PhD Students

Current Students (alphabetical order)

Briohny Kennedy is a PhD candidate with the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit who draws on over 10 years experience in public health research and community development work. Briohny commenced her PhD research on Abuse related deaths in older Australians at the end of 2016. The purpose is to inform a public health approach to preventing elder abuse-related deaths in Australia, and contributing to the worldwide understanding of this issue.

Briony Murphy commenced her PhD (February 2014) using existing medico-legal death investigation information to describe the prevalence and nature of intentional deaths among nursing home residents in Australia and internationally.

Gabrielle Abelskamp commenced her PhD in 2016, examining choking deaths in residents of nursing homes. She is an external candidate and is based in Saudi Arabia.

Jeffrey Pope is a Clinical Biochemist commenced his part-time PhD in April 2016.  In collaboration with the Alfred Hospital, his project focuses on clinical applications of high resolution mass spectrometry.

Laura Anderson, a Clinical Neuropsychologist who regularly deals with forensic patients in her current work, has commenced her PhD in collaboration with the Monash Department of Criminology. Her project seeks to examine aspects of violent offending, including cognitive and neuropsychological differences and substance abuse.

Marta Woolford  is a public health researcher and PhD candidate with the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit. Marta commenced her PhD research on Dignity of Risk in nursing homes in 2016. The purpose is to contribute to the body of knowledge about public policy and practice to improve the quality of care and quality of life of older people who are residents in nursing homes in Australia.

Nathan Stam, a Victorian paramedic, is focused on conducting a series of studies examining clinical and forensic aspects of opioid-related toxicity, including prevalence, prescribing issues, pharmacotherapy and opportunities for prevention. This part time PhD project involves the use of National Coronial and Ambulance data in collaboration with Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Richard Fernandez is continuing his PhD in hip fracture prevention. His research has investigated morphology and variations of hip musculature using traditional topographic anatomical techniques and CT scan imaging. He has also developed novel methods to measure material properties of skeletal muscle under dynamic impact loads. This part time PhD project is currently incorporating anatomical and biomechanical data into Finite Element Models to investigate the response of the hip region to fall loading.

Samantha Rowbotham recently began (April 2014) her PhD in forensic anthropologyShe is investigating skeletal fracture patterns as a result of blunt force trauma from falls.


Successful PhD Students

Chebi Kipsaina (2016): Chebi’s research included pilot studies of fatal injury surveillance in low and middle income countries,including Nigeria,Tanzania, Kenya and Sri Lanka. She also contributed to the fatal injury surveillance manual produced by the WHO in collaboration with the Department of Forensic Medicine which is aimed at improving quality of fatal injury data in low-middle income countries.

Luke Rodda (2014): Alcohol congener analysis is a forensic context: detection of iso-α-acids to confirm beer consumption
Luke developed a novel LCMS technique using beverage-specific ingredient congeners to determine beer as the source of alcohol intake by detecting hop-derived beer markers (iso-α-acids) in biological specimens. His findings also demonstrated the pharmacokinetics, postmortem phenomena and levels of these compounds in a range of beer products.

Janet Davey (2013): Forensic study of graeco/roman child mummies
Using CT scanning and visualisation computer techniques Janet discovered that mummification techniques caused injuries that could be misinterpreted as cause of death.  She used radiological techniques to determine age, sex, dental conditions and a method of body arrangement that was peculiar to child mummies of the Graeco/Roman Period.

Eva Saar (2012): The forensic toxicology of antipsychotic drugs: method development, stability and redistribution studies
The research focused on the detection of antipsychotic drugs in persons and their stability over a range of storage conditions and the impact of these processes on blood concentrations after death. Her research has substantially improved the ability to assess the likely effect of these drugs in forensic medical cases.

Jennifer Pilgrim (2011): The toxicology of serotonergic drugs and pharmacogenetics in sudden death
Jennifer found a significant proportion of deaths reported to coroners have inadvisable combinations of commonly used serotonergic drugs.  This suggested both poor prescribing and ill-informed patients risking their health.  The research identified a number of ways to improve the detection of such cases and reduce mortality.

Richard Bassed (2011): The scientific analysis of the age of majority using computer tomography
Richard utilised post-mortem CT imaging of Victorian Coronial cases and examined three developing anatomical sites, two skeletal and one dental, developing a series of equations that allows more accurate age estimation of unknown age individuals in the late teenage years. The method gives greater confidence when attempting to determine if an individual is younger or older than 18 years.

Angela Tan (2003): The Development of an efficient method of mitochondrial DNA analysis
Angela sought to find a way of improving the method of analysing mitochondrial DNA for the purposes of identifying deceased individuals.  A reliable, cost effective, efficient and highly sensitive method was developed by utilising the specific base mismatch cleavage characteristics of the plant enzyme, CEL I.

Mark Hok Chi Chu (2002): The role of cannabis in motor vehicle accidents

Mark conducted an in-depth study of cannabis, in particular the toxicology and physico-chemical properties of its primary psychoactive ingredient ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the role of cannabis use in fatal motor vehicle accidents in Australia. His research has substantially improved the interpretation of cannabis use in medico-legal cases.

Kabrena Rodda (ne Goeringer) (2002): The toxicology of mono-amine drugs 

Josie Spataro (2002): Gender differences in child sexual abuse characteristics and long term outcomes of mental illness, suicide and fatal overdose: A prospective investigation 

Fiona Couper (1997): The involvement of beta2-agonists in asthma deaths
Dimitri Gerostamoulos (1997): The toxicological interpretation of heroin-related deaths
Dimitri conducted a series of toxicological studies including postmortem redistribution, methodological developments and subsequent measurement of tissue drug concentrations, in order to better understand the role of morphine and its metabolites in a number of heroin-related deaths. While the majority of the toxic effects of heroin are likely to derive from morphine, the importance of the role of the glucuronides metabolites cannot be overlooked. 

Michael Robertson (1996): The effect of post-mortem interval on the concentration of nitrobenzodiazepines
The suspected post-mortem conversion of drugs led to studies examining the absence of parent nitrobenzodiazepines in post-mortem blood, compared with their more commonly detected 7-amino metabolites. Parent drugs nitrazepam, clonazepam and flunitrazepam, relatively stable at room temperature in sterile blood, were rapidly converted to their respective 7-amino metabolite in bacterially-contaminated post-mortem blood. These studies identified an important post-mortem phenomenon in toxicological investigations.

Jodie Jane Leditschke (1996): Cervical spine injuries in fatal road traffic accidents: A pathological and radiological study
Jodie found that trauma to the cervical spine was present in approximately 66% of road traffic fatalities. This was a significantly higher rate of trauma than described in previous post -mortem studies which relied upon data collected from routine autopsy reports. The research demonstrated that a combination of dissection and radiological techniques is required for accurate assessment of cervical spine injuries after death.

Andrea Douglas (1995): The development of mutation detection techniques and their application to disease diagnosis
A simple, multiplex method, superior to existing methods, was developed for the direct sequencing of PCR products which enabled the identification of CYP2D6 extensive and poor metabolisers for commonly used drugs. This improved method was also applied to the sequencing of the apolioprotein AI gene allowing the detection of previously unknown mutations potentially associated with coronary heart disease.