Student Projects

PhD Student project opportunities

Project Titles

PhD: Immune mechanisms of anaphylaxis

Abbie Francis

Abbie completed a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology and Biomedical Science and a Bachelor of Forensics in 2011 as a double degree program at Murdoch University. In 2012, she completed her Honours in Molecular Biology under the supervision of Dr Jacky Bentel at Royal Perth Hospital, achieving a First Class grade for her thesis entitled “ETS1 Modification of the Hormone Responsiveness of Breast Cancers”.  She joined CCREM in March 2013 starting her PhD under the supervision of Prof Simon Brown, Asst/Prof Shelley Stone, Prof Daniel Fatovich and Assoc/Prof Matthew Linden.

Abbie’s PhD project is centred on investigating the mechanisms of human anaphylaxis with a specific focus on the role of neutrophils. The processes involved in the rapid amplification of a localised allergic response, such as an insect sting, into a full body life-threatening reaction are poorly understood. The role of white blood cells (leukocytes) such as neutrophils has not been characterised, however the abundance of neutrophils and their importance in other innate immune responses suggest they may be involved in amplifying the immune response during anaphylaxis. Abbie is utilising a number of techniques to determine whether these cells are activated in patients having an anaphylactic reaction and subsequently producing mediators capable of propagating the response or directly contributing to the clinical symptoms. 

Dr Abbie Francis has completed her PhD with CCREM. In 2016 she received the Best Paper Award from the Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation (RPH MRF). This $2000 travel prize is awarded to the manuscript deemed the best scientific article published in in the year, arising from work performed at RPH.

The winning manuscript “Neutrophil activation during acute human anaphylaxis: analysis of MPO and sCD62L” was published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy. This paper provides the first compelling evidence for neutrophil activation during human anaphylaxis. This finding provides a possible explanation for the missing link between a localised immune response and systemic, life-threatening anaphylaxis.

This award recognises the significance of this finding and the potential for future studies to explore the role of neutrophils in anaphylaxis.

Link for the article:


PhD: The effects of shock on the endothelial glycocalyx

Dr Lisa Smart 

Dr Smart completed a degree in Veterinary Science in 2003, a rotating internship at Queensland Veterinary Specialists in 2004 and a residency in small animal emergency and critical care at University of California, Davis, in 2008. She became board-certified with the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 2008. Between 2009 and 2014, Dr Smart was a senior lecturer and researcher at Murdoch University in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research focus has been in the areas of shock and fluid resuscitation, and coagulation. She is currently part-time at Murdoch University fulfilling a research and clinical role. She started a full-time PhD with CCREM mid-2014.

Dr Smart's PhD project is exploring the effects of shock, especially septic shock, on the endothelial glycocalyx. The glycocalyx is the protective lining of blood vessels in the body and damage to this lining can increase the inflammatory response as well as create 'leaky' blood vessels. There is a question as to whether the treatment itself given in septic shock exacerbates damage to the glycocalyx. To explore this question, she is measuring certain damage markers before and after treatment is given. Her approach is comparative in nature; although the majority of her research is focused on people that present to the emergency department, there is an aspect of assessing the same parameters in dogs with shock.

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