Alexandra Whittaker

Dr Alexandra Whittaker

Senior Lecturer

School of Animal and Veterinary Science

Faculty of Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.


Alexandra Whittaker is a veterinary scientist and behavioural neuroscientist who has a research focus on gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions and their effects on emotion and cognitive processing. Alex also has significant research expertise in applied animal behaviour and welfare assessment of animals. She leads an independent research group which focusses on developing and refining novel methods of animal behavioural assessment. Alex also has an interest in animal law and is developing projects in this area.

A link has recently been established within patients with general functional gut disorders and decreases in their cognition, with 70% of these patients experiencing psychological comorbidities. Dr Whittaker's research focusses on the effects of inflammatory processes in the gut on patient emotion and cognitive processing, and the neuroimmune mechanisms which contribute to this effect. This work is aimed at identifying ways in which gut-brain axis mechanisms can be targeted in gastrointestinal disease in order to prevent cognitive decline. One specific area where this will have application is in the prevention of 'chemobrain' ; a condition that affects cancer patients treated with chemotherapy agents, and cancer survivors many years after treatment cessation. Cognitive changes in chemobrain may manifest as impairment of patient’s learning and memory, reasoning and visuo-spatial skills amongst others. As a result activities of daily life become more challenging with patients’ ability to work and maintain relationships impacted. This profoundly affects quality of life.

Dr Whittaker also has an interest in animal cognition, affective state and animal welfare, and conducts research investigating these concepts in an applied fashion. Specific areas of research include:

  • The neuroimmunological consequences of chemotherapy-induced mucositis in development of 'chemobrain'
  • Validation and refinement of novel behavioural assessment tools
  • Assessment of positive welfare outcomes
  • Pain assessment in laboratory animals and comparison of therapeutics
  • The legal status of animals- effects on attitudes towards them and their treatment
  • The use of online technologies in promoting student learning

For further information please see our lab webpage: 

Characteristic Histological Changes in the Chemotherapy-Damaged Gut
    

 

 

 

 

    Expand
  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2017 Senior Lecturer The University of Adelaide
    2008 - 2016 Lecturer The University of Adelaide
    2006 - 2008 Laboratory Manager Curtin University of Technology
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2018 Award ISAE New Investigator Award International Society for Applied Ethology United Kingdom
    2017 Teaching Award Excellence in Teaching Award Faculty of Sciences, The University of Adelaide Australia
    2016 Research Award Edith Dornwell Medal for Early Career Research Excellence Faculty of Sciences, The University of Adelaide Australia
    2016 Nomination Harold Woolhouse Prize for Best Thesis in Faculty of Sciences The University of Adelaide Australia
    2016 Award Certificate of Scientific Accomplishment as an Early Stage Investigator American Gastroenterological Association
    2016 Achievement Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence The University of Adelaide Australia
    2015 Award Prize for greatest number of publications in research theme School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide Australia
    2014 Award Prize for greatest number of publications in research theme School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide Australia
    2014 Award Prize for greatest quality publication in research theme School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide Australia
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2017 Supreme Court of South Australia Australia Barrister and Solicitor
    2016 - 2017 The University of Adelaide Australia Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP)
    2012 - 2015 University of New England Australia LLB (Hons)
    2011 - 2016 The University of Adelaide Australia PhD
    2011 - 2012 The University of Adelaide Australia Graduate Certificate in Online Learning (GCOL)
    2010 - 2012 Charles Sturt University Australia MBA
    2002 University of Cambridge United Kingdom MA
    1998 - 2001 University of Cambridge United Kingdom VetMB
    1995 - 1998 University of Cambridge United Kingdom BA
  • Postgraduate Training

    Date Title Institution Country
    2018 - 2021 Peter Doherty Biomedical Fellow The University of Adelaide Australia
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    2015 Diplomate of the European College of Animal Welfar European College of Veterinary Surgeons
    2011 Diploma in Laboratory Animal Science Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    2009 Diploma in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    2008 Membership in Animal Welfare Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists
  • Research Interests

Date Title Investigators Funding Body Amount
2018 Validation of real-time use of the Mouse Grimace Scale in a murine colon cancer model Chartier L, Whittaker AL, Mashtoub S AVA Animal Welfare Trust $8,231
2018

Validation of MicroRNA's as a Novel Laboratory Animal Welfare Assessment Tool

Whittaker AL, Cameron R, Tilbrook A, Hiendleder S American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine $39,288
2018 'Navigating' the Court Room Experience in an Online Environment  Whittaker AL, Hewitt A, Nosworthy B, Elms P, Henderson S, Franceschilli T University of Adelaide, Learning Enhancement and Innovation Grants $2,200
2018 'Chemobrain': a Culmination of Central Nervous System Inflammatory Events? Whittaker AL Australian Federation of University Women $4,891
2017 ‘Chemobrain’: Neuroimmunological Consequences of Chemotherapy-induced Mucositis and Opioid Palliation in Development of the Condition Whittaker AL National Health and Medical Research Council, Early Career Fellowships $318,768
2017

Neuroimmunological Consequences of Chemotherapy-induced Mucositis and Opioid Palliation in the Development of ‘Chemobrain’

Whittaker AL, Howarth GS, George RP School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Seed Grant, The University of Adelaide $3,000
2015 The utility of cognitive bias testing to assess therapeutic improvements in emotional state in a rat model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis Whittaker AL, Barker T, Howarth GS School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Seed Grant, The University of Adelaide $4,000
2012 Funding for night vision animal surveillance cameras Howarth G, Stott P, Whittaker AL Faculty of Sciences, University of Adelaide, Minor Equipment Round $8,700 $8,700
2011-2012 Novel Strategies to enhance creep attractiveness and reduce piglet mortality
 
Whittaker AL, Van Wettere W, Kirkwood, R. Pork CRC innovation grant $15,665
2010

Evaluation of space requirements for breeding pigs at different parities

Whittaker AL

AVA Animal Welfare Trust

$9,000
2009-2010 Evaluation of space requirements for breeding pigs at different parities Van Wettere W, Hughes P, Whittaker AL Australian Pork Limited (APL) $11,820

 

Major Teaching Responsibilities

The majority of my teaching is in the Bachelor of Science (Animal Science) program into:

ANIMLSC 3250RW - Animals and the Law (course founder and coordinator 2012-)

ANIMLSC 3100RW - Laboratory Animal Science

Minor Teaching Responsibilities

I also have teaching roles in:

ANIMLSC 3016RW - Animal Health

VET SC 2500RW - Professional Skills in Veterinary Bioscience II

VET SC 3500RW - Professional Skills in Veterinary Bioscience III (Course coordinator 2013-14)

VET SC 3516RW - Veterinary Epidemiology, Biosecurity, & Evidence-Based Med III

VET SC 7223RW - Veterinary Public Health

VET SC 7005RW - Clinical Research Project

 

    Expand
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 Principal Supervisor Investigation of the Enforcement Gap in Animal Law Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Rochelle Morton
    2018 Principal Supervisor Novel biomarkers of animal welfare in Pigs: MicroRNA, Immunology and on farm application Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Laura Emma Latimer-Marsh
    2016 Co-Supervisor The role of opioids in modulating inflammation in chemotherapy-induced mucositis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Rebecca Peta George
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2015 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Analysis of the Judgement Bias Test for Welfare Assessment in Rats Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Timothy Hugh Barker
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 - ongoing Principal Supervisor The long-term effects of cancer chemotherapy administration on cognition The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Ines Semendric
    2019 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Are there gender difference in predisposition to Chemotherapy-induced Cognitive Impairment The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Carolyn Mitchell
    2019 - ongoing Principal Supervisor The utility of MicroRNA’s as indicators of valence of affective state The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Jason Cutler
    2018 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Speciesism in Animal Law: Does animal species impact penalties given for cruelty offences? The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Rochelle Morton
    2018 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Validation of an Attention Bias Model of Affective State in Mice The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Sheryn Thomas
    2017 - 2017 Principal Supervisor The role of empathy in influencing cognitive biasing The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Peta Groves
    2017 - 2017 Co-Supervisor Providing peri-parturient sows with alternative nesting material to improve welfare The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Alice Rainsford
    2015 - 2015 Principal Supervisor The effects of metabolic cage housing on cognitive bias expression in mice The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Rebecca George
    2014 - 2014 Principal Supervisor The effects of metabolic cage housing and sex on cognitive bias expression in rats The University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Timothy Barker
    Expand
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2017 - ongoing Member Australasian Cognitive Neuroscience Society
    2016 - ongoing Member American Society for Nutrition
    2016 - ongoing Member The Law Society of South Australia
    2013 - ongoing Member International Society for Applied Ethology
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2014 - ongoing Board Member Australian Animal Protection Law Journal Australia
  • Position: Senior Lecturer
  • Phone: 83137868
  • Email: alexandra.whittaker@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 8313 7956
  • Campus: Roseworthy
  • Building: Corridor Block, floor G
  • Room: G 04
  • Org Unit: School of Animal and Veterinary Science

Connect With Me
External Profiles