Secondary navigation

Hear Our Stories

A/Prof. Sarah Blunden

A/Prof. Sarah Blunden

Dancing Boss of Your Sleep

BAPsych (Hons) MAPS MSocSc, PhD Head of Paediatric Sleep Research

CQUniversity Adelaide - The Appleton Institute

Phone: 08 8378 4513


Sarah is a clinical psychologist and Head of Paediatric Sleep Research at the CQUniversity Adelaide - The Appleton Institute, Director of the Paediatric Sleep Clinic and founding Director of the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep (

Dancing at the World Famous Moulin Rouge in Paris...

I started out in the workforce as a performer. First I was a ballet dancer and danced with the Australian Ballet, before moving to the UK and then France, dancing with the London Festival Ballet and Ballet Classique de Paris.

I moved into contemporary dance, and worked with several contemporary dance companies in Paris and New York, before moving into musical theatre, with singing contracts, modelling and even dancing at the world famous Moulin Rouge in Paris.

I brought back a Frenchman...

Twelve years later - well, a dancer's working life is short - age and a weary body led me to return to Australia. But, I brought back a Frenchman with me and we decided to start a family.

When our daughter was school-aged, I started studying at University, and after 9 years of full-time study I had studied Psychology and French, had a PhD and started to specialise in sleep research in children.

Does this mean I will get a holiday...?

The next 10 years kept me extremely busy - I set up a Paediatric Sleep Clinic to treat sleep problems in infants, children and adolescents. In 2014 this clinic is still going strong. It's successful, has a 4-month waiting list for patients, and we are now employing 2 other psychologists - does this mean I will get a holiday?

I started a Sleep Education Centre to promote sleep education in people of all ages - infants, parents, schools - you can find this on my website at:

I worked as a researcher at Flinders University in chronic conditions, UniSA in sleep research and now at CQUniversity Adelaide as Director of Paediatric Sleep Research. I still work 3 days a week at the University, and 2 days at the clinic, with all the students being supervised for both, somewhere in the middle! I have written lots of papers, attended and spoken at lots of conferences, and even won a few awards.

Oh, and I also co-authored two books about sleep in young children - see: &

Working in the community and sharing the love...

I am fully a part of the Sleep Research Community, so I am also chair of the Indigenous Sleep Working Party of the ASA (Australasian Sleep Association), as well as Chair of the Sleep Guidelines Working Party, and the Paediatric and Psychology representative on the Education committee of the ASA.

Sarah supervises clinical and research students in psychology and teaches courses including PSYC20035 (Ethics & Professional Issues in Psychology).

Dr. Bradley Smith

Dr. Bradley Smith

Human Animal Psychologist-Photographer

BSc, PhD (University of South Australia)

Research Fellow in Human and Animal Psychology, Appleton Institute, Adelaide

Phone: 08 8378 4528


I can't remember exactly why I chose to study psychology, but I'm glad I did!

As a high school graduate wanting to go to university, I knew two things: I was curious about how the world worked, but I wasn't any good at the hard sciences like physics and chemistry. Psychology became an attractive option because it offered an English based, but scientific approach to understanding how people and animals interact with the world and each other.

I was captivated by the study of animal behaviour and cognition...

During my undergraduate degree, I wasn't entirely sure where psychology would take me, until I took a subject called 'Learning and comparative psychology' taught by animal behaviour expert, Dr. Carla Litchfield. During this course I was captivated by the study of animal behaviour and cognition. For my honours year when I had the opportunity to select a supervisor and project, I approached Carla who enthusiastically agreed to supervise me. A defining moment was visiting the Adelaide Zoo with Carla, and being asked what species I wanted to study. What an opportunity! Since that moment I have developed a healthy obsession with trying to understand the behaviour of non-human animals, particularly how they see and think about the world, as well as the relationship they have with us.

I've worked with Sealions, Gorillas, Dogs and Dingoes...

Since then I have had the opportunity to work with a number of different species, including sea lions, gorillas, dogs and dingoes. I have developed a particular interest in dingoes, Australia's wild dog, which was the subject of my PhD. Most of my research with dingoes involves putting them through their 'cognitive paces' by presenting them with a series of puzzles and problems that they need to solve (e.g. the detour task-see image). The main outcomes of having done this is the confirmation that dingoes are unique in terms of Australian animals and canids across the world, and that there are many differences between domestic dogs and their wild ancestors, the wolf.

My photography has made it to the cover of magazines like Australian Geographic...

Working with dingoes has been extremely rewarding, and lead to exciting opportunities, discoveries and experiences. I get to travel the world and interact with both wild and captive animals; I regularly give radio and television interviews on my research; I was the first to report tool use and response to the death of an infant in the canid species; I enjoy taking photographs of animals, some of which have appeared on the covers of magazines like Australian Geographic; I have become a director of the Australian Dingo Foundation; and I have just written a book with CSIRO publishing relating to the history, behaviour and conservation of the dingo.

Dr. Danielle Every

Dr. Danielle Every

Social Psychologist Girl Detective

B.Psych, PhD (University of Adelaide)

Research Fellow in Social Psychology, Appleton Institute, Adelaide

Phone: 08 8378 4521


Danielle is a social psychologist specialising in research on the language of advocacy and anti-racism, the social impacts of immigration, and work, education and health for refugees and asylum seekers.

Being a researcher was as close as I could get to being a girl detective... 

When I was a kid, I read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books. Living in rural Queensland in the 70s and early 80s, Trixie and Nancy were the most interesting, independent, and adventurous female role models. They were the only people I 'knew' who were like me – I liked to write stories and make up games for my sister to play and find bugs and build dams and find out about new things.  Now I'm a grown up (sometimes), I still love girl detectives. And I still love writing and reading and discovering new things. I started my psychology degree after friends told me I was a good listener.

My grandfather and great grandfather worked in the coal mines in Wales...

I grew up in a house with a long history of political action – When my great grandfather was seriously injured at work and lost his job he later became a member of the union and the Communist Party, as did my grandfather. After coming to Australia they were still heavily involved in worker's politics. My father talks about meeting Jack Mundy, the New South Wales unionist famous for the green bans against uranium in the 80s. He remembers sitting in the front of the car between him and my grandfather, with my grandfather's hands over his ears to block out all the swearing. When I started my PhD at Adelaide Uni I was lucky to meet other psychologists who wanted to use their education and skills to challenge social injustice and exclusion.

I started my doctorate during the time of the new laws against asylum seekers...

As the tide of public opinion turned even more strongly against asylum seekers and Hanson's far right party was gaining traction, I wanted to know how we could challenge this tough political climate. I became particularly interested in how people in everyday situations like conversations with friends and family can be an integral part of challenging racism. I started to write papers on how this works, particularly with a view to more peaceful and productive dialogues between people that avoid insults and shaming.

Local children and children from the detention centre became friends...

This focus on social justice has since expanded to Indigenous housing and health, homelessness and disaster resilience, and education and employment for refugees. My favourite piece of research was a social impact assessment of the immigration detention facility in the Adelaide Hills. Talking to residents and asylum seekers there was incredibly challenging – how could we bring together such oppositional views? But over time we saw the community changing, especially as local children and those from the detention centre became friends. There was a ripple effect outward from the schools thanks to the efforts of the staff, the parents and the children, which spread throughout the school.  

I try to give students the learning experience that I hoped for...

Its really important to me to take all these experiences into my teaching. My social psychology course is designed to be transformative and experiential. Its about developing critical thinking skills and self-awareness, working towards being inclusive practitioners and ethical researchers. Everything I do there is about opening our eyes to what is habitual and invisible, and looking at ourselves and the world from a new perspective. I try to give students the learning experience I had hoped for when I was studying psychology.

Dr Kirrilly Thompson

Dr Kirrilly Thompson


B.Soc Sci (Hons), PhD (University of Adelaide)

Senior Research Fellow in Cultural Anthropology, Appleton Institute, Adelaide

Phone: 08 8378 4512


Kirrilly is a cultural anthropologist with varied research experience and interests. As well as working in ethnography and applied psychology she has experience in human-animal interaction and human factors.

As a kid, I was always mad about horses...

I got Barbie, because she had Dallas – a palomino horse. My parents wouldn't buy me a horse because they didn't think I could handle the hard work and that I would lose interest. So I spent my spare time reading books about horses, particularly encyclopaedias. So many exotic horses - especially the Spanish ones. When I started high school, my parents leased me a horse called Caesar. In my school study and my riding, I had to learn to see the world from different perspectives. I was dux of English and Classics – because I like words, history and ancient Greek horsemanship.

I did Honours, because I could do it about horses...

I enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Sciences and majored in Cultural Anthropology. I wrote about the importance of cattle to the Nilotic Dinka, because if you squint, cows look like horses. I did Honours – researching dressage as a case study for considering the combination of sport and art in qualitative sports. I proposed the idea of a 'disciplinary aesthetic', drawing on my own experience as a dressage competitor. I enjoyed my Honours year. I rode hard. I worked hard. I got a first class result.

I did a PhD, it was about mounted bullfighting...

I was offered a PhD scholarship with a travel award so I decided to make the most of it and do fieldwork overseas. I wanted to continue looking at the idea of performing (with) animals. I remembered the exotic Spanish horses from my encyclopaedias and looked at the literature on human-animal relations in Spain. I lived in Spain for 15 months conducting the first dedicated ethnographic study of el rejoneo - bullfighting from horseback. My thesis provided an anthrozoological account of human-animal relationships in the bullfight from the perspective of a mounted bullfighter– including love for the bull and the honour of a bullring death. I used the metaphor of a centaur – part horse, part human – to describe the rider-horse relationship. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but my proudest achievement.

From the iron horse to the iconic horse…

Not only was I an expert on mounted bullfighting, I had a demonstrated ability to use ethnographic research techniques to elicit, consider and translate one person or group's perspective to another. I was offered a job in a sleep research centre, where I applied these skills to a variety of topics, especially those related to iron horses, or trains. I contributed to safety in Australia's rail industry via two important perspectives: I spent hours riding in train drivers' cabs talking about fatigue, and I led Australia's first mixed-methods study of passenger crowding. I also continued to publish on human-animal relations, seeing links to risk and safety. In the domestic sphere, I considered the psycho-social and cultural implications for Australians who sleep with pets in their beds. In the competition arena, I interviewed Australian eventers and European showjumpers about their risk and safety perceptions. In the wake of natural disasters, I researched the symbolism of Sam the koala. I am now leading a 3-year ARC project looking at how we can use people's attachments to animals to encourage them to better prepared for – and more likely to survive - natural disasters. The project covers all kinds of animals from companions to wildlife, but horses are a particular interest: part pet, part livestock; part of the family, but difficult to relocate. I work hard, but I love the topics that I research and the people with whom I do research. I always work with my students to make sure that their research incorporates their passions too. With passion, hard work is a pleasure.

I'm also the President and Chair of the Board of the South Australian Horse Federation. Oh, and I often bring my dog, "Angel" to work. She's my favourite co-researcher.

Dr. Jessica Paterson

Dr. Jessica Paterson

One T Psychologist

B.Psych (Hons), PhD (UniSA)

Research Fellow - Appleton Institute

Phone: (08) 8378 4519


Jess completed her PhD in Psychology in 2010 investigating the consequences of sleep loss and shift work for mood regulation. Since then, she has conducted multiple research and consulting projects with the healthcare, transport and manufacturing industries. Jess is interested in the experience of fatigue, workplace culture and psychosocial wellbeing for health care workers and in the relationship between sleep and mental illness.

The women in my family have always had the dark gift of secret keeping...

From a young age, friends, acquaintances and even perfect strangers seemed to want to confide their deepest, darkest secrets in me. This made me curious about, and gave me insight into, the differences between what you see on the surface of an individual and what lurks beneath. Getting paid to hear people's secrets seemed a natural step so I began a Psychology degree at UniSA.

It sounded completely awful and totally fascinating - like Big Brother...

At the beginning of studying Honours in Psychology I attended a presentation of research projects that students could take part in for the research component of the year. One of the projects involved locking young adults in a windowless laboratory for ten days. Participants were kept awake for 66h and then given only 6h sleep per night for a week. It sounded completely awful and totally fascinating. It sounded like Big Brother. I was intrigued. I ran the study for my Honours year project and fell in love with sleep research. So, for beginning my career in sleep research, I owe equal thanks to Gretel Killeen and George Orwell I suppose.

I overcame my crippling fear of hospitals...

Doing my PhD was a weird and wonderful time in my life. I overcame my crippling fear of hospitals to investigate sleep loss for midwives and I spent a lot of time working in the light- and sound-controlled laboratory sleep depriving young adults. In my time off, I worked as a DJ in light- and sound-controlled nightclubs sleep depriving myself. I travelled around the world to talk about my research and I lived and worked in Sydney and Brooklyn, NYC. I eventually settled back in Adelaide to finish my thesis and look for a post-doctoral fellowship. I bought a little sausage dog and named him Hans van Doggy after an eminent sleep researcher in my field, Hans van Dongen. I was that committed to the nerd-life.

I'm particularly passionate about helping health care workers and young adults to manage fatigue...

As much as I enjoyed the lab-based part of my PhD, it was the fieldwork that I really loved. After the PhD, I received a fellowship to investigate fatigue in rail workers and extended this to other workgroups including miners, health care workers, and young adults in the workplace.

I still do research with all kinds of workers, and am particularly passionate about helping health care workers and young adults to manage fatigue at work, at home, and when driving. When I'm not teaching, researching or (still) working as a DJ, I'm either reading, running, trying to teach Hans to drive or obsessing over/shopping for Danish mid-century modern furniture.

Jess supervises research students and teaches courses including PSYC12012 (Physiological Psychology) and PSYC13017 (Abnormal Psychology).

Dr. Xuan Zhou

Dr. Xuan Zhou

BSc (Hons) PhD (University of South Australia)

Research Fellow - The Appleton Institute, Adelaide

Phone: 08 8378 4525


Xuan is a research fellow at CQUniversity's Appleton Institute. Xuan obtained his PhD in Behavioural Sciences from the University of South Australia in 2012. His research focuses on the effects of sleep/wake patterns on people's cognitive performance (e.g. response time) and subjective states (e.g., subjective sleepiness; mood).

I came to Australia from China with my twin brother...

I came to Australia from China in the early 2000s with my twin brother, Ang Zhou. We both went to the University of Adelaide. I studied Psychology, and my brother studied Biomedical Science. We also both went on to complete PhDs in our respective field.

Our parents chose Australia for us to study so that we would get a good University education with good opportunities for career development.

I developed a strong interest in research in general...

At the start of my undergraduate degree, I took subjects in psychology, management and marketing, hoping to eventually become an organisational psychologist. I quickly realised, however that, organisational psychology did not interest me that much. Instead, I developed a strong interest in just doing research in general - I found that I could manage to get very good marks for research reports in subjects that I didn't even like. So, I started to wonder if research could be my career path. 

In a summer scholarship program, I was lucky enough to do a small research project that looked at the sleep/wake patterns of surgeons. Renee Petrilli, who was my tutor and at the time studying for a PhD in sleep and fatigue, introduced me to the sleep research laboratory run by Professor Drew Dawson. After that, I went on to do my Psychology Honours project in sleep research, followed by a PhD and now post doc research.

We cut subjects off from daylight and the real world, to see how their 'body clock' operates by itself...

For my PhD, I was extremely lucky to get involved in a novel project that examines the influences of sleep dose, prior wake and internal body clock on people's cognitive performance.  These factors are fundamental to the influence of our daily sleep/wake patterns on our cognitive abilities.  But because of the nature of these factors, their influences are usually tangled together. The aim of my PhD project was to disentangle their influences, using a novel protocol so called 'sleep-restricted forced desynchrony'. This involves cutting subjects off from daylight and all time cues in the real world, to see how their 'body clock' runs on its own. The project has important implications for modelling the impact of sleep/wake patterns on performance.

I have been to many national and international sleep conferences to talk about my PhD research, including some in Europe and the USA. For my post-doc, I have been working on a project which is an extension from my PhD research. Specifically, we are looking at the impact of splitting a single daily sleep period into two shorter periods, on people's cognitive performance. Once again, the project is novel and has important implications.
I also recently became quite interested in Mathematics, and hope to take time off to complete a degree in Maths and Statistics in the near future.

Xuan supervises students in psychology and teaches courses including PSYC13020 - Individual Differences and Assessment.

Michele Lastella

Michele Lastella

Sleepy Sports PhD Student

B. Psych (Hons)

PhD Candidate - CQUniversity Adelaide, The Appleton Institute

Phone: 08 8378 4536


Michele is currently in the final stages of completing his PhD in Psychology investigating the stressors that impact the sleep/wake behaviour of elite athletes.

Accept failure as part of the journey...

Throughout my life I have failed at many things. From high school, pursuing a football career, through to just missing out on getting into Honours in Adelaide. During high school, I dedicated most of my time to training, and very little time to study - and as a result my education suffered. Shortly after being offered my first professional football contract at the age of 16, I suffered a knee injury which required two surgeries within the space of six months. As a result, my contract was terminated and I was left to pick up the pieces. Following a ten-month rehabilitation period, I regained fitness and went on trial with three top division football clubs, with the third club sending me to a 6th division club to monitor my progress. The following year, I signed for a 5th division club, only to have my contracted terminated again after six months for no other reason than having too many players on the register ('in other words, not good enough').

I decided to move back home and start studying...

Having left school in year 12, I had to complete a Diploma of University Studies to gain entry. I completed the Diploma and was able to start my Bachelor of Psychology. I graduated from my Bachelor in 2008, only to miss out on gaining entry into Honours in Adelaide by 2%. Luckily, I was accepted into the University of the Sunshine Coast where I moved for a year. During my time on the Sunshine Coast I worked extremely hard and graduated with 1st Class Honours. This hard work was rewarded as I was awarded an APA scholarship and was able to move back home to complete my PhD.

Sleep is one of my favourite pastimes...

As a kid, I used to sleep standing with my head on the kitchen table, so it only seemed natural that I research sleep. On a serious note, sleep impacts everything we do, and can influence our mood, motivation, reactions to situations and how well we perform.

I have always been interested in human behaviour...

Questions like, why do people behave the way they do? What motivates us?  Why are some people successful and others not? Why are some people resilient and others not? have always been on my mind. Psychology is such a broad field which provides a lot of freedom to research and study things you are interested in. As a result, the chance of becoming bored is minimal.    

Football has taught me many lessons...

Football has taught me many lessons which I have always applied to other aspects of my life. It has enabled me to see parts of the world to which I may not have ever had the opportunity to see. It has brought great joy and happiness, and also, pain and suffering. But, without, there is no opportunity to grow and prosper. I have represented and captained South Australia at every age level including Seniors. I have also represented Australia on three tours including World Cup Qualifiers in Qatar, Asian Games, and for the opening Ceremony for the FIFA Beach Soccer World cup in Tahiti. I currently captain Western Strikers in the SAPL. 

Michele currently teaches courses including PSYC12010 (Introduction to Lifespan Development) and PSYC11009 (Social Foundations of Psychology).

Natalie Muldoon

Natalie Muldoon

B. Psych (Hons)

Clinical Psychology Masters Student - CQUniversity Rockhampton 2014; Honours Psychology - CQUniversity Adelaide, The Appleton Institute 2013

I wanted to work with people...

"I chose Psychology at CQUniversity because I wanted to work with people, help people and have a general fascination with how people think."

The Appleton Institute provides an exciting change from the traditional university experience....

In 2013 I completed my fourth year in Psychology (Honours) at CQUniversity Adelaide - The Appleton Institute.
My honours project was part of a forced desynchrony study - where participants are kept in the sleep lab for about 10 days, without any cues to daylight, time or the outside world. This is to see how their internal body clock deals with sleep loss and fatigue. My thesis looked at whether self-appraisal can help mitigate fatigue related risk.

Surrounded by a dedicated team of career researchers and PhD students, Honours students are invited to become active team members in one of the many scientific studies running in newly built, state of the art facilities.

Career-minded students, or those wishing to improve their chances of entry to postgraduate courses, will find that opportunities are always available for students to present their work at national conferences and to author or contribute to manuscripts published in books and peer-reviewed journals.

The culture, expertise, and opportunities that exist at the Appleton Institute provide an ideal environment where individuals can transition from undergraduate students to aspiring young professionals.

I am currently completing my first year of the CQUniversity Masters of Clinical Psychology...

I am currently completing my first year of the CQUniversity Masters of Clinical Psychology course. I have spent the last year completing an internship at the University Wellness Centre seeing a range of clients from children who have experienced trauma to women dealing with separation. My second year of the Masters program will involve working in Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation and the Rockhampton Hospital Mental Health in-patient unit. I will also be taking on a thesis, looking at active ageing as a component to improving the quality of life for individuals with dementia.  

Following the Masters course I want to gain as much experience as possible in a variety of areas, such as aged-care and rehabilitation, and work with a range of diverse clients, such as Aboriginal Australians and athletes.

Elisha Vlaholias

Elisha Vlaholias

PhD Student - Flying with Food

BA, BA (Hons)

PhD Candidate - The Appleton Institute

Phone: 08 8378 4539


Elisha's research investigates the socio-cultural experiences of giving and receiving food through Australian food redistribution networks.  Her research includes how the attitudes and motives of the food industry donors and the needs of the recipients might impact each other.

As young girl I wanted to be an explorer... 

I wanted to fearlessly travel the globe to "discover" and learn all about different lands, people, and cultures.  The pioneering lives and stories of Nancy Bird-Walton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Calamity Jane, and Amelia Earhart interested me greatly.  On weekends and after school, my sister and I would make treasure maps, explore and pretend we had discovered the fields and parklands near our home, and we'd always climb to the highest point of the playground – to then jump off it.  I'd often write tales about our adventures at school, and developed a love for learning new things and writing.  

These days I still have my adventurous and curious nature, and enjoy my PhD because it allows me to explore, write, and discover new things.

Food was a central and important part of life...

I grew up in a typical Greek-Australian household, where food was a central and important part of life.  I have fond memories of my Yia yia (Grandma) and Mum sharing and teaching me how to cook our traditional family recipes.  However, learning at an early age that many people don't have enough food to eat, while my family had plenty troubled me greatly.  I knew that no matter what career I chose I wanted to be able to help reduce hunger and poverty in some way. So when I started my university degree I chose to major in Sociology and Health Education because they allowed me to explore, study, and write about food, culture, and poverty.  I tailored my various essays to explore food-related topics from hunger and food insecurity, to cultural foods and globalisation.

I came across a newspaper article...

In the third year of my studies, I came across a newspaper article about a new research project on food waste.  I was so interested in the study that I decided to write an essay on the social and environmental problems of food waste. It was around this time that I seriously began to consider a career in research.  I worked very hard, did really well in my studies, and hoped that one day I'd be able to work on a similar project. 

Fast-forward two years later - I had finished my undergraduate and honours degrees, with first class results, and started looking for PhD opportunities.  I received an email that a PhD scholarship on food waste had come available.  So I applied for it, got accepted, and then later realised that my PhD was actually part of that same food waste project I had read about back in third year – it was a happy coincidence. 

Now that I'm well into my "PhD adventure..." 

I have found that it fuels my curiosity and love for learning new things.  My project is on food redistribution networks and I am conducting qualitative research with the food rescue organisation OzHarvest.  OzHarvest is a non-for-profit organisation that picks up excess food from restaurants, cafes, supermarkets etc… and delivers it to charities that feed people in need.  I love that my project is not only furthering my knowledge about food waste, hunger and poverty, but by working closely with OzHarvest my project has the practical purpose of evaluating and potentially improving their work.  

Like most adventures, my PhD is a challenging, but very rewarding experience.  When I'm not researching, writing, or teaching, you'll find me doing one of my more action-packed adventures, such as flying aeroplanes, scuba diving, archery, or solo skydiving.