Research programs in Naturopathic Medicine

Researcher using microscope in biology lab

The naturopathic research landscape has significantly evolved over the last few decades, not only by quantity but also in terms of quality and rigour. The research arm of the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine will continue to assist patients and practitioners to establish evidence-based practice through basic research, clinical research, public health and health services research, educational research and policy and regulation research.

The academic leadership team comprises expert researchers who are not just leaders in naturopathic research, but are also leading health researchers in their own right. With diverse backgrounds and skillsets, the team covers a broad range of health research interest and topic areas, successfully attracting major research funding for their work.

With a combined established and extensive network of colleagues and organisations across the spectrum of complementary medicine disciplines, NCNM researchers are equipped to apply the most appropriate and innovative methodology. This network positions the Centre to engage with a range of national and international researchers, universities, research centres, practitioner associations, health organisations and policy makers.

Backed by Southern Cross University’s high level of research excellence, NCNM offers a unique and innovative research program that will not only define new standards of naturopathic medicine research, but also address current and emerging challenges in conventional as well as complementary health care.

Higher Degrees by Research

Undertake health research training under the supervision of experienced researchers in the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine at Southern Cross University. Please explore the NCNM academic team for suggested supervisors and find course options below.

How to apply

If you are interested in undertaking a research degree through NCNM, please contact our team on ncnmresearch@scu.edu.au to discuss your proposed topic. If your topic is suitable and it aligns with the expertise of our supervisory team, we will work with you to develop a Research Proposal. This proposal will be used to determine the suitability of the project for a research degree.

Once your proposal has been approved by NCNM and the School of Health and Human Sciences, you will be able to progress your application.

To apply for a research degree, you will need to go to the Graduate School Website, choose the degree you wish to study and proceed as directed.

Should you have any problems completing the online application form or have questions about the process, please email the Graduate School on hdrapplication@scu.edu.au.


Summer Research Scholarships Program

  11 January – 19 February 2021

Apply now

Apply now to receive a scholarship to the value of $1800*

  • Build industry connections and develop your research skillset
  • Gain first-hand research experience
  • Develop valuable field and/or laboratory skills during the six-week project
  • Elevate your critical thinking skills and research presentation knowledge

Summer Research Scholarships Program

Do you want to learn more about higher degrees by research?

Gain first-hand research experience and develop valuable field and/or laboratory skills during a six-week research project, with the Summer Research Scholarships Program.

With a commitment to expanding knowledge and understanding of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine through rigorous, high quality research, the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine is offering this unique opportunity to support the next generation of researchers.

Our team of research mentors have extensive experience in conducting and publishing research and will provide ongoing supervisory support to each student. If you are interested in pursuing a higher degree by research (HDR) in the future, this program will provide unique insight and pathways to further your postgraduate research studies. 

The scholarship component will support students through a stipend living allowance of $300 per week over the six-week duration of the project.

Explore the NCNM Summer Research Scholarships Projects and view eligibility criteria, terms and conditions; NCNM Summer Research Scholarships Information.

*Subject to terms and conditions, applications close 15 November 2020

Q&A with NCNM Researchers — recorded 5 November 2020

Researchers Associate Professor Romy Lauche, Associate Professor Matthew Leach, Dr Janet Schloss and Dr Andrea Bugarcic held a live Q&A session about the Summer Research Scholarships Program.

Q&A on the Summer Research Scholarship Program (28:29)

Associate Professor Romy Lauche, Associate Professor Matthew Leach, Dr Janet Schloss and Dr Andrea Bugarcic

So first of all a very warm welcome to each and every one of you. My name is Romy Lauche and I’ll walk you through the webinar tonight. Before we start I’d like to acknowledge country; I acknowledge and pay respect to the ancestors and descendants of the land upon which we work meet and study. I’m mindful that within and without the buildings the land always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

First of all, I would like to go through some of the housekeeping rules that are shown on the next slide. So the webinar will be recorded and we'll put up a link on our website; the Q&A will run for approximately an hour probably a little less after. So we will start with a short introduction of the panel um then I’ll give a short presentation about the Summer Research Scholarships and we'll finish off with the Q&A where you can ask our panel. Our panel members know everything there is to know about the Centre and the program and whatever questions you may have with regards to the Q&A.

So every one of you should have this Q&A button underneath the presentation, so if you're ready for a question just click it, enter your question and or comments that you want us to answer and if a question has already been raised feel free to click on the thumbs up symbol, the like button, instead of repeating the same question. We will try and answer each and every question tonight however if there's uh some questions that that we couldn't answer tonight um we'll display our contact email address so just feel free to get in contact with us, or if anything comes up afterwards just feel free to contact us and we'll have a discussion about it. Next slide please. Okay so we are hosting this webinar tonight to announce the first round of our exciting summer research scholarship program. We want to provide you with an overview about the program, the process of application, but most of all give you the chance to ask questions in our Q&A, and every question is welcome.

First, I’d like to start with the short introduction of the panel and our Centre. We have four panel members joining us tonight, so that is me obviously, then we have Matthew Leach the Deputy Director of Education, we have Janet Schloss our Clinical Trials Fellow, and Andrea Bugarcic our Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator, and I will invite each and every panel member to introduce themselves. I’ll start with myself of course so the next slide please. So my name is Romy Lauche, I’m the Deputy Director of Research at the National Centre, I have a background in psychology and medical science and a very strong interest in research methodology. My research interests include naturopathic modalities, especially those from Europe the Middle East, and India and I’ve done a lot of research around non-pharmacological interventions in self-care: things like mindfulness, yoga or tai chi but even manual therapies. My research focused largely around chronic conditions like chronic pain or other chronic diseases. Our next panel member is Associate Professor Matthew Leach. I think the stage is yours Matthew. Hi everyone I’m the Deputy Director of Education at NCNM, um I’ve got a diverse background, because I’m kind of sitting on both sides of the fence uh both with the background in nursing, I moved over to naturopathy worked a bit more in the clinical nutrition space and then took out a focus on research. My research areas of interest have really been around probably two broad areas. One's around complementary and integrative medicine in terms of what people use, why they use it, what's the motivation for it, then looking at more the health services research side of things in terms of people's experience with health care right through different models of health care. That actually might be more appropriate to meeting patients’ needs within that particular field of research. It has been mostly around evidence-based practice in terms of how people are actually using it, why not, how can we support tha,t and also an interest particularly around rural health. I guess the male distribution of health care services and health outcomes in those regions. Thank you and the next one will be Dr Janet Schloss.

Hi everybody, it's nice for everyone to come across, I’m the clinical trials fellow at the NCNM and my background is very strongly in naturopathy and also clinical nutrition. I also have a PhD at the school of medicine and run a lot of clinical trials so I have more of a clinical trials type background, particularly looking at complementary medicines to mitigate some of the side effects of different treatments. I have a lot of interest in medicinal cannabis and after years I actually ran clinical trials with medicinal cannabis in mainly in oncology but also in chronic disease and a lot of my background is looking at evidence-bases. I believe that we have very strong research and very robust research that can give us information that can actually help our profession and obviously it's for clinical metropolis in a whole range of different areas. Obviously I’m a naturopath and herbalist and I believe that we can all coordinate together to bring the proper research and information. Thank you and our final panellist is Dr Andrea Bugarcic, Andrea over to you and thank you everyone for coming on to our webinar.

So my background is um basically prevalent in molecular sort of biology. My PhD was in molecular neurology and then I did quite a long stint I guess in cellular biology labs. I’m also very fascinated by evidence in general, so I think I bring together the um the cellular biology aspect to the herbal medicines. I'm also fascinated around how to teach that evidence to students um so we do quite a bit of research on both ends around um critical thinking and clinical reasoning. But I also on the other side try to understand um how the herbal medicines are actually working and what mechanisms or actions are um on a very basic molecular and cellular level all right that's our panel for tonight I our Centre Director Professor Jon Wardle could not join us tonight but he sends his regards and I guess he's as excited as we are about our initial scholarship round.

So the next oh sorry that's the slide already so the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine is uh quite new we opened the doors in 2020 and I acknowledge I’d like to acknowledge the fact that it has been made possible through a generous donation of Marcus and Caroline Blackmore. The centre aims to be a hub for innovation and research education and leadership in healthcare. Our team as you heard before is a multidisciplinary team with expertise not only in naturopathic medicine education and research but in health risk and health more broadly.

The Centre is located in the Lismore campus and now next slide it's all about this Summer Research Scholarship Program. So the program is intended for undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing a higher degree by research like a master's by research or a PhD and if you want to you can see it as a test run if research is really the thing for you. If you get along with us as potential supervisors the program will provide you with first-hand research experience and you'll participate in a six-week research project under the supervision of our experienced centre academics who are mostly on the panel tonight. Through participating in research you'll gain an understanding of the research methods which are used, you'll develop your skills and research data management data analysis, you'll learn a bit more about critically how to critically appraise research literature and apply critical thinking throughout the whole project, at the end of the project um you'll prepare a short presentation on the findings of your projects and you're invited to share those experiences with your fellow students and academics and the scientific publication of the results is something that we could be looking at, depending on the progress during the program. The program includes a scholarship component of $300 a week as a living allowance and it will be paid in a fortnightly rate. Next slide please. So the first round of the program will commence on January 11 and conclude on the 19th of February, and in the future we are planning to offer this program within any of the six study periods of the 6x6 academic calendar to offer you more flexibility with the projects. At this stage we are looking at 10 available places throughout 2021 um and the students will be supervised individually and in groups depending on the topics and the learning outcome. I guess for now the most important part how do you apply for this? Well the application deadline is the 15th of November which is in 10 days, and the offer will be sent via email in early December. We will invite shortlisted candidates for an interview at this stage most likely by Zoom and by mid-December the latest will be able to send out letters of offer.

The eligibility criteria on the next slide-yes so this is just a very short list of eligibility criteria you'll find more on our website the links will be displayed in the chat later on. So to participate um you have to be an undergraduate student at Southern Cross University and you have to have completed at least two years of your full-time undergraduate studies to study or whatever the part-time equivalent is you have to have the potential and especially the interest in undertaking a postgraduate study afterwards and of course you cannot hold a higher degree of research already. The same with the HDR program so you can't have been admitted into an HDR program already by us at SCU or any other institution we're looking at candidates who are really highly motivated enthusiastic and able to work within a group and at the time and then there are some minor criteria. So at the time of application you have to be resident in Australia or demonstrate relevant visa permits and you have to provide um like if you're not a native English speaker you have to demonstrate a high level of English language proficiency. The assessment criteria are based on also based on the academic achievement of applicants, your motivation and writing skills, and research experience is not necessary at this stage. We have a list of 13 research projects available on the website and again the links will be shown later and the projects cover a wide range of topics and we hope that we can raise your interest in at least one or two of them.

So we have projects for herbal medicines, for example including cannabis or indigenous plants, we have projects around non-pharmacological interventions like yoga or hypnosis, but we offer more exotic projects around leech therapy, and if you're interested in naturopathic practice or education there are also projects available for that and we are happy to discuss these projects with you and provide you with more detail if necessary. And some of the projects are a little more flexible but that will be described in there so you'll find more information in the description of the project where that's the case.

So how do you actually apply? First of all you go to our website at scu.edu.au/national-centre-for-naturopathic-medicine the link will be displayed in the chat and you download the application form. So you fill out your contact details on your current enrolment and academic record, and then you select up to three projects from the list that is provided. Please outline why you're interested in these projects, what motivation and skills you're bringing to the table, and we are also interested how these scholarships may help you with your career plans. We will then review the applications once the deadline has passed and shortlist candidates for each project that we interview and by mid-december you'll receive an offer letter. And then well and it's pretty much looking forward to working with you in the new year. There's one final remark though, um you know in light of the current COVID situation still there are a few changes that had to be implemented with regards to on-site learning and studying so we are committed to complying with the rules and practices, this might potentially impact the projects that we can offer at this stage as well as the activities that we have planned as part of the summer projects.

That was pretty much uh the whole Summer Research Scholarships in a nutshell and now I would like to open up for discussion for our Q&A I would also invite all other panel members to turn on the video and order you again and then it's really up to you. So please feel free to access the Q&A button underneath the presentation and type in any question that you may have. Oh there's one question already and I might just throw it into the round: is this program only for undergraduates? So maybe Matthew you'd like to say something?

Like I said I’m just sharing what Romy has already said, and that's that this is essentially about preparing undergraduate students to really explore the idea of where the research might be right for them um and also as a kind of a pathway into a higher research degree. So I guess if you already have a postgraduate award then you know that's a higher degree you would be eligible to participate in this so essentially it's targeted at those who are currently in an undergraduate program.

Perfect, so we have another question from Charlotte and she asked, “what hours and days will the research program be running throughout the six weeks”? Anyone wants to take on that question? I'll do that um- it will actually depend on the supervisor and the student to be able to coordinate if you have set hours that we you actually have to complete, but um it can be worked together in regards to that but then of course if you need supervision then it would probably be during business hours, because that's when we are at work and be able to actually supervise you. In terms of hours that's also flexible. The amount of time you would spend on that would probably be the same you would spend on a six-week study you know if you take the six by six model so if you, I don't know, do a course or a class it would probably be the same commitment.

So at the moment there's no more questions in the Q&A so feel free to type and type and type. Um if not then maybe we also have a few other questions that we had received during the week about the program and maybe we just goes through some of those. Just in case this might actually answer the question for some people may have. So is the six week period project flexible? Can I start later or take a break for example? Okay so maybe I just answered a question that I just raised, well the time commitment is really like a recommended time, it can be negotiated between students and supervisors it's really up for discussion. So if there's any commitment you have otherwise just let us know and we talk it through.

So another question that I’ll address to the panel: is is it available to online students if i'm willing to stay in Lismore for the duration? I guess that might need a little bit of clarification, like online like where are you coming from, like is it a different university, different state even, because there are some issues with legislation and different states and our scholarship component. So I guess it really depends on the course however that that should be fine. And I guess you wouldn't have to stay in this for the whole duration. We'll probably have like some supervised components on campus but then also have some components that can be conducted online. So i think that that's rather flexible especially given the current COVID situation that's still not resolved entirely. It also depends on the project itself um some of the projects will have to be on campus a little bit more than others um so just getting in contact with the particular supervisor.

All right another question maybe for you Matthew: is there a tangible outcome that I might get from the project like a publication or presentation? Great question Romy. So I guess that's a good one, those kind of things that you can have a discussion with your supervisor with um certainly I guess you know the aim is to support you as much as possible in that pathway to a higher research degree and part of that pathway is about kind of you know just really establishing some kind of research track record for you. So I guess our intention to try and support you as much as possible and that might be uh certainly because there's a presentation component attached to um the scholarship program. It also might be about supporting you and actually writing a scientific paper um in a peer-reviewed journal um or supporting you and actually getting some work actually might be presented at a conference as well so there's any opportunities there and again that would speak this is discussion we have with the supervisor. Thanks for that.

We actually have another question in the Q&A and that's about the projects: what are the 13 projects, particularly herbal medicine? So you will find all the projects listed with a short description on the website. So if you just look into the chat function there's a link to our research page from the Centre just look at the PDF document, it has all the 13 projects, a paragraph on what this project is actually about, and then you'll find all the information in there. If you do have some more questions like specific questions about the projects just feel free to contact us about them. Um if you have a particular one in because your question is in regards to herbal medicine, there are a couple that are on herbal medicines however if you have uh over your own type of project or something that you're very interested in in a particular herbal medicine, then we can actually negotiate to see if there is a topic that does actually fit in regards to that for us research project.

Very good um another question that somebody could ask: what if the project doesn't work? Anyone wants to elaborate on that? I was going to put Andrea into that but um she's going to say something I don't know you go right ahead. I guess I was going to say that um you know research doesn't work that all the time you know that's why you do research, that's why you keep asking questions, um I wouldn't um I guess let that be a discouraging point for not doing research because there's always questions to ask and be answered. So you know if it doesn't work, we will present the data that you have collected so you know maybe a different question can be asked, for a for example a master's or a honours project or something like that. I was going to say um no matter the outcome if it if it works or not it's still an outcome, so that's what research is actually about, so even if you think it doesn't work it's still an outcome and that's something that can actually still present very good. There i guess the whole scholarship process is really about um getting you familiar with the whole research process not necessarily driving you towards the outcome.

Another question that I received via email is: what if I wanted to stay on to complete the project as it has run over the indicated timeline? I think that's a very interesting question. I guess it's really depending on the project and the time needed to finish it. But I guess there are certainly opportunities if you're interested in bringing it to completion you could for example discuss to extend the project into an honours project, for example, or if you want to continue doing a masters by research so there are really opportunities to take the projects further if what you're doing is something you're really enjoying.

So that was there were all the questions that I had received by email um if I think we just give it another minute in case somebody wants to raise another question, otherwise I think I can just say something. In terms of the summer scholarship in general, I think it's an amazing time and place to uh really dip your toes into the waters of research. So if you really do want to I guess if you're thinking about research but you're not quite sure whether where to go and how to do it, and whether or not it's for you, um it's definitely one beautiful pathway for you to try it out and then you know fly into the waters of research as we've all done, so we hope we'll see you then.

I might just address the next question to you directly Andrea, the project that is about the use of cannabis by Parkinson’s disease patients in Australia: does it require ethics clearance? Yes it does. Okay so how would that work? I mean for the summer research I would rely for that yeah now I would apply for the ethics uh prior to the start of the project um because there's really not enough time to do the ethics application as well as the actual study. Um but it is something that we can have a conversation around with the student um prior to the start of the project okay so it would be ready by the time the scholarship commences? Exactly, yes, and there might be other projects like this where ethics clearance is required, so I guess I mean for this year it's probably a bit short term but for the other next for the next rounds of the scholarship program um we probably open it up a bit earlier so we have enough time to prepare for ethics application. If we have somebody who's interested in conducting this specific project all right.

Well if there's no more, if there should be any additional questions that come up afterwards feel free to send us an email just go to our website, um I’ll put the link in the chat. Again you'll find the projects there you find our contact email addresses there just write us an email and we contact you and we'll discuss the project with you yeah and then let's hope that we receive a lot of applications for the the Summer Research Scholarship Program and that it's going to be a busy January in February.

I have um emailed a question and I’m going to direct it to you Romy before we go: how are the scholarships are evaluated, like if they put in an application? Ah that's a complicated question right at the end, how are they evaluated… well I mean if you look at the application form there are a few items in there, so it's about your academic record, so of course we want to see that you have an interest in what you're doing in your studies, um and it's really about your motivation, your ideas for your postgraduate. What you want to do is a postgraduate study. So just write us what drives you, what motivates you, and together with your academic record I think we can make a pretty uh fair decision about that.

All right so no more questions now, I think we are finished. Thank you for all the panellists and joining me tonight. Thanks for all the attendees and for the questions that were received via email and the Q&A and again if there are any further questions please send them to us via email or contact us. We're happy to discuss them with you. Thank you, thank you everyone, thank you, bye.


Clinical Trials

The National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine is well suited to carry out contracted research projects. Among other projects, clinical trials on the efficacy and safety of new natural products, nutraceuticals and herbal medicines can be tested.

With our new clinical trial site, we aim to contribute to integrating naturopathic treatments within our health care system. We can conduct phase II-IV clinical studies that are necessary for the TGA claims on nutraceuticals, natural products and herbal medicines. All studies go through the necessary approval procedures in advance and are critically examined by an ethics committee before implementation.

The SCU Health Clinics on-site in Lismore and Gold Coast as well as established partnerships with community healthcare providers offer the necessary infrastructure to successfully implement clinical trials.

Our employees are highly qualified, ICH-GCP-trained, thoroughly experienced professionals who have undergone study-specific training.

Southern Cross Plant Science also has a TGA licensed contract analytical laboratory, providing specialist capabilities in applied phytochemistry and herbal medicine quality control. This includes authentication of herbal raw materials such as extracts as well as qualitative and quantitative analysis of active/market compounds in herbs, nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements.

For more information, or to discuss a potential project, please contact us at ncnmresearch@scu.edu.au or phone 02 6626 9255.

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