Research Edge

May 2015 - Issue 5
University of South Australia PhD candidate Ankitkumar Parikh

Setting sights on an Alzheimer's treatment

As human life expectancy increases and global populations age, Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly emerging as a leading cause of disability and death.

By 2050, a 133 per cent prevalence rise is expected in South Australia, and nationwide spending on dementia – mainly caused by Alzheimer’s disease – is set to outstrip that of any other health condition.

First described in 1906, Alzheimer’s has no cure and there has been little treatment progress in over a century.

Recent research by UniSA’s Professor Xin-Fu Zhou made waves by showing the drug edaravone can help fight Alzheimer’s disease. Now Ankitkumar Parikh, a PhD student with the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences who was involved in the research, is working on the next stage of the project, developing edaravone therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Edaravone is a drug that is approved in Japan, and most widely used for stroke treatment in Japan, China and India,” Ankitkumar says.

“We’ve discovered positive effects for Alzheimer’s, and are looking to repurpose the drug.

“My project involves figuring out the problems associated with the drug, targeting it to Alzheimer’s, and developing an ideal formulation for testing in animal and clinical trials.”

Part of Ankitkumar’s research is to look at ways the drug can be administered easily and effectively.

“Overseas, the drug is delivered intravenously. We need a formulation that is patient-friendly and convenient, to help with effective, long-term treatment,” he says.

“Under the supervision of Professor Sanjay Garg, I’m looking to develop a therapy with ideal formulation plus high bioavailability and high brain targeting, to maximise its effectiveness.”

Edaravone has been proven for safety and efficacy, and part of its promise lies in its ability to fight Alzheimer’s disease via multiple pathways – including directly tackling amyloid-beta, the protein chiefly responsible for Alzheimer’s.

“Edaravone interacts with amyloid-beta and reduces its toxicity, and can even remove amyloid-beta from the brain,” Ankitkumar says.

“The drug also reduces oxidative stress in the body, lessens neuroinflammation, and reduces tau phosphorylation – a process that destabilises neuron connectivity, leading to memory deficits.

“My ultimate aim is to develop edaravone therapy for Alzheimer’s disease with formulations ready for clinical trials, which if successful could help with the early registration of a valuable Alzheimer’s drug.

“I will also work to establish an ideal dose that doesn’t cause unwanted side effects.”

Originally from India, Ankitkumar has a bachelor and a masters degree in pharmaceutical science, and was drawn to research after seeing the terrible effects of Alzheimer’s.

“My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, and that is why I selected this field,” he says.

“Human life expectancy is always increasing, and Alzheimer’s is found in older people, so it’s a growing problem.

“The disease destroys quality of life, and people are still waiting for robust treatment options.”


University of South Australia PhD candidate Janet Pretsell

Is celebrity endorsement good for charities?

From international aid to health promotion, environmental protection to poverty reduction, charitable organisations operate in a competitive field to attract donations to support their social causes.

This can lead to fundraising campaigns with celebrity talent and high production values. While it might be easy to call to mind Angelina Jolie endorsing global humanitarian causes, or U2 promoting Amnesty International in their album sleeves, can charities rely on celebrity links to boost donations in fundraising drives?

Research by School of Communication, International Studies and Languages PhD student Janet Pretsell found that while celebrity endorsement may help charities raise awareness, it’s less likely to help them raise funds.

“My research looked at celebrity endorsement and social responsibility, particularly with regards to charitable organisations,” Janet says.

“A key question was: will a celebrity endorser enhance charitable and cause-related campaigns, and to what extent does their involvement attract target audiences?”

To answer this, Janet interviewed celebrities and charities, and conducted focus groups with members of the public in Adelaide. She drew together their responses to build a picture of celebrity and the not-for-profit sector.

“I engaged charitable organisations from Australia, the UK and Italy, as I wanted to look at celebrity in a range of cultures,” Janet says.

“I found participants had many different ideas about what constitutes ‘a celebrity’.

“Focus group participants said they were not moved or influenced by celebrities, and didn’t want to support a charity because of a celebrity – they didn’t like what that would say about them as a donor.

“Many participants claimed they ‘didn’t know anything’ about celebrities, but actually it was clear that they did. I don’t think people are aware of their knowledge of celebrities. In some cases it seemed that they didn’t want to be seen to be interested in celebrities.”

Janet says links between charities and celebrities are further coloured by parasocial relationships, which are the relationships we build with famous people without knowing them in real life.

“We ascribe feelings, beliefs and motivations to celebrities, and decide who they are on the basis of mass media fragments,” she says.

“These ideas can transfer to the charity, which may not be helpful for the organisation.”

To get a celebrity angle on her research, Janet interviewed a range of national and local identities, including Eddie McGuire, Darren Lehmann, Corinne Grant, Graham Cornes and Amanda Blair, all of whom were linked with charities at the time.

“None of these people enjoyed being called celebrities. For them, fame was a by-product of what they did for a living,” Janet says.

“We assume famous people want to be famous, but that’s not always the case.

“All celebrities I spoke to were genuine about why they wanted to be involved with charities, and their motivation for involvement mirrored attitudes of donors for why they want to support charities.

“The celebrities felt they could donate their public profiles and their time, and looked for similar things as the focus group participants, such as credibility, ethics and transparency.

“One significant misconception held by focus group participants was the assumption that celebrity endorsements were paid. None of the charities I spoke with paid celebrity endorsers and the celebrities were horrified by the assumption they would take payment for their charitable work.”

Janet says that while a celebrity endorsement may not motivate donors to reach for their credit cards, her research showed famous people may help raise awareness of charities.

“If for example you hear Russell Crowe’s voice on TV, you may wonder what he’s talking about and take notice,” she says.

“But he can’t actually make you donate.

“Ultimately it’s hard for organisations to measure the success of celebrity involvement. For example, my research showed participants were more likely to attend a fundraiser to support a friend, or donate to a cause because they always have. You can’t draw a straight line between a celebrity host and ticket sales.

“Organisations should realise a celebrity ambassador is just one tool in the communications toolkit.

“A charity needs to take a look at itself, define what it wants to do, then decide if a celebrity ambassador is the best way to do it.

“Some charities have had great success with non-celebrity ambassadors who have local and lived experience that makes them much more powerful than a celebrity ambassador would be.”


University of South Australia PhD student Morgan Schebella

Biodiversity, virtual reality and stressing less

Central Park, Hampstead Heath, Yoyogi Koen – these parks are the green ‘lungs’ of some of the world’s great cities. Here in Adelaide we enjoy a unique parkland belt plus Linear Park and other leafy offerings, all of which draw residents for fitness and leisure, and for a stress-relieving escape from the urban grind.

It’s the psychological benefits of urban green space that form the focus of research by Morgan Schebella, PhD student in the School of Natural and Built Environments. In her project, Morgan is examining the balance of environmental quality and human health in urban settings, by looking at how city dwellers respond to biodiversity.

Focusing on smaller urban parks and reserves – such as Ferguson Conservation Park in Burnside and Ridge Park in Unley – Morgan is seeking to identify what natural features best promote mental health outcomes.

“My central question is whether biodiversity can facilitate improved recovery from stress,” Morgan says.

“It’s well established that the natural environment can make us feel healthier. We’ve known this instinctively for a long time, which is why for example many monasteries and convalescent homes were built in garden settings.

“But it wasn’t until about the 1970s that researchers started trying to quantify the mental health benefits of green space.”

Making use of internet, multimedia and virtual reality technology, Morgan has designed ways to measure people’s responses to different types of natural environments, in an attempt to understand which combinations of vegetation and animal life promote the most positive responses.

“My first study was a web-based, public participation GIS exercise using Google Maps. Members of the public were able to place digital markers on green space locations, indicating the physical, mental, and social benefits they believe they derive from those spaces,” she says.

“The study recorded participants’ perceptions of plant and animal diversity and perceived attractiveness of each park. I also surveyed these locations for their vegetation features, hoping to draw connections between environmental attributes, public perceptions, and health outcomes.”

A second study, currently in development, involves inducing mild stress in participants and then exposing them to immersive, ‘biodiverse’ virtual reality environments enhanced by sounds and scents. Stress recovery will be monitored with the aid of high-tech wrist bands that measure skin conductance and heart rate.

“I’ll be stitching together gigapixel images to create virtual environments, using actual photographs of nature. Participants will wear a head-mounted display, which allows us to give them an immersive visual experience of nature, in a laboratory setting," Morgan says.

"At the most basic level, participants will view something like a sports field, and I’ll progressively add individual plants and vegetation features to increase species diversity in this virtual world.

“By exposing different participants to different types of nature – or different levels of biodiversity – I’m aiming to measure which environments promote the most effective stress recovery."

Morgan says her results may find application in both the real world and in virtual reality.

“As well as indicating what kinds of biodiversity best promote mental health, it might be possible to take virtual reality into hospitals to aid recovery for patients who can’t physically access green space,” she says.

The modern world’s tension between natural and urban settings is an underpinning theme in Morgan’s research.

“In urban settings, people are often far removed from the ecosystems that sustain them. Some studies have even found that more natural, wild environments are seen as unattractive or scary to many people," Morgan says.

“There is some suggestion that the natural environments you experience during childhood become the baseline against which you measure future environmental degradation.

“As humans become ever more disconnected from nature, with kids spending less time outside, and many city inhabitants only ever visiting ‘manicured’ urban parks and gardens, there is a kind of generational amnesia developing, which some researchers believe might lead to a collective indifference towards the environment.

“A recent UK study asked participants the question, ‘What is biodiversity?’ The most frequent answer was, ‘A type of washing powder.’

“So we need to make the environment more important to our lives. Multidisciplinary research shows that urban inhabitants derive health benefits from the environment – so really it could be a win-win situation for both humans and biodiversity.”

Recipient of a 2013 Vice Chancellor and President’s Scholarship, Morgan says the $10,000 award was fundamental to purchasing specialised equipment such as the wrist bands and virtual reality headsets, and also enabled her to attend the World Parks Congress in Sydney, which is held once every 10 years.

Morgan stresses the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to environmental protection and improvement.

“Working with other disciplines is a powerful approach that helps us to provide added support for nature conservation," she says.

"If we can show that the environment has economic benefits or human health benefits, and we can encourage other sectors of the economy to fight for nature alongside conservationists, then decision-makers are more likely to prioritise the environment.

“We also need to get everybody to ask the question, ‘Why is the environment important to me?’

“It’s not enough to just ‘know conservation is a good thing’ if you feel it’s something that should occur away from you, outside of the places where you spend your life.

“If we could make biodiverse natural environments a part of people’s everyday lives, and develop a greater understanding of how it benefits their lives in a really personal way, we might see more widespread environmental improvement.”


Three Minute Thesis workshops

Meet our Vice Chancellor and President's Scholarship recipients

Each year, Vice Chancellor and President's Scholarships are awarded to the seven most academically outstanding domestic students commencing their PhD with the University. The award provides $10,000 towards supporting research.

This year's recipients are, from left to right:

  • Eve Raets
    School of Population Health

    Eve is planning to research the impact of lifestyle factors on the incidence of cancer and cancer-associated comorbidities in the contemporary Australian environment. Initially this will involve identifying the most common comorbidities observed in cancer patients, after which the aim will be to quantify the incidence of cancer and associated comorbidities attributable to certain lifestyle factors.

  • Jianghui Dong
    School of Natural and Built Environments

    Jianghui is looking at contact buckling, which is a phenomenon that occurs within composite structures under various types of forces. A contact buckling analytical method, finite element analysis method and experimental verification will be used to investigate the buckling behaviour in composite structures, such as composite plates or panels, composite slab, composite column and composite beams. The proper understanding of contact buckling phenomenon will be helpful to carry out design and construction, and has the potential to reduce or even prevent the buckling from happening.

  • Lucy Simmonds
    School of Marketing

    Lucy's research will focus on the role of emotion and attention in advertising. It will investigate what influences people to pay attention to an advertisement and how to sustain or build this attention, and how this applies to commercial advertisements as well as public health messages. 

  • Julie Cartlidge
    School of Communication, International Studies and Languages

    Julie is researching veganism for her PhD thesis. Her research aim is twofold: firstly to examine what it means to identify as vegan and experience veganism in Western culture. Secondly, to investigate the effect of being vegan on everyday life and sense of belonging.

  • Lisa Matricciani
    School of Health Sciences

    Lisa will be examining the relationship between children's sleep and a range of different health outcomes. Her research aims to help in the understanding of children's sleep needs and to help inform sleep recommendations.

  • Farzana Kastury
    Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation

    Farzana's research aims to add understanding to air pollution, which has become a particularly topical issue for those of us who live in or near busy cities or pollution-emitting industries. Current methods for estimating the risk from air pollution do not correctly simulate the way we breathe and the fate of pollutants in biological systems. Farzana's research focuses on using simulated body fluids, such as lung and gut fluids to closely mimic dissolution of metals, organic pollutants and microbes in order to estimate bio-accessibility, toxicity and risk to human health.

  • Felicity Braithwaite
    School of Health Sciences

    Felicity will be looking at developing a valid sham protocol for dry needling, which is a Westernised version of acupuncture. If successfully validated, the sham can then be used as a placebo-control in randomised controlled trials investigating dry needling effectiveness. This will help to determine whether there is a mechanistic effect of dry needling, or whether patient-reported symptom improvements have simply been due to placebo effects.

Congratulations to all recipients!


You can read about 2013 Vice Chancellor and President's Scholarship recipient Morgan Schebella, who is researching how biodiversity can benefit mental health, in this article...


Endeavour Scholarships: up to $130,500 for overseas research

Applications are now open for the 2016 Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships.

These prestigious awards provide travel funding, living allowance, tuition fees and insurance for research at overseas organisations. They are open to domestic applicants.

Key opportunities are:

  • Endeavour Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (for female applicants) – 1 to 2 years overseas, valued at up to $130,500
  • Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship – up to 2 years overseas, valued at up to $69,500
  • Endeavour Research Fellowship – 4 to 6 months overseas, valued at up to $24,500
  • Endeavour Research Fellowship for Indigenous Australians – 4 to 6 months overseas, valued at up to $24,500

The deadline is 30 June and the application process involves setting up a clearly articulated research opportunity at an overseas host organisation. Your host organisation could be a university, research centre, government agency, not-for-profit agency or private business.

If you are interested, get in touch with Kirsten Murray via Kirsten.Murray@unisa.edu.au – she will help you navigate the application process.

It would also be a good idea to have a chat to your supervisor, and to visit the Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships website for more information.


Ruth Gibson Memorial Award: $4,000 on offer

This award, of up to $4,000, will provide financial assistance for a woman to further her studies or research, or to travel to a meeting, seminar, symposium or conference, either in Australia or overseas, for purposes approved by the Ruth Gibson Memorial Award Selection Committee.

Applications close 30 June 2015.


Images of Research: photography competition

Put your research photography skills to the test and be in the running for a $5,000 prize!

We are looking for research images that are arresting and tell a story about the research we do at UniSA and the people who make it happen.

The images should make people stop, pause, and ask questions – they don’t have to explain the research, but rather entice and captivate ones attention to raise awareness and intrigue.

Find out more...


So you have survived the PhD...

Establishing an academic career and maintaining a lifestyle

2:00 - 4:00pm, Tuesday 30 June 2015
GK5-15 City West campus

In this workshop a panel of highly successful academics and research fellows will reflect on their career trajectory and provide insights into the establishment and maintenance of an academic career while simultaneously attending to caring commitments outside of the academy and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

Speakers will focus on the creative and successful strategies they have put in place to achieve their academic goals and successfully manage their time, resources and well-being.

The panellists will also discuss and share problem-solving strategies for when things don’t go to plan. The workshop will be interactive with opportunities for participants to ask questions and share experiences.


Human Research Ethics Workshop: register now

All research degree students are invited to attend a 1.5 day workshop on research ethics and integrity.

Current research students who are undertaking research projects which require human research ethics approval are strongly encouraged to attend this workshop.

Sessions will include:

  • An introduction to research integrity and the responsible conduct of research
  • An overview of the ethical issues that may arise in research involving human participants (including research topic breakout sessions)
  • Tools to analyse and address these issues
  • How to apply for approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee

WHEN: 9am-4:30pm Tuesday 14 July and 9am-12pm Wednesday 15 July (please note: attendance is required across both days)

WHERE: UniSA City East campus, Level 3 Centenary Building, Room C3-16 (campus map)

RSVP: Registration required by 30 June via the online form

ENQUIRIES: Contact the UniSA Research Ethics Team: humanethics@unisa.edu.au


41st Social Theory, Politics and the Arts Conference

Arts and Culture: Building Capabilities and Creating Value

10-12 December 2015, University of South Australia

The 41st International Conference of Social Theory, Politics and the Arts (STP&A) will for the first time be held in the Asia Pacific region in December 2015. The conference will be held at the University of South Australia in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Centre for Arts and Cultural Leadership and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre.

The conference aims to bring together interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners in a cross-cultural dialogue focusing on contemporary issues in arts and culture.

The theme of this conference is to explore how individuals, organisations and institutions can expand and strengthen the capability of the arts and cultural sectors to create value for dierent stakeholders in society.

Find out more...


What is ORCID?

Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) is a free, internationally recognised, non-profit registry system. It allows researchers to:

  • create a profile with an unique, digital persistent identifier to easily distinguish yourself from other researchers
  • showcase your research publications
  • integrate your ResearcherID and Scopus profiles together

ORCIDs are increasingly being used by funding bodies and journal publishers as a way to identify researchers. You may be required to add your ORCID when submitting papers with some publishers, or applying for certain grants.

The Promote and Share your Research guide provides information about ORCID as well as instructions on how to link your ORCID profile to your existing Scopus and ResearcherID profiles.


Update for supervisors

Major international scholarship round

Just a reminder that applications for the major international scholarship round close on 31 August – you may wish to refresh your knowledge of admission criteria if you are in discussion with any potential applicants.

It's also worth reminding prospective students to follow up with their referees to make sure their referee reports are received on time.

Prestigious scholarships

We recently held a prestigious scholarships information seminar covering opportunities such as the Rhodes, Cambridge Australia, John Monash, Fulbright and UniSA scholarship programs.

If you know any potential applicants, you may wish to point them to the High-achiever scholarships webpage for links to further information. Flyers from the information seminar are also available here (ZIP file, 2.8MB).


Update for administrators

Major international scholarship round

Just a reminder that applications for the major international scholarship round close on 31 August – you may wish to refresh your knowledge of admission criteria if you are fielding questions from potential applicants.

It's also worth reminding prospective students to follow up with their referees to make sure their referee reports are received on time.

Prestigious scholarships

We recently held a prestigious scholarships information seminar covering opportunities such as the Rhodes, Cambridge Australia, John Monash, Fulbright and UniSA scholarship programs.

If you know any potential applicants, you may wish to point them to the High-achiever scholarships webpage for links to further information. Flyers from the information seminar are also available here (ZIP file, 2.8MB).


City West campus image

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

> Now's the time to get applying for some of the world's most prestigious scholarshipsfind out more...

> Make your posters and presentations stand out in UniSA style with these handy templates and guidelines

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