Undergraduate research conference

The University of Adelaide will host its fifth annual Undergraduate Research Conference on Thursday 25 July 2019.

This conference offers an exciting opportunity for students and recent graduates to showcase research completed as part of their undergraduate coursework, a summer or other research internship, a research-based degree program, or voluntary work. It is an excellent platform for budding researchers to demonstrate their communication skills, meet students from other disciplines, and learn how other disciplines approach research problems.


Faculty of Sciences' presenters

Increasing maximum penalties of animal welfare offences in South Australia - Has it caused penal change?

Rochelle Morton - School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences | 1.20pm - Room 205, Napier

News - Rochelle Morton

Animal abuse is a prevalent issue amongst society, with no indication of improving. A Parliamentary attempt to reduce animal abuse was to amend the South Australian animal welfare legislation in 2008, which saw all the maximum penalties for animal welfare offences doubled. This commitment to increased penalties arguably provides evidence of the legislature’s intent, in that Parliament aimed to ‘get tough’ on offenders in relation to penalties.

Studies have speculated that the legislative intent behind the increased penalties is not being reflected in the courts. This interdisciplinary research sought to gain evidence to confirm or disprove these speculations, by quantifying the average custodial sentence and monetary fine handed down in court before and after the 2008 amendments.

Furthermore, trends relating to the species of animal affected and the demographics of the offender were identified. A total of 314 RSPCA (SA) closed case files from 2006 to 2018 were converted into an electronic form.

Since the amendments, the average penalties have doubled in magnitude; fines have increased from $700 to $1535, while prison sentences have increased from 37 days to 77 days. However, as a proportion of the maximum penalty, no change occurred, both datasets used only 10% of the available maximum penalties. Cases of companion animal abuse were most common (75% of all cases) in comparison to farm animal abuse and the location of the offence was found to be most prevalent in the lowest socioeconomic area of SA.

These findings suggest that although the average penalties have increased, the use of maximum penalties have not changed after they were subjected to a substantial increase. Therefore, it is debatable, whether these increases to the average penalties are enough to effectively punish animal abusers or if alternative penalties, such as court mandated counselling, should be considered by the sentencing courts.

Gender fog: An investigation into sex prevalence in cognitive decline in a juvenile rat model of chemotherapy - induced cognitive impairment.

Carolyn Mitchell - School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences | 12.40pm - Room 144, Napier

Carolyn Mitchell

Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment (CICI), also called 'chemobrain', is a commonly reported side-effect experienced by patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Patients demonstrate decreased cognitive performance, processing speed and short-term memory loss, which can occur during and after cessation of treatment.

Australian cancer population statistics from 2015 cite 65% of cancer sufferers as male; this is in contrast to the majority of animal models used in this area which are predominately female. In addition, a lack of standardised cancer survivorship care protocols on CICI, has resulted in a significant delay in assessing this condition, thus the need for a cross-disciplinary approach between human neuroscience and applied animal behaviour is vital for progress. 

The aim of this study was to investigate the brain’s inflammatory response to the chemotherapy treatments, methotrexate (MTX) and 5-Flurorouracil (5-FU), to identify sex-related differences associated with cognitive change in young rats. Cognitive decline was evidenced through behavioural changes during standard cognitive tests.

It was hypothesised that administration of MTX and 5-FU would result in cognitive dysfunction up to 28 days later. 36 Sprague Dawley rats (n=12 female, n=12 male) around 21 to 28 days old, were administered  with either MTX, 5-FU or a saline control, once weekly for two weeks, before undergoing behavioural testing using the novel object test and puzzle box on days 15 to 21. At day 28, animals were humanely euthanised for tissue collection. 

It is expected that male rats undergoing chemotherapy treatment will demonstrate more subtle impairments to cognition compared with female counterparts. This study will facilitate a mechanistic understanding of the processes involved in CICI development, enabling development of targeted treatments to prevent or reduce negative cognitive outcomes for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Furthermore results will facilitate the progression of improved survivorship care protocols for patients. These outcomes will enhance the quality of life for cancer patients of both sexes.

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