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HDR scholarship projects

NDARC offers scholarships to students who wish to undertake higher degree research (HDR) on drug and alcohol related projects that align with NDARC’s core workplan areas:

  • Prevention and early intervention
  • Clinical research
  • Physical and mental comorbidity
  • Epidemiology of substance use and harms
  • Justice health and drug policy
  • Indigenous health
  • Health economics and biostatistics
  • Family, communities and society

For more information please visit Scholarships at NDARC.

HDR projects currently seeking students

Project title: Quantifying pharmaceutical misuse and harms among older adults

Primary supervisor: Professor Michael Farrell
Joint supervisor: Dr Natasa Gisev
Secondary supervisor: Dr Amy Peacock

Project description: There is global concern regarding escalating pharmaceutical misuse among older adults. Negative impacts on global health burden and healthcare utilisation may be exacerbated by the complex healthcare needs of the growing ageing population. Currently, the extent and drivers of pharmaceutical misuse among older adults and related harms, and their comorbidity with other drug and alcohol problems, are unknown. The candidate will undertake a range of studies using data from population-based sources and linked cohorts [e.g. Data-Linkage Alcohol Cohort Study (~200,00 people) and Opioid Agonist Treatment Safety Study (~50,000 people)] to generate robust evidence addressing these gaps to inform appropriate responses.

Candidate requirements:

  • Masters or Honours in public health, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, biostatistics or a related field
  • Strong skills in quantitative analysis, with experience using linked administrative data highly regarded
  • Track record of publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

For more information about this project please contact Dr Natasa Gisev (n.gisev@unsw.edu.au). 


Project title: Quantifying the risks of methamphetamine dependence and interventions to reduce harm

Primary supervisor: Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt
Joint supervisor: Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin
Secondary supervisor: Dr Amy Peacock

Project description: Methamphetamine is a global health concern, with harms including psychosis, suicide, violence, stroke, and mortality. These cost Australia ~$5billion per annum. Few data are available on the extent of use, and even fewer on what interventions reduce harms. We lead international efforts to develop estimation methods for prevalence of use and are trialling interventions to reduce harms. This PhD will inform policy response by generating:

  • Australian and global estimates of methamphetamine dependence, injecting, and related harms
  • Cost-effectiveness estimates for methamphetamine treatment and harm reduction interventions
  • Estimates of impacts of novel interventions on the extent of methamphetamine use, dependence and harms

Candidate requirements:

  • Masters or Honours in public health, epidemiology, bio/statistics or a related field
  • Strong skills in quantitative analysis
  • Track record of publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

For more information about this project please contact Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin (r.mcketin@unsw.edu.au). 


Project title: Perspectives of treatment and support for people who are drug dependent and their families

Primary supervisor: Professor Michael Farrell
Joint supervisor: Dr Julia Lappin
Secondary supervisor: Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt

Project description: Substance dependence impacts not only people who are experiencing problems, but their families and communities. Effective treatments such as opioid agonist treatment are available for opioid dependence, but there are few effective options for methamphetamine, and little is known about client and families’ experiences of seeking help. This PhD will explore the barriers and facilitators of substance use therapies from varied perspectives using a mixed method approach. It will explore how to optimise interventions through attaining insights from individuals who consume drugs, their family members, the community, health care workers and service providers.

The PhD will: 

  1. Examine client access to different treatment modalities, and factors influencing exploration of improved delivery systems (including novel depot opioid treatments, which have recently been registered in Australia), through the CoLAB study 
  2. Explore families’ experiences of the onset of problematic use of drugs and their access to models of support for families and carers of people with dependent use
  3. Explore, using routine data collections on drug treatment, the extent of treatment utilisation and retention in treatment
  4. Using data from the Family Drug Support program, examine families’ access to this service and their patterns of engagement

Candidate requirements:

  • Masters or Honours in public health, epidemiology, social sciences or a related field
  • Strong skills in quantitative analysis
  • Track record of publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

For more information about this project please contact Professor Michael Farrell (Michael.farrell@unsw.edu.au). 


Project title: Investigating the risk of harm from prescription opioids using linked data

Primary supervisor: Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt
Joint supervisor: Dr Natasa Gisev
Secondary supervisor: Professor Sallie Pearson

Project description: Escalating opioid use/misuse and harms is a global health problem. There is limited population-level evidence about the drivers of long-term prescribed opioid use, dependence, overdose and other harms. The PhD candidate will contribute to a broader program of work (POPPY II) that addresses these gaps.

POPPY II is a retrospective cohort of ~2 million people prescribed opioids in NSW, linked to health service utilisation (primary care, hospitalisations, emergency department presentations) and mortality. Using best practice pharmacoepidemiological methods, the candidate will undertake a range of studies to quantify the risk of harm associated with prescription opioids to inform national and global responses.

Candidate requirements:

  • Masters or Honours in public health, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, biostatistics or a related field
  • Strong skills in quantitative analysis, with experience using linked administrative data highly regarded
  • Track record of publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

For more information about this project please contact Scientia Professor Louisa Degenhardt (l.degenhardt@unsw.edu.au) or Dr Natasa Gisev (n.gisev@unsw.edu.au).


Project title: Text message support for smoking cessation among low-socioeconomic status smokers

Primary supervisor: Dr. Ryan Courtney

Project description: Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide and is forecasted to cause over 8 million deaths per year by 2030, if smoking habits remain unchanged. The recent plateau in the rate of decline in Australian smoking rates, combined with a continuing social gradient in smoking cessation, outlines the unprecedented need for innovative and targeted smoking cessation strategies tailored to the most disadvantaged. This project will address this need by evaluating the cost-effectiveness of a tailored and widely scalable text messaging program, in achieving smoking abstinence for low-socioeconomic status smokers in Australia, compared to standard Quitline care.

Candidate requirements: 

  • Masters or Honours in public health, psychology, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, biostatistics or a related field
  • Strong skills in quantitative analysis
  • Track record of publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Demonstrated capacity to work independently, as well as collaboratively, to meet team and project deadlines and milestones
  • Strong organisational skills

For more information about this project please contact Dr Ryan Courtney (r.courtney@unsw.edu.au). 


Project title: Use and safety of prescription drugs of dependence during pregnancy

Primary supervisor: Dr Alys Havard

Project description: Prescription drugs of dependence, which include psychostimulants, opioids and benzodiazepines, are prescription medicines that have therapeutic value but a high potential for misuse, abuse and dependence. Limited evidence exists to guide decisions regarding the potential use of these medicines during pregnancy. This PhD project will investigate the magnitude and patterns of use of prescription drugs of dependence among pregnant women in NSW, and the risk of harm to the mother and baby. These research questions will be investigated linked routinely collected data including birth records, pharmaceutical dispensing data, hospital admissions data, congenital malformation notifications, NAPLAN data and death records.

Candidate requirements:

  • Masters or Honours in clinical medicine, public health, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, biostatistics or a related field
  • Strong skills in data management and statistical analysis, with experience using large-scale linked data highly regarded
  • Track record of publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

For more information about this project please contact Dr Alys Havard (alys.havard@unsw.edu.au).