Dr Van Le


Newcastle Business School

Tess van Weerdenburg

Career Summary

Tess joined the University in January 2014, having previously worked for a Supreme Court Judge and as a dispute resolution lawyer for two leading law firms and the Federal Government.

As part of her role at the University, Tess works closely with the Academic Division to provide advice on complex cases and the key policies and processes that impact upon the way that the University engages with its students. Tess also advises on a range of matters including commercial and international contracts, administrative law, dispute resolution, compliance and University policy and procedures.


Tess holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and a Bachelor of Arts (French and Spanish) from the University of Queensland as well as a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the College of Law.  In 2014, Tess was awarded a Master of Public and International Law from the University of Melbourne.

Tess is admitted to practice in the High Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Tess van Weerdenburg

Career SummaryTess joined the University in January 2014, having previously worked for a Supreme Court Judge and as a dispute resolution lawyer for two leading law firms and the Federal Government.As part of her role at the University, Tess works…

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A call to arms

Across the world, 15 million people will experience stroke annually. Of these, 77 per cent will have arm issues and only half will regain arm functionality.  Professor Paulette Van Vliet's focus on this portion of the body, stretching from the shoulder to fingertips, is imperative to the recovery of people who have experienced a stroke.

Professor Paulette van Vliet 

It was during her time as a young physiotherapist in Lidcombe Hospital, Sydney, that Paulette's interest in the treatment of the upper limb was piqued.

"As therapists we had to fight to be allowed to treat the arm for as long as we wanted," Paulette explains.

"The emphasis was always on getting the patient up and walking, so that they could go home."

But when patients returned home, despite some outpatient therapy, many would never regain total use of their arm.

"For a therapist who knew that their arm could be better, I found that very short-sighted and felt I had to fight for peoples' arm recovery."

Paulette's research vision for stroke rehabilitation of the upper limb has three key goals: getting more recovery for more people; targeting treatments to people with particular deficits; and empowering patients to practice alone. The three tiers combine, like intertwining fingers in a healthy patient, towards the ultimate objective of reaching a person's potential.

The global significance of Paulette's work is exemplified by her experiences in researching abroad and six current international collaborative projects. Completing her Masters at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom and gaining her Philosophy Doctorate in 1998 at the University of Nottingham, Paulette developed her techniques of motion analysis in movement and kinematics, focusing on the detailed movement deficits in those who have experienced stroke, compared to healthy people.

"Movement kinematics are like a window into how the brain controls the movement, so knowing these deficits is a prerequisite before you can know how to retrain movement," she states.

By contrasting the two groups, Paulette and her research team can identify changes needed to improve movements requested by therapists of stroke rehabilitation patients.

After rising through the ranks in British universities, Paulette returned to Australia in 2010 where she commenced work with the University of Newcastle and promptly secured an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. Her work, much of it taking place in the motion lab of the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), has culminated in the innovation of the Arm Movement Measure Device (the ArMM device).

This device will enable physiotherapists to provide immediate feedback about kinematics. Fitted with motion sensors at points between the wrist and hand, the ArMM device allows the recording of acceleration, velocity and hand position in reach-to-grasp movements to the exact millisecond. Therapists can then draw attention to items of concern and patients can check how they are tracking after each attempt, by using the feedback from ArMM to improve upon their deficit.

"The device will reinforce the right movements and help the synaptic connections in the brain that will create the right neural pathways," Paulette clarifies.

A multidisciplinary project, the ArMM device pushes scientific boundaries and involves collaboration with Paulette's academic colleagues in electrical engineering, mathematics, commercial innovation and a number of other talented staff. The project has also provided opportunities for postgraduate students in developing and promoting the electronic device.

The artful yet simple ArMM device, funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Development Grant, most notably fits into Paulette's purpose of empowering patients, as it will also allow self-directed therapy in the home.

"Patients will be able to use it on their own, dramatically increasing the amount of practice available to them," Paulette says.

The implementation of this device in the patient's living space would allow for therapists to bridge gaps in motion repetitions.  Current literature in the field has determined hundreds of repetitions are required for the brain to recover, following the catastrophic effects of a stroke. The recommended target is around 300 repetitions per rehabilitation session, however these numbers are difficult to reach during one-on-one therapy. Present studies of outpatient therapy cite an average of 12 repetitions of purposeful movements per session – well below the recommended target.

The ArMM is only one way to meet the required repetitions to enable stroke survivors to recuperate to their potential. As Paulette sees it, 300 reach-to-grasp repetitions could be achieved in a variety of ways such as: 100 in sessions with a therapist; completing 100 at home exercises; and a further hundred using ArMM to allow for the more permanent learning of tasks.

The benefits of the ArMM device are obvious, particularly given present healthcare resources allocated to stroke rehabilitation. Following the average term of six weeks hospitalisation for a stroke, depending on medical opinion, there are four options for someone discharged following the event:

  • no further treatment as they are determined to be recovered;
  • outpatient therapy twice a week which ceases after several months;
  • minimal Government-funded therapy in the home; or
  • private therapy, which can prove expensive and hard to find.

Regardless of the path taken, this vital healthcare typically ceases at six months. Such a system proves frustrating to Paulette.

"People can keep improving for years… if they're given the right instructions and exercises."

ArMM will be particularly beneficial for people in remote communities in both developed and developing nations where physiotherapy services are lacking.

"As long as they have the device and some remote communication with a therapist, such as via the internet, they'd be able to work on their own," Paulette affirms.

The dedication Paulette has put into the ArMM device is mirrored in a string of other research projects with her team. These include a combined sensory and motor training approach to ensure synchronous activation of brain networks to improve performance. Also, her research has shown that varying reach-to-grasp practice with different distances, speeds and directions, allows the brain to practice planning movements for different contexts. Task-specific therapy with aerobic training on a bike-like apparatus is also being investigated to determine the role of exercise in brain function ahead of arm training. The definition of brain lesions to determine motion deficits through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is also being developed. All of these projects are significant, as the same treatments do not benefit all people, and there is insufficient insight into brain areas affected by stroke.

Paulette and her colleagues work has recently been validated by a Centre for Research Excellence in Stroke Rehabilitation and Brain Recovery grant. These have been awarded to 10 chief investigators across the country, four being University of Newcastle academics. It focuses on five key research streams, four of which Paulette's work can be classified as belonging to: neuroimaging, clinical trials, implementation research and data linkage, all areas to improve the quality of life of stroke patients.

In Australia, 50,000 people will experience a stroke each year. A further 420,000 live with the effects of stroke, with this number expected to rise to 700,000 people by 2032. This medical condition costs the nation $5 billion annually in hospital, rehabilitation and further care. Stroke is increasingly impacting on younger people, and with the retirement age pushed further back, people's arm recovery is imperative to the productivity of the nation.

"If we can improve arm function it will reduce a lot of these costs," Paulette advises.

Improving arm function research through the next generation of researchers is also on the Paulette's agenda. She is deeply passionate about guiding young physiotherapists in stroke rehabilitation researchers and has taught 70 undergraduate courses over her career both on British and Australian soil. She currently supervises a team of six international and two Australian PhD candidates working closely alongside her at HMRI.

A call to arms

Professor van Vliet’s research interests are in the recovery of upper limb motor control after stroke, evaluation/development of physiotherapy intervention for

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Rethinking chronic lung disease

Falling under the umbrella term of 'multidimensional assessment and individualised management,' Associate Professor Vanessa McDonald's clinical research is helping to engineer a shift in the way patients with long-term respiratory problems are diagnosed and treated.

Associate Professor Vanessa McDonald

By all measures, McDonald is a prolific performer. Though just a few years out of her doctoral studies, the early career researcher has already procured a number of competitive grants, fellowships and scholarships, as well as a publication catalogue worthy of senior academics. She's also achieved marked success closer to home, winning the Vice-Chancellor's Researcher of the Year Award for 2014.  

For a long time however, this wasn't the plan. McDonald took an unusual academic pathway to get to where she is at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, spending years as a clinical nurse consultant in respiratory medicine before deciding to undertake a PhD in the late 2000s.

'It was this first role that inspired the second one,' she reveals.

'Problems with approaches to management sparked my research interest in patients with lung disease.'

Still working clinically to 'maintain creativity and currency in terms of generating research ideas,' the esteemed educator and investigator is a master of many trades. She's working with and for patients suffering from complex respiratory conditions in all of these endeavours, focusing principally on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the overlap of asthma and COPD in older populations, and bronchiectasis. McDonald is also especially interested in advancing care options for those with severe asthma.

'There's a small group of patients with severe asthma who are refractory to treatment – we can throw as much traditional asthma medication at them as we like, but they're not going to respond,' she concedes.

'These are the people who have a huge but often preventable healthcare burden, yet little research has been done on management approaches for them.'

McDonald is examining respiratory problems from multiple perspectives in her research, concentrating on the pathophysiological components, functional and psychosocial needs of individual patients. This inventive quadrant approach, which encompasses comorbidity, risk factors, self-management and management of the airways, similarly serves to improve outcomes and help translate findings into scalable and fundable practice.

'Most clinical trials tend to recruit people with pure asthma for asthma studies, and pure COPD for COPD studies, but in the real world when we sit down with a patient, often their diagnosis is impure,' she explains.

'There's usually overlap.'

'Clinical trials generate evidence that informs us on how to manage health conditions, but due to strict inclusion and exclusion criteria they often don't translate to the person sitting in front of us.'

All angles

McDonald characterised asthma and COPD overlap in the older person during her PhD candidature, focusing on the 'usually excluded' population with support from a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Scholarship. This research area involved collecting data from several sources to inform an intervention for a randomised control trial.

'I undertook qualitative analyses to develop insight into patient needs and healthcare experiences, as well as a cross-sectional study to understand what the population looks like,' she states.

'I then developed an intervention that was piloted in a clinical trial.'

This multidimensional assessment and individualised management study delivered targeted treatments to the individual problems identified, including inflammatory phenotypes, comorbidities and risk factors.

'For example if participants had airway inflammation, the pharmacotherapy was individualised to that phenotype,' she advises.

'If they showed signs of anxiety or depression they underwent cognitive behaviour therapy, and if they were nicotine-dependent they underwent a smoking intervention.'

With results deemed 'quite outstanding' in terms of their impact on health status, McDonald's PhD was published in a top respiratory journal, Thorax, in early 2013.

'The findings demonstrated an improvement in health status that were three times the minimally clinically important difference,' she asserts.

'The intervention also improved the inflammatory processes and the number of exacerbations the patients experienced.'

The principal researcher in the University of Newcastle's Priority Research Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Disease has since followed up on this research, undertaking new studies to see whether the model is transferrable to a 'generally younger' severe asthma population.

A closer look at COPD

McDonald is continuing to develop a large and impressive body of work out of her PhD thesis.  She's the current recipient of the Lung Foundation of Australia's Research Fellowship, awarded annually to one academic from any medical, scientific or allied health background, and is currently using it to fund a study on medication options for patients with COPD.

'We are examining the inflammatory phenotypes of individual patients and targeting pharmacotherapy to these processes,' she clarifies.

'Drugs are used to control eosinophilic and neutrophilic airway inflammation.'

'Medication typically used in cardiovascular diseases, but which we know reduces the degree of systemic inflammation and improves outcomes in COPD, are also being used.'

The co-convenor of the Thoracic Society Australia and New Zealand Special Interest Group has devised a randomised control trial to test this approach, with the intervention group receiving active drugs to match their number of inflammatory phenotypes, and the control group receiving a placebo. Having established a national profile and an emerging international profile, McDonald is also evaluating the health status assessment of COPD patients with St George's London Hospital Professor of Medicine, Paul Jones.

In another offshoot of her PhD, McDonald is undertaking evaluations of a weight loss trial in COPD patients.

'We know that obesity has deleterious health effects, but there's an interesting paradox that exists in COPD where obese patients have better survival than those who are normal or underweight or even just a little overweight,' she discloses.

'It could be that maintenance of muscle mass plays a key role in this, though we're not certain.'

'At present there are no treatment recommendations for this population and advising COPD patients to lose weight could actually be doing harm.'

Coupled with a resistance-training program, the weight loss intervention was found to be successful in both achieving weight loss and maintaining muscle mass. It also resulted in improvements in health status, lung function and ability to carry out daily tasks.

'This pilot study is a proof of concept,' she explains.

'Now we're publishing the data and looking at obtaining an external grant to conduct a larger study and test its true efficacy.'

The energetic academic is simultaneously involved in several current and interdisciplinary collaborations. She's working on a national University of Adelaide-led study on opioids and their potential to improving the exercise capacity of COPD patients within pulmonary rehabilitation programs, and with Laureate Professor Rob Sanson-Fisher from Public Health on a grant for a COPD self-management intervention using online tools.

An equity imperative

Observing 'limited evidence' for COPD treatment guidelines and recommendations for the management of comorbidity, McDonald is also supervising a PhD student to better understand the disease and its comorbidities.

'There's a whole gamut – obesity, anxiety and depression, skeletal muscle dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease,' she declares.

'So we're looking at measurement tools, comorbidity mechanisms, how they relate with each other and their impact on outcomes.'

'This will help us develop novel approaches to comorbidity management in COPD.'

Juggling many projects at once, McDonald and her colleagues are developing a new research area with another PhD student. This time around, the team is exploring sedentary behaviours in people with severe asthma and bronchiectasis.

McDonald is in the process of recruiting patients for the study, which aims to get snapshots of severe asthma and bronchiectasis by 'objectively measuring' how much sufferers exercise throughout the day and how much of the time they are sedentary. The Australian Pulmonary Rehab Guidelines Committee member will then relate data collected from the individual activity monitors to disease phenotypes and outcomes, such as inflammation and health status.

Recognising the futility of applying general population interventions to people with bronchiectasis and severe asthma, McDonald's team will use all of this information to develop and trial a tailor-made behavioural change intervention.

'We want patients to be more active, but we also need to accept that they're often limited by breathlessness, muscle wasting and other comorbid factors.'

Beyond the here and now

Similarly recognising the futility of only undertaking short-term research in this field, McDonald is leading a longitudinal study of patients with bronchiectasis.

'There are few long-term data of this population and determinants of decline,' she admits.

'So I'm following up patients every year for five years to track their progress.'

More recently, McDonald was part of the team that received a $2.5 million National Health and Medical Research Council grant to establish a Centre of Research Excellence in Severe Asthma. It's part of a collaboration led by Professor Peter Gibson involving national researchers from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth.

'We will seek to improve knowledge of severe asthma and its management and focus on training a new group of severe asthma researchers,' she conveys.

'We will also develop an implementation framework to translate this new knowledge into practice.'

Associate Professor Vanessa McDonald

Rethinking chronic lung disease

Associate Professor Vanessa McDonald is examining respiratory problems from multiple perspectives, concentrating on the pathophysiological components, function

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Career Summary


About to finish her PhD in Finance at the University of Adelaide, Van joined the Newcastle Business School as a Finance Lecturer from early this year. Prior to this appointment, she had been involved in teaching both UG and PG courses at the University of Adelaide. Her main subjects of teaching interest included Corporate Finance, International Finance and Derivatives and Risk Management.

Research Expertise
Her current research interests include asset pricing, market microstructure, financial modelling and forecasting. In particular, she is very keen on research in option pricing and financial market volatility. Given her past training and research experience, she has strong skills in quantitative modelling and programming in Matlab, SAS and Eviews.

Teaching Expertise
Corporate Finance Derivatives and Risk Management International Finance

Some ongoing collaborative research projects, to be named, would include “The allocation of informed traders in the option market: An analysis of the 2008 short-sale ban” (Working Paper), a joint work with Prof Ralf Zurbrugg (Uni of Adelaide) “Forecasting the smile dynamics” (Working Paper), a joint work with Prof Ralf Zurbrugg (Uni of Adelaide) “Effectiveness of electricity futures hedging using temperature forecasts” (Working Paper), a joint work with Prof Ralf Zurbrugg (Uni of Adelaide) and Associate Professor Richard Gerlach (Uni of Sydney)


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Adelaide
  • Bachelor of Finance (Honours), University of Adelaide
  • Bachelor of Finance, University of Adelaide


  • Corporate Finance
  • Derivatives and Risk Management
  • Financial modelling
  • International Finance
  • Market microstructure
  • Option pricing
  • Volatility forecasting


  • Vietnamese (Fluent)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
150299 Banking, Finance and Investment not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
Newcastle Business School



Year Award
2005 Adelaide International Achiever Scholarship
The University of Adelaide


Year Award
2012 Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence
The University of Adelaide
2009 Adelaide Graduate Scholarship


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Journal article (4 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Le V, Zurbruegg R, 'Forecasting option smile dynamics', INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF FINANCIAL ANALYSIS, 35 32-45 (2014) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.irfa.2014.07.006
2014 Le V, Zurbruegg R, 'Forecasting option smile dynamics', International Review of Financial Analysis, 35 32-45 (2014)
DOI 10.1016/j.irfa.2014.07.006
2014 Le V, Zurbruegg R, 'Forecasting option smile dynamics', International Review of Financial Analysis, 35 32-45 (2014) [C1]

Practitioners have long tried to exploit the predictability of the option implied volatility smile. Motivated by the recent developments in the literature focusing on market-based... [more]

Practitioners have long tried to exploit the predictability of the option implied volatility smile. Motivated by the recent developments in the literature focusing on market-based option pricing arguments, this paper proposes the introduction of trading volume into a vector autoregressive (VAR) model to improve forecasts of the smile dynamics. The augmented VAR-volume model produces quality forecasts of the smile surface and explains its dynamic changes over time relatively well. Our results suggest that the incorporation of trading volume leads to it outperforming other alternative forecast approaches, as well as being robust to a variety of perturbations of the data and offers scope for investors to more accurately predict option implied volatility in the future.

DOI 10.1016/j.irfa.2014.07.006
2010 Le V, Zurbrugg R, 'The role of trading volume in volatility forecasting', Journal of International Financial Markets Institutions and Money, 20 533-555 (2010) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 4
Show 1 more journal article

Conference (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2012 Le V, Zurbrugg R, 'Forecasting the smile dynamics', The 32th International Symposium on Forecasting Conference Proceedings, Boston, US (2012) [E1]
2009 Le V, Zurbrugg R, 'The role of trading volume in volatility forecasting', The 29th International Symposium on Forecasting Conference Proceedings, Hong Kong (2009) [E3]

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 1
Total funding $5,000

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20131 grants / $5,000

Examining the spilover of liquidity between the stock and option markets$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Van Le
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1300593
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE

Dr Van Le


Newcastle Business School
Faculty of Business and Law

Contact Details

Email van.le@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 8798


Room SRS114
Building Social Sciences Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308