General information on the program, including how to apply, is available from the UQ Student Employability Centre’s program website.

Browse 2019 Winter Research Projects:

Self-management of aphasia: A survey of Australian SLPs

Contact: Dr Annie Hill
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Aphasia is a chronic communication disorder, however access to on-going rehabilitation services are limited. Therefore, a goal of rehabilitation should be to enable the person with aphasia towards self-management. Self-management is an approach used in other chronic conditions which promotes the individual with the condition to take a principle and active role in managing their condition and implementing self-management behaviours (Barlow et al., 2002) and to advocate for themselves. Engaging in these self-management behaviours is more complex for people with aphasia due to their communication disorder.

This project is part of a larger program of research which is explores self-management of aphasia from the perspective of people with aphasia and their communication partners and SLPs. This specific project will survey Australian SLPs about their views on self-management of aphasia.

Specifically the aims of the survey are:

  1. To determine the key elements of a definition of self-management of aphasia.
  2. To determine the key elements of a self-management approach in aphasia rehabilitation in terms of timing, interventions and methods of delivery.

Methods: A survey will be distributed to Australian SLPs. Data gathered will be comprised of both qualitative and quantitative data.

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Enhancing language learning in ageing with exercise

Contact: Professor David Copland
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Age-related cognitive decline is a prevailing challenge and there is an urge to identify novel and effective interventions to benefit cognitive functions of older adults. Acute exercise (one single session of exercise) is thought to influence cognition, including language learning and memory, through a temporary increase in biomarker levels or through a generalized effect on arousal. The aim of this research project is to investigate the effects of acute exercise on new word learning performance and brain activity in healthy older adults. This interdisciplinary research project combines the fields of language neuroscience, neuroimaging, ageing and exercise. This project consists of recruiting healthy older adults aged 60-85 meeting specific eligibility criteria. Participants attend three visits and undergo a cognitive and fitness assessment, a stretching or high-intensity cycling bout, in-scanner word learning tasks and complete sleep and physical activity questionnaires.

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Predicting aphasia recovery

Contact: Dr Tracy Roxbury  
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

The aim of this project is to determine whether brain activity and structure observed after stroke predict subsequent language symptom recovery and response to treatment. Participants with post-stroke aphasia will be tested on a clinically meaningful language battery and scanned at 1, 3 and 6 months post-onset, with half the participants receiving treatment at 1 month. Imaging will be used to identify language-related brain activity, white matter tract integrity, and lesion-symptom mapping. This research will determine the best clinical and imaging predictors of language improvement and treatment response in the critical subacute phase of brain recovery.

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How can an early clinical visit to an aged care setting prepare speech pathology students for future interactions with older clients?

Contact: Dr Sarah Wallace
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

This research will investigate how brief, early clinical visits to aged care settings can prepare and influence students’ self-perceived attitudes towards ageing and aged care, and their confidence in communicating with older persons.

Specifically, the project will aim to determine whether early exposure to the aged care environment, supported by formal reflective tasks can influence students’ attitudes towards ageing and confidence in communicating with older people. Findings from this project will be used to advance current clinical education models for speech pathology students in their early years of training, specifically, identifying mechanisms to effectively support students entering the professional environment for the first time, in order to enhance a ‘positive’ learning experience. Importantly, the findings may reveal new educational strategies which can help to nurture speech pathology graduates with greater competency in interacting with ageing populations.

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Prognosis delivery in sub-acute aphasia after stroke: An interview study

Contact: Dr Sarah Wallace
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

This interview study explores the key stakeholder experiences, attitudes, and preferences surrounding prognosis delivery in the first six months of aphasia recovery after stroke. Semi-structured interviews of approximately 30-60 minutes are conducted one-to-one with people with aphasia, their significant others, and speech pathologists working in sub-acute aphasia rehabilitation. All interviews are video/audio-recorded. A hybrid thematic approach is used to analyse the qualitative data. Findings are expected to contribute insight into the impact of clinical prognostication practices on aphasia recovery.

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Development of an evidence-based inter-professional communication skills training package for allied health students: An SHRS Communication Research Engagement Theme project

Contact: Dr Sarah Wallace
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Effective communication is a fundamental competency for allied health professionals. This project seeks to develop an evidence-based inter-professional communication skills training (CST) package for allied health students. In this first stage of the project, effective CST interventions will be identified through literature searching. The TIDiER checklist will be used identify core components of effective CST interventions.  This information will be used to design, and later test, an inter-professional communication skills training program for allied health students. This is an inter-professional research project being conducted within the SHRS Communication Research Engagement Theme.

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Dysphagia in Head and Neck Cancer: Determining Intervention Needs for Survivors and Their Families

Contact: Dr Rebecca Nund
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Dysphagia is a common and serious side effect of chemoradiotherpy (CRT) for head and neck cancer (HNC). HNC survivors and their families who experience dysphagia following treatment are faced with long-term impairments that not only effect their physical swallowing function but also their social and emotional state. Whilst a number of interventions exist to treatment the physiological swallowing function, the psychosocial impacts of dysphagia are largely untreated by speech pathologists due to a lack of understanding of the psycho-social impact, lack of assessment choices and limited intervention options. The purpose of this project is to determine the intervention needs of people with dysphagia following HNC management and their carers. This work will lay the foundation for the development of a new intervention to target the psychosocial needs of this group.

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Enhancing Speech Pathology Services with Acute Care Services

Contact:  Professor Elizabeth Ward
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Within the Centre for Functioning and Health Research we have multiple projects running across the facilities within Metro South Health and associated collaborations with other health services such as Metro North HHS. We will discuss current projects needing assistance with the student to determine which ones would interest them. However the majority of project have a central focus on populations with swallowing impairments or patients with head and neck cancer – these will be dominant areas of research.

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The effectiveness of an Occupational therapy led outpatient circuit group training following upper limb trauma and reconstructive surgery at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital: background preparations

Contact: Emeritus Professor Jenny Strong
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Trauma involving the upper limb can have devastating consequences for individuals. Loss of flexibility, strength and co-ordination contribute towards impaired hand function and difficulties engaging in usual occupational roles such as work and self care. Restoring ROM and upper limb function for patients is central to the practice of occupational therapy. Functional based circuit training is an efficient way of delivering occupation based therapy to a group of patients in a single session.  Additionally, by delivering treatment in a group session there are added benefits in terms of social interaction and peer support (Robinson et al., 2011).

Aims

  1. To observe the group circuit training program that is offered as part of Occupational Therapy outpatient treatment, and to assemble an assessment battery with good psychometric properties that can be incorporated into the pre- and post- circuit training.

To assist in the preparation of an ethics application for a study to assess the outcomes of the functionally based circuit training.

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Physiotherapy cancer exercise classes at the Princess Alexandra Hospital – patient and research resources

Contact: Dr Elise Gane
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Background:  Cancer is recognised as a chronic disease and is the leading cause of disease burden in Australia (AIHW 2017). Approximately 134 000 new diagnoses of cancer were expected in Australia in 2017, with the most common types being breast (females), colorectal, prostate, and melanoma.

Recent research has demonstrated exercise can counteract the side effects of cancer and its associated treatments (Stout et al 2017). In addition, a recent systematic review found patients who exercised after cancer diagnosis had a lower relative risk of dying from cancer and of having their cancer recur (come back) after treatment, in comparison to patients who performed no or less exercise (Cormie et al 2017).

The Cancer Care Physiotherapy team at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) conducts an outpatient based exercise program for patients with a diagnosis of cancer. A mixed methods evaluation of the exercise program was conducted in 2018 by two physiotherapy honours students. Recommendations have been made to modify elements of the program based on this evaluation; for example, qualitative interviews with patients found that patients wanted more information about where they could access exercise classes and facilities in the community upon completion of the program at the hospital. We are seeking a Winter Scholar to help our research group prepare for the next phase of this exercise program.

Activities for the Winter Scholar student:

  • Work with UQ researchers and PAH physiotherapy staff
  • Produce resources for use in the modified program e.g. patient information booklets, contact lists for community gyms
  • Conduct online searches for information, in formal literature databases and other online sources
  • Design material for the next phase of research with this exercise program, including questionnaire sheets and online surveys
  • Contribute to the preparation of educational presentations for patients on topics such as healthy eating, cancer-related fatigue management, and maintenance of physical activity in the community

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Improving low back pain healthcare delivery: Enhancing the biopsychosocial model

Contact:  Dr Jenny Setchell
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

This project seeks to improve the clinical management of low back pain by i) investigating, and ii) changing clinical practice to successfully implement an extended biopsychosocial approach. The project uses: i) direct observations of clinical practice and ii) facilitated consultations with both clinicians and clients. These methods will develop and evaluate recommendations for changes to improve the application of the biopsychosocial approach, and consider potential impact on patient outcomes. The study is designed to produce a clinically feasible low back pain specific management approach, for roll-out across populations and settings. Outcomes will be local changes within the study site, and the development of industry-wide recommendations.

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Factors influencing the differential diagnosis of cervical spine conditions

Contact: Dr Lucy Thomas / Dr Julia Treleaven
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Headache, neck pain and dizziness are common features of cervical spine musculoskeletal conditions but they can also be early indicators of other non-musculoskeletal conditions such as vestibular pathology eg benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), vestibular migraine or more serious pathologies such as arterial dissection.

The aims of the project is to improve the differential diagnosis of headache, neck pain and dizziness.

The project will involve the collection and analysis of specific variables from 2 existing data. These results will either be compared to each other or to data from a general population cohort, which will also be available.

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Health behaviours in LGBTIAQ+ populations: a systematic review

Contact: Dr Sjaan Gomersall
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

Behaviours such as physical activity participation, sports participation, sedentary behaviour and sleep have been identified to be associated with various health outcomes. Accordingly, relevant guidelines have been developed targeting these behaviours by governments worldwide as well as the World Health Organisation. Health-promoting factors have been highlighted as a priority in the process of understanding and addressing health disparities associated to sexual orientation by the US institute of Medicine  (National Research Council, 2011), and there have been calls for LGBTIQ+ specific research strategies in the area of health (e.g., Gorczynski & Brittain, 2016). Several countries and/or states have developed or are in the process of developing LGBTIQ+ focused action plans, particularly in the space of physical activity and sports participation (e.g., in the UK, Australia, etc.). Examining physical activity and sports participation of LGBTIQ+ individuals is critical as they often report negative experiences in physical activity contexts and several studies suggest that they are less likely to engage in physical activity and sport compared to cisgender individuals. Further, LGBTIQ+ individuals tend to experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than cisgender people, and health promoting behaviours have been demonstrated to positively influence such outcomes. While several studies have focused on physical activity and sport participation for LGBTIQ+ individuals, no systematic reviews have been conducted to synthesise study findings in this area and provide direction for future research. Sedentary behaviours and sleep behaviours have also been included in this review as secondary outcomes given their associations with health outcomes and calls for a focus on time use over a 24-hr period that involves behaviours along the movement continuum (i.e., physical activity, sedentary behaviour, sleep).

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Evaluating Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour after Acquired Brain Injury in Laboratory and Free-Living Contexts

Contact:  Dr Sjaan Gomersall
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

The student will have the opportunity to participate in data collection for a study that is aiming to 1) establish the validity of activity monitors (including consumer monitors such as the Fitbit) 2) explore patterns of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, in individuals with acquired brain injury. To achieve this, participants will be asked to wear three devices - the thigh-worn activPAL monitor, the belt-worn Actigraph monitor and a consumer wearable device for 7 days. On the day of the attachment, participants will also be observed in the clinic for 1 hour while performing a set of standardised activities in and around the clinic (e.g. sitting, lying, walking on a treadmill) (laboratory context). They will then be asked to wear the devices for the next 7 consecutive days while they go about their everyday lives (free-living context).

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Physiotherapy research in musculoskeletal/sports injuries in adults and children

Contact: Dr Michelle Smith
Duration: 4 weeks

Description:    

The winter scholarship students will work with staff (academic and research assistants) and PhD students to undertake research in the area of musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapy. Students will contribute to a range of research tasks including data collection and analysis of patient-reported outcomes, neuromuscular, biomechanical, balance, physical/sporting performance and clinical data. Students may also contribute to reviewing literature to inform research projects and develop resources. Research populations that students may interact with include: hip, knee and ankle osteoarthritis, ankle sprains, chronic ankle instability, healthy control participants, and sports persons (adults and children) with no specific musculoskeletal injuries. Data may be collected in University, hospital and sporting sites.

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