Research Projects

There are many opportunities and considerable demand in industry, government service, research and teaching for individuals with graduate training in the veterinary and agricultural sciences.

The University has scholarships available for suitable applicants interested in pursuing graduate research. In addition the University has a range of travel scholarship opportunities for graduate students to enable them to travel to national and/or international conferences or to spend a part of their study period.

If you are interested in applying, you will need to complete an Expression of Interest form. Please do not contact supervisors directly.

On this page:

Agronomy & Crop Science

Project Leaders Project Name

Dr Sigfredo Fuentes

  • Unravelling night-time water uptake and transpiration mechanisms in plants using sap flow sensors, gas exchange and chemometric techniques
  • Development of automated analysis tools for remote; sensing information obtained from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Terrestrial Vehicles (UTVs) to characterise plant water status, growth and evapotranspiration processes.
  • Incorporating biometrics obtained non-invasively from image and video analysis of subjects to investigate non-concious sensory responses to food, chocolate and brewages.
  • Developing wireless automated information systems for in-field monitoring of biotic or abiotic stresses from plants, such as pests and diseases, water and/or nutritional deficiencies
  • Development of robotic systems to measure canopy architectural parameters at high spatial resolution for crops.
  • Studying the relationship of berry cell death, fruit respiration and the development of flavour and aroma in berries and wines.
  • Automated assessment of plant water status of crops using infrared thermography (IRT) and near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • Morpho-chemical characterisation of bubbles and foam from sparkling wine related to protein content from berries and yeast.
  • Unravelling the effect of different audio waves and frequencies in the winemaking and ageing processes for still wines and the second fermentation of sparkling wines.
  • Automated recognition of smoke contamination in grapevines using infrared thermography and artificial neural networks
  • Characterising 2D and 3D soil wetting and nutrient patterns and their relationship with carbon and water economies for crops.

Dr Brendan Cullen

  • Pasture ecology and agronomy
  • Grazing ecology – interactions between plants and grazing animals
  • Climate change impact and adaptation of grazing systems

Professor Kevin Smith

  • Field Based Phenomic Analysis of Yield and Quality in Pastures and Crops
  • Developing and Applying Genomic Selection Strategies in Pulse Crops
  • Image Analysis and Machine Learning using Sensors for Phenotyping in Field Crops
  • Development of Novel Technologies to Measure Pasture Growth and Persistence
  • Economic Analysis of Genetic Improvement of Pasture for Lamb and Dairy Production
  • Physiological Mechanisms associated with Biotic and Abiotic ;Stressors in Novel Perennial Ryegrass
  • Developing Agronomic Management Practices for High Value Safflower
  • Molecular Breeding of Forage Grasses particularly Perennial Ryegrass

Dr Dorin Gupta

  • Understanding physiological and molecular basis of frost tolerance in wheat with changing climatic conditions
  • Comparative morphological, physiological and molecular responses of wheat genotypes under terminal drought stress
  • Exploring wild lentil species to widen the genetic base of cultivated lentils
  • Understanding basis of biotic and abiotic stress resistance in legumes

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Animal Genetics

Project Leaders Project Name

Professor Michael Goddard

  • Genetic and genomic control of dairy cow fertility.

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Animal Physiology

Project Leaders Project Name

A/Prof Brian Leury

Prof Frank Dunshea

Dr Kristy DiGiacomo

  • Nutrition, metabolism and physiology during growth, pregnancy and lactation in sheep and dairy cows
  • Improving heat tolerance in ruminants through nutritional manipulation
  • Investigating the physiological basis of variation in energetic efficiency and/or response to high environmental heat load in livestock
  • Investigating the physiological basis of variation in the efficiency of digestive processes livestock
  • Regulation of feed intake in livestock
  • Evaluating feeds for ruminants using in vitro fermentation

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Animal Structure & Function

Project Leaders Project Name
A/Prof Simon Bailey
  • Pathophysiology of laminitis in horses.
  • Equine stem cell function.
  • Pathophysiology of endotoxaemia in horses and mechanisms of leukocyte activation.
  • Relationships between insulin resistance, diet and obesity in ponies and horses.
  • Biotechnology (Therapeutics) - Antibody therapy for an important equine disease
Dr Helen Davies
  • Functional anatomy of the locomotory and nervous systems in horses and dogs
  • Fascial anatomy and function in precocial quadrupeds
  • Investigation of hoof structure and function and interaction with the track surface
  • Functional morphology of the equine forelimb and hindlimb
  • Recording and optimising adaptation to exercise in animal athletes
  • Preventing breakdown and measuring training load in animal athletes
Dr Charles Pagel
  • Improving skeletal muscle regeneration and healing in response to injury and disease.
  • Protease-activated receptors and tissue fibrosis

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Animal Welfare

Project Leaders Project Name

Dr. Ellen Jongman

  • Investigating the welfare implications of management practices in the dairy industry
  • Developing and validating welfare indices for assessing animal welfare in the field for farm, companion and zoo animals

Dr Jean-Loup Rault

  • Development of social behaviour, social support and the neurohormone oxytocin
  • Humane methods of euthanasia and slaughter
  • Housing systems and management: free-range systems for poultry, group housing for pigs
  • Animal-computer interactions and other novel welfare methods

Prof Paul Hemsworth

  • Assessing the effects of visitors and husbandry on zoo animals
  • Pre-slaughter handling, sheep behaviour, stress, welfare and meat quality
  • Positive human-animal relationships and welfare implications for farm and companion animal species

Dr Rebecca Doyle

  • Assessing the effect of human behaviour on farm animal welfare
  • Investigating positive welfare states in animals
  • Understanding cognition and emotion in animals

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CAB (Centre for Animal Biotechnology)

Project Leaders Project Name
Dr Alison Every
  • Role of natural killer T cells in Helicobacter pylori-induced inflammation
Dr Kenneth Snibson
  • Functional and structural relationships of the peripheral airways in chronic asthma
  • The relationship between blood vessel remodeling and inflammatory cells in chronic asthma.

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Equine Medicine and Surgery

Project Leaders Project Name
A/Prof Simon Bailey
  • Causes of insulin dysregulation in ponies and horses
  • Novel treatments for equine laminitis
  • Biotechnology (Therapeutics) - Antibody therapy for an important equine disease
Dr Jennifer Charles
  • Racehorse fatality study
  • Risk factor analysis and post-mortem studies of racetrack fatalities
Dr Chris Whitton
  • Equine subchondral bone injury
Dr Peta Hitchens
  • Jockey falls and injuries that are associated with racehorse injury - This project is seeking a MPhil student. Closing date 14 Sept 2018.
    Learn more and how to apply
  • Agrifuture racing demographics project - Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health seeking PhD student for project focussing on population dynamics in Australian thoroughbred racehorses.
    Learn more and how to apply

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Food Science

Project Leaders Project Name

Dr Said Ajlouni

The principal research interests focus on food safety, quality and functionality, with special emphasis on minimally processed foods. Research topics cover the mode of action of natural antioxidants, fibers, and probiotics, and the effect of various processing and preservation techniques on safety, quality, and physio-chemical properties of foods.

Current and future research areas include:

  • Using hurdle technology to preserve and extend the shelf life of fresh produce
  • Antioxidants and their antimicrobial and health benefit
  • Food safety and food security
  • Impact of some food matrixes on the in vitro bioaccessibility of antioxidants

Dr. Robyn Warner

  • Fundamental and applied research on muscle oxidation and cytoskeletal proteins in relation to muscle quality and nutritional value.
Dr Kate Howell
  • Understanding the growth and physiology of wild yeasts in a wine fermentation
  • The influence of yeasts on;Drosophila longevity and fertility
  • The biosynthetic and environmental origin of rotundone in grapevines
  • Characterizing absorption properties of dietary plant metabolites (with CSIRO)
  • Objective measures for sparkling wine quality (with Dr. Sigfredo Fuentes)
  • Insect monitoring via traps with automated data collection and analysis (with Dr. Sigfredo Fuentes)
Dr Ken Ng
  • Identification and characterisation of;α-glucosidase inhibitors in foods for diabetes
  • Identification and characterisation of acetylcholine esterase inhibitors from medicinal herbs for Alzheimer’s diseases
Prof Frank Dunshea and Dr Sigfredo Fuentes
  • Sensory Analysis: Incorporating new tools in ;sensory analysis to enable experiments that manipulate the environment to answer questions of sensory influence of culture, behaviour and mood, informing product development.

Dr Gyorgy Scrinis

  • Prospective students with a background in social science research are welcome to inquire about conducting research in the politics, policy and sociology of food, agriculture and nutrition.

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Mackinnon Project

Chief Investigator Project Name

The Mackinnon Project

  • Based at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at Werribee on the outskirts of Melbourne, the Mackinnon Project is a recognised leader in sheep and beef consultancy both in Australia and internationally

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Microbiology, Epidemiology and Pathology

Project Leaders Project Name

Dr Helen Billman-Jacobe

  • Antimicrobial Stewardship: Using a One Health Approach
  • Novel, highly targeted, low environmental impact control of pest slugs and snails
  • Ciliate protozoa for control of grain pest molluscs.
  • The molecular epidemiology and public health significance of Salmonella in pigs and pork
  • Antibiotic resistance in bacteria in livestock and companion animals
  • Mycobacterial diseases (inc Johne's disease, Buruli Ulcer and Tuberculosis)
  • Using GRAS organsims to product novel microbial products
  • Food Safety projects for graduate coursework students
Prof Glenn Browning
  • Genomic approaches to control colibacillosis
Dr Jennifer Charles, Prof Glenn Browning
  • Role of uropathogenic virulence factors of Escherichia coli in the pathogenesis of canine pyometra
Dr Joanne Devlin
  • Pathogenesis of infectious laryngotracheitis virus in poultry
  • Influence of herpesvirus glycoprotein G on host immune responses
Prof Amir Noormohammadi
  • Investigation of inclusion body hepatitis outbreaks in Australian meat breeder/broiler flocks and establishment of an avian adenovirus typing facility and service.
  • Investigation of the prevalence of chlamydiosis in the Australian chicken meat industry.
  • Transfer of diagnostic technologies from research laboratories to a core diagnostic facility for the benefit of the Australian poultry industry.
Dr Peter C Scott
  • Long term protection against Salmonella Typhimurium in commercial ;poultry.
Dr Fiona Sansom
  • Identifying virulence factors of Leishmania using genetic and metabolomics approaches.

Dr Simon Firestone

Professor Mark Stevenson

  • Spatio-temporal epidemiology, nework analysis and modelling of infectious diseases.
  • Controlling fodborne disease of animal origin.
  • The epidemiology and control of Q fever in Victoria.
Wildlife Health Team
  • Mycoplasma in Australian Fur Seals
  • Chytrid fungus in Victorian amphibians
  • Serological surveys for a range of viruses and parasites in Australian native mammals

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One Health

Project Leaders Project Name

Associate Professor Lee Berger

Dr Laura Brannelly

Associate Professor Lee Skerratt

  • Exploring the effects of disease on reproduction in declining frog species
  • Understanding immunology and genetics of resistance against the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

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Plant Genetics

Project Leaders Project Name
Mohammad Pourkheirandish
  • Study of natural variation, crop evolution, divergence and adaptation.
  • Identifying genes that were selected during the domestication process.
  • Unraveling crop inflorescence development and architecture.
  • Mechanisms of grain dispersal and its molecular basis in cereals.
  • New crop domestication.

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Plant Molecular Biology

Project Leaders Project Name
Plant Biotechnology
  • The Plant Biotechnology group offers an exciting and stimulating world class environment for research, education and training in plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology

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Project Leaders Project Name
Prof Robin Gasser
  • Development and application of genomic and bioinformatic methods to identify and explore crucial biological pathways in socio-economically important parasites
  • Using genomic and bioinformatic technologies to understand parasite-host interactions and parasitic disease
  • Development and use of molecular tools to detect and characterise waterborne, food-borne and other zoonotic pathogens
  • Development of advanced molecular methods for the diagnosis of parasitic infections and diseases
  • Identification of new anti-parasite drug targets using advanced -omic technologies
  • Development of new drugs against parasites
  • Characterisation and exploration of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes of parasites
  • Population genetics to characterise parasitic worm biodiversity
  • Epidemiological investigations of parasites of socioeconomic importance
Prof Robin Gasser, Dr Aaron Jex
  • Mitogenomics of key pathogens – an international research co-operative
Prof Rebecca J Traub
  • Pets, Parasites and People - Epidemiological investigation of companion animal endoparasites in Australia. This project is seeking a MPhil or PhD student to enrol.
Dr Fiona Sansom
  • Identifying virulence factors of Leishmania using genetic and metabolomics approaches.
Dr Neil Young

and Professor Robin Gasser

  • Development of genomic tools to characterise conserved and novel parasite protein families
  • Genome-guided population genetics of blood flukes (schistosomes) affecting humans

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Remote Sensing and Precision Agriculture

Project Leaders Project Name

Professor Pablo J. Zarco-Tejada

  • Detection of abiotic stress using airborne hyperspectral and thermal remote sensing images
  • Nutrient assessment of crops using radiative transfer models and airborne imaging spectroscopy
  • Water stress detection using high-resolution thermal images
  • Chlorophyll fluorescence quantification using narrow-band hyperspectral imagers and physical models

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Rural Innovation and Agricultural Economics

Project Leaders Project Name

A/Prof Ruth Nettle

  • Agricultural workforce and workplace policies
  • Research, Development and extension in Australia/and internationally
  • Agricultural extension policy
  • Human dimensions of farming transitions
  • New technologies in farming and their co-development
Dr Margaret Ayre
  • Natural resource management and governance
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Participatory water resources management
  • Indigenous caring for country
  • The study of trans-disciplinarity in agriculture and NRM
Dr Barbara King
  • Agricultural innovation systems
  • Agricultural extension practice and policy
  • Privatisation of advisory services
  • Public-private sector networks
Dr Kate Lee
  • Employee experiences of work environment
  • Organisational psychology
  • Human resources management
Michael Santhanam-Martin
  • Future of farming and sustainable agriculture
  • Rural community futures
  • Agricultural governance
A/Prof Bill Malcolm
  • Farm Economics

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Small Animal Medicine and Surgery

Project Leaders Project Name
TRACTS study group
  • Our research interests align closely to our clinical interests, and we specialise in areas such as veterinary emergency and critical care, gastroenterology, urology, pharmacology, theriogenology, anaesthesiology or neurology.

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Soil Science

Project Leaders Project Name

Dr Jizheng (Jim) He

  • Microbial mechanisms of soil nitrogen and carbon cycling
  • Responses of soil microbial communities to environmental stresses
  • Distribution and behaviour of antibiotic resistance genes in environment.

Dr Helen Suter

  • Understanding and tightening the nitrogen cycling for sustainable production systems (soil, plant, atmosphere, fertilisers and plant nutrition)
  • Quantification and mitigation of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture
  • Improving nutrient use efficiency in agriculture with enhanced efficiency fertilisers
  • The role of soil organic amendments for intensive production systems
Dr Tony Weatherley
  • Soils and their sustainable management (phosphorus, water quality, dairy pastures)
  • Soil and fertiliser interactions (alternative phosphorus fertilisers, plant nutrition

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Veterinary Parasitology

Project Leaders Project Name

A/Prof Abdul Jabbar

  • Assessment of two sheep breeds for their natural resistance to a parasitic nematode, Haemonchus contortus.
  • Development of novel diagnostic methods for the detection and quantification of horse parasites
  • Epidemiology of coccidiosis in Australian dairy goats
  • Anthelmintic resistance in parasites of Australian Thoroughbred horses

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