The School of Behavioural and Health Sciences has new and emerging researchers and scholars, from Australia and abroad. Find out more about their research interests and outcomes.
Dr Michael Cole
Dr Michael Cole has an extensive background in the fields of biomechanics and neuroscience and has specific expertise with common systems used for the assessment of balance, mobility and neuromuscular function in healthy and neurologically impaired populations (eg people with Parkinson’s disease). Since completing his PhD in 2009, Dr Cole has been involved in numerous multi-disciplinary research programs that aim to evaluate the relationship between postural instability, gait disability and falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. As part of this program of research, Dr Cole has completed studies that have sought to evaluate the safety and efficacy of numerous invasive (eg deep brain stimulation) and non-invasive (eg exercise) interventions for people with Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders.
Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping
Associate Professor Gert-Jan Pepping’s research expertise focuses on the supporting perceptuo-motor processes for the control and coordination of purposeful movement. An important part of his research is involved with the perception of environmental opportunities for behaviour – affordances – and the dynamically defined boundaries for purposeful action. Associate Professor Pepping’s current research projects and student supervision encompass healthy aging, mobility and falls prevention, exploration behaviour in sport, exercise and ageing, and development of novel technology to assess health and wellness.
Dr Kassia Beetham
Dr Kassia Beetham is an accredited exercise physiologist and course coordinator for the Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology at the Brisbane Campus. Dr Beetham’s research portfolio includes studies investigating the effects of high intensity exercise in lifestyle-related cardiometabolic diseases. Dr Beetham is currently extending this research experience into the effects of higher intensity exercise during pregnancy. She is investigating the effects of higher intensity exercise on foetal outcomes, the effect of high-impact exercise on post-partum pelvic floor dysfunction, and the prevalence and effects of higher intensity exercise and resistance training in pregnant elite athletes.
Dr Mark Creaby
Dr Mark Creaby is an exercise scientist and biomechanist with expertise in the mechanics of walking and running, and the development of advanced analysis tools to accurately quantify and ‘retrain’ movement patterns. He has used this expertise to address problems of injury and disease in multiple populations ranging from stress fracture injuries in military training to falls and knee osteoarthritis in the ageing population. Dr Creaby’s current studies include the use of real-time feedback to change movement patterns and reduce falls risk in people with Parkinson’s Disease, and the development and validation of a movement quality scoring system for use in rehabilitation following an ACL tear.
Dr Richard Johnston
Dr Richard Johnston is a researcher and practitioner who has worked as a sport scientist and strength and conditioning coach in rowing, soccer, and rugby league. Coupled with a strong research background and expertise in athlete-load monitoring, he works closely with stakeholders to solve practical issues. Upon completing his PhD in 2015, which investigated player fatigue in rugby league, Dr Johnston has gone on to develop further research within rugby league, rugby union, and Australian football. This work has looked to better understand the physical, technical, and tactical demands of the game, so more effective training prescriptions can be made. Specifically, documenting the most intense passages of team sport competition, and understanding the relationship between training, fitness, injury and performance has formed his main area of focus.
Dr Melanie Lowe
Dr Melanie Lowe’s research spans the public health and urban planning fields, examining how to plan healthy and liveable urban environments. She works collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams of researchers and policymakers to strengthen the consideration of health in urban policy and planning. Dr Lowe has published work on integrated planning; urban design and health; liveability indicators; translating research into practice; and policy options with co-benefits for mitigating obesity and climate change.
Dr Stephen Fisher
Dr Stephen Fisher is a public health lecturer in the School of Health and Behavioural Sciences. His research interests include gender inequality and public health; prevention of men’s violence against women; structural inequality and neo-liberal determinants of illness; men, masculinities and social health; and community development and advocacy campaigns for social and ecological justice.
Dr David Opar
Dr David Opar’s research is focused primarily on hamstring strain injuries. Dr Opar’s work examines factors associated with an increased risk of hamstring injury; the optimal approaches to load the hamstring musculature to drive structural and functional adaptations that minimise the risk of future hamstring injury; and exploring strategies that can accelerate the rehabilitation and return to competition following hamstring strain injury. Dr Opar and his research team’s work involves a range of techniques and methodologies, such as isokinetic dynamometry, electromyography, transcranial magnetic stimulation, 3D motion capture and ultrasonography. He is also the co-inventor of the NordBord, a field testing device which measures eccentric hamstring strength, that is used by organisations around the world.
Associate Professor Leah Brennan
Associate Professor Leah Brennan is a clinical, health, educational and developmental psychologist. Her research focuses on the role of psychology in understanding and treating eating, weight and body image concerns and their biopsychosocial comorbidities like diabetes, depression and stigma. She uses various research methods including systematic reviews and meta-analyses; randomised control trials; service evaluation and quality assurance; single case experiment; scale development; cross-sectional, and qualitative research designs. She is particularly interested in developing and evaluating evidence-based interventions, conducting intervention trials including efficacy, effectiveness and implementation, and evaluating the effectiveness of real-world treatment programs. Associate Professor Brennan leads the Body Image, Eating and Weight Clinical Research Team (BEWT) with Dr Xochitl de la Piedad Garcia.
Dr Xochitl De la Piedad Garcia
Dr Xochitl De la Piedad Garcia is an experimental psychologist with training in behavioural economics. In particular, she is interested in models of decision-making that account for behaviour in temporal and social dilemmas. More recently, Dr Garcia has developed an interest in the application of this perspective to research dishonesty and moral behaviour. In particular, she is interested in how people balance their long-term goals of being ‘good’, both as individuals and as members of a group (which may entail foregoing immediate gains), with their short-term goals of maximising immediate gains (which may stand in opposition to their long-term goal).
Professor John Gleeson
Professor John Gleeson is a clinical psychologist with expertise in youth mental health. His major research interests are in psychological mechanisms and novel treatments for serious mental health problems in youth to target engagement and recovery. Professor Gleeson’s current major research projects include development and evaluation of innovative online systems of treatment for youth and their families, utilising social networking fully integrated with online therapy and professional and peer support, and development of innovative systems for real-time assessment and treatment of psychological disorders using smartphone technology.
Dr Izelle Labuschagne
Dr Izelle Labuschagne’s research examines the social cognitive processes in humans. In particular, how psychiatric illnesses affect these processes. Her research incorporates a variety of brain technologies (such as fMRI, DTI, EEG, EMG, and tDCS), cognitive assessments, and neuropsychopharmacological manipulations. Dr Labuschagne has conducted randomised and double-blind placebo-controlled trials in humans investigating the effects of antidepressants such as SSRIs, serotonergic precursors such as tryptophan, and more recently, neuropeptides such as oxytocin. Her research uses both healthy and clinical samples, with a particular focus on ageing, social anxiety disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. Using a variety of research methods, she is striving to understand the neurobiological mechanisms implicated in dysfunctional social cognitive processes in humans, with an aim to improve quality of life and develop more refined and targeted treatment options for mental health disorders.
Professor Peter Rendell
Professor Peter Rendell researches cognitive ageing, with a particular interest in prospective memory (memory for intentions, such as keeping appointments and taking medication). He is also interested in memory in various other groups, including children, pregnant women, autism, chronic heart failure and substance users. Professor Rendell is currently investigating cognitive basis of emotional processing in older adults and various clinical groups. He currently leads the Cognition and Emotion Lab, which includes four academic staff and 25 research students at honours, masters and PhD level.
Associate Professor Gill Terrett
Associate Professor Gill Terrett’s research reflects her background in developmental psychology. Her current interests focus on cognitive functioning within a range of clinical populations, including children with autism and adult substance users. She is particularly interested in cognitive processes that impact the capacity to function effectively in daily living. Associate Professor Terrett is currently conducting research in the areas of future thinking, prospective memory and emotion processing.
Dr Tom Whelan
Dr Tom Whelan is the Deputy Head of the School of Behavioural and Health Science. His research explores the relationship between emotions, parenting and mental health. This is reflected in three main areas: an exploration of the relationship between fathers’ mental health, the couple relationship and child outcomes; an investigation of mother and infant emotion regulation during the perinatal period, along with correlates of maternal mental health during the perinatal phase; and an examination of the relationship between the expression or inhibition of emotion and mental health. Specifically, this involves exploration of the function and impact of emotional tears beyond childhood.
Professor Peter H Wilson
Peter H. Wilson is a professor in the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences. His research interests include cognitive neuroscience of developmental motor disorders; cognitive and motor development of children; movement rehabilitation, including use of new technologies; and participation in children.
Dr Megan Willis
Dr Megan Willis is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences. Her research interests concern understanding the perceptual, cognitive, physiological and neural mechanisms that underpin the capacity to recognise and respond appropriately to the facial expressions of others. She is particularly interested in how these capacities are acquired and decline over the lifespan (ie in childhood and older adulthood). Dr Willis’s research also seeks to understand what underpins individual differences in these capabilities. She is currently exploring the potential use of mild brain stimulation to treat deficits in facial expression processing.
Dr Francesco Foroni’s research agenda focuses on perceptual, affective and cognitive processes involved in food choice. With an interdisciplinary approach he is developing a novel research program to study food preference and choices. He combines social cognitive behavioural paradigms assessing implicit and explicit attitudes, decision-making, and preference with electrophysiological and neuroscientific techniques. He is particularly interested to directly apply the results to clinical and healthy populations to improve food choice and intake. For instance, he is investigating how we categorise different types of food and which factors eg implicit/explicit evaluations or individual's characteristics, drive food/beverage preferences and choices and how to modify them toward healthier choices. Dr Foroni is an ACU fully accredited supervisor for honours, master and PhD projects.
Associate Professor Keong Yap
Associate Professor Keong Yap is a clinical psychologist and the course coordinator for the Master of Psychology (Clinical) program at the ACU Strathfield Campus. His research interests are in clinical psychology with a focus on improving treatment outcomes for obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, and anxiety disorders. His current work focusses on the role of modifiable transdiagnostic processes (eg self-compassion, perfectionism, and loneliness) in OCD and hoarding disorder. Associate Professor Yap is also working on the application of mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies in these conditions. He currently leads the Strathfield Campus Clinical Psychology Research Lab together with Dr Madeleine Ferrari.
Dr Madeleine Ferrari
Dr Madeleine Ferrari is a clinical psychology lecturer at ACU's Strathfield Campus and teaches undergraduate and postgraduate psychology units. She is also a registered clinical psychologist and a member of the Australian Psychological Society. Dr Ferrari’s research interests are in clinical and health psychology focussing on adolescent wellbeing and the development of early intervention programs to promote resilience. Dr Ferrari is passionate about self-compassion and cultivating a healthy and supportive way of treating oneself. She is also interested in the way individuals understand and navigate complex chronic illnesses such as diabetes. She currently leads the Strathfield Campus Clinical Psychology Research Lab together with Associate Professor Keong Yap.
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