Research

Possible HDR Projects

Research   Possible HDR Projects

The list of topic areas and/or projects here are proposed by JCU Singapore academics under whose guidance students may consider undertaking a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) qualification. Such courses include a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Research in other areas is also possible and potential HDR candidates should examine the JCU Singapore academic profiles to see if they can identify potential advisors whose research interests may be aligned with their own.

Activity Based Costing

Dr. Desti Kannaiah

Activity Based Costing is the process of identifying and assigning costs to specific activities within functions and work processes. The approach allows the costs to be differentiated by individual products or customers based on the effort and resources required by each. Activity Based Costing (ABC) literature is replete with success stories. ABC system can fail even after all the measures of a successful implementation are taken. ABC system needs to be seen from a systems perspective and should draw and actively engage people from cross sections of an organization.

Topics include:
1.On Trying to Understand an Activity Based Costing Failure
2.Activity Based Costing (ABC): Is it a Tool for Company to Achieve Competitive Advantage?

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Desti Kannaiah ( kannaiah.desti@jcu.edu.au ).

Aquaculture: Genetic improvement of Asian seabass (Lates calcarifer)

Dr Xueyan Shen

As part of a larger project to understand the genetic architecture of disease resistance in Asian seabass, a PhD scholarship is available for a student to examine the heritability of resistance, genetic correlations with other traits, and investigate potential QTL or genes associated with resistance.

We are seeking a high calibre PhD student with a passion for applied science with strong quantitative and molecular skills, and interest/experience in bioinformatics to address this important question in the genetic architecture of disease resistance in fish. The student will use quantitative genetics, next generation sequencing technologies, qRT-PCR and fish husbandry techniques to directly examine the impacts of pathogen exposure on the biology and performance of different family lines under experimental and commercial culture conditions. The student will work in close collaboration with senior academic staff and a research assistant on the same project.

Selection of applicants will be based on merit; to be competitive will require a Research Masters (or First Class Honours) and have preferably (co)authored at least one scientific publication in a closely related field.

The prospective candidate will be required to apply for one of JCU’s highly competitive PhD scholarships, applications for which are due by the end of September each year (https://www.jcu.edu.au/graduate-research-school/candidates/scholarships). Prospective applicants should email Dr Xueyan Shen (xueyan.shen@jcu.edu.au) in the first instance to discuss their research experience and project details.

Aquaculture: Tracking individual behaviour to improve farming practices

Dr. Neil Hutchinson

Over 50% of fisheries production in Southeast Asia is from aquaculture, amounting to over US$17 billion per year.  Automation will enable the industry to develop more sustainable practices, reducing environmental impacts and costs while improving the quality of fisheries products. This project will focus on how the behaviour of individual, sentinel, animals in an aquaculture system can be used to understand the behaviour of the broader population. Animal tracking technologies will be used in real-life situations in commercial farms. This information will enable the development of rapid adaptive management strategies, to maximise animal condition and production. Would suit an applicant who is highly motivated and has completed Honours, Masters or appropriate Postgraduate research training in Aquaculture, Marine Science or an associated field.  Familiarity with acoustic telemetry and analysis would be an advantage.  The candidate should be keen to work in field and laboratory situations and should possess a positive and open approach to communication that would enable them to work closely with non-academic partners.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr. Neil Hutchinson (neil.hutchinson@jcu.edu.au)

Assessing marine fish habitat utilisation around a “future city”

Dr. Neil Hutchinson

Over 50% of fisheries production in Southeast Asia is from aquaculture, amounting to over US$17 billion per year.  Automation will enable the industry to develop more sustainable practices, reducing environmental impacts and costs while improving the quality of fisheries products. This project will focus on how the behaviour of individual, sentinel, animals in an aquaculture system can be used to understand the behaviour of the broader population. Animal tracking technologies will be used in real-life situations in commercial farms. This information will enable the development of rapid adaptive management strategies, to maximise animal condition and production. Would suit an applicant who is highly motivated and has completed Honours, Masters or appropriate Postgraduate research training in Aquaculture, Marine Science or an associated field.  Familiarity with acoustic telemetry and analysis would be an advantage.  The candidate should be keen to work in field and laboratory situations and should possess a positive and open approach to communication that would enable them to work closely with non-academic partners.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr. Neil Hutchinson (neil.hutchinson@jcu.edu.au)

Bank performance, financial markets, income inequality

Dr. Thanh Nguyen

Dr Nguyen's research interests and where there are possible student research projects fall into three broad categories:
a) Bank performance
b) Stock market
c) Income inequality

Bank performance: one of Dr Nguyen's research interests focuses on the issue of bank performance and how efficient and productive banks are compared to other banks in the same country. Moreover, there is the question of whether commercial banks in one country are more efficient, more productive and more innovative in reducing costs and increasing profit than banks in other countries. Furthermore, she has research interests in understanding the association between competition and performance, and between competition and bank risk.

Stock market: The second research area aims to address the important issues in relation to the determinants of stock market integration, portfolio diversification, and the interrelationships between stock markets.

Income inequality: the third area of research is about income inequality determinants, and the impacts of financial development, FDI and tourism development on income inequality. As bank performance and stock market play a very important role to the development of an economy, while income equality plays a crucial role to the sustainability of economy development, these three categories of research will be very useful for the policy makers, bank managers, investors, researchers, and other stakeholders.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Thanh Nguyen (nguyen.thanh@jcu.edu.au).

Circular Economy and Servitization

Associate Professor Adrian Kuah

Companies are offering services, either as a standalone delivery, or often packaged with products. Companies’ goals are to service their customers in their best interest. However, the relationships with customers, employees and suppliers have been violated as customers are offered one-off selling, employees are incentivized to meet performance targets, and suppliers are chosen based on lowest prices in a linear fashion! These result in goods and products disposed shortly after they reach their end-of-use. The circular economy refers to a model to which resources are optimally used by lengthening and broadening it's life, and actions are taken to recover and regenerate resources at the end of a product’s service life. One specific model build on the concept of “servitization” where companies switch their focus from making products to bundling them with a range of services. Privately owned goods can be shared and commercially owned products can be leased in peer-to-peer marketplaces. By promoting sharing, shared platforms can redistribute overcapacity, conserve resources, and create value for the society. Circular economy thinking touches on some important core values of trust, future security, and sustainability, as it restores the thought of striving for well-being, sustainability, and longevity.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Associate Professor Adrian Kuah (adrian.kuah@jcu.edu.au).

Gurus in Management

Associate Professor Adrian Kuah

The corporate training industry as well as the business and financial training industries are filled with renowned gurus, from Anthony Robbins to Stephen Covey. One former guru, Donald Trump, is now the 45th President of the United States; during the presidential election campaigns, he made use of his guru fame and brand. Many business corporations and executives in English-speaking Western economies have been affected by the thoughts and actions of these gurus, delivered via the printed media or live seminars that cost a substantial amount of money. These gurus, who are entrepreneurial leaders themselves, sell a wide range of knowledge-economy-based products and services to the public in areas such as investments, motivation, and self-help. Gurus also attract a large number of followers, who may become better off financially or entrepreneurially after the trainings. This longitudinal study proposes investigating the entrepreneur and leadership characteristics of gurus and developing an instrument to capture the influences these gurus have on their followers. Other than the gurus, this topic area has scope in understanding the extent followers mimic their gurus in their behaviours and create their personal success.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Associate Professor Adrian Kuah (adrian.kuah@jcu.edu.au).

Psychology: Acquisition in Multiple Contexts Produces Stronger Relapse

Dr. Bridget McConnell

Exposure therapy is a valid and commonly used intervention for reducing anxiety disorders and addictive behaviors. Much research has shown that conducting exposure therapy across multiple contexts can reduce the probability and degree of relapse. However, recent research has confirmed that acquisition of a fear or addiction across multiple contexts can negate the benefit of conducting exposure therapy across multiple contexts. The reason for this is effect is unclear, but there are three potential mechanisms that this project will attempt to investigate.

This project will be conducted using a virtual reality program, which allows the researcher to immerse participants in very different contexts. The results from this experiment will further our theoretical understanding of associative learning and behavior and provide mental health practitioners with more knowledge about how to best tailor exposure therapy for their clients.

This project is suitable for highly motivated applicants who are interested in pursuing a research-based PhD degree. Applicants should have a background in cognitive or clinical psychology. A background in programming or virtual reality devices is preferred but not required. For more details on this project or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr. Bridget McConnell.

Psychology: Biophilia and Nature Immersion Practices

Dr. Denise Dillon

Biophilia is a term coined by the German psychologist Eric Fromm as “an orientation which we may call love of life.” Renowned American biologist, Edward O. Wilson later defined biophilia as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” Wilson went further to propose that human existence relies on a predisposition to “explore and affiliate with life”, which is crucial to human mental development. This project proposal identifies immersive biophilia as a means for humans to reconnect with nature, to revision ourselves as part of nature and to prevent human-nature interactions from being reduced solely to artificial means (e.g., built/constructed/enhanced/augmented/simulated nature).

Forest bathing, from the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, involves nature immersion through contemplative walks in nature for preventive health care and restoration. Forest therapy is a relatively new practice based on the concept and practice of shinrin-yoku, with guide training courses stemming largely from the US producing a global network of trained and certified forest therapy guides. While there is ample research-based evidence that nature connection and exposure provides a range of psychological health benefits, the practice of guided forest therapy walks has yet to be validated as an effective psychological health intervention. There is scope here to document and evaluate current forest therapy practices across the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, in order to determine evidence-based efficacy of guided forest therapy walks in terms of psychological well-being, and to determine the evidence-based efficacy of cumulative forest therapy practices amongst the communities of trained guides.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Denise Dillon (denise.dillon@jcu.edu.au)

Psychology: Cognitive

Dr. Lidia Suárez

Lidia Suárez is a senior lecturer in Psychology and registered research supervisor at James Cook University Singapore. She received her MSSC and PhD from the National University of Singapore. Her research interests are cognitive psychology (including psycholinguistics, second language acquisition, bilingualism, and the effects of music training on working memory) and clinical psychology (quality of life, suicidal ideation, interpersonal relationships, problem-solving appraisal, and measurement validation). Lidia is a member of the Language Research Centre at the Cairns Institute, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Lidia Suárez (lidia.suarez@jcu.edu.au).

Psychology: Experimental Psychopathology

Dr. Bridget McConnell

1. INVESTIGATING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF INTERNET AND GAMING ADDICTIONS: A COMPARISON WITH GAMBLING ADDICTION

Gambling addiction is a well-researched behavioral addiction. Some people have suggested that internet and gaming addiction are also behavioral addictions, but there is currently very little research on these disorders. This project will investigate whether individuals who suffer from these newer behavioral addictions show similar characteristics as those shown by gambling addicts. This includes things like sensitivity to gains and losses and compulsivity

2. DISCRIMINATION TRAINING TO REDUCE FEAR OF PAIN-RELATED MOVEMENTS

Individuals who suffer from chronic pain tend to fear making movements that are associated with this pain. Often, this fear generalizes to other similar movements, which results in a wide restriction of mobility. This project will investigate the effectiveness of a discrimination training procedure to reduce generalization of fear of pain-related movements.

3.  ACQUISITION OF FEARS AND ADDICTIONS ACROSS MULTIPLE CONTEXTS ON INCREASING RELAPSE

Much research has shown that conducting exposure therapy across multiple contexts can reduce the probability and degree of relapse. However, recent research has confirmed that acquisition of a fear or addiction across multiple contexts can negate the benefit of conducting exposure therapy across multiple contexts. This project will use virtual reality to investigate three potential mechanisms that are responsible for stronger relapse after learning occurs in multiple environments.

4. SYSTEMATIC REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS OF EXTINCTION CUES FOR REDUCING RELAPSE

Despite observing complete cessation of fear or cravings following exposure therapy for phobias or addictions, relapse commonly occurs. One method to reduce relapse is to use extinction (i.e., reminder) cues. However, research on the effectiveness of extinction cues is inconsistent. This projects will be a systematic review and meta-analysis of all of the research on extinction cues to assess whether extinction cues work and, if so, under what conditions are they effective in reducing relapse.

5. COMPARISON OF INSECT PHOBIAS ACROSS CULTURES: THE ROLE OF EVOLUTIONARY PREDISPOSITIONS

It is commonly accepted that some phobias are universal due to our shared evolutionary history as human beings. However, research outside of the western countries has not always supported this theory. This project will focus on arachnophobia and investigate its prevalence in an Asian country relative to western countries. It will also investigate the interaction of predispositions and learning to produce these fears.

6. PREDICTORS OF RELAPSE: THE ROLE OF INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND TREATMENT VARIABLES

Relapse is commonly observed after successful exposure therapy for reducing phobias and addictions. This project will investigate individual difference variables, such as personality factors, and treatment variables, such as the rate of inhibitory learning during exposure therapy, to understand what conditions are most likely to result in relapse following exposure therapy.

All of these projects are suitable for highly motivated candidates who are interested in pursuing a research-based PhD. Applicants should have a background in cognitive and/or clinical psychology. For some projects, a background in R is preferred but not required. For more details on these projects or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr. Bridget McConnell (bridget.mcconnell@jcu.edu.au).

Psychology: Fear of Pain-Related Movements

Dr. Bridget McConnell

Many individuals who suffer from chronic pain acquire a fear of making movements that are associated with pain. Moreover, this fear tends to generalize to other movements, even ones that have not been directly associated with pain. Consequentially, these individuals have a limited and reduced quality of life. There is a growing field of experimental psychopathology research based on associative learning principles that investigates the fear of pain-related movements to better understand how to reduce this fear. This project will build on this research to focus on methods for reducing the likelihood of gaining such a fear in the first place and methods for limiting the generalization of fear of pain-related movements.

This project is suitable for highly motivated applicants who are interested in pursuing a research-based Masters or research-based PhD degree. Applicants should have a background in cognitive psychology. For more details on this project or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr. Bridget McConnell (bridget.mcconnell@jcu.edu.au).

Psychology: Industry Linked Projects

Associate Professor Carol Choo

Carol has available research projects and research collaborations with industry partners in the healthcare industry and also with the leading research institute in Singapore. They include: research to explore novel approaches to facilitate treatments for clinical conditions across the lifespan, novel neuroscience and neuropsychology research investigating brain activity and mindfulness. Carol's research interests also include Quality of Life issues for people with disabilities, mental and physical illness, and suicide prevention. She has supervised theses (to completion) on suicide study, mental health, wellbeing, resilience, stress, depression, self-esteem, e-mental health interventions, trauma resilience, and trauma counselling.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Associate Professor Carol Choo (carol.choo@jcu.edu.au).

Psychology: Overall Effectiveness of Extinction Cues for Reducing Relapse

Dr. Bridget McConnell

Despite observing complete cessation of fear or cravings following exposure therapy for phobias or addictions, relapse commonly occurs. This is, of course, undesirable, and much research has been devoted to understanding how to make exposure therapy more robust. This is done primarily by using experimental extinction as a model for exposure therapy, and recovery from extinction as an analogue to relapse. One method that has been suggested is to use extinction (i.e., reminder) cues. When presented during the test session, they are meant to remind the individual of what they learned during extinction and reduce subsequent recovery from extinction. However, this has not been consistently observed, and there are several failures to show a benefit from extinction cues. This is significant given that clinicians are recommended to use reminder cues as a way to help their patients reduce the risk of relapse.

This project will be a systematic review of all the research on extinction/reminder cues. If sufficient data is available, then a meta-analysis will be conducted. The goal of this project is to get an overall assessment of whether extinction cues work and, if so, under what conditions are they effective in reducing relapse.

This project is suitable for highly motivated applicants who are interested in pursuing a research-based PhD degree. Applicants should have a background in cognitive or clinical psychology. A background in R is preferred but not required. For more details on this project or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr. Bridget McConnell.

Psychology: Quality of Life in Aged Care

Professor Nigel Marsh

Population ageing is a global phenomenon, with current estimates indicating that the number of people aged over 60 years will more than double between 2015-2050 and more than triple by 2100 (United Nations, 2015). Approximately 70% of the global ageing population lives in countries such as Singapore, Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, India and Indonesia (United Nations, 2012). Asia is expected to shift from having 12% of its own population aged 60+ years in 2015 to over 25% by 2050 (United Nations, 2015).

In the majority of developed countries the dual trends of increasing life span and decreasing birth rate have resulted in a situation where a significant number of older adults can no longer reside in their family home and need to move into some form of aged care facility. While for some people such care is necessary because of their medical needs, for others the move into residential care is a function of social rather than medical factors. This project will examine the factors that are associated with quality of life for older adults living in residential care. The focus will be on assessing environmental factors and their association with the older adults’ perceived quality of life and general wellbeing. Aspects of both the physical (e.g., building design, neighbourhood) and social environment will be examined.

This project will be of interest to psychology graduates who wish to develop an understanding of environmental psychology in the context of healthy ageing.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Professor Nigel Marsh  (nigel.marsh@jcu.edu.au).

Religion and Society: Does Curiosity Lead to Tolerance?

Dr. Jonathan Ramsay

In a world characterised by deepening ideological divides, many conflicts—whether physical or verbal—occur across religious boundaries. Consequently, many governments are keen to promote religious tolerance in their citizens, with the hope of reducing prejudice, discrimination, and hate crime. One possible route to enhancing religious tolerance is through fostering an interest in alternative worldviews, both religious and non-religious, a phenomenon that we refer to as interfaith curiosity (IFC). The proposed project would seek to characterise interfaith curiosity, develop and validate a suitable measure of this construct, and pilot test interventions designed to increase it.  

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests in related areas, please contact Dr Jonathan E. Ramsay (jonathan.ramsay@jcu.edu.au).

Tourism resilience

Associate Professor Abhishek Bhati

Resilience is a key feature of growth and progress. Asian Tourism resilience is entrenched in several factors, such as, disaster recovery and management, changing visitor demographic and psychographic makeup, technological disruption and so forth. Technology and the role of technology is a leading instrument for industry change. The study will examine four tourism sectors- the restaurants, the resorts, attractions and the events to assess how new technologies are changing jobs and employment with implications for the work left undone. Both workers and managers views will be sought in response to likely future scenarios. Technology resilience in managing visitor demand and supply of hospitality & tourism elements is an area in need of further study and deeper analysis. Technology enabled hospitality and tourism development will result in higher levels of efficiency and productivity ensuring Tourism resilience.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Associate Professor Abhishek Bhati (abhishek.bhati@jcu.edu.au).

Tourism: Attraction management

Associate Professor Abhishek Bhati

In a fast growing tourism industry in Asia, visitor attractions have a central role in entertaining visitors. Attractions man-made and natural are difficult to manage due to presence of wide range of stakeholders –government, local community, attraction management, destination management organisation (DMO) and visitors. The conflicting interests of these stakeholders form another layer of complexity in attraction management. The variation in the size, infrastructure development and resource requirement to manage attractions is another consideration in attraction management. The need for visitor attractions to deliver United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and be viable for the operators presents challenges in attraction development and management. What will attractions of the future look like and what roles will they serve? One thesis area for development is the role of attractions in building family good times and experiences in the age of technology and social media. What can attractions do to maintain their integrative family role?

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Associate Professor Abhishek Bhati (abhishek.bhati@jcu.edu.au).

Tourism: Children in Tourism

Dr. Zohre Mohammadi

Children are silent agents in tourism, although they are intelligent and skilled enough to be part of the research agenda. In the past, children were ignored as passive, unreliable and incompetent informants, but this view has now faded. There are three principal reasons for including children in tourism research. As active and talented individuals, they are a genuine part of the overall tourism market. Their needs and well-being matter to multiple stakeholders. In the context of influencing family travel, their position as active social figures can, directly and indirectly, affect their parents' purchasing behavior.  Further, children’s future holidays may be affected by their current experiences. Children's perceptions and experiences are still not studied extensively in tourism research and the work on motivation and benefits is especially scarce. Research projects on children and family can help government policy making, planning and marketing in the field of tourism.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Zohre Mohammadi (mohammadi.zohre@jcu.edu.au).

Urban spaces in rapidly urbanising Asian environments

Dr. Simona Azzali

Over the last decades, open urban spaces have become a central concern of urban scholars and leaders, as they play a strategic role and support the development of cities by many means, including their form, social engagement, place making. Despite its relevance in the urban agenda, public space is shrinking, and its quality is worsening worldwide, especially in the Asian continent. Indeed, considerable urbanisation is taking place in Asian cities, and phenomena such as ‘mega project-driven urbanism’, privatisation, and commodification affect the quality of public spaces. This study aims to investigate the urban space typologies in globalising Asia and offers a comparative analysis of the public spaces in different Asian cities that exhibit a contrasting urban form. This research study focuses on both the physical and design-related attributes of public spaces and investigates how new urban typologies relate to its inhabitants through a human-behavioural approach. The first goal of this research is to classify the urban typologies of public spaces of globalising Asian cities and trace their evolution over a period of two centuries by applying a comparative and historical typological analysis to pinpoint the ruptures and continuities among them. Subsequently, the study aims to investigate the inhabitants’ spatial experience of public space and examine how these urban typologies influence human perception and behaviour and, on the other hand, which group of people is engaged and interested in which model of urban space. It studies how the urban spaces are utilised and perceived by interpreting the relationship between them and their users.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Simona Azzali (simona.azzali@jcu.edu.au).

Urban spaces: Hawker centres as a catalyst for social cohesion

Dr. Simona Azzali et al.

This research seeks to understand how hawker centres in urban spaces are being practiced (lived), perceived and represented (conceived) by Singaporeans (which includes hawkers, customers and government organisations), residents and visitors as tools of social cohesion.

This study provides a reflection on the roles of hawker centres in enhancing social cohesion in a multi-cultural setting in Singapore. The study contributes to theory and practice by using a set of dimensions to assess if hawker centres can be a tool/means for fostering social cohesion. If so, how this will enhance Singapore’s status as a hawker culture.

The findings aim to address the validity of hawker centres as a catalyst for social cohesion and has implications for how policy should develop and of the conceptual framework within which social cohesion could be enhanced in the future. It also aim to address aspects of the sustainable developmental goals in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable as well as promoting a just, peaceful and inclusive society.

The findings will also have implications for multilevel governance in cluster formation and policy, future research on food, as well as for theories on innovation, urban creativity, and governance.

For more details on this project, or to discuss other research interests, please contact Dr Simona Azzali (simona.azzali@jcu.edu.au), Dr Zilmiyah Kamble (zilmiyah.kamble@jcu.edu.au) or Dr Caroline Wong (caroline.wong@jcu.edu.au).

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