NICM & Blackmores Institute: PhD scholarship in mental health

An exciting opportunity exists for a highly motivated doctoral candidate to undertake a PhD with NICM focused in mental health, investigating an integrative model to treat depression.

Clinical depression has a major impact on individuals and society, often presenting the clinician with a significant challenge. Evidence suggests antidepressants (although effective in the treatment of severe depressed mood) may have only a weak effect against mild to moderate depression. Thereby, in such cases, non-pharmaceutical options may be indicated.Research concerning the treatment of depression often emphasises individual monotherapies, which is often incongruent with clinical reality. In reality, patients often use a combination of interventions to manage their depression, and may be undertaking different modalities. One such approach is via the use of nutraceuticals (nutrient or plant-based medicines) or lifestyle modifications (e.g. excercise, diet, sleep management, or mind-body interventions). While there is evidence for certain nutraceuticals and lifestyle modifications, there is little known about the integrative application of these to better manage depression.

About the project

The project will involve the design and study of an integrative model to treat depression (involving nutraceuticals and lifestyle medicine). The study will be carried out in the NICM clinic, at Western Sydney Univerisity's Westmead campus. The full scope of the project will be determined in consultation with the supervisory panel and the selected candidate. The doctoral candidate, under the primary supervision of Professor Jerome Sarris, will learn relevant clinical trial research skills and develop a specialised understanding about the effect of an integrative model to treat depression.

The objectives of this project:

  1. Conduct a literature review of the area and to engage with clinicians to determine a list of evidence-based nutraceuticals and lifestyle interventions to treat depression
  2. Finalise a design to conduct a robust randomised, blinded, controlled study to test the efficacy and safety of an integrative approach
  3. Conduct this study, collecting the data and subsequently analysing the data and publishing the results

The candidate is also expected to publish regularly throughout the candidature.

Nutraceutical products for the treatment of depression and a generic matching placebo for the clinical trial will be provided by Blackmores Institute.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $35,000 per annum for up to three years and a funded place in a doctoral degree.
  • If the successful applicant is in receipt of a Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend, they will receive an additional $10,000 top-up scholarship.
  • Additional funding of up to $50,000 over three years to conduct the research, including costs for implementation of the project, conference presentations and travel, equipment, and open access publication.
  • Benefits and allowances including a thesis production allowance, a relocation allowance, three months extended sick leave and three months parental leave.

Eligibility criteria

This scholarship is open to domestic applicants only (Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents or New Zealand citizens).

The successful applicant should:

  • Hold qualifications in the fields of health science, psychology, or biomedicine equal to one of the following; (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, or (ii) a Masters degree with a significant research component
  • Have a strong academic track record (relative to opportunity)
  • Have clinical skills or experience
  • Be self-motivated and have a friendly temperament with good communication skills

A specific interest in mental health is desirable. The project will be adjusted according to clinical focus and skills.

How to apply

  1. Contact Professor Jerome Sarris ( to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.
  2. Complete the scholarship application form (PDF, 222.11 KB) (opens in a new window)
  3. Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.
  4. Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements.
  5. All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
  • Use the email subject line: Application_2017_047_NICM
  • Submit to
  • All attached documents must be submitted as PDF
  • In the body of your email, include your full name, your student ID (if you are a current or previous Western Sydney University student) and the full title of the scholarship

Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

Please contact Western Sydney University's Graduate Research School via email at for more information.

Applications close 26 November 2017