QUT Young Accelerators offers an exclusive internship program for Year 12 students to work alongside QUT researchers. Running from Tuesday 6 to Friday 9 July 2021, students will be able to undertake one exciting research placement listed below. (Note: subject to change without notice.)

Artificial Intelligence and Road Safety

Dr Mahmoud Masoud, Dr Mohammed Elhenawy

QUT Faculty of Health

STEM Disciplines explored: Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Heuristics, Engineering, Data Science, Technology

Assumed knowledge: coding/programming knowledge

In this placement students will be placed in QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q). CARRS-Q’s mission is to make an international impact on transport, and occupational and community safety through research and education. Students will assist researchers towards creating a safer world in which injury-related harm is uncommon and unacceptable.

There are two major sections of the placement.

  1. Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of machine learning and optimization heuristics, and its utilisation to improve road safety by Dr Mohammed Elhenawy and Dr Mahmoud Masoud.
  2. Students will also explore a number of research projects from within CARRS-Q including:
  • an insight into the future of the Automated Vehicle Technology with Dr Gregoire Larue and Dr Sebastien Demmel,
  • a visit to the Advance CARRS-Q simulator with Mr Adrian Wilson, Dr Gregoire Larue and Dr Sebastien Demmel. (students with their drivers’ licence will be allowed to drive the simulator!), and
  • an introduction to Virtual Reality (VR) technology by Michael Gerber and Dr Ronald Schroeter.
About Dr Mahmoud Masoud:
After completing his undergraduate and some post graduate studies at Cairo University, Egypt, Dr Mahmoud Masoud continued his studies at QUT with a PhD in Mathematical Sciences. Since completing his PhD in 2012 Dr Masoud has been working at QUT in various research projects. Mahmoud currently works as a Research Associate at CARRS-Q, in the Cooperative and Highly Automated Driving (CHAD) Safety project to develop a cooperative and (highly) automated vehicle (CAV) prototype.

As well as vast experience in teaching many statistical, mathematical and computer science courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students, Dr Masoud has extensive experience in many industrial and research projects such as Ride Sharing Optimisation, Digital Beef Supply Chain Optimization, Sugarcane Rail Transport Systems, Mining Methodology and Optimisation, Bioenergy and Biomass Assessment, and Health Optimisation Systems. His research interests include mathematical programming, mixed integer programming, integer programming, constraint programming, stochastic programming, meta heuristics, scheduling, optimisation, statistical analysis, and artificial intelligence.

About Dr Mohammed Elhenawy:
Dr Mohammed Elhenawy completed his PhD in Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech (Virginia State University), United States, in 2015. After completing his PhD Mohammed worked as a researcher for the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, before joining QUT as a Research Fellow for CARRS-Q in 2018. He has authored or co-authored more than 40 articles related to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). His research interests include machine learning, statistical learning, game theory, and their application in ITS and cooperative intelligent transportation systems (C-ITS).

Bacterial Pathogenesis (BacPath) Placement

Associate Professor Makrina Totsika

QUT Centre for Immunology and Infection Control (CIIC)

Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Medical Microbiology, Microbiology, Genetics

Assumed knowledge: Biology, Chemistry

In 2017 the World Health Organisation declared antimicrobial resistance to be an ‘invisible pandemic’. If no action is taken, by 2050 more people will die each year from antibiotic resistant infections than cancer and diabetes combined. In this placement, students will get an insight into cutting-edge research that aims to directly address the currently unmet need for effective strategies to combat the rise and spread of superbugs.

Students will work alongside the Bacterial Pathogenesis group who are aiming to understand the mechanisms that multidrug resistant pathogens employ during infection of the host, particularly the molecular mechanisms that Escherichia coli and Salmonella use to produce adhesins, which mediate bacterial attachment to host cells. Adhesins are crucial virulence factors that facilitate the first step of the infection process. Understanding of adhesins and other virulence strategies then guides the design of inhibitors aimed at disarming (antivirulence or pathoblockers) rather than killing (antibiotics) bacteria. Students will also get the opportunity to conduct hands-on testing of a new and exciting class of antimicrobials developed by the BacPath team. This work is promising to revolutionise the way we treat infections and the BacPath team is leading the way by evaluating the benefits of new antivirulence drugs using the latest technologies in genomics and molecular microbiology. 

About Associate Professor Makrina Totsika:

Associate Professor Makrina Totsika is currently a Principal Research Fellow at QUT. Originally from Volos, Greece, Dr Makrina Totsika moved to Scotland to study at the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences-Genetics (2002), a MSc by Research in Life Sciences with Distinction (2003) and a PhD in Bacterial Genetics (2007). Makrina was the recipient of a prestigious Wellcome Trust 4-Year PhD studentship for her research project on virulence gene regulation in pathogenic bacteria that she conducted at the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Edinburgh. After her PhD Makrina immigrated to Australia and spent 5 years as a postdoctoral research fellow, receiving a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council for: ‘Understanding how bacteria become sticky’ in 2013.

Makrina joined QUT in 2014 to start her own research group at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI). She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018 and currently leads the Bacterial Pathogenesis (BacPath) group within QUT’s new Centre for Immunology and Infection Control, where she is also the Program Leader for Infection Control. Makrina was awarded the 2016 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year award by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, the 2018 Frank Fenner award by the Australian Society for Microbiology and the 2020 Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science, with Excellence for Inclusivity. She has also attracted more than $5 million in funding from national foundations and research councils for her research investigating a new class of non-traditional antimicrobials that aim to disarm bacterial pathogens and replace, restore and reserve antibiotics for future generations.

Children’s Burns and Trauma Research

Associate Professor Leila Cuttle

QUT School of Biomedical SciencesFaculty of Health

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Infection and Immunity, Molecular Biology

Assumed knowledge: Biology, Chemistry

At the Centre for Children’s Health Research, QUT researchers are working closely with clinicians and allied health professionals from the children’s hospital who treat children with burn injuries. The main focus of the QUT Burns and Trauma Research Lab group is to conduct research which aims to improve the lives of children with burns and other wounds. We develop new therapies to enhance wound healing and reduce scarring and we study how burn injuries occur and what processes cause skin cells to die.

In this project, students will grow skin cells in the laboratory, expose them to heat and measure how many survive using fluorescent staining and assays. They will observe the other projects in the lab where researchers are working with patient samples and data, and students will also get to visit the children’s hospital.

About Associate Professor Leila Cuttle:

Associate Professor Leila Cuttle completed her Bachelor of Science with Honours (1997) and PhD (2009) degrees at the University of Queensland and is currently a full-time Research Fellow working on paediatric burns and trauma at the QUT. Leila started researching children’s burns 20 years ago and could see that the treatments available were inadequate as children suffer pain and scarring from their burn injuries, which affects them for the rest of their lives.

A/Prof Cuttle leads the Tissue Repair and Translational Physiology Program based at the Centre for Children’s Health Research. The group’s research is focused in several different areas:

  1. to promote burn prevention strategies and first aid treatment
  2. to identify new skin replacement techniques, to optimise the rapid re-growth of skin for wounds and burn injuries
  3. to develop new diagnostics and treatments, based on biomarkers and pathological markers identified in burn patient samples

During Leila’s PhD, she determined the optimal first aid treatment for burn injuries. This published work was used to develop guidelines for the treatment of burns internationally and for a “Cool Burns for 20 minutes” first aid public education campaign. This treatment has been shown recently to lead to decreased requirement for skin grafting operations, decreased admission to intensive care and shorter hospital length of stay for burn patients.

Feeding the Future and Converting Agricultural Waste into Valuable and Renewable Materials

Dr Julia Bally, Dr Laleh Moghaddam, Dr Satomi Hayashi

QUT Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy (CAB)

STEM Disciplines explored: Sustainable agriculture, biotechnology, crop genomics, microbial systems, industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology, bioprocessing technologies, agrifood systems

Assumed knowledge: Biology, Chemistry

In this placement, interns will work alongside researchers from QUT’s Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy (CAB). CAB’s research makes a significant contribution to improving tropical agriculture and developing the biocommodity sector in Australia and supporting agricultural advancement globally through their work in developing countries such as Africa, India and South-East Asia. The centre’s researchers collaborate with government and industry partners to bring research solutions and innovations to the real world. From enabling farmers to grow more food using less water and chemicals, to improving crop nutrition and pest resistance, to discovering new ways to use agricultural waste products efficiently and profitably, CAB is committed to finding innovations and knowledge that make our world more sustainable, secure and resilient. In this placement students will learn about and get hands-on experience with two key research areas of CAB: Plant Biotechnology and Biochemistry.

About Dr Julia Bally:

Dr Julia Bally is currently employed as a Research Fellow in the Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy (CAB) at QUT. Julia completed her PhD in Biological science in 2008 at Bayer Cropscience, in collaboration with the CNRS-University of Lyon (France), studying recombinant protein expression and folding in chloroplasts. After a first post-doc on rhizobium-legume symbiosis and nitrogen fixation, still at Bayer Cropscience, Dr Bally joined Professor Peter Waterhouse’s team at the University of Sydney in 2011 with an ARC Super Science Fellowship. She spent her fellowship working on the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana and developing an extreme gene expression system as a platform for industrial plant-biotechnology, with a particular interest for research on gene silencing and RNAi. Julia subsequently joined QUT in 2014 with Professor Waterhouse to continue her research and work on projects, developed in collaboration with Corteva Agriscience, focusing on trans-kingdom RNAi and plant protection against agricultural pests.

About Dr Laleh Moghaddam:

Dr Laleh Moghaddam is an analytical chemist and research fellow within QUT Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy. Dr Moghaddam’s research background includes over 10 years’ experience in supporting the agricultural industry to produce sustainable fuels, chemicals and plastics from industry by-products. Dr Moghaddam completed her PhD studies on the vibration spectroscopy analysis of polymer processing at QUT in 2008. Since 2010, Dr Moghaddam has worked in the Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy on a range of projects aimed towards the efficient and sustainable production of biofuels from biomass, including red meat processing, water utilities, sugar cane bagasse and microalgae.

About Dr Satomi Hayashi:

Dr Satomi Hayashi is an experienced research associate in genomics currently working in QUT’s School of Biology & Environmental Science with the Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy. Dr Hayashi is skilled in Bioinformatics, DNA Sequencing, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR), RNA Isolation, and Experimental Design. Satomi completed her PhD at UQ, focusing on Signalling during Early Stages of Nodulation. She then went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher in UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation before joining QUT in 2017.

Fired Bricks Using Clay Mixtures

Associate Professor Yunfei Xi

QUT School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Faculty of Science

STEM Disciplines explored: Construction and Building Technology, Material Science, Mineralogy

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry

Clays are the most widely distributed natural resources on our planet and among the oldest raw materials to manufacture brick throughout human history. The performance of fired clay brick is in deep relation to the clay material and firing protocol used. However, it is tricky to obtain top quality brick because clays exhibit variable mineralogical and chemical compositions in nature. Improper utilisation of clays can cause a series of problems during brick production and application, such as cracking, bloating, lime popping, deformation and discolouration. Thus, quality control and production practice are quite crucial for the brick manufacturing process. In this placement, different clay mixtures will be inspected to prepare brick buttons at different firing temperatures at QUT. The compositions and mechanical properties of obtained products will be characterised using X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and compression test, respectively. Also, the correlation between raw clay materials and properties of brick buttons will be investigated.

About Associate Professor Yunfei Xi:

Associate Professor Yunfei Xi has been dedicating himself to the advancement of fundamental and applied scientific knowledge on minerals, particularly clay minerals’ structure and properties, development of their functionality and applications of mineral-based new materials. This research area is important and promising as we are able to provide practical and environmentally benign solutions to hot issues in environmental science and materials science (for example, R&D of mineral based adsorbent or catalytic materials to remediate contaminants from water or air). His expertise also includes spectroscopy techniques, such as IR and Raman etc. While these areas continue to be his main interest, A/Prof Xi has started to extend his research focus towards building products, energy, and agriculture, while developing consumer products at an affordable cost.

A/Prof Xi has also had his achievements recognised through becoming an Advance Queensland Fellow (Senior) and an International Renowned Scholar through the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Since 2004, he has also published and co-published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and 2 patent families. Many of his journal publications have become highly cited articles by peers which is evidenced by over 6,150 citations (H-index at 39, i10-index at 93, Google Scholar) or via Scopus, 4,949 citations (H-index at 36).

More than Just a Pretty Picture with Mass Spectrometry Imaging

Dr David Marshall, Dr Berwyck Poad

QUT Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF)

STEM Disciplines explored: Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Science, Technology, Biology

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry, Physics

Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is a rapidly emerging technology for mapping molecular distributions within biological samples. MSI is already yielding game-changing advances in fundamental science, health, and medicine. This placement will give students access to state-of-the-art high resolution MSI instrumentation fused with unique analytical technologies developed at QUT. As the primary function of a mass spectrometer is to measure mass, it is perhaps not surprising that conventional MSI experiments group together all molecules with a common mass. However, this limitation masks the distributions of closely related molecules in complex tissue sections. Students will work with researchers in the CARF Mass Spectrometry Development Laboratory to develop methods that resolve the spatial distribution of molecules with the same mass but different chemical structures and biological functions (isomers). This additional dimension of resolution affords researchers a first glimpse of isomer-specific images that are used to visualise changes resulting from underlying chemical or metabolic processes currently invisible to contemporary imaging technologies. For example, our advances offer an unprecedented visualisation of: (1) specific enzyme activities relating to brain function; (2) age-related changes in the lens of the human eye. In this placement, students will learn how fundamental ion chemistry and physics underpin the development of new technologies for biomolecular analysis and imaging. Future translation of this technology into diagnostic medicine is anticipated through application of isomer-specific MSI as a unique tissue classifier for disease progression.

About Dr David Marshall:

Dr David Marshall completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr Philip Barker and Prof. Stephen Blanksby at the University of Wollongong, studying the fate of radical-scavenging antioxidants in the preservation of painted steel rooftops. David joined QUT in 2014 as a Postdoctoral Fellow and played a key role in establishing the new Mass Spectrometry Development Laboratory within CARF.

In partnership with local and international collaborators, David maintains a keen research interest in fundamental ion chemistry and spectroscopy to determine the structure, energetics, and reactivity of gaseous ions. Moreover, David is interested in applying these techniques to structure elucidation of synthetic and biological materials such as lipids, polymers, and molecular machinery. Dr Marshall has authored over 20 publications in high impact journals including Nature Chemistry, Angewandte Chemie, and Analytical Chemistry, which have collectively been cited over 300 times.

About Dr Berwyck Poad:

Dr Berwyck Poad completed his PhD in 2009 at the University of Melbourne, studying vibrational predissociation of ion-molecule complexes under the guidance of Prof Evan Bieske. Following this he undertook postdoctoral research in the labs of Professor Stephen Blanksby at the University of Wollongong (2009) and Professor Robert Continetti at the University of California, San Diego (2010-2012). In 2012 Berwyck returned to the University of Wollongong as an ARC DECRA fellow, where his research interests turned to reactions of dianions and the radicals formed by their photodetachment. In 2016, Berwyck relocated to QUT and is currently focused on fundamental ion-molecule chemistry and developing new tools for lipid identification by mass spectrometry.

Non-invasive Health Tests to Deliver Better Human Health Outcomes in the 21st Century

Associate Professor Chamindie Punyadeera

QUT School of Biomedical SciencesFaculty of Health

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Medical Biotechnology, Biochemistry

Assumed knowledge: Biology

Required for placement: Hepatitis B vaccination

In this placement interns will work alongside researchers to develop non-invasive methods to test for some of our most common diseases. There are around 500 million pathology tests performed in Australia each year. Imagine if we were able to eliminate these painful and expensive blood tests? What if you could perform your own test for heart disease, diabetes or cancer from your own home? Associate Professor Chamindie Punyadeera’s Saliva and Liquid Biopsy Translational Research Team is at the forefront of saliva and liquid biopsy testing. Students will spend the week in the lab developing, testing and analysing saliva samples for throat cancer, and discover how these tests could revolutionise cancer discovery in patients.

About A/Prof Chamindie Punyadeera:

Associate Professor Chamindie Punyadeera, Clinical Chemist, graduated from the Department of Chemical Pathology, the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa in 2001. Her PhD research was aimed at investigating the pathogenesis and clinical manifestation of type 2 Diabetes, ischemic heart disease and obesity. During this time A/Prof Punyadeera was awarded the Academic Excellence Scholarship as well as the South African Medical Research Endowment Funds.

Chamindie went on to do a 4-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands in close collaboration with Merck Pharmaceuticals. The research was focused on endometrium physiology, steroid hormone pharmacokinetics and oncology. She led a project team at Royal Philips Electronics in the Netherlands as a senior scientist working on biosensor development and biomarker discovery.

A/Prof Punyadeera has published over 50 research papers, has 13 PCT patents, has reviewed papers for international journals and delivered keynote lectures at major international conferences. Chamindie is currently leading a research team at QUT, developing non-invasive and minimally invasive technology platforms to better human health outcomes in the 21st Century.

Organic semi-conductors for electronics

Associate Professor Prashant Sonar

QUT Centre for Materials Science

STEM Disciplines explored: Chemistry, Bioelectronics, Physics, Materials Science

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry and/or Physics

Waste is a big problem, so wouldn’t it be great to turn it into a valuable material? This is the type of research students will be working on in this project, developing environmentally friendly and cost effective materials and investigating how these materials can be used in electronic devices. Working with Associate Professor Prashant Sonar in QUT’s Organic and Printed Electronics research group, students will be working in the lab performing hands-on chemical synthesis including synthesis of compound and purification of compound by chromatography, before going on to OLED device fabrication and charaterisation.

About A/Prof Prashant Sonar:
Associate Professor Prashant Sonar completed his Bachelor and Master of Science in India, then going on to a research career that took him to Germany, Switzerland and Singapore, before joining QUT in 2014. At QUT, Associate Professor Prashant founded and continues to lead the Organic and Printed Electronics Research Group, also establishing specialist fabrication and testing facilities with fellow QUT associates. Prashant is also a chief investigator with the QUT Centre for Materials Science and an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow in nanotechnology and molecular science. Associate Professor Sonar’s expertise is in the design and development of new, exotic materials and using these materials to improve technology, making it more cost effective and environmentally sustainable.

The Genetics of Migraines

Associate Professor Larisa Haupt

QUT School of Biomedical SciencesFaculty of Health

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Human Molecular Genetics, Cell Biology

Assumed knowledge: Biology, Chemistry

In this placement, interns will explore molecular and gene expression studies of migraine. Migraine is a common complex genetic disease that affects approximately 12% of the Australian population. The Genomics Research Centre (GRC) is currently undertaking studies aimed at identifying the genes involved in the disorder, with the aim of developing a diagnostic test and new treatments for this common and debilitating disorder. To do this, interns will join GRC researchers to investigate studies into candidate genes and/or genomic regions implicated in migraine through two main approaches – association studies and linkage studies. Linkage studies test for co-inheritance or segregation with DNA markers to identify genes involved. Intern students will see first-hand how diagnostic testing of diseases such as migraine is leading to ground-breaking studies into new treatments for common debilitating disorders.

About A/Prof Larisa Haupt:
Associate Professor Larisa Haupt is a Principal Research Fellow and Neurogenesis and Stem Cell Group leader within the GRC at QUT. A/Prof Haupt has extensive research expertise in the extracellular matrix, stem cells, cell and molecular biology, and human molecular genetics. Dr Haupt has also established a series of multi-disciplinary research collaborations across University, government and non-government sectors, both within Australia and Internationally. These collaborations include researchers working in the discipline areas of human molecular genetics, pathology, bone and stem cell biology, and breast cancer research. In the last 10 years, A/Prof Haupt has published 70 manuscripts, with a current H index of 24 and an i10-index of 48. A/Prof Larisa Haupt is also the Laboratory Manager of the GRC. The GRC undertakes molecular biological and genetic research for translation to diagnostic testing and the development of new treatments for common, complex human disorders. This multi-disciplinary research team of over 30 is a large and collaborative group comprised of principal researchers, research staff, postdoctoral scientists, as well as postgraduate and undergraduate students.

The Reproductive Tract Infection and Immunity

Dr Alison Carey

QUT School of Biomedical SciencesFaculty of Health

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Infection and Immunity, Molecular Biology

Assumed knowledge: Biology, Chemistry

In this placement, interns will work alongside researchers that design and produce the chlamydial antigens that are combined with the immune stimulating adjuvants to test different chlamydial vaccine candidates for their protective capability, and most importantly, their ability to prevent reproductive tract pathologies.

The research aim is to develop a vaccine that prevents Chlamydia-associated infertility and reproductive tract pathologies, inhibits damage to sperm, and reduces the rate of sexual transmission. Intern students will leave this placement seeing first-hand how dangerous infectious diseases can be to the function of the human body and how their Placement Supervisors are leading research to develop new treatment strategies for a safer future.

About Dr Alison Carey:

Dr Alison Carey completed her undergraduate B. Sc. (Hons) at The University of Newcastle in 2004 and PhD at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2010. During her PhD she was awarded a prestigious National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) scholarship to investigate the effects on the timing of chlamydial vaccine administration. In 2011 she commenced a 5-year Research Fellow position at Griffith University and during that time was awarded an NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Research Fellowship to investigate immune responses to uropathogenic E. coli and Group B Streptococcus in the urogenital tract.

Alison is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Immunology and Infection Control, based at the QIMR Berghofer site. Her research investigates the contribution of host immune responses to Chlamydia in the development of pathology and infertility. She is also establishing research in the area of Group B Streptococcus colonisation in the female reproductive tract. Alison has published 40 papers in leading scientific journals, including Journal of Immunology and Journal of Infectious Diseases.