Current Opportunities

We are currently seeking applicants to undertake the following PhD research projects.

About this scholarship

The issue: Cannabis user and grower advocates have raised concern about harmful chemicals including Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) in ‘nutrients’ and fertilizer products aimed at cannabis growers and sold online and in grow shops. What is unclear is the extent to which cannabis users and small scale growers in Australia and other countries are aware of the issue of PGRs, whether that concerns them, and how this affects decisions and behaviour regarding growing, providing, accessing, and using cannabis.

Background: Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug with roughly 10% of Australians over 14 having used in the last 12 months. Internationally some 188 million people are estimated to have used the drug in the same period. A major problem with illicit drug markets is that drug users cannot be confident in the contents and quality of drugs they use. While concern about impurities is often raised in relation to illicit drugs such as MDMA, cocaine and heroin, the issue of impurities in cannabis is given less attention. Not only is there a common perception that cannabis is entirely natural and safe for consumption, it is increasingly viewed as medically beneficial. However, for at least 20 years many users have consumed cannabis grown using ‘nutrients’ and fertilisers sold online and in ‘grow shops’, and research suggests that, in many cases, the labels on these products have not reflected their true contents. Indeed, there are indications that many contain dangerous chemicals, notably PGRs, that have been banned in agriculture for decades due to their toxicity. PGRs which are permitted for use in the decorative plant/flower industry produce small plants with many flowers, ideal for illegal cannabis growing which aims to produce the maximum quantity of flower ‘heads’ for smoking. Although these ‘nutrient’ products are subject to regulatory control in Australia, these regulations rely on self-assessment and seem rarely enforced. Cannabis community advocates have been instrumental in raising concerns about the use of these chemicals and bringing them to the attention of regulators in jurisdictions which have legal cannabis markets such as in the USA and Canada, but the extent to which they are an issue for cannabis growers and users in other markets is unclear.

Methods: This mixed-methods research will build on the supervisory team’s previous research on this topic and will involve working with cannabis growers and cannabis consumers to develop a web survey of growers and cannabis users addressing these issues. The research will also involve more in depth face-to-face and online qualitative interviews with members of these groups, along with regulators, advocates and other stakeholders.

Significance: The work will inform the development of harm reduction strategies developed with and targeted at cannabis growers and users, be relevant to policies regarding the regulation of these products, and be of interest to those involved in policy change towards a legal recreational cannabis market.

Value

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a. Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,597 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years. Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Eligibility criteria

An Honours 1 or 2A, or Masters by Research graduate in a relevant discipline (e.g. psychology, public health) with proven ability to undertake quantitative and qualitative research. Experience in online survey construction would be an advantage. Understanding of illicit drug use issues would be an advantage.

Contact and more information

To enquire about this project opportunity contact the Project lead:
Professor Simon Lenton
Email: S.Lenton@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 08 9266 1603
Full details: Click here

About this scholarship

Background: Previous research with people who use methamphetamine shows that they frequently access a range of health and social services for support around their methamphetamine use. However, most Australian research has largely been based on people who inject the drug, who constitute only a small proportion of the total population of people who use methamphetamine, and so little is known about effective services for the majority of people who use the drug. More work needs to be undertaken with people who smoke the drug to better understand population dynamics of methamphetamine use in Australia.

The project: VMAX is a cohort study of >840 people who (largely) smoke methamphetamine. It involves annual face-to-face interviews with participants that are complemented by extensive linkage to health related datasets including GP, ambulance, hospital and specialist drug and mental health treatment. Analyses of patterns of service use by cohort members will provide the first comprehensive picture of the types and mix of services accessed and how this access relates to health outcomes and methamphetamine use trajectories.

Outcome: The project will provide new and important evidence about methamphetamine use trajectories and the types of services that ameliorate harm. It will guide policy and practice in the area of methamphetamine use and harm over the coming decade.

Value

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a. Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,597 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years. Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Eligibility criteria

Best suited to a student with strong quantitative data analysis skills and an interest in public health policy.

Contact and more information

To enquire about this project opportunity contact the Project lead:
Professor Paul Dietze
Email: Paul.Dietze@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 03 9282 2134
Full details: Click here

About this scholarship

Background: Supervised injecting facilities (SIFs) have been established in a number of cities around the world since the 1980s, including Sydney in 2001. They have been shown to have a variety of positive health and social outcomes such as reduced fatal and non-fatal overdose, reductions in risky injecting practices and improved public amenity. In response to a Coroner’s inquest into an overdose death of a young woman in 2017, the Victorian Government announced the establishment of Melbourne’s first SIF in North Richmond. Since June 2018 the Melbourne Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR) has been operating, first in an adapted space at the North Richmond Community Health Centre and now in a purpose-built facility on the Community Health Centre grounds. After an initial review of the first 18 months of operation, the Government announced it would be extending the MSIR for another three years and opening another complementary facility. One component of the review was analyses of cohort study data drawn from SuperMIX, a cohort study of people who inject drugs that has been running in Melbourne since 2008. Ongoing monitoring of the impact of the MSIR and any new SIF is fundamental to understanding the impact of the facility on the health of those who use it.

The project: SuperMIX is a cohort study of >1300 people who inject drugs. It involves annual face-to-face interviews with participants who also provide blood samples for analysis. These data are complemented by extensive linkage to health related datasets including GP, ambulance, hospital and specialist drug treatment. Impacts of the MSIR on the health of cohort members will be measured within a natural experiment framework comparing self-reported and linked health outcomes for those who use the facility versus those who do not, after adjusting for a range of pre-existing differences between groups (people who use the MSIR are known to be more marginalised and vulnerable than those who do not).

Outcome: The project will provide some of the strongest evidence ever collected on the effectiveness of SIFs. It will play a crucial role in guiding the development of SIFs in Melbourne with national and international implications.

Value

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a. Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,597 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years. Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Eligibility criteria

Best suited to a student with strong quantitative data analysis skills and an interest in drug harm reduction.

Contact and more information

To enquire about this project opportunity contact the Project lead:
Professor Paul Dietze
Email: Paul.Dietze@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 03 9282 2134
Full details: Click here

About this scholarship

Background: More than half of Australian teenagers report initiating alcohol consumption in their early teens, with 30% of early initiators consuming 11+ standard drinks weekly or more frequently, and 70% of early initiators drinking between 5-10 standard drinks per fortnight. The dual risk of early initiation and higher level drinking in the early teen years is associated with a greater range and level of alcohol-related harm during the teen years, including death, an increased risk of meeting criteria for alcohol dependence and abuse in early adulthood, and an increased risk of high level consumption and harm in adulthood. Parents can play an important role in influencing initiation and pattern of alcohol use in their children, and this influence is stronger than that of their children’s peers. Potential for parents to influence their children’s initiation of drinking and their drinking experiences is substantial and unique in that it is direct, occurs from a young age, and can extend across many years. It is therefore important to involve parents in preventing risky use and exposure to alcohol-related harm in their child’s early teen years. However, current evidence of the impact of parental programs on youth alcohol use and harm is scant, with recent systematic reviews reporting limited and mixed effects. To date no published study has incorporated or identified the potential of underpinning parental strategies with recommendations from young adults (>=19 years) who started drinking early, drank to high levels and experienced alcohol-related harm in their younger years.

Aim: This mixed methods study will identify strategies for parental intervention recommended by older youth (>=19 years) who started drinking and drank to high levels in their early teen years.

Methodology:
Participants: young adults, 19+ years who started drinking and drank to high levels during their early teen years using multiple community and targeted recruitment methods.
Quantitative questions will include: demographics; psychosocial assessments; current alcohol and other drug use; parental alcohol use; parenting, parental strategy specific questions (identifying parental actions resulting in low or high consumption and consequences).
Quantitative analysis will use multilevel generalised linear modelling to examine the extent to which various parental strategies are associated with decreases and increases in consumption and harm mediated by background and experience.
Qualitative focus groups will enable in-depth understanding and discussion of parental strategies that early risky drinkers believe will assist in reducing early initiation, high level consumption and alcohol-related harm.
Qualitative analysis using Content Analysis processes will identify and follow a chain of evidence; verify findings; make meaningful conclusions to help ensure accuracy of interpretation. Analysis will include: 1) stating the question; 2) developing a matrix of response themes; 3) describing the range of responses (both common and less common) and categorising these responses; 4) providing direct quotations to illustrate responses; 5) providing interpretive discussion; and 6) providing recommendations to policy and intervention development.

Value

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a. Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,597 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years. Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Eligibility criteria

  • English language IELTS level of: average 7
  • Future Higher degree by research applicants
  • Honours 1 or 2A, or Masters by Research
  • Qualitative and quantitative research methodologies
  • Recruitment of study participants
  • Demonstrated organisational skills and ability to meet timelines
  • Demonstrated writing skill

Contact and more information

To enquire about this project opportunity contact the Project lead:
Associate Professor Nyanda McBride
Email: N.Mcbride@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 08 9266 1605
Full details: Click here

About this scholarship

In recent decades, adolescent alcohol consumption in Australia has fallen by more than half. These shifts represent a potential boon for public health, with impacts likely to accrue across the life course. However, there remain significant gaps in our knowledge that this project will address. In particular, there has been little work assessing how declines in drinking during teenage years relate to later patterns of drinking and harm, and no comprehensive analyses of the impact of these large-scale shifts in behaviour on socio-economic inequalities. Alcohol-related harm is already concentrated among socio-economically disadvantaged groups, and it is crucial that we understand how these recent declines in youth drinking have influenced health inequalities. Similar trends have taken place in the UK and this project will involve comparative international analyses.

Data will come from large-scale cohort studies, already collected in each country, providing detailed information on drinking practices, health and economic activities across the life course - HILDA in Australia and Understanding Society in the UK. The project will include the development of sophisticated latent growth models to examine how drinking trajectories from adolescence into adulthood vary across generations (i.e. across each wave of new young people recruited into the survey) and between the two countries. Subsequent work will explore whether there are distinct clusters of trajectories and whether they have changed between generations via the use of growth mixture.

This work will provide critical new information on whether the declines in drinking observed among adolescents are maintained for different types of drinkers as they age into their peak drinking years. The results will highlight the ways in which drinking trajectories for recent generations differ from previous, heavier drinking generations, providing important indications as to the likely longer-term impacts of these changes. Sub-analyses will focus on how changing patterns in other major life transitions (e.g. education, employment, leaving the family home) have contributed to any identified changes in drinking trajectories. The PhD will focus particularly on how the identified changes to drinking trajectories are distributed by socio-economic status and the likely future impacts of these changes on social and health inequalities.

This project will involve substantial collaboration with key international experts in the UK and Sweden and there will be opportunities to expand the work in other directions, depending on the student's specific interests.

Value

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a. Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,597 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years. Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Eligibility criteria

We are seeking a highly competent quantitative researcher, with experience analysing complex datasets and a willingness to learn new statistical techniques to examine longitudinal data. Experience in public health, alcohol epidemiology or youth studies would be highly relevant, but statistical capability and enthusiasm are essential.

Contact and more information

To enquire about this project opportunity contact the Project lead:
Dr Michael Livingston
Email: Michael.Livingston@curtin.edu.au
Tel: 08 9266 1609
Full details: Click here