The LifeCourse Research Development Program

As part of our PhD and Postdoctoral Support Program, LifeCourse has initiated a program to build capacity on campus. It has been primarily designed to support career development in cohort studies research. Relevant information will be posted on the LifeCourse Notice Board.

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Introducing our LifeCourse Postdoctoral Fellows and PhD students

With the support of the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, LifeCourse has been able to fund 9 part-time postdoctoral fellow positions and 3 PhD students. After careful consideration, we are pleased to announce our postdoctoral fellows and PhD students for 2019! Read more about each researcher below, and what their project will be investigating.

The LifeCourse Postdoctoral Fellows

A special congratulations to Jing Wang, for having the highest ranked application.

Fallon Cook

Fallon Cook

Group: Intergenerational Health

Project: Infant regulation and child mental health

Supervisors: Stephanie Brown, Emma Sciberras, Rebecca Giallo, Peter Vuillermin and Sheena Reilly

Main project content: Infant regulation and child mental health

Project description: Generating the evidence to inform the development of tailored prevention strategies and new interventions for dysregulated (unsettled behaviour) infants at risk for mental health difficulties; by investigating prenatal factors associated with infant dysregulation, the link between infant dysregulation and specific childhood psychiatric diagnoses, and protective factors that buffer the negative impact of early dysregulation.

Izabela Fedyszyn

Izabela Fedyszyn

Group: Adolescent Health

Project: The natural history of self-harm from childhood to adolescence and its predictors

Supervisors: Rohan Borschmann and George Patton

Main project content: Self-harm in adolescents

Project description: To bridge the gaps in current understanding of adolescent self-harm by drawing on overlapping, yet complementary, data from two cohorts of young people; including investigating the natural course of self-harm during the transition from childhood to adolescence, describing the characteristics of self-harm, and identifying predictors of self-harm and suicide attempts.

Jessica Kerr

Group: Prevention Innovation

Project: The interaction of obesogenic genes and obesogenic neighbourhood environments in predicting childhood obesity and metabolic syndrome

Supervisors: Melissa Wake, Lukar Thornton and Richard Saffery (with Karen Lamb, Anneke Grobler)

Main project content: Environment, genetics and obesity

Project description: Using geospatial information systems to map obesogenic environments and investigating whether obesogenic environments explain obesity and metabolic syndrome outcomes over and above individual lifestyle exposures, and interact with obesity polygenic risk.

Jing Wang

Jing Wang

Group: Prevention Innovation

Project: To what extent does genetic and environmental risk influence language outcomes at different levels of hearing?

Supervisors: Melissa Wake, Valerie Sung, Angela Morgan and Richard Saffery

Main project content: Genes, environment and language

Project description: Investigating the influence of genetic and environmental factors, and their interactions, on language outcomes in both typical hearing and hearing loss children. This includes exploring the ability of polygenic risk scores to predict language outcomes.

Katherine Lange

Group: Epigenetics

Project: “Happy and Healthy” – molecular profiles of mental wellbeing in childhood and early adulthood

Supervisors: Richard Saffery, Sharon Lewis and Kim-Anh Le Cao

Main project content: Genetics, epigenetics, metabolomics and mental wellbeing

Project description: Investigating the interaction between pre-disposition and environment in trajectories of mental wellbeing throughout childhood and early adulthood, using multiple ‘omics datasets to identify molecular mechanisms underlying mental wellbeing. This project also builds campus capacity in omic and multi-omic analyses.

Laura Conway

Laura Conway

Group: Intergenerational Health

Project: Early life adversity and children’s language and learning

Supervisors: Rebecca Giallo, Sheena Reilly and Jon Quach

Main project content: Social adversity, language development and educational attainment

Project description: Investigating the association between early life adversity and child language development and academic pathways, and identifying risk and protective factors (parenting, home learning environment, child mental health) that could disrupt these associations.

Melanie Neeland

Melanie Neeland

Group: Population Allergy

Project: Early life immune biomarkers of childhood allergy

Supervisors: Kirsten Perrett and Richard Saffery

Main project content: Allergy and immunology

Project description: Using state-of-the-art and novel techniques to understand the immunological and molecular mechanisms driving the development of allergic disease in childhood, including whether immune signatures are observed prior to allergy onset and the effect of early life environmental exposures on immune development. This project also builds campus capacity to investigate immune system development for any cohort collecting blood samples.

Meredith O'Connor

Meredith O’Connor

Group: Policy and Equity

Project: Promoting optimal mental health pathways over the life course

Supervisors: Sharon Goldfeld and Craig Olsson

Main project content: Mental health competence

Project description: Investigating the influences on and impact of mental health competence (also termed positive mental health, wellbeing, or emotional health); including the impact of socioeconomic disadvantage on mental health competence in both an Australian and UK context; and to what extent mental health competence buffers risk for mental health difficulties.

Mihiri Silva

Group: Inflammatory Origins

Project: Understanding the origins and impact of dental health: a life course approach

Supervisors: David Burgner, Nicky Kilpatrick, Stuart Dashper (with Katrina Scurrah, Margarita Moreno Betancur, Kerrod Hallett)

Main project content: Dental health

Project description: To develop cost-effective, high-throughput and scalable dental phenotyping for life course studies and investigate relationships between early life environment, oral microbiome, dental health (dental caries and hypomineralisation), inflammation and cardiometabolic disease risk.

The LifeCourse PhD Students

Cindy Pham

Group: Molecular Epidemiology

Project: Prenatal oxidant exposures, oxidative stress and the integration of mitochondriomics in childhood neurodevelopment

Supervisors: Anne-Louise Ponsonby, Peter Vuillermin, Martin O’Hely and Christos Symeonides

Main project content: Prenatal oxidant (nutritional / pharmaceutical / environment toxicants) stress exposures, mitochondriomics and neurodevelopment

Project description: Investigating whether increased prenatal oxidant (nutritional, pharmaceutical and environment toxicants) exposure that alters oxidative stress subsequently affects neurodevelopment in the child via mitochondrial system dysfunction.


Heidi Renner

Group: Adolescent Health

Project: Identifying and reducing inequities in educational pathways through socially inclusive community practices

Supervisors: John Toumbourou, Delyse Hutchinson and Bosco Rowland

Main project content: Social cohesion, health and wellbeing, education, and inequities and vulnerable youth

Project description: Investigating the protective effect of social cohesion on health, mental health and educational disengagement for young people with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage (vulnerability).


Nur Sabrina Idrose

Group: Population Allergy

Project: The effects of pollen exposure on lung function and airway inflammation in children and adults, and potential modifiers of these associations

Supervisors: Shyamali Dharmage and Jennifer Koplin

Main project content: Allergy and respiratory health

Project description: Investigating the associations between pollen and lung function; and airway inflammation in both children and adults. Also exploring potential biological pathways and modifying factors (e.g. food allergies, genetic factors, systemic inflammatory and immune markers) of these associations in order to establish high-risk groups and preventative strategies.

To learn more about the program, click on the below links:
Click for PhD Support Information

Click for Postdoctoral Support Information