Available Category 1 PhD projects - Health

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Chief Investigator Project title Project description Preferred educational background

Professor Andreas Obermair

a.obermair@uq.edu.au

Endometrial cancer treatments – patient information needs and support

Endometrial cancer is the most common type of gynaecological cancer in Australia. The most common risk factor for endometrial cancer is overweight and obesity. Obesity generates a multitude of general health issues, making preoperative management, surgery and postsurgical care complex and places patients at excessive risk of adverse surgical events. While current standard treatment is surgical removal of uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, until recently non-surgical treatments could be offered to women who are at risk due to co-morbidities or young women reluctant to lose childbearing capacity only on an ad-hoc basis.  To overcome this significant treatment challenge, our team of researchers conducted a randomised phase 2 clinical trial of intrauterine levonorgestrel (LNG) with or without weight loss or metformin called the feMMe trial. The main study endpoint is the complete pathological response rate (no cancer cells detectable in endometrium) at 6 months.

Data from this project is now available for secondary analysis by a PhD student interested to contribute to better patient outcomes and patient experience. The development of patient information and education materials are a key prerequisite for the successful implementation of this novel approach to the treatment of early endometrial cancer.

This PhD project is expected to address three major research aims:

  1. Understand the decision-making processes of women when being offered non-surgical treatment options and the patient experience of non-surgical treatment, and what information materials women used or would have liked to have to support their decision making.
  2. Survey existing patient information and education materials, assess how well they address the needs of patients as identified in aim 1 and improve them using evidence- based methods so that they better assist the implementation of non-surgical treatment options.
  3. Test the newly developed updated materials; establish whether they improve decision making and work towards their implementation in clinical practice.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant's previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of cancer epidemiology and public health would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field of health promotion or public health and the potential for scholastic success.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Seweryn Bialasiewicz

seweryn@uq.edu.au

Discovery and characterisation of phage to treat chronic ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

The broad project aims to grow, identify and characterise phages capable of killing two key bacterial pathogens associated with chronic ear disease (Otitis Media), particularly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The ultimate goal is to generate a pool of candidate phages which have been evaluated for further development into phage-based therapies. Project sub-components will include bacterial culturing and whole genome sequencing, isolation of phage using plaque assays, cross-strain specificity testing, characterisation of phage by sequencing and electron microscopy, antibiotic synergy testing and viral tagging.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of microbiology, sequencing and culturing techniques would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of microbiology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of bacterial and viral culturing is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Sandra Richardson

sandra.richardson@mater.uq.edu.au

Jumping Genes in Mammalian Development

Our lab studies the biology of L1 retrotransposons, often referred to as  jumping genes. These DNA sequences have the ability to copy-and-paste themselves from one location in the genome to another in a process called retrotransposition. Retrotransposition events are mutagenic, with the potential to disrupt the function of critical genes and cause genome instability.

 L1 retrotransposons are selfish elements and must make new copies in cells that will contribute to the next generation. In mammals, opportunities for heritable L1 retrotransposition include the cells of the early embryo and the cells of the developing germline. L1 activity in these developmental niches threatens transmission of a stable germline genome and can result in genetic disease and potentially cell death, but also represents a source of new genetic diversity.

 This project aims to illuminate the spectrum of impacts resulting from L1 retrotransposition in the germ line and early embryo, from infertility and pregnancy loss to congenital anomalies and genetic disease, as well as more subtle impacts on gene regulation and structural variation. The mechanisms by which L1 activity is controlled by embryonic and germ cells will also be investigated. The student leading this project will have the opportunity to work with single-cell genomics techniques, mouse and cell culture models, and human patient samples.

 The successful applicant will be supervised by Dr Sandra Richardson (Mater Research Institute) and Prof Geoff Faulkner (Mater Research Institute/QBI).

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of genetics, genomics, and molecular biology techniques; microscopy, flow cytometry, mouse handling and dissection would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of molecular genetics, genomics and the potential for scholastic success.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Samantha Stehbens

s.stehbens@uq.edu.au

Understanding the role of the microtubule cytoskeleton in 3D crowded micro-environments

The overarching aim of this research is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that cells use to move in 3D environments: a basic biological function essential to development and homeostasis. During these processes, cells interact with their surroundings where they translate biophysical forces into biochemical signals to adapt their shape to move. This requires distinct signalling, controlled in space and time, to regulate the crosstalk between organelles and the cytoskeleton. To date, the role of microtubules remains elusive. Using interdisciplinary approaches combining advanced imaging technology with novel cell biology methods, the project aims to uncover fundamental knowledge about how cells interact with their environment.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A working knowledge of Cell Biology, Microscopy and microfluidics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of Cell Biology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of Engineering/optics is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Yaqoot Fatima

fatima.yaqoot@uq.edu.au

Sleep health program to achieve better sleep and improved mental health symptoms in Indigenous adolescents

Despite the well-established link between poor sleep and mental health, sleep has never been the focus of targeted intervention for improving the mental health of Indigenous adolescents. The first-ever comprehensive report on Sleep health of Indigenous Australians highlighted 18% prevalence of poor sleep in Indigenous youth that in turn, increase the risk and severity of emotional and mental health problems. Therefore, timely prevention, diagnosis and management of poor sleep in Indigenous adolescents can reduce the risk and severity of mental health issues and improve opportunities for living life to the fullest potential.  

The overarching goal of this project is to develop novel resources and tools for sleep health improvement in Indigenous adolescents, generate robust evidence using these tools and work as a catalyst for incorporating culturally appropriate sleep health programs in Indigenous mental health and well-being services. The key aims are to co-design and deliver a sleep improvement program for Indigenous adolescents and evaluate the preliminary feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of the program in improving sleep health and mental health symptoms in Indigenous adolescents. This project will leverage successful partnerships with Aboriginal primary care services, youth services and community relationship to offer sustainable and effective solutions for improving sleep health and reducing the risk and the severity of mental health symptoms in Indigenous adolescents.

A working knowledge of statistical softwares e.g., R, SPSS, would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of advanced data analysis and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of the epidemiology and outcomes of poor sleep is highly desirable.

The successful candidate will require to hold a valid Blue card. The candidate should be willing to relocate to Mount Isa (QLD) or be willing to stay in Mount Isa for extended periods.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Genevieve Healy

g.healy@sph.uq.edu.au

Supporting workers to sit less and move more for their health and wellbeing

The BeUpstanding™ program (www.beupstanding.com.au) supports desk-based work teams to sit less and move more, for better health and wellbeing.  Developed by the researchers at the School of Public Health, the University of Queensland, the program is currently being evaluated through a national implementation trial. Findings from the implementation trial will inform future wide-scale dissemination efforts, as well as national and international policy and practice.

We are now seeking HDR students to join the BeUpstanding team and be part of this world-first workplace health promotion initiative. Specifically, we are looking for students to lead a program of work across five streams (five different HDRs): small business, rural and regional workers, large organisations, universities, and call centres. Within each stream, the broad aims of the HDR research will be:

  1. To determine the facilitators and barriers to delivery of BeUpstanding using a mixed methods approach.
  2. To develop implementation strategy(s) to assist in delivering BeUpstanding using a stakeholder engagement process.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the implementation strategy(s) via a pilot study(s).

This unique opportunity would suit students with a background in health promotion, public health, health psychology, implementation science, and human movement studies. Excellent communication skills are essential as you will be working with employers and employees.

  • A working knowledge of workplace health promotion, qualitative and quantitative research methods and behaviour change would be of benefit to someone working on this project.
  • Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.
  • The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of health promotion, health psychology, organisational psychology, implementation science, behaviour science and the potential for scholastic success.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Sandie McCarthy

s.mccarthy@uq.edu.au

Enhancing treatment outcomes after gynaecological cancer: Using exercise to promote health after cancer therapy (the ACUMEN trial)

Exercise is a potent aid to recovery after reproductive cancer treatment. Exercise has been effectively used in breast and other common cancers to reduce women’s risk of developing treatment-related chronic conditions. However there is little education and support to help women treated for reproductive cancers to safely and sustainably integrate exercise into their daily routine following treatment. This disparity has created an unmet need. Approximately 20,000 Australian women treated for reproductive cancer have developed, or are at risk of developing, detrimental treatment outcomes.

 The ACUMEN trial addresses this critical unmet health need. ACUMEN has two components.

  1. Study 1 is a randomised control trial of a targeted exercise and behavioural change intervention for women previously treated for reproductive cancers. Outcome measures include quality of life, exercise self-efficacy and several physiological measures (e.g VO2peak, blood markers of chronic disease risk).
  2. Study 2 is a complementary mixed-method exploration of how best to facilitate the implementation of exercise into clinical practice after cancer treatment. Outcomes include quantitative and qualitative indications of intervention acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility, clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of cancer clinical practice (nursing, behavioural science or allied health), exercise science, health economics, or implementation science and the potential for scholastic success.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

A background or knowledge of cancer care is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Jakob Najman

j.najman@uq.edu.au

Prevalence and predictors of victimisation of Australian children

We need to know more about the long term outcomes for children and adolescents who experience maltreatment, violence or victimisation.  Little is known about the prevalence or the predictors of these types of experiences in Australian children and adolescents.  Depending on the successful candidate’s specific interests there is the opportunity to explore social and environmental factors (parental unemployment, neighbourhood characteristics) as well as intergenerational factors (e.g. parental poverty, domestic conflict, instability and violence) or child specific factors (victim of crime, maltreatment or violence) which may be associated with maltreatment and victimisation using a large, multi-generational Australian data set. 

The proposed project will use data from the first, second and third generations of a large birth cohort study, the Mater University of Queensland study of Pregnancy (MUSP).  MUSP commenced data collection between 1981-1983, recruiting 6753 mothers (G1) who have been followed up periodically for 27 years, their 7223 children (G2) who have been followed up at intervals for 30 years and their grandchildren (G3) who have been contacted once and of these  ~1790 children aged 9 years or older are the focus of the current data collection.  To date some 350 research papers have been published from this study.  There is an opportunity here for the successful candidate to contribute to further publications.  As well as working on existing data the candidate would also be expected to be actively involved with the data collection for the next phase of the study, which will commence in the next few months, with a view to using the most recent data in their own thesis.   

  • A working knowledge of Data analysis using one of the major statistical packages (SPSS, Stata, SAS and/or R) and an understanding of research methods and longitudinal design would be of benefit to someone working on this project.
  • Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.
  • The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of social or behavioural sciences, child health , public health, nursing , medicine and the potential for scholastic success.
  • A background or knowledge of epidemiology, statistics is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 3, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Roslyn Boyd

r.boyd@uq.edu.au

Peer delivered early detection and intervention for infants at high risk of cerebral palsy/ neurodevelopmental disability in Indigenous Australia: Learning through Everyday Activities with Parents Study

The overarching aim of the LEAP-CP Study is to reduce the age of diagnosis of cerebral palsy, and test efficacy of a 30 week peer to peer delivered program in the community that seeks to improve motor and cognitive development for infants at high risk of cerebral palsy, and caregiver mental health in 86 Indigenous infants in Queensland and Western Australia. Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common childhood physical disability (1 in 500 Australians), however CP from post-natal causes is five times more likely in Indigenous Australians.  Indigenous children with CP are more likely to have poorer gross motor function and cognition, 50% more likely to have epilepsy, and more than twice as likely to have visual impairment. We have demonstrated that early intervention targeting early active-goal directed training and responsive parenting are effective for both the infant and caregiver.  Our international clinical practice guideline has recommended that reliable detection of infants at risk of CP can occur from 13 weeks corrected age. However, families living in remote locations do not receive diagnosis or intervention until after the child’s second birthday; missing a significant window of neuroplasticity. To identify these at risk infants, we need to implement community surveillance and adapt interventions known to be effective in mainstream Western populations and deliver them through culturally responsive service delivery models. The LEAP-CP program (Learning through Everyday Activities with Parents of infants with CP) is being successfully implemented in urban slums and rural communities in India (CIA). Collaborating with NHMRC Centres for Research Excellence (Clinical Trials Network for CP; Centre for Excellence in Telehealth), and building on the existing government and Aboriginal Controlled health services, this randomized control trial (RCT) will test the effectiveness of this home-based peer-delivered 'best practice' multi-domain intervention. LEAP-CP is a paradigm shift in service delivery, conducted through a culturally sensitive peer to peer model with local Indigenous community change agents. The lay health worker model has been highly effective in Indigenous, cross-cultural and hard to reach contexts, ensuring community empowerment and sustainability.

PhD projects on the overarching LEAP-CP study could focus on early detection, early intervention (including coaching approach, motor/ cognitive learning, parent mental health), cultural adaptation and acceptability of screening and intervention, adult-education/ support for Indigenous Allied Health Workers (including training platforms and process).

  • A working knowledge of Early detection (General Movements, Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination) and early disability/ childhood interventions (including goal-directed training, active motor learning, Abecdarian approach, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, responsive parenting programs) would be of benefit to someone working on this project.
  • Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.
  • The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of medicine, nursing, allied health, public health, early childhood education, social science (Indigenous cultural studies) [one or more] and the potential for scholastic success.
  • A background or knowledge of Child health, cerebral palsy/ disability, Indigenous culture, behavioural parenting interventions, telehealth, cultural adaptations of evidence-based programs is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Di Yu

di.yu@uq.edu.au

Differentiation and function of novel cytotoxic T-cell subsets

Cytotoxic CD8+ T (Tc) cells constitute the major immune cell type that is responsible for eliminating infected or cancerous cells. Tc cells differentiate into specialised subsets that localise to specific tissues and organs to perform their cell killing functions but may also mediate immunopathology. Professor Di Yu's laboratory poineers in discovering new T cell subsets and unveiling mechanisms underlying their differentiation and function. This project will utilise both pre-clinical animal models and bioinformatic approaches to characterise novel Tc subsets, including ‘follicular cytotoxic T cells’ (Tfc cells). The gained new knowledge will help to design new strategies to treat cancers and infectious diseases such as caused by HIV, EBV and SARS-CoV-2.

  • A working knowledge of Immunology, Cell Biology and Bioinformatics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.
  • Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.
  • The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of biomedical sciences and the potential for scholastic success.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Ruth Hubbard

r.hubbard1@uq.edu.au

Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment: How does it work and what are the key effective ingredients?

In the GOAL trial, we will undertake a cluster RCT of Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) for frail older people with chronic kidney disease. Our primary research question is whether CGA will improve attainment of patients' own goals of care and quality of life at 3, 6 and 12 months follow up.

The focus of this PhD project is a process evaluation.  Using the UK MRC framework for process evaluation in designing and testing complex interventions, we will work with patients to assess context, implementation (fidelity, quality), and mechanism (causal). Throughout the trial, detailed process measures will be collected, to determine the active ingredients of the intervention, and the barriers and enablers of acceptance and uptake. Prospective qualitative semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a minimum of 30 purposively sampled patients and their caregivers (to ensure maximum diversity based on demographic and clinical characteristics) prior to the trial, and at 3, 6, and 12 months after enrolment. The topics will include acceptability of CGA, challenges and enablers for implementing CGA, and the perceived benefits and harms of the intervention. We will also conduct key informant interviews with a minimum of 30 clinicians (geriatricians, nephrologists, general practitioners, nurses, allied health professionals) involved in the study to assess intervention fidelity across the sites, perceived facilitators and challenges of implementation, change and impact on patient care, outcomes, and processes, and perspectives on maximising the scalability and sustainability of the intervention. All interviews will be recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Investigator triangulation and member checking will be used to ensure the analyses reflects the full range and depth of data collected.

This PhD is suitable for medical doctors with clinical experience in geriatric medicine and excellent communication skills. While some experience of research is desired, specific training in qualitative research methods will be provided.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr John Kemp

j.kemp2@uq.edu.au

Identifying pharmacological targets for osteoporosis intervention using whole-genome and exome sequencing of bone related phenotypes

Osteoporosis (OP) is an often asymptomatic multi-factorial condition that is characterized by a progressive loss of bone mass resulting in increased fracture (FX) risk and reduced lifespan(1). It represents a significant public health burden that affects an estimated 2.2 million Australians and results in 20,000 hip fractures annually, with direct and indirect disease-related costs estimated at $7.4 billion per year(2). Due to the insidious nature of this disease, individuals who are most at risk of OP are often only identified once they present with low trauma FX. The situation is further exacerbated as most pharmacological treatments function as anti-resorptives that halt further bone loss, but fail to fully restore bone quality. Only one osteoanabolic drug is presently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, however this compound is far from ideal as it requires daily administration via injection to ensure adequate bone formation(3). Consequently, there is considerable scope for identifying novel osteoanabolic pathways that could in principle be targeted by new and existing pharmacotherapies to build bone mass before clinical sequelae develop.

The goal of this PhD is to combine statistical and molecular genetics approaches to identify and assess the therapeutic potential of OP drug targets.

AI & Machine Learning, Bioinformatics, Computer Science & IT, Endocrinology, Genetics, Information Science, Molecular Biology, Public Health & Epidemiology, Software, Engineering, Statistics

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Abu Sina

a.sina@uq.edu.au

A potential pan-cancer diagnostic utilizing DNA methylation landscapes

DNA methylation is a key epigenetic modification which involves the addition of a methyl group to the 5 position of cytosine nucleotides. Eukaryotic cell’s DNA maintains a distinct methylation landscape to regulate gene expression pathways and maintain genomic stability. However, in cancer, this methylation landscape experiences a significant reprogramming with a net loss of global DNA methylation at the intergenic regions of the genome together with a concomitant increase in methylcytosine levels at clustered CpG sites involved in regulatory roles (e.g., selective hyper-methylation at promoter regions). We have recently discovered a consequence of genome-wide epigenetic reprogramming induced by cancer, which has been overlooked to date: that the key physicochemical properties of purified genomic DNA are fundamentally different between normal and cancer genomes. We found that the purified genomic DNA from normal cells had a greater tendency towards aggregation in aqueous solutions than genomic DNA from cancer cells. This appears to be caused by the hydrophobic properties of methylcytosines, leading to different self-assembly of DNA polymer in solution, depending on the levels and patterning of methylcytosines across the genome. I also found that the solution properties of cancer and normal epigenomes influenced their affinity towards bare gold surfaces. In addition to the solvation properties, gold-DNA interaction was also modulated by the higher affinity of methylcytosines towards gold in comparison to the regular cytosines, and as a function of their clustered or dispersed patterning across the genome, which in turn, could determine the pathological state of the DNA. Thus, we hypothesized that the unique methylation landscape displayed by most cancerous epigenomes which we referred to as “Methylscape” may potentially serve as a universal cancer biomarker. Consequently, we developed a one-step pan-cancer detection technology based on interfacial bio-sensing without the need for sequencing, chemical/enzymatic treatment of samples, and PCR amplification procedure

This proposal aims to test the cancer detection accuracy of this novel method in a larger cohort of clinical samples using an automated chip to allow rapid sample multiplexing. It simultaneously aims to develop a new strategy to investigate the methylation-based allele frequency (MAF) in the blood samples from earlier to the later stage of cancer.

The applicant should have: biochemistry and molecular biology background with interest in nanotechnology and microfluidics. Theoretical Knowledge of DNA Methylation and Cancer. Experience in working in a molecular biology lab and be familiar with standard molecular biology methods such as DNA extraction, PCR reaction, Cell culture, etc.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor David Paterson

d.paterson1@uq.edu.au

A Multimodal Intervention to Reduce Antimicrobial Use in Residential Aged Care Facilities

Antimicrobial resistance is a significant health challenge, with a global rise in multidrug resistant organisms, resulting in significant increase in healthcare utilisation, morbidity and mortality. In Australian residential aged care facilities (RACFs), antibiotics are a commonly prescribed medication. Studies indicate that a high proportion of these prescriptions (25-75%) are non-compliant with best prescribing guidelines. RACFs operate in a climate of tight resourcing and in many facilities, there are no medical staff on site.
The purpose of this study is to examine 1) the barriers and enablers to implementation of an AMS program in the RACF setting and 2) to evaluate the impact of a multi-modal intervention package (ENGAGEMENT) on antibiotic use in the RACF setting.

The study will be a multi centre study recruiting 18 RACFs and will utilise qualitative and quantitative research methods (e.g. interviews, focus groups and data analysis to calculate antibiotic use for large cohort of RACF residents).

Health professional with degree in nursing or pharmacy preferred. Also preferred is a postgraduate diploma or Masters degree in topic related to geriatric medicine and or antimicrobial use optimisation.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Shyuan Ngo

s.ngo@uq.edu.au

Targeting metabolic flexibility as a therapeutic approach for ALS (METALS)

About half of all patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) experience a dramatic increase in energy use (known as hypermetabolism). My team have now generated clinical data to show that ALS patients who experience this change in energy use are those who have a more aggressive disease and shorter survival.

Complementing these human studies, we have conducted independent and collaborative studies in mouse models of ALS to show that changes in energy use occurs alongside a decrease in the ability of animals to switch between the use of sugar and fat as energy substrates. This loss of metabolic flexibility contributes to disease, as we have shown that the repurposing of compounds that improve metabolic flexibility can slow disease progression, and improve nerve-muscle connections and muscle strength in ALS mice.

We now aims to build on these promising results. While studies in the pre-clinical setting to continue to grow and expand, we need to be mindful that clinical studies in patients with ALS also need to grow exponentially if we are to translate pre-clinical findings into a clinically meaningful outcomes.

The research project will draw on natural history studies that are being conducted as part of a collaboration across 3 large ALS clinics (Brisbane, Utrecht, London) to improve our understanding of hypermetabolism throughout the course of disease in patients with ALS. This is important, as it remains unknown if hypermetabolism is a unique feature of disease in a subgroup of patients, or if this is a common phenomenon that occurs across all patients, but at a specific stage of disease. Outcomes will inform clinical trial design and unite international infrastructure to evaluate potential therapies that target hypermetabolism and/or loss of metabolic flexibility in ALS.

  • The candidate will have a Bachelor of Science (in a relevant field) with honours Class 1 or high Class 2A (BSc), or a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), or a Doctor of Medicine (MD).
  • The candidate will have demonstrated knowledge and/or understanding of the neuromotor system.
  • The candidate will have demonstrated experience in working directly with human research participants.
  • The candidate will have knowledge of ethical requirements associated with the conduct of research in a clinical setting.
  • The candidate will have, or will obtain, GCP training.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Helen Cooper

h.cooper@uq.edu.au

Identifying a molecular signalling network governing synapse formation

The Neural Migration Laboratory is headed by Professor Helen Cooper. Professor Cooper’s research focuses on the molecular signaling systems (guidance receptors and their ligands) governing neural stem cell activity, neuronal differentiation and axon pathfinding in the embryonic brain. A major research theme, and the focus of this PhD project, is understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning synapse formation and synaptic activity. The goal of the Cooper laboratory is to identify the molecular mechanisms contributing to cortical malformations and neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia

PhD Project

Abnormal synapse formation leads to diminished synaptic transmission and impaired cognitive function. The goal of this project is to identify the molecular pathways that govern synaptic connectivity. This research will not only provide key insights into the fundamental principles guiding the establishment of complex neural circuits, but will also shed light on the aberrant processes contributing to autism and schizophrenia. To address these questions the successful candidate will utilize the following experimental tools: developmental mouse models, in vitro neuronal culture systems, state-of-the-art molecular and imaging approaches, including super-resolution microscopy. 

Honours degree in biological sciences is required. Some background in molecular, cellular and/or developmental biology or neuroscience is preferred.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Luregn Schlapbach

l.schlapbach@uq.edu.au

Improving treatment for sepsis and life-threatening infections in critically ill children

Sepsis and life-threatening infections are a major cause of childhood morbidity and death in Australia and worldwide.

Timely and appropriate initiation of antimicrobial therapy is a cornerstone of treatment. Current treatment recommendations use standard dosing recommendations across broad patient groups.
More recently, drug dosing software has become available which can enable more personalized drug therapy.

The aim of this project is to conduct prospective research on children with severe infections admitted to intensive care, investigating approaches to optimize drug therapy, including dosing software.
The candidate will perform a literature review, followed by a prospective study with co-supervision from experts in paediatric sepsis and intensive care, and pharmacology.

The preferred candidate has a strong background in paediatric pharmacology and pharmacy, and is familiar with current state-of-the-art drug delivery quality procedures.

The candidate should have a strong interest in severe infections in children and is keen to engage in a prospective study.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Ethan Scott

ethan.scott@uq.edu.au

Brain-wide sensory processing in zebrafish

Our senses perceive events in the outside world and permit appropriate behaviours, but the brain circuits that carry this process out are poorly understood. New microscope technologies make it possible to observe all active brain cells at once in the zebrafish model system, permitting the complete exploration of sensory processing. In this project, we will study a simple behaviour, visual escape, in this context, aiming to describe the brain cells and networks involved. Our experiments, encompassing functional imaging, anatomy, computational modelling of information flow, and the delivery of behaviour, aim to provide the first complete map of a visual behaviour at the level of brain circuits and the individual brain cells composing them.

This position will involve designing, conducting, and analysing experiments to understand functional neural circuitry in the zebrafish model system. As such, researchers with education or past experience in microscope engineering, optical physics, neuroscience, software engineering, and computational biology are all welcome to apply.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Henry Marshall

h.marshall@uq.edu.au

Lung cancer Screening (The International Lung Screening Trial)

The International Lung Screening Trial (PubMed: 32011914) has recruited >2000 Australians at high risk of lung cancer.  The ILST has a focus on implementation and aims to answer several important questions to improve the efficacy and health benefits of screening.  A number of substudies are encompassed by ILST which would suit candidates from a wide range of backgrounds.  Topics include pulmonary nodule management, lung cancer risk, predictive biomarkers, comorbidity such as osteoporosis and coronary artery disease, smoking cessation, COPD.  The ILST is an international trial (Australia, Canada) which has NMHRC and QLD health funding.  Specific projects would be tailored around individual candidates, depending on prior experience, background and interest.

The successful applicant will have experience in clinical medicine, radiology, basic science or social science/psychology.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Karen Weynberg

k.weynberg@uq.edu.au

Treatment of multi-drug resistant infections using a novel, rapid and customised synthetic phage therapy platform.

Antimicrobial resistance is increasing at an alarming rate globally. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop alternative, and potentially complementary, therapeutics to combat pathogenic microbes. The use of phage therapeutic methods in a variety of environments is poorly explored. This project aims to explore further the use of phage therapy by establishing an innovative synthetic biology platform to engineer phage therpay candidates within a biofoundry and will leverage the candidate's skills in one or more of the following areas - microbiology, molecular biology, genetic engineering and laboratory automation. This project will focus on treating multi-drug resistant uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), which is responsible for one of the most common illnesses - urinary tract infection - and is increasingly associated with antibiotic resistance. Successful outcomes of this project will be peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals, intellectual property and the chance to make a positive difference in the lives of people chronically infected by UPEC pathogens.

First class Honours/ Masters in a related discipline such as Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, or Virology

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Luke Kelly

l.kelly3@uq.edu.au

Does Foot Shape Matter? Rethinking the mechanical function of the human foot

Human feet are unique in shape and function, having evolved for habitual upright locomotion. Yet we have very little knowledge of how the external shape and internal anatomy of our feet influences our capacity to walk and run. This project will combine the use of novel biomechanical & musculoskeletal imaging tools with shape modelling approaches to explore the variability in human foot shape and function. This research will bridge the gap in our understanding of the form-function relationship of the human foot and will substantially increase our knowledge of the evolution and function of human feet.

This project would suit students with a strong background in biomechanics from any of the following fields - bio/mechanical engineering, exercise science (kinesiology), comparative biology or anatomy. The successful candidate will work as part of an international (Australia & Canada) research team including post-doctoral research fellows and other post-graduate research students working in related areas. Strong programming skills would be highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Glen Lichtwark

g.lichtwark@uq.edu.au

Establishing the true energetic costs of contracting muscles to do work in the real world

The project will explore how changing muscle recruitment and work requirements influences the energetics of muscle contraction. The project will characterise muscle energetic cost in relation to real-life contraction requirements and reveal the influence of changing muscle recruitment patterns on muscle performance. It will involve using state-of-the-art instruments to assess the thermodynamics of muscle contraction and sophisticated robotic techniques to simulate how muscles interact with the musculoskeletal system and the environment. The research is integrated within a program of research aimed at better understanding what governs how and why we move the way we do.

This project would suit students with a strong background in muscle physiology, biomechanics or biophysics from any of the following fields - biomedical science, physiology, bio/mechanical engineering, exercise science (kinesiology), comparative biology or anatomy. Strong programming or computational skills would be highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Henry Marshall

h.marshall@uq.edu.au

Artifical Intelligence chat bot for smoking cessation

Smoking is a significant cause of disease and mortality globally.  Helping smokers to quit is challenging.  New technology, such as smartphone apps, could complement existing smoking cessation services but the optimal design, development and clinical impact of such systems remains uncertain and is an emerging research area.  An app that provides tailored rather than generic support to smokers, akin to counselling, may be beneficial.

The main aim of this project is to develop, test and refine a prototype smoking cessation app in a clinical setting among consumers, patients and clinical experts in smoking cessation. 

This project has NHMRC funding and involves collaboration between computer science, behaviour change psychology and clinical medicine. 

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD student with a behavioural change/psychology/social science/ medical or public health background

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor David Evans

d.evans1@uq.edu.au

Developing and Applying Statistical Genetics Methods to Elucidate the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

The aim of this PhD is to dissect the maternal and fetal contributions to the relationship between offspring birthweight and future risk of disease. The successful candidate will perform analyses on a number of large datasets including (but limited to) the UK Biobank Study and those in the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) consortium. The UK Biobank is a large population based cohort of 500,000 individuals who have been genome-wide genotyped and have self-reported their birthweight, birthweight of their offspring, and doctor diagnosed diseases ( e.g. hypertension, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, and many others of relevance). The EGG consortium includes more than 35 international pregnancy and birth cohorts with genetic data, including studies with data on mother/offspring pairs. The successful candidate will gain experience across a wide range of advanced statistical genetics methodologies including Mendelian randomization (a way of using genetic variants to investigate putatively causal relationships), genome-wide association analysis (GWAS), and genetic restricted maximum likelihood (G-REML) analysis of genome-wide data which can be used to partition variation in phenotypes into genetic and environmental sources of variation. It is also expected that the candidate will assist in the development of new statistical genetics and causal modelling methods.

Ideally we would like candidates to have experience in statistics, genetics, epidemiology or a related discipline.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Adam Ewing

adam.ewing@mater.uq.edu.au

Applying long-read sequencing technologies to cancer genomes

Tumour genomes are frequently highly rearranged relative to the corresponding non-tumour genome along with aberrant CpG methylation and gene regulation. Current second-generation sequencing technologies are limited in their ability to resolve genome and transcript structure as well as interrogate genome-wide methylation status. Long-read third-generation sequencing technologies mark a significant improvement in our ability to address these issues and better understand tumour biology. This project will aim to develop and apply novel computational methods for studying tumour rearrangements and aberrations in genome-wide regulatory status in epithelial solid tumours.

We are seeking a PhD student with a degree in computational biology, bioinformatics, computer science or another quantitative discipline. Significant programming experience and good working knowledge of the Linux/unix command-line is highly desirable. Additional background in or familiarity with molecular genetics is desirable. Applicants must meet the entry requirements for a higher degree by research.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Glenn King

uqgking3@uq.edu.au

Development of a first-in-class drug for treating stroke

This project will contribute towards development of a disulfide-rich venom peptide as a therapeutic agent to minimise the brain damage induced by ischemic stroke. A major focus will be the development of methods to enhance brain permeability of the peptide, as well as methods for its large-scale manufacture.

The successful applicant will have an MSc or BSc with First Class Honours, with extensive experience in protein chemistry, high-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy. Experience with venomous invertebrates and venom peptides would be a distinct advantage.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Peter Noakes

p.noakes@uq.edu.au

Understanding neuromuscular synaptic loss in Motor Neuron Disease

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); is a devastating disorder that kills approximately 80% of patients within 3-5 years of diagnosis. A central event in all cases of ALS is the progressive withdrawal of the motor nerve terminal from its’ target muscle cells. The debilitating weakness and paralysis that ensues significantly impacts function and quality of life for patients. Thus, there is a need to clarify what drives the loss of nerve-muscle connections, and what factors might prolong the integrity of these connections in ALS. Our results in muscle cells from ALS patients that we have studied so far, indicate that there are defects in the n-agrin-MuSK signaling pathway and highlights this pathway as a potential therapeutic target to prolong muscle function. 

Aim 1 will use our established n-agrin AChR clustering bioassay, to determine if our pilot results are true for all ALS patients, or only for a subset of patients. 

Aim 2 will employ biochemical methods (e.g. Western Blot and immuno-precipitations) to map out the fault in the MuSK pathway in ALS muscles that do not respond to n-agrin. 

Aim 3 will examine the therapeutic potential of enhancing the activity of MuSK, by supplementing the expression of either MuSK, Dok7 or rapsyn in ALS muscle cells. Dok7 is a cytoplasmic protein that binds to and activates MuSK, while rapsyn is a down-stream effector of MuSK activation that stabilizes AChR clusters in muscle. These proteins will be delivered to ALS muscle using recombinant adenoviral vectors.

In all aims, we will be using primary muscle stem cells that have been donated by ALS patients and healthy individuals. These cells will be differentiated into muscle cells and treated with n-agrin for AChR clustering (Aim 1), expression and activation of MuSK and its effector molecules (Aim 2), and to assess the potential of additional MuSK, Dok7 or rapsyn in restoring n-agrin responsiveness to ALS muscle (Aim 3).

We are looking for a motived student with a background in cell biology, with experience in tissue culture, and one of more of the following skills, western blot, immuno-precipitations, immuno-staining, high-resolution confocal microscopy, and in vitro transfections. The proposed student should also have good oral and written communication skills, ability to contribute experimental design and to work independently.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Geoffrey Faulkner

geoffrey.faulkner@mater.uq.edu.au

Visualising genetic mosaicism during development

The Faulkner lab at the Queensland Brain Institute is seeking a PhD student to lead a research project focused on LINE-1 (L1) retrotransposon mobility during early mammalian development.

L1 retrotransposons comprise ~20% of the mouse and human genomes and are a major source of genetic differences amongst human populations. L1 mobility is well described in the mammalian germline, yet its spatiotemporal extent during development is poorly understood. This project will generate new reporter systems to track L1 mobilisation in vitro, and then deploy these reporters in mice to visualise when and where L1 jumps during development.
The successful applicant will be co-supervised by Prof Geoff Faulkner (QBI) and Dr Sandy Richardson (Mater Research Institute).

Key References:

Sanchez-Luque, F.J., et al., Faulkner, G.J. LINE-1 evasion of epigenetic repression in humans. Molecular Cell 75 590-604 (2019)

Richardson, S.R., Faulkner, G.J. Heritable L1 retrotransposition events during developent: understanding their origins. BioEssays 40 e1700189 (2018)

Richardson, S.R., et al., Faulkner, G.J., Heritable L1 retrotransposition in the mouse primordial germline and early embryo. Genome Research 27 1395-1405 (2017)

Applicants must have a BSc (Hons I) or MSc for international students and need to demonstrate an outstanding track record in research, including molecular biology laboratory experience.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Emanuele Pelosi

e.pelosi@imb.uq.edu.au

Genetic and environmental causes of uterine malformations

Uterine malformations affect up to 7% of women. The most severe uterine malformation is Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome, which is characterized by incomplete development of uterus and/or vagina.

MRKH occurs due to defective development of the embryonic Müllerian ducts, which give rise to the oviducts, uterus, and upper third of the vagina. MRKH syndrome affects 1 in 4500 women in the general population and it is found in 10% of women with primary amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation. Inability to conceive and carry a foetus is the major negative outcome of MRKH. In addition, more than half of patients with MRKH have additional malformations severely affecting their overall quality of life. To date, the aetiology and pattern of inheritance of MRKH syndrome are completely unexplained, and both genetic and environmental factors may be involved. This project aims to: 1) identify the genetic causes of MRKH syndrome and other uterine anomalies by performing Next Generation Sequencing analysis of human patients; 2) study the process of uterine development in the mouse, and 3) investigate the impact of environmental factors on uterine development.

This project will define the aetiology of uterine malformation by identifying novel causal genes, determining their specific function, and investigating the role of the environment in the pathophysiology of MRKH. These findings will have direct implications in the diagnosis of MRKH and will improve clinical care for women worldwide.

The student should have a science background with an interest in one of the following: genetics, molecular/cellular biology, developmental biology. A student in medicine pursuing a PhD program would also be well suited.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Laura Fenlon

l.fenlon@uq.edu.au

The anatomy, development, mechanisms and function of long-range axonal plasticity

For decades, neuroscientists have noted that severe brain malformations or injuries that occur early in life often result in a better functional outcome than those that occur later in life. This has contributed to our understanding that the developing brain has an astounding potential for the rearrangement and rerouting of connections to recover neurological function, known as plasticity. However, very little is understood about the mechanisms and functional consequences of developmental brain plasticity. This project will use mouse models where the corpus callosum, the largest fibre tract in the human brain, is ablated either genetically or surgically. A PhD candidate will apply state-of-the-art surgical and labelling techniques such as in utero electroporation, as well as behavioural assays, immunohistochemistry and chemogenetic manipulations of neuronal activity to characterise and manipulate long-range axonal plasticity in the brain. 

Preferred experience in: i) animal handling, ii) immunohistochemical techniques, iii) microscopy. Please detail your experience in these in your application.

Preferred educational background include, but are not limited to: - BSc with Honours (first class) or Masters thesis in the fields of neuroscience or related topics. - Having passed at least three courses focused on the following topics at university level: developmental neurobiology, developmental biology, systems neuroscience, statistics/biostatistics, molecular biology, cell biology, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology. - Publications, awards and service are desired but not required.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Luke Connelly

l.connelly@uq.edu.au

The Economics of Child, Adolescent, or Youth Health

The successful candidate will pursue a series of related studies on child, adolescent or youth using panel (i.e., longitudinal) data. Within this scope, there is considerable opportunity for the successful applicant to shape the research agenda. The econometric work may focus on specific aspects of health capital (e.g., indicators of physical and mental health) and the determinants of these outcomes for young people. It may focus on the determinants of health outcomes, such as income and social background, educational attainment, social networks, and the effects of other behaviour (e.g., the use of licit and illicit substances) on health. It may include research on the inter-generational transmission of income, wealth, and health and the role of education in breaking the poverty cycle. It may include work on the effects of technological innovation on health-related behaviour and outcomes, or any other economic work on child/adolescent/youth health that is novel and will make a contribution to knowledge.

1) an Honours or Masters degree in economics or econometrics; or

2) an undergraduate degree in economics and Honours or Masters degree in a cognate field (e.g., psychology, business).

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Paul Gardiner

p.gardiner@uq.edu.au

Taking a whole of day approach to optimising activity to prevent dementia in people with type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes (T2D) have a much increased risk of developing dementia. T2D and dementia share common mechanisms of high blood glucose, insulin resistance and inflammation, all linked to prolonged sitting (of which 60% occurs in the workplace). We have demonstrated that reducing and breaking up prolonged sitting is related to cognitive function and can result in metabolic improvements in people with T2D, and that significant decreases in sitting time are achievable in office workers.

OPTIMISE is a NHMRC funded 12-month randomised controlled trial. 250 mid-age and older office workers with T2D will be randomised to an intervention or control condition. The intervention incorporates in-person, telephone, and SMS delivered health coaching, a sit-stand desktop workstation, and a wearable device to prompt participants to sit less and move more. Intervention and control groups will be compared at 6, 12, and 18 months for glycaemic control (primary outcome at 6 months) and cognitive function (primary outcome at 12 months). Secondary outcomes are: inflammatory and neurogenic factors, cardio-metabolic risk, and glycaemic control; overall sitting time, and body composition.

At the completion of 12 months, the control group receives a light touch intervention co-designed by people in the intervention condition. This component will form the basis of the PhD project. The student will be involved in theiterative development of the light touch intervention and also the evaluation of the intervention.

This position will be based at the Baker Institute in Melbourne and is only suitable for domestic students. Professor David Dunstan (Baker Institute) and Associate Professor Genevieve Healy (UQ) will co-supervise the student.

Potential PhD students should have previous research experience, preferably with Masters level qualifications. Ideally, the student would have a background in Psychology, Exercise Science or another health-related area.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

Professor Linda Richards

richards@uq.edu.au

Control of cellular differentiation in the developing brain

An exciting opportunity exists to join our laboratory to investigate fundamental processes that regulate the development of the brain.  This project aims to understand how mature brain cells form during foetal life. The central hypothesis is that a specific transcription factor family, called NFI, regulates the epigenetic state of the cell to control cellular differentiation. Methods used involve epigenomic and transcriptomic analyses of cells isolated from transgenic mouse models and the translation of this work to understanding the aetiology of human developmental brain disorders. In the long term, the results could also have broad impacts in the areas of stem cell and cancer biology, and in understanding mechanisms of brain formation that promote normal cognitive development. Our laboratory has extensive international networks and collaborations related to this work as well as a distinguished record of training highly successful scientists.

Bachelor of Science or Biomedical Science with Honours or a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. Candidates with a background and relevant laboratory experience in molecular biology, especially in RNA-seq, ChIP-seq or ATAC-seq are preferred.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Mark Smythe

m.smythe@imb.uq.edu.au

Towards the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a debilitating disease characterized by rapid muscle weakness. There is no cure for DMD. We have developed potent and selective drug candidates that block a key inflammatory pathway shown to be involved in early muscle damage in DMD.  We are therefore seeking highly motivated PhD student to work with us to test the therapeutic potential of our drug candidates in reducing muscle damage mouse models of DMD (mdx mice). This work will guide the selection of a preferred compound for the treatment of DMD.

In Year 1, the proposed PhD student will establish the preliminary findings of our lead compound PK007 in mdx – DMD model mice, with appropriate controls and comparison to current standard of care steroid. In Year 2, two new, optimized lead compounds will be tested in our mdx DMD model mice. Finally, in Year 3, the PhD student will perform a Minimum Effective Dose (MED) study on the best lead candidate, using these mdx model mice.  

The assessment of how effective our compounds are at reducing muscle damage in mdx DMD model mice will by muscle performance scores. These include muscle grip strength, hanging wire, rotarod, and weight measured daily thought the drug treatment period.  At the end of drug treatment end-stage pathological assessment of muscle will be performed, as per pre-clinical testing standard operating procedures that have been established for mdx DMD model mice.  Pathological assessments include assessing muscle creatine kinase in blood assays, HPGDS levels and the and type and number of pre-immune cells within mdx muscles (treated and untreated). These assessments will be complemented with histological assessment of muscle, where the extent of muscle degeneration and muscle fibrosis can be quantitated.

To carry out the above experiments, we are seeking a student who has skills in most of the following: Eliza assays; drug dosing of mice by oral gavage; western blot; histological and immuno-staining of skeletal muscle; animal muscle testing by grip strength meter, hanging wire and rotarod, computer skills that enable quantification of muscle damage and protein expression – such as Image J; experience in the use of slide scanners that scan histological sections for quantification. Knowledge of statistical software such as Prism, and R, along with image processing software such as photoshop would be helpful.

To carry out the above experiments, we are seeking a student who has skills in most of the following: Eliza assays; drug dosing of mice by oral gavage; western blot; histological and immuno-staining of skeletal muscle; animal muscle testing by grip strength meter, hanging wire and rotarod, computer skills that enable quantification of muscle damage and protein expression – such as Image J; experience in the use of slide scanners that scan histological sections for quantification. Knowledge of statistical software such as Prism, and R, along with image processing software such as photoshop would be helpful.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Chris Slape

cslape@uq.edu.au

Cell competition as a tumour suppressor in leukaemia

Leukaemia is a devastating disease that, despite advances in treatment, still carries a poor prognosis, and as such the disease represents a huge burden on the health care system.  Like all cancers, leukaemia evolves through various pre-cancerous conditions before emerging as a fully malignant disease. Along the way, many tumour suppressive systems that the organism has in place must fail.  

One such mechanism that has recently come to light is cell competition. The term “cell competition” describes the phenomenon whereby a community of cells have the ability to sense each others’ fitness, and actively eliminates those deemed less fit by their neighbours. First observed in Drosophila, it has subsequently been studied primarily in cell culture systems, including mammalian cells.

Recent in vivo studies have revealed a role for cell competition in tumour suppression. This has been documented in T cell leukaemia (T-ALL) in mice, where an engineered deficiency in normal cell competition is sufficient to induce a leukemic phenotype. Because cell competition is a tumour suppression phenomenon that occurs in advance of the onset of leukaemia, we need pre-leukemic models to study it.

We work with a mouse model, the NUP98-HOXD13 transgenic mouse, which is a well-established model of pre-leukaemia. This project will take advantage of this model to investigate the phenomenon of cell competition in the pre-leukemic phases of both AML and T-ALL. We have observed this process occurring in this model, and identified one key gene, with more to be discovered. The overarching aim of the project is to better understand cell competition in normal and disease haematopoiesis, using techniques such as genetic manipulation of the mouse model, advanced imaging techniques, flow cytometry, and single-cell gene expression profiling.

Candidate should hold a 1st Class Honours or Masters degree (or equivalent) in the fields of cellular biology or molecular biology

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Avril Robertson

a.robertson3@uq.edu.au

Novel Broad Spectrum Antifungals Targetting Drug Resistant Candida Auris

Objective: To develop compounds which target Candida Auris and have exciting potential as broad spectrum antifungals. The project will build upon our recently identified novel antifungals, study in detail the mode of action and create a map of fungal specific structure-activity and structure-toxicity relationships. Ultimately the goal is to identify treatments for deadly mycotic diseases.

Justification: Mortality from infection by common pathogenic fungi: yeasts (Candida and Crytpococcus neoformans) and moulds (Aspergillus), is increasing and now exceeds that of malaria or breast cancer. There has been an explosion in occurrence of drug resistant and multidrug resistant (MDR) fungal diseases and some, such as the recently discovered invasive Candida auris, have no available treatment. Indeed the 2019 report “Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States” lists Candida Auris in the highest threat category. The few approved antifungal drugs are relatively toxic, heavily used and efficacy is in decline. Novel classes of broad spectrum antifungal able to treat MDR strains are therefore urgently needed.

This is a fully funded medicinal chemistry project in an established team, the successful applicant will enroll through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and will work in the laboratory of Professor Avril Robertson.

Required: 1st Class Honours degree or Masters Degree in Chemistry (or related discipline such as Biotechnology - strong chemistry skills would need to be demonstrated). Practical synthetic organic chemistry skills to synthesise heterocyclic molecules. Experience in use of analytical techniques for structure elucidation. Desirable: Experience with target identification/mode of action studies is an advantage but not essential. Solid phase peptide synthesis experience. Medicinal chemistry experience.

*This project is available until December 2020 unless a candidate is found prior.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Shyuan Ngo

s.ngo@uq.edu.au

Fine tuning metabolic flux: Modulating substrate oxidation as a therapeutic strategy in motor neuron disease (MND)

Motor neuron disease (MND) is a complex and highly variable disease. Although it is clinically characterised by the degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, there are several reports of metabolic perturbations in MND, including hypermetabolism (defined by an increase in resting energy expenditure).

We have recently completed a case-control study to show, for the first time, that hypermetabolism in human MND is associated with earlier death. By studying tissue from MND patients, and mouse models of MND, we have also generated data to show that metabolic perturbations extend to the skeletal muscle and spinal cord, and that this is characterised by altered glucose and/or fatty acid metabolism. Using pharmacological approaches to target metabolic perturbations in mouse models of MND, we have shown that modulation of metabolic flux (i.e. the balance between glucose-fatty acid oxidation) is able to improves outcomes. Based on our work to date, our overarching hypothesis is that modulation of glucose-fatty acid flux exerts neuroprotective effects in skeletal muscle and neurons, thereby improving disease outcome in MND.

Through this project, we propose to develop a therapeutic strategy for modulating and reversing metabolic perturbations in MND. Building on our extensive
published and preliminary data, we will systematically evaluate the potential for repurposing fatty acid oxidation inhibitors as a novel disease-modifying therapeutic for MND. Using classical and newly established mouse and human cell-derived models of MND that are relevant to familial and sporadic disease, we will establish the therapeutic reach of our lead compounds, and generate the critical preclinical
data necessary to leverage support and funding to progress to Phase 1 or 2 trials in MND.

Strong background/knowledge in neuroscience, physiology, metabolism/biochemistry. Broad knowledge in neurodegeneration.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Geoffrey Faulkner

g.faulkner@uq.edu.au

The origins of somatic genome mutation in Alzheimer's disease

The Faulkner lab at the Queensland Brain Institute is seeking a PhD student to conduct research on somatic genome variation in the normal and degenerative human brain.

While inherited DNA mutations are known to play a role in neurodegeneration, the contribution of mutations arising post fertilisation (i.e. somatic genome variation) is poorly understood. This project will, at a minimum:

i) apply single-cell genomics to human tissues, including the brain, to identify several types of somatic genome variation that may contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

ii) use long read DNA sequencing to establish how mutations accumulate in neurons during life.

Key References:

Sanchez-Luque, F.J., et al., Faulkner, G.J. LINE-1 evasion of epigenetic repression in humans. Molecular Cell 75 590-604 (2019)

Faulkner, G.J., Garcia-Perez, J-L. L1 mosaicism in mammals: extent, effects, and evolution. Trends in Genetics 33 802-816 (2017)

Richardson, S.R., et al., Faulkner, G.J., Heritable L1 retrotransposition in the mouse primordial germline and early embryo. Genome Research 27 1395-1405 (2017)

Applicants must have a BSc (Hons I) or MSc for international students and need to demonstrate an outstanding track record in research, including molecular biology laboratory experience.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Fisher Wang

x.wang18@uq.edu.au

Human exposure to trace organic contaminants in the environment and their biotransformation processes

Comprehensive understanding of exposure pathways is essential for chemical risk assessment and management/mitigation. Humans can be exposed to trace organic contaminants such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) via air inhalation, dust ingestion and dermal contact. Furthermore, transformation of their precursors and/or derivatives in the environment and humans leads to indirect exposure pathways which are not well characterised.

This PhD project aims to characterise trace organic contaminant exposure pathways of air inhalation, dust ingestion and dermal contact for exposed cohorts, and evaluate the role of precursor exposure and biotransformation as a source for body burden of end products.

Specific skills and knowledge the successful candidate will gain, through this PhD, include how to characterise trace organic contaminant levels and profiles in environment matrices; how to identify the products and processes of biotransformation of environmental chemicals; how to assess human exposure to environmental chemicals via different pathways; and how to communicate research outcomes with affected communities.

Preferred candidate should hold a 1st Class Honours or Masters degree (or equivalent) in environmental analytical chemistry or related fields. A background in mass spectrometry particularly with accurate mass suspect screening experience is preferred.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Melissa Reichelt

m.reichelt@uq.edu.au

Understanding the role of membrane proteins in cardiac stiffness (diastolic dysfunction)

Aging is accompanied by a stiffening of the heart and reduced function, which is accelerated by cardiovascular disease and leads to heart failure. How the heart stiffens is poorly understood. The Reichelt laboratory has identified structural membrane proteins (termed caveolae and cavins) and a signalling molecule (nitric oxide) as key determinants of cardiac stiffness. The PhD project aims to unravel the interplay between cardiac cells and these proteins/signals to cause stiffness and to determine whether this process governs normal aging of the heart. This work will advance understanding of how heart function is determined and reveal how the human heart changes with normal aging.

This project will involve working isolated heart perfusion, ultra high resolution cardiac ultrasound, adeno-associated viruses production and administration. Use of transgenic animal models, transfection of cells in culture.

Bachelors degree and honours in biomedical related field. Inclusion of physiology in undergraduate studies an advantage, but not essential.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Jean-Pierre Levesque

jp.levesque@mater.uq.edu.au

Understanding the mechanisms of neurogenic heterotopic ossification following spinal cord injuries

A frequent complication of spinal cord injuries is the growth of bones in muscles outside of the skeleton. These misformed bones usually develop around joints such as the knee, hip, elbow or shoulder and are called neurogenic heterotopic ossifications (NHO). NHOs occur in up to 25% of civilians suffering spinal cord injuries (mostly car/ sport accidents) and are extremely prevalent in soldiers who are victims of battlefield injuries affecting the spinal cord or brain, with these bones developing in up to 60% of cases. NHOs are very incapacitating, causing significant pain and gradual reduction in the range of motion of affected limbs often progressing to complete ankylosis of the affected joints.

There are still no effective pharmacological treatments to prevent or alleviate NHO development, and the pathogenesis of why NHO develop after a spinal cord injury remains poorly understood. Treatment is still limited to surgical resection of matured NHO, however surgery is very invasive and challenging as NHOs often entrap joints, large blood vessels and/or nerves. In order to understand NHO pathogenesis, our group established the first clinically relevant mouse model of NHO following spinal cord injury. Using our model, we have already unravelled fundamental mechanisms linking the original neurological lesion to NHO development and established that macrophages which infiltrate injured muscles, the expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine oncostatin M, and subsequent JAK/STAT3 signalling pathway activation drive NHO pathogenesis.

Recently we have discovered that dysregulation of the neuro-endocrine and innate immune systems leads to muscle repair failure and NHO formation. This PhD project will further investigate how the neuro-endocrine and immune systems affect muscle stem cell fate during NHO development and whether targeting these pathways is a valid therapeutic strategy to prevent and/or treat NHO.

Bachelors with honours in the fields of cellular biology or molecular biology or immunology.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Loic Yengo

l.yengo@imb.uq.edu.au

Genetic and Molecular consequences of non-random mating in humans

This projects aims at utilising genetic and phenotypic data from ~500,000 participants  of the UK Biobank to investigate phenotypic and genetic patterns induced by non-random mating in humans. Two forms of non-random mating will be investigated: assortative mating (resemblance between spouses) and inbreeding (mating between relatives). Findings from this project have implications in the analysis and interpretation of genome-wide association studies. The project will involve advanced modelling and statistical analyses of large volumes of data (genotyped and imputed SNP data, whole-exome sequencing, gene-expression, brain-imaging derived-traits).

The successful candidate will be doing their research within the Program in Complex Traits Genomics (PCTG) Lab co-led by Professors Jian Yang, Naomi Wray and Peter Visscher, who are internationally recognized leaders in the field of complex traits genetics and have been recently listed among the world’s top one per cent most cited researchers of their field. PCTG provides a stimulating and highly interdisciplinary environment for PhD candidates to form and develop their research.

Candidates with a background in quantitative/population genetics, statistics, mathematics and other quantitative fields will be considered. Programming skills (R, python, C/C++) and prior experience in analysing genetic data (e.g. GWAS) is desirable. (Note: if required, lectures on fundamental concepts of quantitative and population genetics can be taken as part of the PhD training).

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Sumaira Hasnain

sumaira.hasnain@mater.uq.edu.au

Cellular and Behavioural Effects of Stress on Chronic Inflammatory Diseases

Chronic inflammatory diseases, such as– inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH) are most prevalent chronic illnesses in Australia. Notably, a high prevalence of depression/anxiety has been reported in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. Emerging evidence propose excess inflammation as central to associated brain changes. Chronic stress is a major risk factor for depression and has been shown to worsen pathology in chronic inflammatory diseases.  However, molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning these reciprocal interactions between peripheral organs and brain and their behavioural consequences are largely unknown.    The overall goal of this project is to investigate the cellular and behavioural effects of stress on the pathophysiology and behavioural outcomes of chronic inflammatory disease such as  inflammatory bowel disease.  To address this, we will use pre-clinical animal models of stress and inflammatory bowel disease and interrogate chronic stress-induced changes in immune responses and their effects on mood-related behaviours.

Minimum: BSc. Hons (GPA of 6 or above) Preferred: Immunology, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience focus MSc, MPhil preferred

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Yvonne Eiby

y.eiby@uq.edu.au

Effective cardiovascular support for very preterm neonates

There are currently no clinical interventions that effectively support cardiovascular function in premature babies. This project will examine the unique cardiovascular physiology of preterm neonates using a pre-clinical model and medical information from preterm babies in order to rationally design effective interventions to manage blood volume. It will focus on microvascular and lymphatic function and how they affect plasma volume. This is a fully funded project.

BSc (Hons) or Masters in Biomedical Science. The student should be able to demonstrate a strong proficiency of the English language and the ability to take the initiative in the project. The successful student will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons. 

Andrew Bartholomaeus

a.bartholomaeus@uq.edu.au

Mechanistic and comparative toxicity of commercial essential oils

This project will focus on the investigation of endocrine disruption of male reproductive performance by essential oils in experimental animals. The project will start with a literature review on essential oil endocrine disruption, fertility in the male rat, and differences in their reproductive physiology in comparison to other experimental animals and humans. After that, an experimental program will be developed to identify which physiological pathways are disrupted in experimental animals by oregano oil, and other essential oils of similar or overlapping composition

BSc (Hons) or Masters in Biomedical Science, Toxicology or Pharmacology. The student should be able to demonstrate a strong proficiency of the English language and the ability to take the initiative in the project.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2021. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons. 

Dr Run Zhang

r.zhang@uq.edu.au

Monitoring inflammation through quantitation of redox-mediated macrophage polarisation

 

Failure to turn off the body’s immune response results in chronic inflammation characterised by oxidative stress. Such oxidative stress is associated with irreversible cell/tissue damage and linked to a variety of diseases, such as inflammatory arthritis, liver inflammation, and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, quantitation of these redox biomolecules in macrophages is critical to understand the correlation between redox levels, macrophage polarisation status and inflammation progression.

This project aims to develop and pre-clinically validate advanced responsive probing technology to quantify redox biomolecules produced in macrophages. This research will address major knowledge gaps relating the redox levels with the macrophage polarisation. This information will underpin a novel method for improved diagnosis and monitoring of inflammatory diseases.

The successful student will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering & Nanotechnology.

Chemistry (Analytical Biochemistry), Cell and molecular biology, Biomedical engineering

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons. 

Dr Jian Zeng

j.zeng@uq.edu.au

Statistical methods for risk prediction of common diseases

Polygenic risk predictors based on a large number of genetic variants can identify a subgroup of individuals at high risk of developing a common disease, such as coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, or breast cancer. This risk stratification will greatly facilitate precision medicine through opportunities for early disease diagnosis, prevention and intervention. The overall aim of this project is to develop and implement optimised statistical methods and software to best predict an individual’s disease risk through the use of genetic and non-genetic data. Data available for the analysis include large-scale genetic data from genome-wide association studies, whole-genome sequence data, molecular quantitative phenotypes across tissues and cell types, functional annotations on genomic regions, and longitudinal health conditions and lifestyle phenotypes from biobanks.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Statistical genetics with an interest in computer programming

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons. 

Professor Gita Mishra

Please contact Reshika Chand to discuss this project:

r.chand@uq.edu.au

Women’s health service use across life stages

This project will conduct a comprehensive assessment of Australian Women’s use of health services across life stages, identifying key factors influencing distinct patterns of health service use and assessing the comparative impact of NCDs on health service use.

The project description above is a brief outline of what the project hopes to achieve. Supervisors will work with candidates to develop a PhD project that is in line with the candidate’s research interests and also fits within the overall scope of the wider project. 

The successful applicants will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Public Health, Biostatistics, Life Course Epidemiology

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

Domestic applicants only

Professor Gita Mishra

Please contact Reshika Chand to discuss this project:

r.chand@uq.edu.au

Risk of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in women across life stages

This project will undertake a systematic investigation into the associations of established and emerging risk factors at each stage of women’s lives (including early life, young adults, main reproductive stage, menopausal transition and later life) with NCD incidence (using both prevalence and age at onset of each NCD), including multimorbidity.

The successful applicants will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Public Health, Biostatistics, Life Course Epidemiology

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

Domestic applicants only

Dr Sarah Wallace

s.wallace3@uq.edu.au

MEASuRES: Driving quality improvement through Meaningful Evaluation of Aphasia SeRvicES

One scholarship is available for either of the following two topics:

1. MEASuRES: Driving quality improvement through Meaningful Evaluation of Aphasia SeRvicES

Despite the existence of a strong evidence-base for aphasia rehabilitation, people with post-stroke aphasia experience poor outcomes. Living with aphasia often means living with lifelong disability associated with social isolation, reduced employment, and an increased risk of depression. The translation of existing evidence to practice has the potential to improve outcomes for this population, however in Australia, there is no systematic means of determining whether the care provided by aphasia services is effective or meets consumer expectations. This project will use consensus methods to establish a minimum data set and core outcome measures for Australian aphasia services. The core set will be piloted in a prospective observational study to assess data quality and feasibility. This body of research represents the first steps in a broader plan to use routine data collection and data linkage to identify and address evidence-practice gaps in aphasia services. 

2. Development of a Measure of Processes of Care (MPOC) for aphasia rehabilitation services.

In addition to clinical measures of process and outcomes, the assessment of health service quality should incorporate the patient perspective. The patient experience is increasingly recognised as a pivotal aspect of health service evaluation. This project will use experience-based co-design methods to develop a patient-reported measure of processes of care (MPOC) in collaboration with people living with aphasia and clinicians who provide aphasia services.

The successful student will enrol through the School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences. 

This project would suit a candidate with a background in speech pathology / speech therapy.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2022. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons. 

NOTE: The closing date for this project is 30 November, 2019.

Associate Professor Irina Vetter

i.vetter@uq.edu.au

The role of ion channels in pain pathways

Pain is Australia’s third most costly health problem and has been suggested as the developed world’s largest undiscovered health priority, with health expenditure on persistent pain exceeding that of cancer, diabetes, and stroke. The enormous
socioeconomic cost of poorly relieved chronic pain provides a powerful rationale to increase our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of pain. In recent years, ion channels have received attention as putative analgesic targets due to their crucial role in neuronal excitability, signal transduction and action potential propagation. However, the precise role of specific ion channel isoforms in modality- and disease-specific pain pathways remains unclear. The aim of this project is to systematically define the functional role(s) and therapeutic potential of ion channel isoforms expressed in sensory neurons using pharmacological, electrophysiological and behavioural approaches.


Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Pharmacology
Biomedical Science
Pharmacy
Medicine

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Associate Professor Brett Collins

b.collins@imb.uq.edu.au
Structural studies of the mechanism of formation of caveolae

Caveolae are plasma membrane invaginations involved in transport, signalling and mechanical membrane sensing in metazoans. The Cavin proteins are absolutely required for the formation of caveolae, and mutations in cavin proteins (and other caveola-coat proteins) lead to human disorders including lipodystrophy and muscular dystrophy. Alterations in cavin protein expression are also implicated in cancer progression due to perturbed cellular signalling. The fundamental mechanisms by which Cavins regulate caveola formation are still largely unknown and this project will provide important new insights into the role of strictly conserved cavin domains in cavin protein functions. The project will involve the use of structural and biophysical methods such as X-ray crystallography, cryoEM and liposome binding assays to analyse cavin structure and function.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

BSc (Hons) or Masters in biomedical science, cell biology or molecular biology

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Associate Professor Brett Collins

b.collins@imb.uq.edu.au
Structural studies of endosomal membrane trafficking

Endosomal trafficking involves the assembly of large dynamic protein complexes, and their interactions with cargo receptors and membrane lipids to generate tubulovesicular carriers. One of the major endosomal trafficking assemblies is the “retromer complex”. This forms membrane tubules that incorporate a host of different cargo molecules and is essential for normal cellular protein and membrane homeostasis. In humans, mutations of the retromer complex are involved in both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The Collins lab has recently reported the crystallographic and cryoEM structures of the retromer complex and associated sorting nexin proteins from yeast, and this PhD project will explore the structure and function of the human retromer and sorting nexin proteins, using approaches including X-ray crystallography, cryo electron microscopy and protein-protein interaction studies. Ultimately the goal is to derive a more complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control their function in receptor transport and signalling. 

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

BSc (Hons) or Masters in biomedical science, cell biology or molecular biology

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Dr Daniel Watterson

d.watterson@uq.edu.au
Structural insights into the flavivirus NS1 protein

This project aims to generate new broad-spectrum human antibodies as potential therapies for both dengue and Zika virus infections. Using a combination of state of the art structural biology techniques together with preclinical disease models, this project will identify key regions within the NS1 protein that drive pathogenesis. Critical epitopes will then be targeted using a phage display human antibody library to generate next-generation biological therapeutics to combat these important human pathogens.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

Candidates should have a BSc Hons (or equivalent), majoring in a relevant discipline (virology, immunology, molecular or structural biology). One or more peer reviewed publication, prior experience with molecular cloning and protein expression/purification. Working with either murine models or structural biology techniques (electron microscopy / x-ray crystallography) would be ideal.

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Dr Daniel Watterson

d.watterson@uq.edu.au
Structure of pathogenic flaviviruses by cryo-EM

Advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) make it now possible to solve the 3D structure of a virus particle within the timeframe of an outbreak, offering the potential to rapidly develop new vaccines and therapies against emerging viral pathogens. The major limits to structural determination now lie in virus isolation, safe lab handling and propagation. This project will overcome these issues using a new chimeric flavivirus technology that allows the production of virus particles that resemble the pathogenic viruses from which they were constructed, but are safe for human handling. This project will use this platform to reveal the structure of several unsolved and highly pathogenic flaviviruses by cryo-EM, providing a rational basis for the development of viral countermeasures.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

Candidates should have a BSc Hons (or equivalent), majoring in a relevant discipline (virology, molecular and structural biology).   One or more peer reviewed publication, prior experience with molecular cloning and protein expression/purification.  Knowledge and any practical experience with structural biology techniques (electron microscopy / x-ray crystallography) would be ideal.

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Dr Rachel Stephenson

r.stephenson@uq.edu.au

Developing an effective vaccine against Group A Streptococcus

Globally Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have the highest recorded rate of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) infection, mainly rheumatic heart disease and rheumatic fever. GAS infection is endemic and often fatal due to post-infection problems. This project aims to develop a glycoconjugate vaccine to prevent GAS infection. We aim to avert these deaths by making a vaccine from small, specific parts of GAS proteins so the body makes safe antibodies that stop GAS and its related diseases.


Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

BSc Honours or Masters (or equivalent) in Medicinal chemistry or related discipline.

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

 

Dr Barbara Rolfe

d.rolfe@uq.edu.au
Targeting the innate immune system: a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for cancer

This project  will investigate the potential of complement system as a therapeutic target for the treatment of brain cancer.

Students will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

MSc in Immunology and Inflammation; with knowledge of  neuroimmunology and neuroinflammation.

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Associate Professor Nick West

n.west@uq.edu.au

Blocking TB Latency: The Key to Reducing Therapy Duration

To assess the contribution of specific genetic regulators in the TB bacterium and how they cause disease. Project will examine the host cellular response to TB.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

BSc Hons
BSc MSc
BBioMed

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Professor Paul Alewood

Dr Markus Muttenthaler

m.muttenthaler@imb.uq.edu.au
Oxytocin and Vasopressin Ligand Development

The oxytocin and vasopressin signalling system regulates many physiological processes such as reproduction, water balance, cardiovascular responses and complex social behaviour. It is also a target for breast and prostate cancer. This project is about developing advanced probes to study this signalling system and to develop therapeutic and diagnostic leads for cancer management.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Medicinal Chemistry
Peptide Chemistry
Chemical Biology
Pharmacology
Oncology

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Associate Professor Dominic Ng

d.ng1@uq.edu.au
Novel centrosomal mechanisms required for brain growth

Centrosomes are small, non-membranous organelles that are central hubs in orchestrating cytoskeletal and intracellular signalling networks required for a surprising range of cellular functions. Defects in centrosome function is genetically linked to human microcephaly, a neurological condition characterized by reduced thickness of the developing forebrain.

This project will define how a new centrosome protein complex contributes to the regulation of neural stem cell proliferation and expansion of the neocortex. 

Students will enrol through the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Honours First Class or Masters by Research. 

A background in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Physiology, Molecular Neuroscience or related would be advantageous.

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Professor Kwun Fong

Please contact Annette Dent

annette.dent@health.qld.gov.au

Volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath to diagnose lung disease

This project is intended to lead to the identification and development of non-invasive breath biomarkers for the diagnosis and management of lung disease. The ultimate long-term goal would be to develop a desk-top, convenient point of care test that could be used in the primary care as a stand-alone test or to complement other proven tests for reducing lung disease mortality.

The successful applicant will be enrolled through the Faculty of Medicine.

Minimum qualification of Bachelor of Science or equivalent with an honours in biomedical science.

*This project is available December 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Professor Glenn King

glenn.king@imb.uq.edu.au

Virtuous cycles: a novel cyclic peptide approach to develop neuroprotective and cardioprotective drugs

Stroke and myocardial infarction (MI) are leading causes of death and disability in Australia. Although thrombolytic drugs can be administered pre- and post-hospital admission for MI and stroke, respectively, these drugs are designed to ameliorate the vascular occlusion rather than address the underlying tissue damage caused by the ischemic insult. This application is focussed on development of a new class of drugs that protect the heart and brain following MI and stroke.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Honours or MSc degree  in the biological sciences, with a focus on protein and peptide  chemistry.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons. 

Professor Paul Alewood

Dr Christina Schroeder

Dr Markus Muttenthaler

m.muttenthaler@imb.uq.edu.au

Venom peptide drug discovery

Venoms comprise a highly complex cocktail of bioactive peptides evolved to paralyse prey and defend against predators. Homology of prey/predator receptors to human receptors render these venom peptides also active on human receptors and they have become a rich source for neurological tools and therapeutics. This project is involved in the discovery, synthesis and structure-activity relationship studies of these venom peptides with the goal to develop novel probes for neuroscientists as well as therapeutic drug leads.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Chemistry
Chemical Biology
Bioinformatics
Pharmacology
 

*This project is available until October 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Associate Professor Ray Steptoe

r.steptoe@uq.edu.au

Reducing toxicity of protocols for human hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

This project will explore new, non-toxic approaches for bone marrow transplant in humans.  Techniques and areas may include hematopoiesis, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, gene therapy, immunology and therapy of type 1 diabetes.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BSc(Hons I) or MSc

*This project is available until December 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Professor Istvan Toth

i.toth@uq.edu.au

Development of new peptide based delivery system for GAS vaccine

Vaccines are the most effective intervention against infectious diseases. Classical whole organism based vaccination is not always effective and safe, while subunit-based vaccines are poorly immunogenic and need help of an adjuvant. However, many adjuvants are not effective immune stimulators or too toxic for human use.

Therefore, the aim for this project is to develop a novel delivery system with self-adjuvanting properties using unique peptide sequences which are able to self-assemble into nanoparticles. To examine the efficacy of this delivery system, the one or more peptide epitopes from group A streptococcal (GAS) M-protein will be conjugated to the synthesized delivery system to form a peptide-based subunit vaccine. The resulted constructs will be self-assembled to form nanoparticles as well as be incorporated into liposomes. These nanoparticles and liposomes will be examined towards their stability, toxicity, and ability to be recognized by antigen presenting cells in vitro. The most promising candidates will be evaluated in vivo for ability to induce humoral immune responses against GAS. Following initial screening of delivery systems second generation of self-assembled peptides will be generated and examined as vaccine delivery systems. Finally, challenge and opsonization experiments will be performed to determine the most effective delivery system.

The successful applicant will enrol through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

Applicants must hold a 1st Class Honours degree for Masters degree (or equivalet in medicinal chemistry or related fields.

Undergraduate training in synthesis and characterisation of peptides, immunology and experience in work with animals is essential.

Additional background in production and characterisation of lipsomes and nanoparticles, while not essential, would be advantageous

*This project is available until December 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

n.dissanayaka@uq.edu.au

Anxiety in persons with dementia

One in two persons with dementia experience anxiety. Anxiety often coexists with depression and is a significant contributor to a poor quality of life, increased progression and early institutionalisation. This project will investigate anxiety in persons with dementia using an existing dataset, and develop and test a psychological package to combat anxiety in persons with dementia attending hospital outpatient clinics. The package will include virtual reality, telehealth and online health modalities to increase access and effectiveness of the treatment.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

A background in Psychology, Software engineering, web development and virtual reality is desirable.

Please contact the Chief Investigator to check on this project's availability.

Professor Istvan Toth

i.toth@uq.edu.au

Development of new adjuvants and vaccine delivery systems

Vaccine is highly efficient medical intervention to prevent infectious diseases and reduce related morbidity and mortality worldwide.  Peptide vaccine are able to induce very specific and safe immune responses; however, the need to be administered with strong adjuvants. Adjuvants such as Lipid A are very efficient to stimulated humoral immunity against co-administered antigen. The same time Lipid A is very toxic. To overcome this issue, new analogues of lipid A are proposed here. Lipid A toxicity will be reduced by elimination of phosphate group from its structure and by replacement of lipidic moieties with special self-assembling peptides (similar to transmembrane fragments of proteins). Several derivatives will be synthesized and examined in vitro and in vivo towards inducing immune responses. Leading derivatives will be also examined as part of self-adjuvanting liposomal delivery system (anchoring to membrane in similar way as transmembrane fragment of protein). The sytem will be used to make new vaccine against Goup A Streptococcus.

The successful applicant will enrol through the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

Biological / medicinal chemistry

*This project is available until December 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Professor John Fraser

Contact Dr Jacky Suen

j.suen1@uq.edu.au

The Dead Heart Project – when is a ‘dead heart’ truly dead?

This project aims to improve the number and quality of donor hearts available for transplantation. This aim will be addressed by investigating an alternative donor heart storage device, and a new source of donor hearts.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Biomedical science, physiology, molecular biology.

Professor Grant Montgomery

g.montgomery1@uq.edu.au

Shared genetics and functional mechanisms underlying female reproductive disorders and related diseases

The human endometrium plays a vital role in female fertility, embryo implantation, pregnancy and related diseases. Current studies integrate genetic, RNA-sequence and epigenetic data to understand how genetic variants control gene regulation and disease risk. The aim of this project is to integrate locally and externally accessible omic datasets to determine the genetic and epigenetic overlap between loci associated with endometrial gene regulation endometriosis, other female reproductive disorders such as ovarian cancer, and related diseases including melanoma. Overlap in genomic risk loci will be tested using recently developed statistical and computational genomics tools. Shared risk loci will be fine mapped to identify potential shared casual mechanisms.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Students with a background in genomics, computational and statistical genetics and/or bioinformatics are encouraged to apply.

Dr Felicity Davis

f.davis@uq.edu.au

Identifying and exploiting novel pharmacological targets for breast cancer treatment

Breast cancers are made up of different types of cancer cells and not all cells contribute equally. A subset of cancer cells may be uniquely capable of driving tumour growth, rebuilding fatal tumours after therapy and establishing new tumours at distant sites. New therapies to inhibit the activity and survival of these cells will lead to better modes of treatment and accelerate progress toward ending breast cancer.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Pharmacology, signal transduction, physiology, stem cells

Professor Zhi Ping Xu

gordonxu@uq.edu.au

What are key physicochemical properties of nanomaterials determining their disposal by liver cells?

This project aims to understand how  nanomaterials in the body are handled by the liver, and have what adverse effects in naïve and modified livers in relation to nanomaterial’s defined attributes (size, shape, charge and deformability) using state-of-the-art chemistry, imaging and biological methods.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Engineering, Health

Professor David Evans

d.evans1@uq.edu.au

Using Statistical Techniques in Genetic Epidemiology to Investigate the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)

There is a well-documented observational relationship between low birthweight infants and increased risk of disease in later life (e.g. type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and many more). This inverse association was initially interpreted as resulting from developmental compensations to an adverse intrauterine environment, which in turn led to long-term changes to offspring physiology and increased susceptibility to disease. This theory was christened the “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease” (DOHaD) and has been one of the preeminent paradigms in life-course epidemiology over the last thirty years. The aim of this project is to investigate the DOHaD hypothesis using a variety of statistical techniques including genome-wide association, Mendelian randomization and G-REML approaches in large scale datasets such as the UK Biobank Study.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Epidemiology, Statistics, Genetics, Psychology

*This project is available until June 2019 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Dr Andrew Brooks

a.brooks@uq.edu.au

HLA-G/H2-Bl is Critical for Regulating Inflammation in the Liver

The key factor to induction of liver fibrosis, progression to cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma is inflammation. Liver transplant and liver regeneration following liver resection are also dramatically impaired by elevation of inflammation. We have identified a potent anti-inflammatory protein, HLA-G, that is critical for regulating post-surgical inflammation in the liver. We will determine if HLA-G can reverse and/or block liver fibrosis and modify HLA-G for improved clinical potential.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Molecular Biology, animal handling and surgery, immunology.

Professor Jenny Stow

j.stow@imb.uq.edu.au

Big data image analysis and advanced cell imaging

Two related projects:

  1. Developing machine learning algorithms for analysis of big image data sets.
  2. Advanced laser imaging of live cells expressing fluorescnt proteins to study cell behaviour, mostly in immune cells.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

  1. Mathematics/bioinformatics/computing
  2. Cell biology/ physiology/immunology/ microscopy