Research Edge

April 2015 - Issue 4
University of South Australia PhD candidate Melissa Tan

Fighting chikungunya

Fever, joint pain, headaches and rashes – these are some of the symptoms of chikungunya virus, and they can drag on for months and become severe and disabling.

Spread by mosquitoes, the virus can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions such as cardiac and liver disease, and worsen neurological conditions. Despite the severity of the illness there is no vaccination or cure, and to make matters worse, conditions are building to make Australian outbreaks more likely.

In response to the threat posed by the virus, PhD student Melissa Tan is developing a chikungunya vaccine in her project with the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences.

“In recent years, chikungunya has moved into the spotlight, especially in Australia,” Melissa says.

“It’s spread by mosquitoes and has symptoms that doctors can misidentify as dengue fever or other diseases.

“There’s increased risk now because of outbreaks in places like Asia and the Caribbean, and with so many Australians travelling to these areas the possibility of a local outbreak is heightened.

“Plus we’ve got carriers such as Asian tiger mosquitoes and yellow fever mosquitoes residing in Queensland and the Torres Strait.”

Adding to the urgency, a recent mutation in the virus has allowed chikungunya to be carried by mosquitoes in temperate and urban environments.

Against this backdrop, Melissa’s research seeks to construct an efficient chikungunya vaccine that can be rolled out cheaply, rapidly and in large quantities, and be stable enough to allow periods of storage.

Her research is benefiting from a UniSA partnership with biotech company Sementis, which has been collaborating with the Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory headed by Associate Prof John Hayball. The collaboration is providing Melissa with access to development approaches and sophisticated, time-saving technology.

“We are following the Sementis approach of using their novel SCV platform technology for our vaccine development,” she says.

“We modify the SCV platform to include proteins specific to chikungunya.

“The hope is that we can get it to mimic chikungunya, and that the body will respond by building immunity.

“Other researchers are looking at creating a vaccine using different methods, but many of these are expensive because of factors such as licensing. Ours has potential to be very cost-effective.”

Having just commenced the third year of her PhD, Melissa is nearing completion of vaccine construction. The next step is rigorous preclinical testing, with an eye towards possible commercialisation down the track.

“We sent some of our vaccine to Queensland for analysis with live virus. Tests on mice showed they were protected against debilitating effects of chikungunya,” Melissa says.

“This was really encouraging, and we are now preparing to publish.

“We’ll be running lots of tests in the months to come to look at the body’s response.”

An international student from Singapore, Melissa says both the University and the Sementis partnership offer exciting research possibilities.

“We’ve got all these resources here, including a new FACSAria fusion sorter, which automates cell sorting and helps save weeks and weeks of manual labour,” she says.

“This is a great opportunity to work on an exciting vaccine with the potential to help millions of people worldwide.”


University of South Australia PhD graduate Dr Ashokkumar Manoharan

How ethnic diversity benefits the hotel industry

To keep pace with Australia’s increasingly multicultural society, businesses are looking for ways to make the most of ethnically diverse workforces.

Some of the opportunities on offer have been captured in research by Ashokkumar Manoharan, who recently completed his PhD with the School of Management. His project focused on the hotel industry.

“When I moved to Australia in 2008 I was struck by the amount of ethnic diversity in my first workplace – and I noticed that our rich backgrounds led to great ideas,” Ashokkumar says.

“Australia is a land of migrants, and seven of the top 10 countries from which new residents are emigrating are non-English-speaking. Hotels offer a good employment opportunity for these immigrants.

“As such, hotels have to give workers the right workplace culture and also have practices that cater to cultural diversity.”

Focusing on medium-sized hotels with 20 to 199 employees, Ashokkumar set out to examine hotel workplace culture and diversity practices. One of his first steps was to interview hotel managers across Australia to find out how they identify ethnicity, and what diversity practices they oversee in their hotels.

“I found that hotel managers tend to identify ethnicity through nationality and ethnocultural factors such as language,” he says.

“In their hotels, managers have identity-conscious practices, where demographic differences are included in decision making, and identity-blind practices, which are more ‘across the board’.

“An example of an identity-conscious practice might be English classes for non-English-speaking staff, while identity-blind practices include things such as career development, types of leave available, and so on, which affect all staff.

“My interviews revealed that managers in medium-sized hotels tend to have informal practices to manage ethnically diverse employees, such as advertising roles for English speakers in Chinese-language newspapers, or buddy systems for recent immigrants.”

After the interviews, Ashokkumar delivered a survey to hotel managers to gather data on diversity management practices, organisational culture, and organisational effectiveness. Measures of effectiveness included employee turnover, financial effectiveness, innovation, and quality of service.

“My research found that hotel workplace culture is directly linked to effectiveness in all areas except finance,” he says.

“Meanwhile informal identity-conscious practices affect all effectiveness criteria, including finance.

“Identity-conscious practices lead to financial effectiveness when diversity is high. One reason for this is that these practices tend to be attractive to stakeholders.

“For example Accor hotels trained almost 100 refugees, which attracted awards and interest – word spread, people were impressed, and this contributed to financial success.

“I also found that when ethnic diversity is high, informal identity-conscious practices lead to innovation, as these practices play a major role in improving communication and cohesiveness which are the key attributes for innovation.”

Ashokkumar applied his findings to a set of recommendations which he has fed back to industry associations.

“One of my main recommendations is that hotels formalise their informal practices. Hotels tend to have high annual staff turnover – up to 200 per cent, including 39 per cent among managers – and this means informal practices are easily lost when a manager moves on,” he says.

“I’ve also made some practical recommendations to make the most of diversity. One example is labelling staff name badges with the word ‘welcome’ in their native language – this single word opens communication channels with the guests. It’s common practice overseas, but not so much in Australia.

“My project was supported by five Australian hotel associations across the country, which gave me a valuable connection to hotel managers.

“The associations also provided input into my survey designs, and we discussed findings. It was really good interaction, and a chance to bounce ideas around.

“I’m now working with them to look at further research with the associations and their members.”

With experience in the hospitality industry and an interest in organisational behaviour, Ashokkumar says his PhD neatly connected his professional and academic backgrounds – he also holds a bachelor of hospitality, an MBA and a masters in psychology.

“I grew up in India and taught at a university there for seven years, and now I’m teaching postgrad students here. My PhD was an opportunity to link and reflect on previous work,” he says.


University of South Australia PhD graduate Dr Caroline Cosgrove

Tracing the evolution of an architecture firm

From 2 King William Street to the former David Jones building, design firm HASSELL is responsible for some of Adelaide’s most recognisable buildings.

In the first industry-sponsored PhD scholarship at the School of Art, Architecture and Design, HASSELL funded Caroline Cosgrove to research and document the history of the firm.

Bringing experience as a heritage consultant and historian – including a previous fellowship with UniSA's Architecture Museum – Caroline delved into the resources of the Museum and HASSELL’s archives to build a rich historical picture.

“Architectural historians tend to focus on prominent individual architects, whereas I was looking at a whole firm. This involved many people and many buildings,” Caroline says.

“I found that HASSELL operated in a similar way to other firms with professional standing, such as legal and accounting firms, and I examined the organisation from the perspective of a professional service firm. Looking at a high-profile Australian architecture firm from a professional services angle is something that hadn’t been done before.”

2 King William Street (originally Bank of New South Wales) and Rundle Plaza (originally David Jones building)

2 King William Street (originally Bank of New South Wales) and Rundle Plaza (originally David Jones building) – (HASSELL archives)

HASSELL originated in Adelaide and has grown into a multinational company with offices in Australia, China, Singapore, Thailand and the UK. Caroline traced the evolution of the firm from its 1917 origins to the late 1970s, researching how it had changed and what influenced those changes.

“I examined the role of collaboration in the firm. Internally they took a team approach, and externally collaborated with partners like engineering and construction companies, and later consultants,” she says.

One of Caroline’s findings was how HASSELL’s organisational structure altered in tandem with societal and architectural developments.

“The firm’s approach developed over the period during which modernist architecture flourished in Australia,” she says.

“By the 1970s, the internal hierarchical structure, while remaining team-based, had changed to one of collaboration.

“My research linked organisational changes to changes in architectural approach – particularly with the adoption of Bauhaus philosophies. The Bauhaus and its founder Walter Gropius had a major influence on HASSELL’s approach.

“Over time HASSELL became more internally collaborative. It was able to diversify into other disciplines such as planning, landscape architecture and, later, interior design.

"It was this transition to a collaborative way of doing business both inside and outside the organisation that enabled huge projects in not just architecture, but landscape architecture and more.”

Caroline’s research also emphasised some of the key skillsets needed in competitive and successful architecture firms.

“Looking at HASSELL from a professional services angle highlighted the value of entrepreneurial and management skills in architectural practice,” she says.

“Architects need more than just design skills.”

Caroline graduated in March and recently gave a lecture at UniSA titled ‘Challenging the Myth of the Architect as Individual: a history of the Australian architectural practice HASSELL as a professional service firm’.

She continues to work as an historian and consultant in the field of cultural heritage management – work that includes researching and nominating buildings for heritage registers.

“Fortunately a lot of HASSELL’s early buildings are still around in Adelaide,” she says.

“I’m interested in 20th century buildings because they tend not to be appreciated as much as they deserve.”


Three Minute Thesis workshops

Register now for Three Minute Thesis workshops

Thinking about taking part in this year’s Three Minute Thesis® (3MT) competition?

3MT is a fantastic opportunity to develop your academic and research communication skills, and offers great cash prizes plus a chance to compete at the Trans-Tasman 3MT. Heats will be held in the divisions prior to the University final.

Previous participants say 3MT is extremely helpful in developing your abstract and clarifying your thesis argument.

To help prepare for the competition, we are offering a series of three workshops on various campuses:

  • Workshop 1: Take part in the 3MT
  • Workshop 2: Perfect your 3MT entry
  • Workshop 3: Practice session

These workshops will help you find the major story in your research and write a 300-word script. From the script, you'll be able to develop your presentation, and practise voice projection, posture and enunciation – critical skills for communicating your research.

Registrations and more information are available via the Communicating research webpage – make sure you register for all three workshops.


Last year’s Three Minute Thesis UniSA Grand Final was won by Emily Johnston, with her presentation ‘Mosquito research: Saving lives with pantyhose and paperclips’ – she also won the People's Choice award. You can watch Emily’s presentation on YouTube.


2015 Augusta Zadow Awards: $10k on offer

Improving work health and safety for women at work

Augusta Zadow was an advocate for women's rights in the workplace and became South Australia's 'First Lady Inspector of Factories' in 1895. She was a woman ahead of her time, with many of the working conditions women enjoy today attributable to her.

In recognition of her work, SafeWork SA will present two of $10,000 awards for projects that will further improve work health and safety for women at work: be that a practical solution, research or further education.

Applications close Friday 26 June 2015.

Find out more...


2016 Fulbright Scholarships: information session

Fulbright South Australia State Day

The Australian-American Fulbright Commission invites students and staff from all South Australia universities to the Fulbright South Australia State Day on Tuesday 12 May 2015.

Find out about the opportunities on offer, and hear from UniSA Fulbright recipients Joel Fuller, Suzanne Schultz, Prof Rob Fowler and Dr Andrea Gordon.

Download session information...

RSVP to RSVP@fulbright.com.au by Friday 1 May 2015.


Gould Experimental Science Grant

Valued at $5,000, the Gould Experimental Science Grant aims to encourage PhD and honours students to undertake 'hands on' research, engage actively in experimental work, and collect and analyse their own data for thesis work in any area of science, including the social sciences.

Applicants are required to submit a research thesis proposal, a personal written statement detailing how the funds will be used to support their experimental research, and a reference from their research supervisor.

PhD applicants must be enrolled full-time in their second or third year and demonstrate satisfactory academic performance.

Two grants will be awarded on the basis of academic merit, a personal written statement, a reference from the research supervisor and performance at an interview.

Find out more...

Applications close 1 May 2015.

For further information contact:
Chris Crabbe
Development Officer (Corporate and Named Scholarships)
Advancement Services
T: (08) 8302 7634
E: foundation.officer@unisa.edu.au


e-Grad School: registration deadline extended

Spaces are still available in the following free e-Grad School online courses for research degree students:

  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Developing your Career
  • Practice-led Research in Creative Arts, Media and Design (for research students with a creative practice)

The deadline for registration has been extended to 27 April.

These e-Grad School MORE modules begin 18 May and run until 26 June. They are moderated online courses, and each one requires a time commitment of approximately three to five hours per week. Further information is available on the e-Grad School Online Courses webpage.

Register now via our Workshops and resources: Developing your career webpage.

You can register for up to two e-Grad School modules at a time.


Please note: because of the limited places, if you have previously registered for an e-Grad School module and failed to complete, you are ineligible to undertake additional e-Grad School modules for 12 months. Ineligible registrations will be revoked.


Transgressions 2015: gender and sexuality studies conference

Submissions are invited for Transgressions 2015, the second annual postgraduate and ECR gender and sexuality studies conference, to be held at Flinders University (Tonsley Campus) on 24 and 25 September 2015.

The conference was founded last year by a group of postgraduate students from the three Adelaide-based universities. It aims to bring together postgraduate students from across South Australia to share their research with their peers and to continue building a collegial and collaborative environment for South Australian students.

Download the call for papers pack for more information. Submissions close 26 June 2015.


Update for supervisors

Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme

The Australia-Germany Joint Research Co-operation Scheme is a joint initiative of Universities Australia and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Germany's national agency for the support of international academic co-operation.

The scheme will fund the exchange of academics including early career researchers and junior scholars from both countries who are working on joint research projects.

Australian applicants must be:

  • Australian citizens or hold permanent residence status in Australia and be employed as an academic staff member in a teaching and research or research only role at a participating  Australian university; or 
  • PhD students enrolled at a participating Australian university who are part of a research project application submitted by an eligible staff member. 

The scheme is open to Australian researchers at participating Australian universities in all academic fields involved in a collaborative project with German research partners.

Applications close 30 June. Find out more...

AskResearch: developing research expertise

Take a look at the new Developing research expertise page on AskResearch, which provides useful links to a range of researcher development opportunities.

Research@UniSA

A one-day Research@UniSA workshop will be held on 16 June 2015, covering:

  • Responsible conduct of research
  • Support whilst looking and applying for funding
  • Support in establishing and managing your project
  • Research outputs and impacts

Find out more...


Update for administrators

Research Degree Reports in the BI Hub have moved

Depending on your access credentials, research degree student reports may be available to you in the BI Hub.

Some of you may have had access to a GRC Reports folder which was previously located at Public Folders ‎> UniSA Local. Please note that these reports have been moved to a different location in the BI Hub as of Monday 20 April 2015 and you will need to update your bookmarks.

The new location of the Research Education folder containing the reports is here. You can navigate to these folders from the BI Hub via Public Folders ‎> UniSA Public ‎> 8.0 Research ‎> 08.1 Research Education or via the Research topic on the BI Hub home page.

You may need permission to access some of these reports. If you don’t have access please submit your request via the Access to Graduate Research Systems form on this page.

Available reports include:

  • Current Higher Degree Research Students
  • Higher Degree Research Students by Supervisor
  • Overtime Higher Degree Research Students
  • Students yet to submit 2015 SP2 Review of Progress
  • And many more

Research@UniSA

A one-day Research@UniSA workshop will be held on 16 June 2015, covering:

  • Responsible conduct of research
  • Support whilst looking and applying for funding
  • Support in establishing and managing your project
  • Research outputs and impacts

Find out more...


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Do you have a story for us?

Are you a research student with some interesting progress or achievements to talk about? Or perhaps a supervisor with some great tips and insights to help students?

We'd love to hear from anybody who has useful insights or updates to share with the University of South Australia's research higher degree community. Get in touch – send any submissions or story ideas to research.degree.updates@unisa.edu.au.


Send feedback

Send feedback

We're always interested in ways to improve The Research Edge to make it a more useful resource for you and your research.

If you've got any ideas, comments or other feedback, we want to hear them! Get in touch via research.degree.updates@unisa.edu.au.


Research degree student support

The University of South Australia provides service and support throughout your time as a doctoral or masters by research student.

Sometimes it's hard to know where to start in seeking help and advice. So, you may want to contact us with questions about:

  • Application and admission requirements and processes
  • Scholarships
  • Workshops and resources available to students
  • How to get the most out of a research degree
  • The research degree life cycle
  • Thesis examination
  • Completion and graduation

Get in touch: email research.students@unisa.edu.au (current students) or research.degrees@unisa.edu.au (prospective students), phone +(618) 8302 5880, or drop into the office at Lv 1, 101 Currie Street, Adelaide – we're open 9am-5pm weekdays.

You can also find out more about our services on our website.


GRC quick facts

Quick facts

> SP2 Reviews of Progress should be undertaken with your supervisor now, and submitted to your REPL (or equivalent) as soon as possible

> Register now for Three Minute Thesis workshops and e-Grad School workshops

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