Applications for the 2018 UQ Winter Research Program are now open. General information on the program, including how to apply, is available from the UQ Student Employability Centre’s program website.

 

Dr Tim Ballard: Dynamic decision making during goal pursuit

Our research is particularly interested in understanding the influence of factors such goal difficulty and time deadlines on the strategies people use to make decisions. This project seeks to examine how people make decisions under time pressure whilst pursuing performance goals. For example, how are pilots or emergency medical technicians able to make split second decisions under pressure without compromising their own performance or the safety of others?

We will use laboratory experiments to investigate the psychological processes that underlie these types of decisions. 

We are looking for one UQ student to work on the project. The scholar's duties will include reviewing relevant literature, running experiments and analysing data.

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, with a flexible start date.

For more information on the project you can contact Dr Tim Ballard (t.ballard@uq.edu.au).

 


 

Dr Lisa Buckley: Reducing adolescent risk-taking behaviours

Primarily this work focuses on factors associated with reducing adolescent or young adult risk-taking behaviours around alcohol use, experience of violence, or road-related risk-taking and we focus on promotive factors, for example school connectedness and positive friendship behaviours. There is potential to be involved in various projects that are at different stages of progress, including data collection, data entry, data analysis, and write-up.

The student will be expected to assist with literature searches and depending upon the skills and interests of the student they may be involved in data collection and/ or analysis of quantitative or qualitative research findings. Analysis work will likely relate to understanding early adolescent interpersonal violence and experiences of polyvictimisation around the transition to high school.

This project has a flexible duration, potentially beginning mid-June running for 4-6 weeks depending upon the hours worked per week.

No prior experience is needed, I’m looking for committed and motivated students interested in learning new things.

Please contact Dr Lisa Buckley (l.buckley@uq.edu.au) to discuss the project.

 


 

Professor Ross Cunnington: Science of Learning: Biometric measures of synchrony in the classroom

We use wearable wrist-band devices to assess common engagement and “synchrony” between students during normal lessons in school classrooms. In particular, we examine the common physiological stress or arousal responses that students show when they work together co-operatively in group problem-solving activities. We work with collaborators in Education to relate these biometric measures of physiological synchrony to observational measures of student behaviour and social interaction.

Scholars will work with a large dataset already collected in schools and will learn data analysis methods and research design across the disciplines of cognitive neuroscience and education. Scholars will produce a brief report and give an oral presentation at the end of their project.

Project duration is 4-6 weeks.

Prospective students should contact Professor Ross Cunnington (r.cunnington@uq.edu.au) before applying.

 


 

Dr Rachel Elphinston: Changes to patient access to medicines containing codeine and impacts on health services and patient outcomes

The aim of the project is to conduct a content analysis of peak chronic pain organisations’ social networking sites to examine organisational messaging and user perceptions of changes to codeine prescribing. Significant changes to access to medicines containing codeine occurred on February 1 this year. These changes are likely to have an impact on individuals with chronic pain and substance use problems. During this transition, it will be important to understand organisational marketing and communication, as well as consumer perspectives.

You will learn how to design a research project and develop research questions. You will also learn how to analyse quantitative and qualitative data and there is scope to use thematic analyses, or Leximancer if you are interested in qualitative data software. This project will be implemented in collaboration with the Lives Lived Well Research Group in the School of Psychology, led by Professor Leanne Hides and Dr Melissa Day, providing you with opportunities to be part of a research team. Finally, this project could enable you to be an author on a peer reviewed publication. You will be expected to contribute to the project proposal, data collection and analysis, and a summary report of the method and results.

This project is suitable for psychology or pharmacy students, completing Honours or a postgraduate degree. Students who are interested in improving the patient health care experience and investigating this hot topic would also benefit from participating in this project. You will need to be able to work independently and as part of a team, be flexible and show initiative.

Project duration is 6 weeks, commencing mid-June.

If you wish to discuss the project, please contact Dr Rachel Elphinston (rachelel@uq.edu.au)

 


 

Dr Philip Grove: Subjective equivalence of artificial and optical blur

Humans and many other species have two laterally separated forward facing eyes such that each eye gets a slightly different view of the 3D environment. The brain integrates the inputs from both eyes, using the slight differences in the images, called disparities, to recover the precise 3-D layout of the environment. The range of binocular disparities for which single vision is experienced is called Panum’s fusional range (Panum, 1858). A common assumption when measuring Panum’s fusional range is that both eyes’ images are equally focused as is the case for healthy individuals. Frequently, however, the left and right eye images differ in focus. For example, approximately 3% of people (about 60 000 Australians) have amblyopia (Howard, 2012). In one form, anisometropic amblyopia, the image in one eye is more blurred than the other eye’s view.

The aim of this project is to supplement existing data on asymmetrical focus by determining the subjective equality between artificially induced blur and optical blur. To achieve this we will use psychophysical behavioural methods to compare subjective responses to artificial and optical blur. We expect a data set showing subjective equivalence between artificial and optical blur covering 4-6 blur levels.

The scholar should have knowledge of psychophysical methods, including experimental design and data analysis technics associated with the method of constant stimuli. Computer programming experience with Matlab/Psychophysics toolbox, and knowledge of optics is desirable.

Project duration is 6 weeks, commencing mid-June.

Contact Dr Philip Grove (p.grove@psy.uq.edu.au) for more information on the project.

 


 

Dr Amy Mitchell: Parenting interventions to support siblings of children with a chronic health condition

Chronic health conditions in children can have a negative impact on siblings within the family unit, who tend to experience greater emotional, behavioural, and social difficulties compared to children living with healthy siblings. Intervention research has largely focused on sibling-directed illness- and psycho-education; however, an emerging body of research is examining the role of parenting interventions in improving outcomes for siblings of children with chronic health problems. This project will contribute to a systematic review of the effect of parenting interventions in improving outcomes for these at-risk children.

This project will introduce students to the role of parenting interventions in improving outcomes for families living with child chronic health conditions. The student working on this project will be embedded within a parenting/child health research team to conduct a systematic search of the research literature, using a pre-defined search strategy to identify relevant research articles; extract data from identified papers and incorporate into an existing draft of the systematic review; appraise the quality of identified articles using formal appraisal tools, and incorporate into the review; and, time permitting, contribute to drafting/revising small sections of the systematic review article. The student may qualify for co-authorship of the systematic review depending on overall contribution.

The scholar must be proficient in literature searching using common databases (e.g., PsycInfo, Medline, CINAHL).

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, with a negotiable start date.

Contact Dr Amy Mitchell, Parenting and Family Support Centre, (a.mitchell5@uq.edu.au) if you have questions or wish to discuss the project.

 


 

Dr Nicole Nelson: Can visual attention tell us how children integrate expression cues?

I am broadly interested in understanding how children (and adults) learn about and understand emotional expressions.  More specific lines of research focus on: how we integrate facial, postural, and vocal expression cues; our incorporation of situational information into emotion understanding; what role movement plays in expression recognition; how cultural information informs our understanding of others’ expressions; how children decide which expression movements to learn about. 

This is an eye-tracking project looking at how children and adults look at and integrate emotional stimuli.  Anticipated tasks will involve data entry, literature searches, creation of stimuli, and data collection with adults and children.  Students will gain experience working with children, and with eye-tracking equipment.

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, depending on hours worked.

Applicants must have a blue card and experience working with children.

For more information on the project you can contact Dr Nicole Nelson (n.nelson@uq.edu.au).

 


 

Associate Professor Mark Nielsen: Children’s moral perceptions of robots

This project explores how children perceive the moral worth of robots. While robots are becoming more frequent social partners in our everyday lives, very little is known about how we think about them. Preliminary evidence shows that children consider robots as having characteristics similar to humans and animals. Despite this, in many cases, children bully robots. Little is known about this why this occurs, or the factors that could reduce this bullying behaviour. This project aims to understand children’s moral concern for robots, and how anthropomorphism influences these perceptions.

Students will be involved in a variety of research-related tasks associated with seeking to answer this question. This will primarily involve data collection, but may also involve coding of data, data analysis, contributing to preparing a manuscript and conducting a literature review.

Applicants should hold a blue card by the commencement of the project.

Do children overimitate robots?

This project explores whether children will overimitate robotic agents. Research has documented that children readily engage in overimitation (the reproduction of causally irrelevant elements within a bigger action sequence). Previous research on overimitation has focused exclusively on human overimitation, however it is currently unknown whether children will overimitate a robotic agent.

Students will be involved in a variety of research-related tasks associated with seeking to answer this question. This will primarily involve data collection, but may also involve coding of data, data analysis, contributing to preparing a manuscript and conducting a literature review.

Applicants should hold a blue card by the commencement of the project.

Each project is 4-6 weeks, depending on hours worked.

Please contact Associate Professor Mark Nielsen (nielsen@psy.uq.edu.au) if you would like to discuss these projects.

 


 

Dr Stacey Parker: Are the hidden costs to performance-based pay?

Considerable resources are invested in employee reward and compensation programs; however, although such programs can improve performance, there are hidden costs to motivation, and the consequences for well-being remain unknown. This research examines the stress involved in striving for performance-based extrinsic rewards. It includes experiments and field studies where the subjective and physiological experience of stress is examined while in pursuit of these types of rewards. We aim to shed light on how employees perceive extrinsic rewards and what they experience when in pursuit of these.

You will be involved in 1) preparing and pilot testing experimental studies on this topic, and 2) assisting the team in conducting a field-based survey study on this topic. Tasks include development of surveys and other experimental materials, data collection, data cleaning and coding, some preliminary data analysis, and some literature search and synthesis. 

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, depending on hours worked.

Keen interest in organisational psychology is desirable. Completion of the relevant third year statistics and research methods courses is also desirable, but not essential. 

If you have any questions about the project please email Dr Stacey Parker (s.parker@psy.uq.edu.au).

 


 

Dr Kim Peters: Gossip in everyday conversation

A current focus of Dr Peters’ research is gossip: is it a (pleasurable) waste of time, or does it play a valuable role in group cohesion and cooperation? Dr Peters is currently using a number of methodologies to investigate these ideas.

In this project, the winter scholar will learn more about the social functions of our everyday gossip; they will also learn about approaches to coding naturally occurring language. The primary task will involve reading through existing natural corpuses of conversation and email and coding for the presence (and content) of gossip. 

Project duration is 6 weeks, to commence in mid-June.

This project is suitable for any student who has an interest in the topic and in delving into everyday language.

For more information, contact Dr Kim Peters (k.peters@uq.edu.au).

 


 

Dr Theresa Scott: Social and therapeutic gardening for people living with dementia: a systematic review of psychosocial interventions and measurement instruments

Contact with nature is increasingly being acknowledged as a potential population-wide intervention that promotes health and well-being. Research suggests that simply being in nature provides therapeutic effects that help support or improve the mental and physical health across development. For people living with dementia there is potential for improved outcomes such as increased morale, enhanced mood, and positive affect; and access to fresh air, sunshine, and exercise – which help regulate circadian rhythms and control appetite and sleeping.  In addition, group gardening programs provide important access to social partners for people with dementia and their care partners. The systematic study of the benefits of nature for people living with dementia, however, is currently under-researched. Studies that do exist have been limited by small sample size, non-standard measurement, and a lack of rigour.

This project will examine the available evidence, as well as any consensus in measurement and outcomes, and make recommendations to improve research quality in this area. The scholar’s duties may include systematic searching of the literature, tabulating results, and preparation of a journal submission depending upon experience and time.

The project is suited to a student who has an interest in working with older persons, dementia research, or nature as therapy. Experience in conducting systematic or literature reviews, or the ability to learn quickly, is well regarded.

Driving and driving cessation: Exploring the needs and experiences of people living with younger onset dementia

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease most commonly affecting older people, however dementia has been diagnosed in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Any dementia diagnosed before the age of 65 is known as ‘younger onset dementia'.  This project investigates the needs and experiences of people living with younger onset dementia who are adjusting to life without driving.  Stopping driving impacts health and quality of life for people with dementia and their family members. For people with younger onset dementia, the diagnosis usually comes at a time when they are likely to be employed full-time, raising a family, have significant financial commitments, or have a care partner who is employed fulltime. Therefore, the challenges of adjusting to driving cessation are significant.

The scholar’s duties may include review of the relevant literature, quantitative and qualitative analysis (e.g. of interview transcripts, and descriptive and demographic data), and preparation of a brief report. Experience with quantitative (SPSS) and qualitative (thematic analysis) methods, or the ability to learn quickly, is highly regarded.

Each project will run for 5 weeks, commencing June 25.

If you have questions about these projects, please contact Dr Theresa Scott, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow (theresa.scott@uq.edu.au).

 


 

Dr Gabrielle Simcock: The Queensland Flood Study (QF2011)

The Queensland Flood Study (QF2011) started in 2011 following severe flooding of a large portion of Queensland. The main goals of QF2011 are to examine how pregnancy-related stress caused by the traumatic flooding affects foetal and child development. Women who were pregnant during the flooding were asked to participate in a longitudinal study. Since recruitment, mothers have completed questionnaires on their wellbeing and their child's development, their child has participated in three comprehensive face-to-face assessments, and they have provided saliva samples for hormonal and genetic analyses.

In 2015 we assessed 4-year child socio-emotional development, via maternal and teacher report, as well as behavioural assessment. There are many projects within QF2011 that are currently underway, examining how maternal stress in pregnancy can affect infant sleep, behaviours, and cognitive development as well as physiological measures of stress reactivity. In one study, we are looking to understand how parent-child interactions may influence the established association between stress in pregnancy and early childhood anxiety development.

The successful winter scholar will assist across all aspects of the project: data entry, summarising literature, as well as assisting manuscript preparation. A key role will involve being trained to code video clips of child behaviour during a speech task using a standardised protocol. Applicants will ideally have sound a knowledge of basic SPSS functions.

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, depending on hours worked.

To discuss the project, contact Dr Gabrielle Simcock (gabrielle.simcock@mater.uq.edu.au).

 


 

Associate Professor Kate Sofronoff: Evaluating the effectiveness and feasibility of yoga-based mind-body skills training in children on the autism spectrum

The study aims to assess the effects of yoga-based techniques on self-awareness and self-regulation in children on the autism spectrum between 8-12 years of age using a randomised controlled trial. The process of self-regulation involves cognitive control of one’s emotional reactions, impulsive behaviour and attention.

Some of the commonly associated difficulties in autism spectrum condition (ASC) are difficulty with affective understanding, difficulty with expressing and regulating emotions such as anger and anxiety, executive dysfunction, and sleep problems.

Yoga is one type of mind-body practice that offers the combination of movement with mindfulness and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. “The Incredible Explorers” is a 6-week group skills training program that has been developed based on yoga philosophy with a specific psychological focus to reduce autonomic arousal, improve body and emotion awareness, promote self-control, facilitate anxiety reduction and improve sleep.

The scholar will experience a range of opportunities throughout the project:

  1. Data entry and data organisation.
  2. Experience in working with children, particularly high-functioning children on the autism spectrum.
  3. Learn to assist with or co-facilitate group programs.
  4. Learn some key skills of using a mind-body based approach to assist with emotional and behavioural regulation in children as well ASC specific-behavioural management strategies.
  5. Work with other students from Health, Counselling, and Sports and Exercise Psychology streams.
  6. The student will receive weekly supervision from Associate Professor Kate Sofronoff and Dr Jeanie Sheffield.

Students enrolled in Psychology or Occupational Therapy programs are welcome to apply, with preference given to applicants who have completed developmental psychology courses and/or have experience in working with children on the autism spectrum. Applicants should hold a blue card by the commencement of the project.

Formal training in yoga is not necessary, and the scholar will receive training prior to each session. The scholar will co-facilitate the group, and will therefore need to actively and enthusiastically participate and practice the yoga movements in sessions. Although most movements are gentle, like any other form of exercise there may be a low risk.

This project will run for 6 weeks from mid-June, with a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Associate Professor Kate Sofronoff is the primary supervisor for this project: however, if you would like further information please contact Radhika Tanksale (Psychologist and PhD candidate; r.tanksale@uqconnect.edu.au). More information on the project is available from https://exp.psy.uq.edu.au/yoga4asd/.

 


 

Dr Kylie Burke: How do parent-adolescent relationships influence youth mental health?

The project looks at how teenagers and their parents get along with one another and how this affects teenagers’ well-being. Teenagers’ relationships with their parents are important in helping teenagers become more resilient. This research can help us understand how supportive parenting can help teenagers be happy, healthy and reach their full potential. Results from this study will also help us consider improvements in assessing and treating young people facing mental health difficulties, especially looking at how parents can be better involved in treatment approaches.

 


 

Childhood adversity in Australia: Can parenting buffer against its effects on wellbeing?

This study seeks to find elements of parenting that may help children who have experienced maltreatment or dysfunction to experience good social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing during adolescence and emerging adulthood. It will explore the demographic profiles of children who experience maltreatment and dysfunction in Australia, and whether these profiles differ in the parenting elements that are effective. It will do this using a range of quantitative analyses of data from a novel survey, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and the 2014-15 National Health Survey.

Students will learn a broad range of skills around conducting observational and survey research designs. They will work across both of Dr Burke’s projects and will have the opportunity to assist in a range of tasks associated with conducting research, including: assisting with recruitment and face-to-face assessment sessions, observational coding, literature searching (Project 1); and compiling a quantitative online survey; pilot testing of the survey; producing recruitment materials; and recruiting participants (Project 2). Additional tasks may include: assisting with ethics applications and amendments; and creating publication-grade graphs and tables using output from statistical packages such as MPlus, Stata and SPSS.

These projects are most suitable for a 4th year student with excellent communication skills and keen eye for detail, and experience with Word and Excel. Experience with design software is desirable but not essential.

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, with a flexible start date.

For more information on the project you can contact Dr Kylie Burke (k.burke1@uq.edu.au).

 


 

Prof Ross Cunnington: Science of Learning: Biometric measures of synchrony in the classroom

We use wearable wrist-band devices to assess common engagement and “synchrony” between students during normal lessons in school classrooms. In particular, we examine the common physiological stress or arousal responses that students show when they work together co-operatively in group problem-solving activities. We work with collaborators in Education to relate these biometric measures of physiological synchrony to observational measures of student behaviour and social interaction.

Scholars will work with a large dataset already collected in schools and will learn data analysis methods and research design across the disciplines of cognitive neuroscience and education. Scholars will produce a brief report and give an oral presentation at the end of their project.

This project is particularly suitable for students with a psychology and/or education background and interest in underlying brain processes. Some familiarity with statistical analysis (SPSS, Excel) and Matlab would be beneficial.

Project duration is 6 weeks.

Prospective students should contact Prof Ross Cunnington (r.cunnington@uq.edu.au) before applying.

 


 

Dr Stacey Parker: Is task variety the spice of work?

Theories of work stress and work motivation posit that having variety in your work tasks improves your motivation and well-being. This is because having a range of different tasks to do can be more interesting and mean work is less monotonous. However, research from cognitive psychology demonstrates that switching tasks can impair your overall performance (because it's hard to remember what you were doing/where you were up to). Thus, this research project will take a closer look at the benefits and consequences of switching between different kinds of work tasks. The project will include experiments and experience sampling field studies where participants' subjective and physiological responses to task variety and task switching are examined. We aim to shed light on how work should be organised to maximise motivation, well-being, and performance.

Tasks include literature reviews, development of surveys and other experimental materials, data collection, data cleaning and coding, and some preliminary data analysis. 

Project duration is 4-6 weeks, depending on hours worked.

Keen interest in organisational psychology is desirable. Completion of the relevant third year statistics and research methods courses is also desirable, but not essential. 

If you have any questions about the project please email Dr Stacey Parker (s.parker@psy.uq.edu.au).