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Meet our students

Meet the students of our postgraduate community

Find out why students choose to study and travel in Southeast Asia, the difference it has made in their lives, and the real-world issues they’re researching.

Postgraduate Representative

Faculty of Science 

Country of expertise: Cambodia 

Project: Integrated plant disease management for rice in Northwest Cambodia 

What is your project about?

Northwest Cambodia (NWC) is known as the “rice bowl” due to its high productivity and rich soil fertility. Many plant diseases persist in this lowland rice-growing region and are one of the most significant causes to yield loss and to the reduced quality of rice. In NWC, the distinction between pathogenic organisms (bacterial, viral and fungal) is rarely known with most rice farmers referring to all plant diseases as “Kra” meaning “sick plant” in Khmer. Misidentification and misdiagnosis of plant diseases leads to incorrect management decisions resulting in money and time resources being wasted. Additionally, the overreliance and misuse of chemical pesticides to control plant diseases and other pests can lead to illnesses, chemical poisoning and even death. Information on the safe use of chemical pesticides is critical in ensuring farmers and their communities are minimising their risk of harm.

My project aims to develop a mobile application that addresses the current problems in plant disease management of rice in Northwest Cambodia. Accessibility to smartphones and mobile apps are not constrained to the developed world with the use of smartphones increasing in lesser developed countries, including remote farming communities. Mobile apps can be used as innovative tools for access to accurate and reliable information for agricultural producers and other stakeholders.

I use a mixed methods approach, collecting and analysing both qualitative and qualitative data to give a voice to study participants and ensure that study findings are grounded in participants’ experiences and practices. I have a strong focus on working collaboratively with other stakeholders, especially using the “students as partners” model. Thus far, I have worked with Khmer Masters students in Cambodia to collect survey data from farmers, and Postgraduate Engineering students in Sydney to develop the prototype for my mobile app.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

My interest in Southeast Asia began in my early 20’s when travelling through Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. In 2018, the opportunity arose for me to do an Honours project in Cambodia with an ACIAR-funded project; an existing collaboration between the University of Sydney, National University of Mean Chey and the National University of Battambang. I excitedly accepted and during my first field trip to Northwest Cambodia fell in love with the country, Khmer people and way of life. I feel humbled and grateful that I am able to continue researching in this region throughout my Doctorate. 

Scholarships, prizes and awards

  • Research Training Program Stipend (2019-2021)
  • Francis Henry Loxton Supplementary Scholarship in Agriculture (2020-2021)
  • Irvine Armstrong Watson Scholarship (2020)
  • Agribusiness Scholarship Program (2019)

Our students

Abercrombie Business School 

Country of expertise: Malaysia

Project: Internationalization and the outsidership challenge: A longitudinal process case study of a firm entering a foreign market

The case study explores how sub-units of an MNC manage their network relationships and balance their liability of outsidership within their internal international organizational structure and the local collaborators in Malaysia.

This research aims to provide plausible explanations of the patterns of organisational relationships and the on-going decision making process by elucidating how context, content and process interplay over time. Analysing the relationships between the macro, meso and the micro environment of the firm over time provides understanding of the different causal perspectives which enables the firm to lower its business risks for business longevity in the foreign market.

Using a longitudinal processual approach, based on the tenets of the liability of outsidership (LoO), the data is collected through semi-structured interviews, observations and archival documents. The fieldwork covers several sites but mainly focused on the two sub-units based in Malaysia.

The intended outcome of this research is to:

  • Theoretically, extend the understanding of the liability of outsidership concept and add to the emerging literature of doing business in South East Asia.
  • Practically, the insights can prepare international managers to meet the challenges of internationalisation into the region more effectively.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

Family background and a curiosity about how business operates in Malaysia.


  • ‘Leveraging networks and relationships – the challenges of entering an emerging market’, Academy of International Business (AIB) Conference 2018, Minneapolis, USA, 24-28 June 2018.
  • ‘Relationship strategies for emerging markets: the case of Australian services SMEs venturing into Malaysia’, Australia New Zealand International Business Academy (ANZIBA) Conference 2018, Brisbane, Australia, 31 Jan – 2 Feb 2018
  • ‘Overcoming liability of outsidership - an exploratory study on Australian service SMEs into an emerging market’, European International Business Academy (EIBA) Conference 2017, Milan, Italy, 14-16, 2017.

Prizes and awards

  • Dean's Citation for Tutoring Award - Semester 1 and 2, The University of Sydney Business School, Australia, 2015.
  • Dean's Citation for Tutoring Award - Semester 1 and 2, The University of Sydney Business School, Australia, 2014.
  • The International Honors Society Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS), University of Sydney Chapter, Australia, 2013.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Country of expertise: Indonesia

Project: Indonesian Contemporary Art in Australia 1975-2019

My project is grounded in the sociology of art and culture and examines how Indonesian contemporary art is, and has been, valued by Australian art collecting institutions including state galleries and universities.

This research is needed to better understand the evaluative practices of Australian curators dealing with Indonesian art. Art is an important avenue for the representation of Indonesia to the Australian public. Which art is selected and why is of importance in understanding how the people and culture of Indonesia are represented to the people of Australia. Furthermore, the decisions made by institutional curators have a flow on effect to market valuations of Indonesian art. Consequently, understanding these decisions gives an important insight into how the art market functions. More generally, the sociology of art is a much-neglected field in Australia and my research will contribute to its development beyond my specific focus on Indonesian art.

My research draws widely on the philosophy of art and on the sociology of the arts and culture and uses methods including social network analysis, discourse analysis and ethnography. It also draws heavily on the theories of Boltanksi and Thevenot on justificatory logics and Lucien Karpik on evaluative devices.

The main outcome of this project will be an understanding of how the evaluative practices of Australian institutions operate with respect to Indonesian contemporary art function and have changed over time.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

I lived and worked in Southeast Asia for 15 year.s 


  • Research Training Scheme
  • Gillian Green Scholarship

Prizes and awards

  • Anthropology Prize in Development Studies
  • Grant under Havard Mobility Scheme
  • Workshop grant under the HDR + Program


  • Asian Studies Association of Australian Conference, The University of Sydney, 2018
  • 2018 Masterclass in Social Network Analysis (convenor)

Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Country of expertise: Indonesia

Project: Acehnese sitting dances: a traditional performance phenomenon

My PhD research project concerns a family of dances originating in Indonesia’s Aceh province, commonly labelled ‘Saman dance’ after the most well-known variety from the Gayo Lues region. They are performed by dancers kneeling together in a row facing the audience, and are characterised by rapid movements of the arms, head and torso, body percussion, and singing in unison. Since coming to public attention in Indonesia after a televised performance in 1974 these dances have exploded in popularity and are now performed by countless traditional dance clubs at schools and universities across the country. This research project seeks to document the story of these dances, from obscurity in Aceh to national dominance, and in doing so explore issues related to cultural ownership, gender in performance, continuity of traditional performance, government support for the arts, music psychology, rhythmic entrainment and the dynamics of group musical performance. The project seeks to investigate how participants’ experiences of learning, performing and teaching Acehnese sitting dances relate to relationships between participants, to their communities, and to their ethnic, religious, regional and national identities. 

The story of these dances’ recent spread and rise in popularity is a phenomenon that deserves investigation. From a local performance tradition, mainly featured in weddings and other local celebrations, Acehnese sitting dances are now performed at numerous events and competitions across Indonesia and, indeed, the world. In 2011, ‘Saman dance’ was added to the UNESCO register of intangible cultural heritage, and in 2018 a sitting dance performance took pride of place as the opening act at the Asian Games Opening Ceremony in Jakarta. The fact that this process has occurred against a backdrop of civil war (1970s–2005) and natural disaster (the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004) in Aceh province compounds the unique interest of this story. The research also has the potential to shed light on current questions in evolutionary musicology by exploring the link between experiences of group rhythmic entrainment and music’s benefits to social cohesion. Requiring intense rhythmic co-ordination between participants, unmediated by musical instruments, Acehnese sitting dances are a productive site to explore this issue.

The research will be pursued mainly through ethnographic interviews with up to 50 participants in Acehnese sitting dances, drawn from dance groups in Aceh, across Indonesia, and in Australia, as well as participant observation, media analysis and musical analysis.

This research project will be of benefit to communities in Indonesia and Australia, deepening scholarly understanding of Indonesian performance traditions and national cultural heritage. The objectives of the project are to document the remarkable rise in popularity of Acehnese sitting dances and their spread across Indonesia and the world; to record participants’ motivations for taking part in music/dance traditions and explore their perspectives on Acehnese sitting dances as valued traditional culture and markers of ethnic, religious, regional and national identity; and to bring insights from the dancers to bear on current questions in music scholarship around the biology and evolutionary history of group music-making and performance.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

I have had an interest in Indonesia since first visiting Bali as a child. I started learning Bahasa Indonesia around 5 years ago and have deepened my interest and understanding through my travels around the country. I see deepening mutual understanding between Australia and Indonesia through cultural exchange as very important to the future development of this sometimes under-valued relationship.


  • The Australian Government Research Training Program
  • Postgraduate Research Support Scheme (PRSS) grant
  • The Frank Coaldrake scholarship (2018)


  • Music in Culturally Diverse Societies Symposium at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, April 2018 

Faculty of Science

Country of expertise: Cambodia

Project: The architecture of collapse: using network theory to understand the decline of complex civilisations

The project aims to employ a systems theory approach in the analysis of the devolution of complex, low-density societies. Using the Khmer Empire as a case study, it will investigate the power of a subset of systems theory – network theory – in explaining the structural and spatial disintegration of the kingdom. 

The project will use palaeo-environmental techniques to reconstruct landscape histories (and from which infer settlement occupation histories) of a number of peripheral settlements throughout the Empire from the beginning of the Angkor period to the Empire’s collapse, and onward through Cambodia’s transition to modernity.

Moving beyond the reductionist approach of causal correlation models and toward one that captures the broader, dynamic principles at work in human-environment systems (without ignoring the more complex and multivariant inputs specific to each case), this project will provide necessary insight into the resiliency or vulnerability of complex societies and contribute to the understanding of the processes governing complex systems in general.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

I was interested in the decline and collapse of ancient civilisations and this project based on Angkor seemed like a really interesting research opportunity.


  • Hall, T, Penny, D, Hendrickson, M, Cooke, C and Hua, Q (in review). Iron and Fire: Geoarchaeological History of a Khmer Peripheral Centre During the Decline of the Angkorian Empire, Cambodia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award

Faculty of Medicine and Health

Country of expertise: Southeast Asia

Project: Comparative analysis of COVID-19 public health preparedness and response policies and interventions in Australia and Southeast Asia

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that continues to devastate the world. The impact of COVID-19 has varied across the globe, as to have public health and health policies responses. With an increasingly connected world, there is a disconnect when it comes to the world response to COVID-19. We have also seen a fracture internally of domestic responses to COVID-19. It is to be expected that as we learn more about COVID-19, that policies and messaging change, however the continued disconnect domestically and on broader international scale is unprecedented.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

Born in Thailand, and of Lao decent, I was lucky enough to grow up in Southeast Asia including time spend in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.


RFP PhD scholarship

Faculty of Science 

Country of expertise: Timor-Leste

Project: Discovering the links between village chickens and human diets and nutrition in Timor-Leste

The government of Timor-Leste is battling to reduce chronic undernutrition, currently affecting 50% of children under 5 years. A limiting factor in achieving a high-quality diet is the low consumption of nutrient-rich animal-source foods. Although a large proportion of households own scavenging chickens, flock sizes are small due to high rates of disease and predation. The control of Newcastle disease is expected to decrease flock mortality, increasing the availability of village chickens and eggs for household consumption and sale. This research project monitors the effect of Newcastle disease vaccination on village chicken flocks, and investigates the relationships between village chickens and maternal and child diets and nutrition. This research also examines food availability in rural areas of Timor-Leste across the seasons, and aims to identify the barriers to consuming a high-quality diet, particularly in infants and young children. 

This research is important because although human nutritional outcomes are often cited in programme outlines, to date there are few animal health programmes that rigorously monitor the effect on diets and nutrition. 

This is a mixed methods research project, with qualitative data collected through key informant interviews and focus group discussions. Quantitative data includes seasonal collection of dietary diversity and anthropometric data for mothers and children, as well as haemoglobin measurements for children. Chicken flocks are monitored monthly for flock size and activity, including sale, consumption and loss through mortality or predation.

It is hoped that improving the health of village chickens increases production and gives households more opportunity to consume chickens and eggs, however, sale of the chickens and purchase of other foods that increase variety and nutrient content of local diets is also a favourable outcome. 

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

Growing up, I used to always hear of the struggles in Timor-Leste on the radio as they fought for independence. As an adult, reading the history of this new nation gave me a greater understanding of the struggles they have overcome, and inspired me to actively contribute to the continued advancement of Timor-Leste.


  • Wong, JT., de Bruyn, J., Bagnol, B., Grieve, H., Li, M., Pym, R., Alders, RG. 2017. Pym, R., Alders, R.G. (2017) Small-scale poultry and food security in resource-poor settings: A review. Global Food Security, in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.gfs.2017.04.003
  • Bagnol, B., Naysmith, S., de Bruyn, J., Wong, J., Alders, R. (2016). Effective animal health programming requires consideration of and communication with those at the human-animal interface. CAB Reviews, 11, 1-7.
  • Alders, R., de Bruyn, J., Wingett, K. and Wong, J. 2016. Veterinarians, One Health and the nexus between disease and food security. Veterinary Public Health Journal by the IVSA 6, 22-25.
  • de Bruyn J, Wong JT, Bagnol B, Pengelly B, Alders RG. Family poultry and food and nutrition security. CAB Reviews 2015; 10: 1-9.


  • The Australian Government Research Training Program

Faculty of Science 

Countries: Cambodia and Thailand

Project: Producing scales of resistance: transboundary community-based responses and resistance to Mekong River mainstream dams in the Lower Mekong Basin

My research project aims to examine the translocal assemblages, spaces and processes through which selected Thai and Cambodian riparian communities have endeavoured to influence decision-making processes surrounding the controversial Xayaburi Dam and the Don Sahong Dam, located on the mainstream of the Mekong River in Laos. First, the project aims to identify and trace the shifting spaces of participation and resistance that are located within, and shaped by, the broader political-economic and institutional assemblages of governance within the Lower Mekong Basin. Second, the project will examine the strategies, tactics and practices that the Thai and Cambodian riparian communities have come to use in their campaign against mainstream dams to target national governments, dam developers, private financiers, and the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission. This will be contextualised within the dynamics and relationships between the riparian communities and the transnational advocacy networks that they are entwined with. Lastly, the project will examine how the efforts of the Thai and Cambodian riparian communities have influenced and re-assembled the politics of environment surrounding hydropower development on the Mekong River’s mainstream.

Overall, the project will shed some light on the potential for change in the seemingly relentless push for large mainstream hydropower dams on the Mekong River.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

When I was an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, I took part in a six-week Geography field studies programme to Thailand, and a one-week field trip to Cambodia. Through these programmes, I was introduced to fascinating perspectives of Southeast Asia that I was previously completely unaware of. We visited cities, rural villages, and the borderlands, while learning about the complex and fluid social, cultural, economic, environmental and political geographies that made up these myriad land and water-scapes. We had many opportunities to learn about the lives of the (extra)ordinary people in these countries and to understand their everyday lives, their aspirations, and their struggles. These eye-opening experiences made me realise that there was so much more to know about the fascinating region that I live in.


  • Grundy-Warr, C., Sithirith, M., and Yong, M.L. (2014). Volumes, Fluidity and Flows: Rethinking the ‘nature’ of Political Geography. Political Geography.
  • Yong, M.L. and Grundy-Warr, C. (2012). Tangled Nets of Discourse and Turbines of Development: Lower Mekong Mainstream Dam Debates. Third World Quarterly, 33 (6): 1037-1058.


  • International Postgraduate Research Scholarship
  • Australian Postgraduate Award

Prizes and awards

  • Wang Gungwu Medal and Prize, NUS (2014)
  • NUS Department of Geography Book Prize (2008)
  • Dean’s List, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore (2007-2008)

Abercrombie Business School 

Country of expertise: Thailand

Project: Antecedents and Consequences of (Group) Silence

Many employees engage in silence, choosing not to share their thoughts or crucial information about important work-related issues. Employee silence can have detrimental consequences for employees, teams and organisations. Nevertheless, scholars are still attempting to make better sense of its nature and related factors. Beyond the individual, there is lack of knowledge of silence as a collective phenomenon, and how it can be influenced by external factors, such as leadership behaviours. Through a multi-level approach, this research aims to develop a better understanding of (group) silence and its antecedents and outcomes, through various case-studies conducted in Thailand.

How did you become interested in Southeast Asia?

I am originally from Thailand, and find that different places in the world exhibit different types of cultural values, norms and beliefs. I find those in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, unique and interesting. I am particularly interested in how people in Southeast Asia communicate in the workplace, especially in their teams. From a practical point of view, various industries in Southeast Asia lack the knowledge in improving employee and human capital capabilities, especially regarding leadership and teamwork. Therefore, my research aims to recommend ways in which these employees can better collaborate, communicate and work better together.


  • Zettna, N. and Nguyen, H. 2019 ‘Leader humility and team proactive performance: The mediating role of group silence’, 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (AOM) 2019, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 9-13 August 2019
  • Zettna, N., Nguyen, H., and Johnson, A., and Wang, K. 2019 'The Impact of Employee Support on Employee Absenteeism: The Moderating Effect of Patient Mistreatment', 19th European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP) Congress 2019, Turin, Italy, 1st June 2019
  • Zettna, N., Wang, K., Nguyen, H., and Johnson, A. 2018 ‘The Impact of Group Silence on Group Outcomes’, 32nd Annual Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference 2018, Auckland, New Zealand, 4th December 2018
  • Zettna, N., McGrath-Champ, S. and Johnson, A. 2017 'Behind the Smiles: Collectivism and uncertainty avoidance - Exploring the moderating effect of power distance on employee silence', 31st Annual Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference 2017, Melbourne, Australia, 7th December 2017
  • Phumitharanon, P. (Zettna, N.) and McGrath-Champ, S. 2016 'Behind the smiles: a study of cultural factors and employee silence in Thai manufacturing', Thailand in Comparative Perspective: An International Symposium 2016, Sydney, Australia, 27th September 2016


  • Business School Research Scholarship (RTP)

Prizes and awards

  • Honoured ‘Best Paper’ (Organizational Behaviour Division) at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (AOM) 2019, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Research Travel Support Scheme (RTSS) 2018, University of Sydney Business School
  • Postgraduate Research Support Scheme (PRSS) 2018
  • Dean’s Citation for Tutoring 2018, University of Sydney Business School
  • Postgraduate Research Support Scheme (PRSS) 2017
  • John C Harsanyi Graduate Medal (Winner) for International Student Achievement (University of Sydney Alumni Awards), 2018
  • Post-Honours Publication Grant for Top three Honours Theses (WOS, Business School)
  • Joint Winner, Best Honours Thesis Prize 2017, SSEAC

Conferences and workshops

  • 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (AOM) 2019, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • 19th European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP) Congress 2019, Turin, Italy
  • 32nd Annual Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference 2018, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 12th Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference 2017, Sydney, Australia
  • Mplus – Advanced Statistical Modelling 2018, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  • Advanced Modelling with Longitudinal Data: Theorization and Test 2018, The University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia
  • 31st Annual Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference 2017, Melbourne, Australia
  • ACSPRI Workshop on Multiple Regression 2017, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


Top photo credit: Bojan Bozic.