Projects

List of mentor-guided projects

This year’s mentors have brainstormed the following projects.

If any of them interest you, please indicate this in your registration form!

Choose a project theme below to view project details:

  • Medicine (page 1)
  • Medicine (page 2)
  • Medicine (page 3)
  • Medicine x Engineering
  • Energy & Environment

Developing a cure for osteoarthritis

Mentor: Jiao Jiao Li

Osteoarthritis is a painful and debilitating condition of the joints where the cartilage undergoes irreversible degradation and the entire joint is affected. How can we prevent osteoarthritis from happening if a young person has had a joint injury? If someone already has osteoarthritis, what strategies can we develop to stop disease progression and return them with a healthy joint? Can we use a combination of cells, biomaterials and bioactive molecules to solve these problems?

A wearable biosensor to detect sweat biomarkers

Mentor: Jett van der Wallen

A biosensor is a device that interfaces with a biological substrate (e.g. human tissue, chemical molecules) to convert physiological signals (e.g. pH, electrical activity, chemical presence) into a quantitatively measurable signal. A biosensor consists of 4 key components: 1) Sample/Analyte, 2) Biological recognition element, 3) Physiochemical transducer, 4) Signal amplification & processing.

Gut microbiome links to bone health and implanted graft

Mentor: Lan Gong

Investigating the role of microbiome in bone health and bioengineered bone graft implantation

Imaging Profiling Platform for Thrombotic Disease and Anti-Platelet Therapeutics

Mentor: Qian Su

This research program aims to deliver new methodologies for characterising, identifying and monitoring thrombotic disease. By leveraging cutting edge imaging techniques into clinically relevant models, a map of signalling pathway during thrombus formation will be demonstrated. The imaging platform will be the first-of-its-kind in Australia. It will not only decipher the platelet interactome but will allow the assessment of better diagnostic and safer therapy for thrombotic disease.

Engineering Small Diameter Synthetic Vascular Grafts

Mentor: Steven Wise

One of the dominant treatments for heart disease is surgical bypass of the blocked vessels - you would have heard of someone having a double or triple bypass. Ideally surgeons use vessels from elsewhere in the patient (leg veins, or chest arteries) but these aren't always available. The only commercial grafts available for this purpose are made from Dacron (which we use in rain jackets) or PET (used in drink bottles) - and they don't work very well, in part because they have poor compatibility with human tissue. There is an important need to develop new grafts materials which fulfil all of the mechanical requirements of a graft, but are also more compatible with the body.

Digital health solution for women's health

Mentor: Lana McClements 

Create a digital health solution for home monitoring of women at high risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and diabetes. The solution shouod enable continuum of care after pregnancy for women who have these complications as they are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

An AI Assistant for Medical Image Analysis

Mentor: Ashnil Kumar

The aim of this project is to examine how recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can be used to develop clinical image analysis tools that can assist the clinician in image interpretation, by directing the attention of the clinician to the most important image regions and potentially suggesting a diagnosis for the clinician to confirm. Some key concepts to consider will be to ensure the efficacy of the AI, the protection of the patient's data, and ethical use of the tool.

Computer Aided Diagnosis for Skin Lesion Detection and Analysis

Mentor: Lei Bi

In this project, we will develop an accurate automated algorithm to detect, track and analyze skin lesions. Existing methods for skin lesion analysis are either invasive or not accurate due to the complexity and variability of skin lesions. We will leverage state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques on ~10,000 pathology confirmed skin lesion images to progressively learn the most important visual characteristics for identifying melanoma and segmenting the skin lesions (for tracking changes over time). This project could potentially improve the diagnosis confidence and accuracy for the dermatologists by providing a second opinion and indicating the malignancy and the changes over time. This project will also potentially increase clinical efficiency, improve patient awareness and provide a cost effective solution for Australia.

Portable devices for detecting diseases from exhaled breath

Mentor: Rona Chandrawati

Diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease are often diagnosed in later stages, reducing the chance of effective treatment. Diagnosis currently includes physical examination followed by a series of tests that include chemical, imaging, endoscopic procedures among others. Extensive screening and detection of diseases at an early stage can dramatically decrease morbidity and mortality, because this enables prompt treatment, with the prospect of achieving the best possible therapeutic outcome for the patient. If a breathalyser can detect blood alcohol content in a few minutes, could we create a similar breath test for deadly diseases?

Steering cells with light

Mentor: Maté Biro

We will design an assay in which cells engineered to react to light can be viewed via microscopy as we control how they move with a laser

Automated Abnormality Detection in Musculoskeletal Radiographs

Mentor: Yige Peng

Musculoskeletal conditions affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, and are the most common cause of severe, long-term pain and disability, with 30 million emergency department visits annually and increasing. Determining whether a radiographic study is normal or abnormal is a critical radiological task: a study interpreted as normal rules out disease and can eliminate the need for patients to undergo further diagnostic procedures or interventions. The outcome of this project will be algorithm to facilitate diagnostic processes by allowing automated abnormality localisation in musculoskeletal radiographs, which will lead to more efficient interpretation of the imaging examination, reduce errors, and help standardise quality.

Digital baby twins

Mentor: Alistair McEwan

Develop a model of human development that can be used to simulate issues that can happen to babies and effect how they walk, talk and think

Exploring the human body with virtual tours

Mentor: Philip Poronnik

We will work together with the medical faculty to develop new ways of learning about histology and physiology

The Role of Bruxism in the Human Jaw Diseases – A Biomechanical Study

Mentor: Babak Sarrafpour

The objective of this project is to use the finite element method to input the original human jaw movement data as input to simulate the mandibular movement under different loading conditions. By analyzing the results of these finite element simulations, we are aiming to explore different potential impact of functional and parafunctional loadings on some mandibular diseases.

Regrowing bone by learning from nature

Mentor: Jiao Jiao Li

Regrowing bone is a huge medical problem - large areas of missing bone (e.g. fractures, tumour removal) cannot be replaced and the body cannot grow back the bone by itself. Can we draw inspiration from nature to solve this problem? The structure and function of bone have amazing similarity to that of wood - can we regrow functional bone by trying to mimic the properties of wood using biomaterials?

Next-generation genome editing

Mentor: Jett van der Wallen

The completion of The Human Genome Project in 2003, after a 13-year effort, has led researchers to analyse genes and proteins, and develop diagnostics and therapeutic solutions. Genome editing is a thoroughly advancing topic, that aims to alter the DNA of adults, paediatrics and/or embryos to eliminate diseases and syndromes. However, it could also give rise to“super-soldiers” – human beings with increased intelligence, strength or the like.There are a variety of existing genome editing techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9, TALENs and ZFNs, and upcoming/novel techniques. A current/novel genome editing technique is to be engineered into a carrier device, within the guides of current ethical standards.

In vitro platform for drug testing in pregnancy

Mentor: Lana McClements 

Testing drugs for pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, devistating disease that still kills over 70,000 women and 500,000 babies every year, is challenging as the effects on the baby are unknown. Therefore there is a need to develop representative in vitro cell based platform technology to reliable test and develop drugs for preeclampsia. 

Ice bucket challenge for accessibility

Mentor: Alistair McEwan

Develop a eSports/gaming competition where people use accessibility controls to compete in computer games - to better understand the challenges of people with disability and increase inclusion and awareness. Possibly fundraising

Communicating health

Mentor: Philip Poronnik

We will work together to discover and implement new ways to communicate basic health messages to your friends. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of learning how to target specific audiences.

3D printing a biological tissue to repair/enhance an organ.

Mentor: Jett van der Wallen

A 3D bioprinter is “an automated device for robotic additive biofabrication of 3D functional tissue and organs, based on digital models” (Pereira et. al., 2018). 3D bioprinters can allow for several tissues to be printed on a scaffold simultaneously, creating a pseudo-organ.

A bio-ink system is to be designed, that can 3D print a functional tissue, such as skin, heart, bone, cartilage or neural. The clinical delivery of the created tissue will also be explored, along with the shelf-life of the tissue.

Role of microbiome in chronic kidney disease

Mentor: Lan Gong

Investigating the role of gut microbiota in the diagnosis and invervention of chronic kidney disease

Smart toys for neurodevelopment

Mentor: Alistair McEwan

Create new toys that help with neurodevelopment, walking, talking and thinking.

Telehealth to Manage Diabetes Complication in Rural Australia

Mentor: Matilda Longfield

Design an application or an information/ training resource that will allow patients or rural clinicians to improve the standard of care for patients with diabetes complications in rural Australia. You can choose to focus on particular complications or to make this a more broad resource. Think VR training, AI capabilities, image capture and machine learning diagnostics etc! Be as creative as you like.

Topical Treatment for Chronic Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Mentor: Matilda Longfield

There are a number of reasons that a diabetic foot ulcer may become chronic. Design a game changing dressing or topical treatment that will improve the healing outcomes of these wounds and save patients from amputation, mobility issues and social stigma due to non healing wounds.

Transparent facemasks for Enhanced Communication and Protection Against COVID-19

Mentor: Luke Gordon

During COVID-19, clinicians have been required to rapidly adapt their medical PPE to ensure they are adequately protected from droplets and aerosols produced during common hospitals procedures. It is extremely important that doctors are both adequately protected from sources of transmission but are also able to continue to provide the highest quality of healthcare. Communications between clinicians and their patients is an important aspect of any healthcare procedure, which has been negatively impacted by the increased requirement for additional and minimally evaluated PPE during this medical emergency. Students will aim to create a transparent N95 mask which optimises clinician usability, protection and ability to communicate (verbal and non-verbal) during medical procedures.

Molecular imaging tools to understand disease

Mentor: Elizabeth New

Imaging techniques like X-ray and MRI are able to give us sophisticated information about structural changes that occur in disease, but many of the biggest questions in medical research are now about how the chemistry of the body changes in disease. Molecular imaging involves the use of chemical sensors alongside traditional imaging techniques to enable the study of such chemical changes. This project will involve designing new molecular imaging tools to enable us to see more closely in the body and understand the changes that occur during health and disease.

Surgery glues

Mentor: Steph Yee

Organ glues for surgery to replace stitches

Re-invented Eyelid Retraction Bandage

Mentor: Andre Zainal

Common modern eyelid retractors are still quite dated and are often uncomfortable to the wearer. If a new retractor could be created to minimise the amount of irritation caused to the patient, which is also easy to apply, it will mean a greater time efficiency in simple procedures for ophthalmologists. Additionally, it will drastically reduce children's fears and a reduced need for anaesthetics. 

Implantable electrodes that do not suffer biorejection

Mentor: Tomas Andersen

Students should come up with ideas on how to design a novel implantable electrode that suffers the lowest possible rejection from the living organisms (peripheral nerves). Approaches could involve drug release, new electrode shapes and designs, highly compatible biomaterials, stiffness compatibility between nerve tissue and electrode materials, micropatterning, etc.

Bone Cement

Mentor: Fiona McCrossin

Bone cement to provide regeneration without implants

Treatment for asthma

Mentor: Steph Yee

Better and more efficient asthma puffers

Pacemaker Battery Replacement

Mentor: Andre Zainal

Although pacemakers battery life lasts a long time (between 5-10 years), they have to be surgically replaced when they run out of battery. This takes time to plan, costs money and could cause further complications in the future. If there was a simpler way to access the battery so that the patient can do it themselves, it saves time, money and means more people can do this readily, possibly even children. This may mean that the battery life is shorter, but if it's easily replaceable then it would avoid surgery completely. Additionally, there could be a system put in place that informers the wearer that the battery is approaching the end of its life. 

Solar Light

Mentor: Fiona McCrossin

Artificial light sources for solar energy

The Carbon Hoof-print of a Farm

Mentor: Stephen Pickard

The primary goal is to establish the carbon footprint of a small farm. This would involve the use of existing tools, comparing results, critiquing their usefulness and how well the process would scale up to a large farm. A secondary objective would be to create a new, even better tool.

Recombinant spider silk

Mentor: Sean Blamires

The project uses genetic technologies transfer spider silk genes into bacteria for replication and amplification and expression as silk proteins for spinning of new fires.

Sustainable Cities

Mentor: Anita Pickard

How can we design a sustainable cities? Investigating realistic steps that can create a liveable, sustainable cities and cut down emissions from the city as a whole. 

A biomembrane for purifying water

Mentor: Fiona McCrossin

A biomembrane for purifying water

Potable water

Mentor: Steph Yee

Biological filters for water purification

Household Waste Monitor

Mentor: Andre Zainal

A big issue with pollution and improper disposal of waste items is the lack of information about the overall rubbish usage. If there is a system that could track the amount and the of waste products, it could shed light on their daily life with measurable data. For example: how much of the waste is recyclable, when to take out the bins, how much of their food is packaged. This has the potential to change the way we not just organise waste, but also the way we approach increasing recyclable product usage.

Optogenetically modified cells for energy harvesting

Mentor: Tomas Andersen

In the field of biomechanics, cell lines have been optogenetically modified to contract (mechanically respond) upon light exposure. Would it be possible to activate those cells using sunlight and harvest the mechanic energy? How would the substrate look like? How many cells would be needed to harvest a significant amount of energy? Highly sensitive piezo-electric devices could be an option.

Wet spinning spider silks

Mentor: Sean Blamires

We experiment with a range of spinning conditions using a microfluidics wet spinning columns in an attempt to create fibres with properties that function like real spider silks.

Making biodegradable labware

Mentor: Jiao Jiao Li

Plastic waste is having a huge impact on our environment. While it is possible to reduce the use of commercial plastic in everyday living (e.g. packaging), this is not possible in the laboratory when we're conducting research. The labware we routinely use is mostly made out of non-biodegradable plastic, and we cannot re-use the single-use labware due to risk of contamination. Can we develop biodegradable plastic that is suitable for use in a laboratory setting, that can be sterilised, has similar properties to currently used laboratory plasticware, but can also be biodegraded?

Converting Mixed Organic Wastes to Useful Products

Mentor: Isabella Notarpietro

There are many technologies for converting individual types of waste into energy or useful products. However, it is comparatively more difficult to convert mixed organic or municipal wastes to useful products due to the wide array of physical and chemical differences within the feed. The challenge is to design a novel and scalable technology which can convert mixed organic waste feeds into either energy or a useful by-product of the team's choosing. The technology should be based on the scientific literature but the team should expand upon what is currently available and ideate on new by-products or energy conversion processes. The technology also must be able to cope with the variations in the feedstock.

On-site detection of heavy metals in waterways

Mentor: Elizabeth New

Heavy metal pollutants from industrial activity are of significant environmental concern, particularly for remote communities near mining sites who need to ensure that their water is safe to drink. The ability to rapidly measure heavy metal levels in waterways would greatly improve conditions for these communities, but requires the development of technology that is robust and easy to use and interpret. This project will involve designing new optical (absorbance or fluorescence) methods to measure heavy metals in water samples.

Self-guided projects

If you would like to pursue an idea/project that is not listed above, you can undertake a self-guided project.

If you’ve already got an idea, head over and submit an application! If you’re still thinking of a project, here are some of last year’s projects to give you inspiration:

Bluetooth protheses!

What’s the best diet and exercise plan for an astronaut?

The optimal transgenic yeast for carbon capture

Can we extend in vitro fertility by recreating gastrulation in vitro?

Biomimicry of platypus and echidna electroreception for finding electroexamination
of our environment

Using CRISPR modified corn to create a bio-powered flashlights

Biomimicry of platypus and echidna electroreception for the fabrication of
novel batteries

Treating diabetes with encapsulated iPSC derived insulin secreting beta cells

Technologies to prevent spending too much time on youtube/Netflix/the
internet

Cloning Dr Young No, twice or more

Self contained actuator system powered from cell cultured muscles

Making in vitro meat tasty: 3D matrix supported fat, muscle and stromal cells

A space elevator to Mars

A way to write down Graham’s number

New methods to calculate the biggest prime number ever

Ion drive

Regenerative casts/splints

Technology to prevent muscle wastage while waiting for a bone to heal