicine policy and evidence translation at NICM focuses on working with government to build appropriate policy frameworks and improving integrative healthcare practice by translating high-quality research into relevant guidleines and practice protocols.

  • There are no projects currently on offer for this stream.

Other emerging areas of complementary medicine research

NICM is also involved with a number of other areas of research including the identification of bioactive compounds found in natural products and complementary medicine approaches to addressing other common and problematic medical conditions. As with all other concentrations of research, these projects can have a focus of laboratory based work, clinical research, increasing an understanding of complementary medicine use or translating research into policy and practice.
Project TitleAim/sSupervisor/s
Anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and neuromodulatory effects of Australian Bush Medicines This project will assess a range of Australian Bush Medicines and their potential to treat inflammatory-driven illnesses. This project will aim to explain the therapeutic effects attirbuted to Bush Medicines by investigating the biomolecular mechanisms and idetifying the chemistry responsible.

Professor Gerald Muench
g.muench@westernsydney.edu.au

Discovery of new therapeutic agents from Danshen The project will study the pharmacological actions of bioactive compounds of Danshen and their derivatives.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Feng Li
feng.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Professor Dennis Chang d.chang@westernsydney.edu.au

Anticancer actions of Chinese herbal medicines The project will investigate the anticancer actions of Chinese herbal medicines in vitro and in vivo.

Associate Professor Chun Guang Li
c.li@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Qihan Dong
q.dong@westernsydney.edu.au

Dr Henry Liang
h.liang@westernsydney.edu.au

Associate Professor Xiaoshu Zhu
x.zhu@westernsydney.edu.au