Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Kade Davison

Main Campus
City East

Applications Close
26 Sep 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic and International)

About this project

Advance a world-first, non-pharmaceutical pain management therapy 

If you are motivated to forge a career in allied health and keen to advance our knowledge in non-pharmaceutical pain management, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA), in partnership with Determined2. 

Immersion therapy is an underwater experience for people living with injury, chronic illness and/or disability, such as an acquired brain injury, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, mental illness, or multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. Using scuba equipment (a buoyancy control device and regulator or full-face mask) in a 2 - 5 metre deep pool, clients can swim, walk, play or relax, completely immersed.   

Our previous research has shown that this service improves physical and mental health and appears to be very beneficial for managing chronic pain. The project will draw from the science of pain sensation to delve deeper into understanding what these benefits are how the underwater environment facilitates this.  

You will investigate whether movement in an underwater environment, by altering the sensory experience of movement and requiring new motor patterns to move can affect pain processing for people with neurological injury or disorders and other chronic pain health conditions.   

The project aims to: first, assess the effects of participation in immersion therapy on pain management for people with a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, or other neurological injuries/illnesses, and second, explore how underwater environments change the processing and experience of pain in people with chronic pain and in people who don’t have any existing health conditions and are generally pain free.  The project will expand our understanding of immersion therapy as a potential therapeutic intervention for chronic pain, and what we know about pain perception, particularly in relation to how the sensation and movement challenges of water can influence this.   

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will have the opportunity to work closely with our industry partner and undertake an internship which could include travel to other states as the service is rolled out across the country over the next few years. 

You will join the ARENA research centre and a project team that brings together expertise in exercise psychology, occupational therapy, clinical exercise physiology, physiotherapy, pain science and over five years of investigating immersion therapy. This is a world-first service and research endeavour through which you will benefit from specialised experience and mentorship and graduate with a unique but versatile in-demand set of skills and abilities.  

You will also be encouraged to publish in recognised journals and be supported to present at various industry conferences.  

The skills you will gain through your project-based research degree will prepare you to be a leader in your field, with practical experience and skills in the rapidly growing field of pain science. 

Where you’ll be based

You’ll be based in the ARENA research centre. ARENA investigates the role of exercise, nutrition and other lifestyle activities in improving clinical and health outcomes. Physical, psychological and sports performance in populations is studied across a wide cross-section of society, ranging from children to elite athletes and people with chronic disease. 

Our research focus ‘Healthy lives through healthy living’ centres around the grand challenge of tackling the growing epidemic of chronic diseases. We focus on real-world issues and bring bold ideas to create solutions which optimise health, function and wellbeing. 

Our mission is to be the leading Australian voice on a global stage by championing research in exercise, nutrition, preventative health and other lifestyle behaviours across the lifespan. In fact, we are well on the way to achieving this – currently ranked in the World Top 50 for Sport Science.* 

We work with diverse research partners, end-users and our communities to identify and evaluate solutions, and translate these outcomes into products and changes in policy and practice.

Supervisory team

Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses.  Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents of Australia. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included for this group.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Additionally, applicants must meet the projects selection criteria:  
  • The applicant should have a health science research background and ideally (although not mandatory) allied health related research experience.
All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate. 

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City East Campus in the heart of Adelaide. 

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Tuesday, 26 September, 2023

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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