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Our researchers

Associate Professor Coffey was awarded his Doctorate titled ‘The Molecular Bases of Training Adaptation’ in 2006 from RMIT University under the supervision of Professor John Hawley. He has also completed 5 years post-doctoral training and currently balances his research program with teaching and professional internship supervision in the Masters of Sport Science at Bond University. The scope of his research interests includes molecular cell signalling, gene expression/genetics and protein synthesis in skeletal muscle.

Associate Professor Coffey is a member of the CRN-AESS scientific committee and a primary focus of related projects is in the specificity of training adaptation and maladaptation with detraining, and nutrient-training interactions to promote adaptation. His work attempts to bridge the gap between the basic sciences and applied sport science.

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Associate Professor Kevin Ashton is a biomedical scientist whose teaching and research spans the field of molecular genetics. He completed his PhD titled “Genetic aberrations in non-melanoma skin cancer” in 2002 from Griffith University under the supervision of Professor Lyn Griffiths.

During his post-doctoral work Dr Ashton was supported by a Peter Doherty (Biomedical) Early Career Fellowship. During this time, he investigated large-scale gene expression changes associated the ageing heart, the age-related loss of ischemic tolerance and adenosine-mediated cardioprotection.

Dr Ashton has also applied his research skills more broadly to also study chronic fatigue syndrome, forensic DNA applications and molecular ecology.

Dr Ashton is currently involved in the CRN-AESS as a member of the scientific committee and research lead utilising molecular genetic approaches to investigate exercise, health and injury.


  • The injured athlete: genetic profiling of skeletal muscle atrophy with limb immobilisation
  • Skeletal muscle overload, atrophy and regeneration in rats selectively bred for divergent responses to exercise training
  • The genetics of exercise-induced injuries involving tendon and bone
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Dr Keogh is an exercise and sport scientist whose teaching and research spans the areas of biomechanics, motor control and learning as well as strength and conditioning. His research focuses on understanding the acute stresses, and the chronic adaptations resulting from a range of physical activities, particularly resistance training and more recently dance and aquatic exercise.

Dr Keogh’s older adult research has focused on understanding the causes/correlates of the age-related decline in functional independence and quality of life, the benefits of a variety of physical activities such as resistance training and dancing for improving physical function and quality of life as well as barriers and motives to physical activity.

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Kristen MacKenzie-Shalders is an accredited practicing dietitian, advanced sports dietitian and accredited sports scientist who has worked within, and consulted to, elite sports programs for over a decade.

Kristen has previously held roles at the Millennium Institute of Sport & Health (2005 – 2008) and consulted to the (then) New Zealand Academy of Sport for a range of sports. She has consulted to elite teams in Australia including national-league football, cricket and AFL teams and has taught sports nutrition in several universities in Australia and New Zealand.

Kristen currently leads the Sports Nutrition component of the Master of Nutrition & Dietetics Practice Program at Bond University (Australia). Kristen has completed her level 3 ISAK accreditation and has technical and research expertise in anthropometry and body composition assessment including Dual-energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, 4 compartment model, Bioelectrical Impedance and Air-displacement plethysmography. She is on the Sports Dietitians Australia Board and Continued Professional Development and Education Advisory committee.

Kristen is a collaborator on several projects and brings expertise on dietary assessment methodology and prescription and technical expertise in body composition assessment.


  • Repeated carbohydrate loading to promote cyclical skeletal muscle glycogen supercompensation  (Lead Investigator Vernon Coffey
  • The injured athlete: genetic profiling of skeletal muscle atrophy with limb immobilisation (Lead Investigator Vernon Coffey)
  • How we eat and exercise. An exploratory study of how members of society engage with physical activity and how this interacts with habitual diet and physiological outcomes of energy expenditure (Lead Investigator Kieron Rooney)
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Dr O’Neill is a current NHMRC Early Career Fellow at Bond University Institute of Health and Sport, Faculty of Health Science and Medicine. Her previous research, through use of unique genetic mouse models and cell lines, has focused on understanding underlying mechanisms involved in the regulation of glucose uptake and fat oxidation in skeletal muscle, and adipogenesis (generation of fat cells).

In 2013 Dr O’Neill completed her PhD, which investigated the “Role of Skeletal Muscle AMP-activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) Regulating metabolism”. AMPK acts like a metabolic fuel gauge and is activated by cellular stress or low energy status such as during exercise. Her research has shown that AMPK is important for skeletal muscle fat oxidation, glucose uptake and mitochondrial oxidative capacity. Additionally, that novel regulators of adipogenesis exist, and stress likely plays a role in weight loss success/ diet failure.

Given these processes are altered in obesity; an extension of this work over the past few years has been to apply her previous knowledge and skills into clinical practice (diet and exercise intervention studies) for more immediate benefit to human health. A better understanding of the signalling events that occur during exercise may lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies to target obesity and related disease and/ or enhance exercise performance.

Our studies aim to better understand body triggers to optimise weight loss and enhance exercise performance in humans (sedentary, trained, obese). We utilise a range of clinical and molecular biology and “omic” techniques to assess whole-body and tissue-specific metabolism including body composition, exercise testing, resting metabolic rate, physical activity levels, and analysis of DNA, mRNA and protein in blood, urine, saliva, faecal samples and tissue biopsies (skeletal muscle and adipose tissue).

Key words

  • Adipose tissue
  • AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)
  • Exercise
  • Fat oxidation
  • Glucose uptake
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Metabolism
  • Obesity
  • Skeletal muscle

Project title/overview

  • Microbiome in highly trained athletes and response to dietary change
  • Repeated carbohydrate loading to promote cyclical skeletal muscle glycogen supercompensation
  • SMART Stress: Comparing the acute and chronic stressor response and clinical correlates after physical or cognitive training in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a substudy of a randomised controlled trial.
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Dr Rachel Wood joined the CRN-AESS as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, primarily working to establish the Research Methods Library. Rachel completed her undergraduate degree in applied science, and was awarded her PhD in exercise physiology at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2008. Prior to her current role, Rachel completed six years of postdoctoral training at QUT and the University of Adelaide, and worked as a lecturer in the School of Exercise and and Nutrition Sciences at QUT.

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Rebecca Grealy is a Research Assistant for the CRN-AESS based at Bond University Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine (HSM) on the Gold Coast, QLD. Rebecca’s role is to assist in the set up and maintenance of the Bond CRN Biobank, receiving biospecimens from collaborators and Bond projects and processing them for inclusion in the biobank. She also is involved in part of the genomics work being undertaken, due to an extensive experience in molecular genetics and genomics on a range of topics including skin cancer, hypertension, and exercise. Rebecca has previously worked at Griffith University on a cohort of Ironman Championship triathletes, where her research examined the impact of several key endurance-related genes such as ACTN3 on Ironman performance.

Boris Budiono is a CRN-AESS Research Fellow focusing on molecular and cellular exercise physiology under the direction of A/Prof Kevin Ashton & A/Prof Vernon Coffey. His experience in genomic, proteomic and bioinformatics analysis of skeletal and cardiac muscle during his doctoral candidature is utilised in the two Bond University led studies: Genetic profiling of skeletal muscle atrophy with limb immobilisation, and Rat skeletal muscle overload, atrophy and regeneration for low and high responders to exercise.

Boris completed his Bachelor’s degree at Griffith University with First Class Honours, and is near completion of his doctoral thesis on the ‘Molecular Mechanisms of Exercise Induced Cardioprotection’ under Professor John Headrick & Associate Professor Luke Haseler. He is interested in translating his animal-based research on molecular mechanisms of detraining/retraining to humans, and is deeply interested in all aspects of studying the impact of physical activity in treating chronic disease.

Project titles

  • The injured athlete: genetic profiling of skeletal muscle atrophy with limb immobilisation
  • Skeletal muscle overload, atrophy and regeneration in rats selectively bred for divergent responses to exercise training

For overview/introduction, please refer CRN current projects

Twitter: @bbud02

In his current capacity as a Research Assistant for CRN-AESS research projects based at Bond University, Katsu is primarily responsible for assisting in the advancement of the project titled ‘The injured athlete: genetic profiling of skeletal muscle atrophy with limb immobilisation’.

Since graduating from Bond University with a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2016, he has been immersed in his role within the CRN-AESS scheme which has ignited a passion for research and medicine. During his undergraduate degree, he received the Vice Chancellor’s recognition for Academic Success on numerous occasions, having notable success in subjects including Health Research Methods and Physiology of Exercise.

Katsu hopes to lead a highly rewarding career in medical research, and is a strong believer that exercise is medicine.

Project titles

  • The injured athlete: genetic profiling of skeletal muscle atrophy with limb immobilisation
  • Repeated carbohydrate loading to promote cyclical skeletal muscle glycogen supercompensation

Professor Matt Brown is a clinician-scientist who trained initially in medicine and rheumatology in Sydney, Australia before moving in 1994 to Oxford, England to pursue research in genetics of bone and joint diseases, particularly ankylosing spondylitis. He was appointed Professor of Musculoskeletal Sciences at University of Oxford in 2004.

In 2005 Professor Brown returned to Australia, taking a chair of Immunogenetics at University of Queensland Diamantina Institute in Brisbane. There he continued to work in genetics of human diseases, with a particular focus on bone and joint diseases, and in the adaptation of new genetic technologies to research and clinical practice.

Professor Brown is a prolific publisher, having written over 200 papers, books and book chapters. In addition to running a large genetics research team, he is the lead clinician of a specialist service for spondyloarthritis patients at Princess Alexandra Hospital. Professor Brown was appointed Director of The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute in 2011.

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Professor Maria A. Fiatarone Singh is a geriatrician whose research, clinical, and teaching career has focused on the integration of medicine, exercise physiology, and nutrition as a means to improve health status and quality of life across the lifespan. She is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as well as a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, and is board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine in the USA. She has had continuous substantial NIH funding from 1989-2004, and NH&MRC funding since 1999 when she came to Australia. She has published extensively in the area of health implications of exercise and nutrition, having authored/edited one book, authored over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, 70 peer-reviewed book chapters, position stands, and review articles, and 350 abstracts. She is currently supervising 8 postgraduate students in studies of obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic disease in older adults.

Prof Fiatarone Singh conducted the first study of high intensity progressive resistance training (PRT) in nonagenarians in a Boston nursing home, published in JAMA in 1990, and a larger trial of exercise and nutritional supplementation (The FICSIT Study), published in NEJM in 1994. These studies led to a paradigm shift in geriatric practice internationally, with the feasibility and efficacy of this novel mode of training demonstrated for the first time. Prof Fiatarone Singh has conducted many additional clinical trials of exercise and nutrition for the treatment of chronic disease and disability.

The translation of Prof Fiatarone Singh's work into clinical practice, policy and community programs is central to her career goals. She has served on many international policy and advisory boards, and is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Fit For Your Life Foundation, Ltd., whose mission is to foster the highest possible physical and mental health and quality of life in older adults, via the conduct of basic and applied research, education of health care professionals, and dissemination of exercise programs and training materials internationally.

Her clinical trials have led to the implementation of longstanding clinical services in both the US and Australia. In Boston, she established the Circle of Fitness as part of the Fit for your Life Foundation work in 1989, and this service has expanded and serves both nursing home residents and community-dwelling older adults at the Hebrew SeniorLife facility, the site of her original FICSIT trials on PRT and frailty. In 2000 she co-founded the Centre for Strong Medicine at Balmain Hospital in Sydney Southwest Area Health Service. This hospital-based medically supervised exercise facility offers exercise and nutritional programs for frail elders in the community, and has had over 100, 000 occasions of service over 12 years.

This 25 year commitment to clinical geriatric medicine, evidence-based practice, basic and applied clinical research, translational research, training of health care professionals, and dissemination into community service provision and guideline formulation places Prof Fiatarone Singh in an optimal position to participate in the current proposal and ensure that it is conducted at the highest standard possible.

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Dr Nicole Vlahovich joined the Department of Sports Medicine at the AIS as the Exercise and Genetics Research Manager, working primarily on the Injury Study. Nicole attained her PhD in the area of muscle cell biology at the University of Western Sydney and the Children’s Research Institute in 2007 before working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Sanford Burnham Institute in San Diego in the area of Cancer Cell Biology. Prior to her current role Nicole worked at the Australian Sports Commission as a Research Consultant and at the National Health and Medical Research Council in the area of Program Assurance.

Dr David Hughes is the Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. Dr Hughes has extensive clinical and administrative expertise, having worked with elite level teams in Australia and United Kingdom over the past 20 years. He was the President of the Australasian College of Sports Physicians from 2010 - 2012 and continues to serve on the ACSP Board. Dr Hughes has conducted research in Whiplash Associated Disorder. He is currently involved in research regarding the effects of iron supplementation on athlete well-being and performance. Dr Hughes has a particular interest in matters of integrity in sport, particularly around the areas of supplementation and doping. He also has a clinical interest in tendon and bone injuries related to overloading.

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Professor Jeff Coombes is a Professor in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. He completed his undergraduate degrees in Applied Science and Education, and a Research Masters at the University of Tasmania, before gaining a PhD from the University of Florida. He has been at the University of Queensland since 2000, and is an accredited exercise Physiologist and a registered Nutritionist.

Professor Coombe's research interests focus on determining the optimal exercise prescription for improving health.  With theoretical backgrounds in biochemistry and physiology he conducts human studies and basic science projects. His findings have emphasised the importance of cardio-respiratory fitness for health benefits and many of his current projects are using high intensity interval training to improve fitness and investigate outcomes. The basic science projects are identifying the mechanisms that explain the health benefits of exercise, and include work in the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems at cellular and molecular levels. He is also a passionate advocate on the importance of fitness for health, and delivers many presentations to impact on public health.

His research group comprises of Doctors, Postdoctoral fellows and PhD students, and uses the extensive resources of the exercise physiology and exercise biochemistry laboratories in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

Current research projects of the group include:

  • High intensity interval training in patients with chronic kidney disease
  • High intensity interval training in patients with metabolic syndrome
  • High intensity interval training in overweight and obese children and adolescents
  • Cardio-respiratory fitness and outcome in patients receiving a liver transplant
  • Oxidative stress and antioxidant biomarkers to predict the cardio-respiratory fitness response to exercise
  • Molecular mechanisms of exercise cardio-protection: relations with oxidative stress
  • Activation of NRF2 by nutritional supplementation in patients with Type 2 diabetes
  • Antioxidant supplementation in health and disease
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Yorgi is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) with ESSA. After completion of his PhD in 2013, he was appointed as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney for the Collaborate Research Network. He has since been appointed as a Lecturer at the University of Sydney, primarily focussing on how exercise can be used in the management and prevention of chronic disease.

Yorgi’s research primarily focuses on the use of progressive resistance training in middle and older age adults with chronic disease. He is specifically interested in the relationship between improving skeletal muscle mass and strength, and how this is associated with improvements in metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, and recently, cognitive impairment and major depressive disorder.

In the media

Project overview

GENIUS Study – this study will explore genetic factors that predict robust changes and adaptations to progressive resistance training and other lifestyle interventions in adults with chronic disease.

SMART Stress – With a $30,000 grant from the CRN, Yorgi will determine if the acute stress response to either a physical or cognitive stress changes after 6 months of either high intensity progressive resistance training (PRT) or computer based cognitive training in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. This study will help explain results already observed from the Study of Mental and Resistance Training (SMART) where adults receiving PRT showed improvements in cognitive function, with MRI scans showing increases in specific areas of the brain related to Alzheimer’s disease. Yorgi has shown that the improvements in strength in these adults were closely associated with the improvements in their cognition, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. Yorgi will analyse salivary cortisol levels, a marker of stress, to see if improvements in how these individuals response to stress is part of this underlying mechanism.

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