Michelle is a Psychology senior lecturer and a Research Associate of the Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering (CESARE).

Her research interests include cognitive processing during sleep (what wakes people up), cognitive processing in people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), and the relationship between the balance of intestinal microflora and the expression of mood, somatic, and cognitive symptoms in people with ME/CFS.

In her work at CESARE Michelle is also an expert in human behaviour in fire and lectures in psychology to Fire Engineers. She is among the leaders of a team at VU who are researching why some people die in accidental residential fires, while others survive.

This work has included the development of two comprehensive databases surrounding human behaviour; one drawn from coroner’s reports when people have died, and one drawn from interviews of people who have survived fires (where no serious injury occurred).

She is also interested in researching juvenile firesetters, and the programs and services that exist to treat this problem.

Recent publications

Refereed journal articles

Bruck D., Ball M. and Thomas I. (2011) Fire fatality and alcohol intake: analysis of key risk factors. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 72(5), 731-736.

Bruck D., Ball M., Thomas I. & Rouillard V. (2009) How does the pitch and pattern of a signal affect auditory arousal thresholds? Journal of Sleep Research, 18 (2), pp 196-203.

Bruck D. & Ball M. (2007) Optimising emergency awakening to audible smoke alarms: An update Human Factors, 49 (4), 585-601.

Conference presentations

Xiong, L., Bruck, D. & Ball M. (2012) The key personal, environmental, and behavioural factors contributing to smoking material-related residential fire fatalities. In Shields J (Ed.) Proceedings of the Fifth Human Behaviour in Fire Conference, Cambridge, September, pp. 606-611.

Doolan, E. & Ball, M. (2012) In search of risk: An exploration of coronial data highlighting risk factors implicated in Australian house fire fatalities where a working smoke alarm was known to be present and functional. In Shields J (Ed.) Proceedings of the Fifth Human Behaviour in Fire Conference, Cambridge, September, pp. 371-376.

Ball M. & Farley T. (2012). Recollection, identification, and perceived urgency of the temporal-three evacuation alarm in an Australian sample. In Shields J (Ed.) Proceedings of the Fifth Human Behaviour in Fire Conference, Cambridge, September, pp. 128-137.

Iyer, R. & Ball, M. (2010). Increased vulnerability of compulsive hoarders to residential fire fatality: A qualitative enquiry. Paper presented at the 8th Asia-Oceania Symposium on Fire Science and Technology, Melbourne, Australia Dec 7th - 9th and in Proceedings of the 8th Asia-Oceania Fire Safety Science Symposium, Melbourne, December.

Ball M., Bruck D. and Thomas I. (2009). How do visual stimuli compare to auditory and tactile stimuli as an effective means of wakening? In Shields J. (ed.) Proceedings of the Fourth Human Behaviour in Fire Conference, Cambridge, July.

View Michelle's publications.

Teaching responsibilities

Michelle teaches undergraduate Psychology and fourth year Honours: Psychological Assessment.


First year Psychology.

Postgraduate research students and fellows

Current supervision

Co-supervision of 4 PhD, 2 DPsych (Clinical Psychology), 1 MPsych (Clinical Psychology), 6 Honours students.


12 Honours, 1 Co-supervision of DPsych (Clinical Neuropsychology), Co-supervision of 2 Research Fellows.

Areas of expertise

  • Cognitive processing during sleep
  • Human behaviour in fire

Contact details