University of Queensland

The University of Queensland (UQ) was awarded $200,000 in grant funding as part of the Queensland Government Youth Research Grants to help stimulate interest in research that reflects the needs and views of young Queenslanders.

Forty young people have delivered 46 research projects, including 40 funded by the Queensland Government, across the following topics:

  • wellbeing and health
  • climate action and the environment
  • future foods
  • sustainable communities.

    Wellbeing and health

    Investigating human exposure to pesticides

    Human exposure risks related to widely used pesticides were examined in a project funded by the Australian Research Council Grant. In partnership with industry and government, including Queensland Health, the project aimed to develop improved policies and guidelines to minimise health risks to the public.

    For more information, contact Dr Sarit Kaserzon by emailing

    Auslan language technologies

    Sign language technology development was explored in a project that offered students the chance to work on various aspects of sign language technology development, such as annotation of Auslan data, sign recognition, virtual avatar creation, GAN video generation, NLP translation between English and Auslan, and augmented reality for learning Auslan. SLAIT AI was also introduced as a new approach to AI/ML based on Shannon entropy.

    For more information, contact Dr Jessica Korte by emailing

    Valuing the full spectrum of human experiences, including depressive states and substance use

    Although substance use and misuse are often linked with harm, there is a need for public health/epidemiology to recognise that substances can also be used in an attempt to enhance wellbeing. There is literature about the recognition of pleasure from drug use, and people’s use of substances to enhance their wellbeing (including by micro-dosing). This project explored this literature systematically and considered data available through the Drug Trends Research Program to support this idea.

    For more information, contact Dr Natalie Thomas by emailing

    The intersection of LGBTQIA+ identity and physiotherapy

    LGBTQIA+ individuals face poorer health and healthcare access than their heterosexual counterparts. They report experiencing discrimination, discomfort, and lack of knowledge from physiotherapists. This project aimed to understand physiotherapists' attitudes towards working with LGBTQIA+ clients, identify knowledge gaps, and compile relevant resources for the profession.

    For more information, contact by emailing Dr Megan Ross

    Personalised medicine and treatment in ICU

    ICUs are demanding and chaotic environments, with patients exhibiting extreme pathology and confusing differential diagnoses. Personalised medicine can help save lives, but the lack of a clear best treatment makes supervised learning methods unsuitable. This project explored using readily available ICU data and deep learning to develop a practical electronic clinician assistant for personalized critical care, providing new insights into clinical decision-making.

    For more information, contact Prof. Xue Li by emailing

    The digitalization of evidence-based professional training

    Effective intervention in medical and health requires consultation skills, which are difficult to teach and assess. Current interaction analysis systems are limited to human-dependent methods. This project aimed to explore professional training approaches for the online environment and develop an AI agent to support consultation skills training and assessment. An automated feedback system assessed trainees' skills and provided appropriate feedback.

    For more information, contact Dr April Hoang by emailing

    Targeted nanotherapeutic delivery system to combat bone metastasized cancers

    The project aimed to develop a targeted nanotherapeutic delivery system for bone metastasised cancers, using biodegradable polymers with attached targeting molecules for bone seeking ability and sustained drug release. The project expanded the polymers, formulated the nanoparticles, and evaluated drug release and bone seeking ability.

    For more information, contact Dr Anitha Sudheesh Kumar by emailing

    Development of personalised nanomedicines

    This project involved the development of novel polymeric materials to be used as nanomedicines for understanding diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

    For more information, contact Dr Craig Bell by emailing

    Open trismus: open-sourcing a medical device for 3D printing

    A team of designers, engineers, and clinicians has developed a low-cost, 3D-printed device for treating trismus, an alternative to expensive market options. The team shared files and information for global accessibility. A student evaluated the medical device/legal framework and contributed to setting up the online documentation. The project was a collaboration between the University of Queensland Law School and the Herston Biofabrication Institute.

    For more information, contact Hamish MacDonald by emailing

    Precision mental health care for substance use disorder

    The research project involved evaluating improvements in psychological treatment that incorporates a new, theory-driven computerised assessment tool designed to personalise care (iAx).

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Matthew Gullo by emailing

    Bioprospecting for thermostable enzymes for biotechnology applications

    This project aimed to discover the diversity of thermally active p450 monooxygenases in uncharacterised microorganisms found in hot springs. Using bioinformatic techniques on microbial DNA from Innot Hot Springs in Queensland’s Tablelands region, this study identified the potential medical or remediation benefits of the modified compounds resulting from the enzymes.

    For more information, contact Dr Paul Evans by emailing

    Moving with culture: Co-designing socioemotional movement using traditional knowledge

    This project aimed to address the high rate of suicides in the Yarrabah Aboriginal community by investigating the effectiveness of the Moving with Culture program. The program combined fundamental movement skills with socioemotional learning to improve child development outcomes and prepare children for a meaningful life. The research aimed to enhance the program's culturally reflective learning process, train community-based early childhood educators, and explore the program's feasibility within a community-controlled allied health setting. The outcome of the project is a culturally responsive framework for movement and to promote positive health and wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

    For more information, contact Dr Keane Wheeler by emailing

    Facilitating self-compassion to build mental health resilience

    This research investigated the neural basis of self-compassion and extended previous work on the roles of likeability and self-worth in willingness to act compassionately versus kindly. The team developed and implemented self-report paradigms and assisted in a brain imaging study. The findings will inform interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing in clinical and educational contexts.

    For more information, contact Dr James Kirby by emailing

    Characterising hazardous contaminants in everyday use products

    The research project analysed common household products such as cleaning products and detergents for harmful compounds using advanced methods. In collaboration with European partners, the findings informed the presence and exposure to detected contaminants to inform public health guidelines.

    For more information, contact Dr Sarit Kaserzon by emailing

    Understanding neurobiological mechanisms to promote resilience to stress-related mental health conditions

    Chronic stress is a risk for neuropsychiatric disorders. Discovering neurobiological mechanisms that confer resilience is a novel strategy for antidepressant therapeutics. This project explored how adult-born neurons and molecular candidates contribute to stress-induced anxiety-like behaviour.

    For more information, contact Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri by emailing

    Optimizing nanomedicine pre-targeting for precision cancer radiotherapy

    This project studied radiotherapeutic nanomedicine formats and their interactions with target cancer cells in the presence of cancer specific biologics in novel targeting approaches.

    For more information, contact Dr Nicholas Fletcher by emailing

    Mental health and addictions: impact of COVID-19 on medicine prescriptions in Australia

    This project investigated the impact of COVID-19 on smoking cessation medication in Australia, analysing prescription data across demographics to better understand the pandemic’s effects. The research aimed to improve future management of mental health and addictions during pandemics.

    For more information, contact Dr Dolly Baliunas by emailing

    Isolation and characterization of cancer cell-derived extracellular vesicles

    EVs are naturally produced nanoparticles that carry signalling molecules for intercellular communication. Cancer cell-produced EVs may corrupt other cells, facilitating tumour growth. This project sought to isolate and study high-quality EVs from various cancer cells and assess their impact on non-cancerous cells.

    For more information, contact Prof. Joy Wolfram by emailing

    Understanding the dynamic relationships between young people’s music listening, mental health, and loneliness in the time of COVID-19—an experience sampling study

    Prior research has demonstrated that COVID-19 increased loneliness and mental health symptoms among 50% of Australian university students, necessitating affordable mental health prevention. Music listening can help regulate stress, sadness, anger, and wellbeing, and was associated with greater life satisfaction during COVID-19. This study employed experience sampling methods via the MuPsych app to examine the relationships between music listening, emotions, and loneliness among young people during COVID-19.

    For more information, contact Dr Genevieve Dingle by emailing

    Evaluation of Brain Pilot—a digital training platform to improve young people's mental health literacy and resilience

    This project evaluated the effectiveness of Brain Pilot, a peer-to-peer digital training platform developed by ALLKND that aims to improve mental health literacy and resilience among year 10-12 students (16 years of age and older).

    For more information, contact Dr Joemer Maravilla by emailing

    Theory of mind development in children with neurodevelopmental disorders and children who are deaf or hard of hearing

    Theory of Mind (ToM) is vital for children's social development and has strong links to language development. Deaf or hard of hearing (D/HoH) children with deaf parents develop ToM typically, but those born to hearing parents experience delays. Early intervention may mitigate delays. Maternal mental state language affects ToM development in typically developing children. This study examined the nature of this language to children with neurodevelopmental disorders to inform interventions for social skill difficulties.

    For more information, contact Dr Aisling Mulvihill by emailing

    Climate action and the environment

    Innovative electricity retail tariffs

    This project undertook a desktop review of existing innovative retail tariffs—such as sun soaking, time-of-use, and EV tariffs—around Australia and the world.

    For more information, contact Prof. Flavio Menezes by emailing

    Smart home energy management system

    This project deployed Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to gather energy consumption data from various household appliances, rooftop PV panels, and battery storage. The information was sent to a cloud server and analysed using data analytics algorithms to improve energy efficiency.

    For more information, contact Dr Hui Ma by emailing

    A consumer-informed study to develop a professional development program that promotes sustainability education

    Introduced in 2011, sustainability is a cross-curriculum priority in the Australian Curriculum. Implementation remains minimal, as teachers lack understanding and competence to embed sustainability across the curriculum. The project identified the current status of sustainability cross-curriculum priority (S-CCP) education in Queensland schools, and the skills needed for successful integration in order to develop a professional development program that promotes sustainability education.

    For more information, contact Dr April Hoang by emailing

    Carbon storage in basalts

    This research project characterised and reacted basalt rocks with carbon dioxide to evaluate the potential for safe storage of CO2 by conversion to carbonate minerals, reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere through carbon storage.

    For more information, contact Dr Julie Pearce by emailing

    The economics of recycling in Queensland—challenges and opportunities

    The project reviewed the regulatory framework that underpins recycling in Queensland with a view to better understand embedded incentives, and to identify any opportunities for greater use of economic instruments to reduce pressure on natural resources, decrease emissions, and mitigate the burden of solid waste.

    For more information, contact Prof. Flavio Menezes by emailing

    State of knowledge of scope 1 emissions from wastewater treatment plants

    Water utilities must report on GHG emissions, including Scope 1 emissions from biological wastewater treatment processes, which contribute significantly to GHG. Methane and nitrous oxide are potent GHGs, and nitrous oxide emissions alone can constitute up to 70% of the carbon footprint of a sewage treatment plant. This research project aimed to improve the scientific basis for quantifying emissions from water and wastewater treatment processes to reduce GHG emissions and improve sustainability, specifically focusing on Scope 1 emissions from biological wastewater treatment processes.

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Liu Ye by emailing

    Renewable energy generation forecasting

    Renewable energies like wind and solar are crucial for a sustainable future. Their intermittent nature, however, presents a challenge for users. Accurately predicting potential power from solar and wind farms is vital for network stability. This project used datasets to build forecasting models for short and medium-term power predictions.

    For more information, contact Dr Mahdi Abolghasemi by emailing

    Mechanical performance of an innovative bacteria-based biodegradable material to replace plastics

    This project focused on delivering a new bacteria-based and fully biodegradable bioplastic material to address the current issues caused by plastic pollution. The project evaluated commercially relevant properties and compared them with existing plastics as a benchmark using industry standard mechanical testing.

    For more information, contact Dr Luigi Vandi by emailing

    Analysing the potential environmental impacts of the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games

    This research project conducted a systematic review and environmental life cycle assessment to identify and analyse potential environmental impacts of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. The results will help plan sustainable infrastructure for the games and inform future grant proposals.

    For more information, contact Dr Anthony Halog by emailing

    Designing low-toxicity and stable perovskites for solar energy conversion

    The project designed and evaluated lead-free metal halide perovskites for efficient solar hydrogen conversion, with the goal of creating stable semiconductors with superior photophysical properties, synthesized based on computational predictions. The project evaluated their photocatalytic performance and stability for solar-driven valuable chemical production.

    For more information, contact Dr Miaoqiang Lyu by emailing

    Microbial encapsulation and the intensified removal of nutrients from water

    This project investigated the use of immobilized microbes for wastewater treatment, encapsulating a culture of microbes that can remove nitrogen and phosphorus in a polymeric biobead and applied in a lab-scale treatment process to evaluate the benefits of encapsulation. The project aimed to provide a sustainable solution for wastewater treatment.

    For more information, contact Dr Adrian Oehmen by emailing

    Safe adoption of hydrogen energy

    The Global Change Youth Research program identified sustainability and environmental research as a priority. Hydrogen is a low-carbon fuel with potential in hard-to-decarbonize sectors. However, the risks associated with its production, storage, and use must be understood. This project aimed to analyse publicly accessible incident databases, HIAD 2.0 and h2tools, to identify effective and ineffective controls during hydrogen incidents. The results were analysed using risk management tools such as bow tie and AcciMap to reduce the impact of future incidents and inform engineering student curriculum.

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Maureen Hassall by emailing

    Eco-diversity at the margins—integrating ecosocial work practice in social work education through the lens of permaculture

    A key action proposed by young people attending the UQ 2022 Youth Forum was using council land for community gardens and “flourishing community gardens on every block for composting and promotion of healthier diets”. The current project built on this proposal by exploring the contribution of permaculture as a system-based holistic approach to sustainability.

    For more information, contact Dr Deborah Lynch by emailing

    Queensland’s Threatened Species Program—designing an evaluation

    The Queensland Department of Environment and Science's Threatened Species Program (TSP) aims to protect and recover threatened species in Queensland, working with stakeholders to evaluate and showcase its effectiveness. UQ’s Institute For Social Science Research (ISSR) is partnering with TSP to develop a plan for evaluating the program's work and linking conservation efforts with community communications.

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Caroline Salom by emailing

    Discovering the known and unknown risks and risk management practices associated with small modular reactors

    This project focussed on nuclear power's contribution to Australia's energy transition. The project aimed to assess risks associated with small modular reactors for generating low-emissions electricity and address societal concerns, with the goal to identify gaps in knowledge and potential capability gaps in the Australian workforce.

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Maureen Hassall by emailing

    Future foods

    Product development with rice and bushfoods for low allergenic delicious foods

    This project uses bushfood products and other non-allergenic ingredients to develop a new food project that tastes very nice and has the ability to carry health claims on the label. The project worked with a bushfood business to understand how to out-scale a product from a lab to a business.

    For more information, contact Prof. Melissa Fitzgerald by emailing

    Plant-based meats

    Plant-based meat products are popular due to environmental, ethical, and health concerns, but replicating meat's taste is a challenge. The project used supramolecular chemistry, a self-assembly technique that used non-covalent interactions, to reduce the need for binders and create cleaner labels, thereby facilitating the growth of the market.

    For more information, contact Dr Becca Foster by emailing

    Sustainable communities

    Offsite manufacture reimagined for high-performance adaptable housing (ARC Linkage)

    The project developed a panelised lightweight timber system that is adaptable to all Australian climates and household changes, contributing to sustainable growth and boosting the timber construction sector. This was achieved by utilizing adaptable design for spatial reconfiguration and component reuse in offsite timber manufacturing.

    For more information, contact Dr Paola Leardini by emailing

    3D flood visualisation and simulation data integration

    The project developed a predictive 3D flood visualization for Brisbane, integrating real-time data with visualization during floods to improve emergency response and inform evacuation plans. The model combined open government datasets, including elevation, dam levels, and weather data.

    For more information, contact Dr Mashhuda Glencross by emailing

    Random dynamical systems analysis of quantitative and qualitative effects of rare but large disruptions in transport networks

    This project examined the impact of rare, significant changes on long-term features of dynamical systems. Specifically, it focussed on how transport networks are affected by disruptions, such as accidents or closures. Using ergodic-theoretical tools and numerical simulations, the project explored how these changes affect the system's long-term evolution within a random dynamical systems framework.

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Cecilia Gonzalez Tokman by emailing

    Peer gender composition and selection into STEM in Queensland high school

    The project reviewed the literature on peer gender composition effects on selection into STEM at school.

    For more information, contact Dr Tina Rampino by emailing

    Community, social encounter and public spaces in the outer suburbs

    This research aimed to understand how Australians use suburban spaces to connect with their community, prevent isolation and build cohesion. As 75% of Australians live in suburbs, it is important to explore how COVID-19 lockdowns and work from home arrangements affect social interaction. The project used qualitative methods such as interviews, observation and visual images to engage with local communities.

    For more information, contact Dr Peter Walters by emailing

    Carpe Futurum—a documentary about youth research priorities

    Young people increasingly use new media to express their concerns and priorities. This project explored how youth voices are represented in film and tools for amplifying them. Young filmmakers and researchers collaborated to produce a documentary showcasing youth-led research projects and talent, shared through GCI and UQ's social media.

    For more information, contact Dr Richard Murray by emailing

    Spectral stability, transfer operators and predictability for dynamical systems in a changing environment

    This project studied complicated dynamical systems using transfer operators, which have been used to study slowly-mixing regions of the oceans such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The project investigated the connection between spectral instability in transfer operator cocycles and predictability of large-scale features, exploring the effect of various types of noise in models of systems evolving in a changing environment.

    For more information, contact A/Prof. Cecilia Gonzalez Tokman by emailing

    Google maps and public transport use

    This study investigated whether providing access to real-time transit information in Google Maps increases public transport ridership. The event study used differences in the timing of access across cities to identify the effect.

    For more information, contact Dr Andrea La Nauze by emailing