PhD candidates are pushing the boundaries of research

CMCRC-SIRCA’s Health Market Quality Industrial PhD candidates are pushing the boundaries of research. David Myton talks to two who are making their mark in their chosen fields

James pursues his passion for health equity

A CMCRC-SIRCA Health Market Quality IndustrialPhD researcher is pursuing his passion for health care equity.

James Rufus John’s research focus is on improving the quality of care and clinical outcomes for patients with multiple chronic conditions.

As well as studying and researching, James also works with his PhD industry partner in the field, Sonic Clinical Services.

“It really helps me to understand the process of how it all works and I also get the opportunity to collaborate and establish relationships with experts in the sphere – which I don’t think any university scholarship would provide,” says James.

James is a graduate of Dr MGR Medical University in Chennai, India, from which he obtained a Bachelor of Dental Surgery. He went on to study for a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Western Sydney University – his CMCRC-SIRCA Industrial PhD partner – where he is now a doctoral researcher in primary care.

On top of this, he also finds time to work as a research assistant and tutor.

Complex healthcare needs

“I’m really passionate about health equity and providing and promoting quality care to people, especially to those with multiple morbidities,” he says.

“These patients have complex healthcare needs. And the care they receive can be fragmented when they move from one healthcare setting to another. My research aim is to evaluate patient-centred care, and to examine how to provide comprehensive collaborative care to these patients with multiple morbidity.”

In this, he says, he has learned much from working with his industry partner Sonic Clinical Services examining the deployment of its WellNet Integrated Care Programs designed to coordinate patients’ health care needs.

‘This engagement has not only provided me with a glimpse of where I could potentially work, but has also given me the opportunity to work with people I could collaborate with in the future’  

James says his role as a WSU research assistant has also been of great benefit, enabling him to develop new lines of inquiry into areas such as chronic diseases and maternal health.

Published in academic journals

To date, James has had five papers – including co-authorship in a book chapter (Springer) – published in academic journals, the most recent a collaborative study entitled Undergraduate health science students’ development of reflective practice on communication skills via e-Portfolios in the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice.Two more papers based on his PhD research are currently under review for publication.

James saysCMRCR-SIRCA’s Industrial PhD program has provides him with opportunities and learnings that would not have been available through a traditional university-based PhD offering.

“It’s been an interesting and a positively challenging journey,” he says.

“People say that aPhD student’s life entails much solitude but it’s been a completely different experience for me. At CMCRC-SIRCA I get to work with students from different backgrounds and also with different skills, so I’m learning from them as well.It’s been a great experience.”


Inigo’s a natural at Natural Language Processing

It was a big moment for Inigo Jauregi when he stood up to deliver a paper to a workshop at the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Melbourne recently.

The ACL is the top international academic body for research in computational linguistics and Natural Language Processing (NLP) – and its annual meeting is the flagship international conference, attracting top research and industry participation from around the world.

Some 28 international companies and research organisations sponsored the conference, including Amazon, Apple, Baidu, IBM, Google, Microsoft and Samsung.

Inigo, a SMCRC-SIRCA Health Market Quality PhD student researcher who previously studied at the University of Navarra in Spain, is intrigued by NLP and its potential.

As part of his Industrial PhD, he isworking with the start-up company Boundlss in Western Australia on developing an AI powered multilingual chatbot system to be used in the company’s member engagement platform for health and life insurers around the globe.

Fantastic opportunity to meet top researchers

Attending and the key conference was a great experience, says Inigo, who hails from small town near San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country.

“It is a really well-known and important event in the field. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet top researchers in the field, to network, and to discuss ideas.

My presentation to the conference workshop went well and I had good feedback from the audience afterwards.’

Inigo’s paper – co-authored with his supervisors Ehsan Zare Borzeshi and Professor Massimo Piccardi– delved into aspects of NLP: a field of Artificial Intelligence that aims to provide computers with the ability to understand, generate and interact with human language.

NLP is already a key part of everyday applications such as search (eg, Google), voice-controlled virtual assistants (eg, Siri), and predictive texting.

The paper, entitled A Shared Attention Mechanism for Interpretation of Neural Automatic Post-Editing Systems, reported on the development of a proposed new and potentially more accurate way of correcting translated sentences, while enabling a better method of interpreting the decisions made by the system.

The algorithm could eventually have particular relevance for the health care sector– for example, in ensuring the accurate machine translation of an individual’s digital medical records when he or she moves from overseas to, say, Australia, so they can be easily accessed by their new doctor.

“The system can also be useful for Boundlss, as they have a multilingual chatbot system,” says Inigo. “Potentially, the human coach will be able to use the translation system to converse and recommend a healthy lifestyle to anyone in the world,” Inigo. 

Inigo hopes that in future it may have systems for ensuring accuracy in translation of minority languages, such as his own – Basque.

“There is very little data around applicable to minority languages. Currently I’m developing machine translation systems that are able to learn from fewer data, which will be very useful for the low-resourced languages, ” he says.

NLP is an area of growing importance. Salesforce Chief Scientist Richard Socher says that understanding natural language is AI’s next great challenge while Berkeley machine learning professor Michael Jordan has said that if he had a billion dollars, he’d use it to build a NASA-size NLP program.

Learn more about CMCRC-SIRCA’s Industrial PhD program.