Available PhD projects - health

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Chief Investigator Project title Project description Preferred educational background

Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani

k.khosrotehrani@uq.edu.au

 

Potency and activity of Meso-Endothelial bipotent progenitors in vivo in homeostasis and injury

Blood vessels comprise an inner endothelial layer and surrounding mesenchyme. These vessels are integral to many organs and constitute a unique system connecting different parts of the body. Despite their importance, little is known about how they are maintained and how they contribute to the response to injury. Previous work from the team has described several populations of stem cell capable of self-renewal and repletion of the endothelium or the mesenchyme. This project will examine the potency of these different progenitors to give rise to each of these fates in homeostasis but also during sounding and bone formation. This will help define a unique population of stem cells capable of both vascular and mesenchymal repair.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Science/Biomedical

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

Dr Leanne Sakzewski

l.sakzewski1@uq.edu.au

 

Novel rehabilitation to improve outcomes for children with cerebral palsy A number of projects are available across two funded NHMRC clinical trials:
  • Efficacy of intensive bimanual training on bimanual hand skills and goal attainment in children with bilateral cerebral palsy  
  • Efficacy of intensive lower extremity training on gross motor function, walking efficiency and mobility
  • The relationship between clinical outcomes and neuroplasticity following intensive upper and lower extremity training in children with bilateral cerebral palsy  
  • The relationship between capacity, participation and habitual physical activity in children with cerebral palsy  
Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Occupational therapy or physiotherapy

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

Associate Professor Ray Steptoe

r.steptoe@uq.edu.au

Targeting antigens to DC for tolerance induction in a humanised mouse model

This project will explore mechanisms of human immune cell development and or human immune cell function in rodents models carrying human immune systems.  Techniques and areas may include hematopoiesis, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, gene therapy, immunology and therapy of type 1 diabetes.

Students 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.

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.

Students 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.

Students 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 Sherry Wu

sherry.wu@uq.edu.au

Re-activating anti-tumour immunity by targeting N-MYC-Lec7 axis in ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly type of gynaecologic disease, with more than 1500 new cases being diagnosed each year in Australia. Sadly, the five-year survival rate is only 45%. While the majority of ovarian cancer patients respond to surgery, chemotherapy or some other treatments, most patients eventually experience disease progression resulting in their death. The goal of this research is to investigate ways to enhance the activity of immune cells in our body such that they can start recognising and attacking ovarian tumour cells. This can ultimately lead to decreased recurrence rate and improved patient survival.

Students will enrol through the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Science or Allied Health educational background

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

Associate Professor Markus Barth

m.barth@uq.edu.au

Improving functional MRI through modeling and imaging microvascular dynamics

The PhD studentship aims to further understand the biophysical basis of the hemodynamic fMRI signal by measuring microvasculature and its dynamics using blood volume-specific imaging in anesthetized and awake rodents in vivo, compare with vasculature imaged by optical microscopy using CLARITY ex vivo and develop a forward model to predict fMRI signal based on the real vasculature measured.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

Science graduates ideally with a background in biophysics, engineering or other relevant scientific discipline.

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

Professor Mark Walker

mark.walker@uq.edu.au

Deploying next-generation adjuvants to enhance protection of a group A streptococcal vaccine candidate

Group A streptococcus causes 520,000 deaths each year. A safe and effective vaccine is not commercially available. We have identified new protective candidate antigens, and we seek to undertake critical non-human primate studies to provide further proof-of-concept data. This work will underpin commercial decisions by our industry partner (GSK) leading to human trials and the development of a safe group A streptococcal vaccine for human use.

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

BSc Honours 1 or BSc + Masters

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

Professor Peter Visscher

peter.visscher@uq.edu.au

The contribution of coding variants to complex trait variation

The Project will use state-of-the-art computational and statistical methods to address a number of scientific questions:

  1. (how much variation in common diseases (such as type 2 diabetes and asthma) can be explained by coding variants?
  2. what is the contribution of regulatory vs coding variants to complex trait variation?
  3. which genes are associated with trait-specific variation?
  4. how pleiotropic are coding variants?

Statistical methods and software tools that will be used in the Project are from the Visscher-Yang-Wray groups and from other sources. When necessary, the Project will create new software tools to address specific questions.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Computer science, econometrics, statistical genetics

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

Professor Stephen Mahler

S.Mahler@eng.uq.edu.au

Dr Christopher Howard

c.howard2@uq.edu.au

Development of novel bio-conjugation strategies for targeting polymeric nanomedicines for cancer imaging and diagnostics

This project will focus on the isolation, development and characterisation of novel antibodies and antibody-nanomaterial conjugates for application in diagnostics, imaging and therapy.

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

Biochemistry, Protein/Antibody Engineering

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

Dr Enda Byrne

e.byrne@imb.uq.edu.au

 

Post-partum depression: Action towards causes and treatment

The project will use genetic data combined with data from a large, detailed online survey to investigate genetic and non-genetic risk factors for postpartum depression. These risk factors will be compared with those for depression occurring outside of the postpartum period. In addition, variation in response to treatment will be investigated. 

The project will involve statistical analysis of large datasets in a high-performance computing environment.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Students with a background in genetics, psychiatry, statistics/mathematics, and/or computer programming will be considered. 

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

Dr Julia Pagan

j.pagan@uq.edu.au

Regulation of cell proliferation and survival by the ubiquitin system

This proposal seeks to provide the foundation for understanding how the fundamental processes of cell division
and cell death are controlled at the molecular level by ubiquitin ligase enzymes. It is anticipated that the
completion of this work will lead to the identification of several new signalling pathways operating within the cell to
control the degradation of proteins involved in cell proliferation, cell fitness, and cell death.

Students will enrol through the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Hon Class I
Biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, or related

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

 

Dr Seth Cheetham

seth.cheetham@mater.uq.edu.au

Deciphering global and locus-specific regulation of LINE-1 retrotransposons in cancer

In cancer, but not healthy cells, ~100 L1 “jumping genes” can copy and paste themselves into the human genome. L1s can contribute to cancer initiation by activating oncogenes and inactivating tumour suppressor genes and can drive tumour evolution, underpinning resistance to chemotherapy. This project aims to determine the cause of L1 activation in cancer. This project will identify novel factors that regulate L1 expression in cancer, transforming our understanding of the mechanism of L1 activation. As L1 expression is highly correlated with cancer severity, these factors may hold important prognostic and diagnostic value.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Molecular biology, biochemistry, genomics

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

Professor Alpha Yap

a.yap@imb.uq.edu.au

How caveolae condition tissue mechanics for an anti-tumour niche

In this project we examine how epithelial tissue mechanics are influenced by caveolae; and how this may influence the early stages of cancer development.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Experience in cell biology, biology and/or imaging.

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

Professor Paul Hodges

p.hodges@uq.edu.au

Targeted pelvic floor muscle training for urinary incontinence after radical prostatectomy: A randomised
controlled trial with embedded physiological studies

Prostatectomy is a common treatment for the most common cancer in men. Survival is good, but many develop debilitating urinary incontinence. Past pelvic floor muscle training has had limited effect, but recent work has changed understanding of how muscles control continence and compensate for surgery. This clinical trial compares innovative training individually tailored to optimise continence, usual exercise and no treatment, and aims to identify men most likely to benefit from treatment.

Students will enrol through the School of Health and Rehabilitation Science.

Health Science (e.g. Physiotherapy; Human movements; Exercise Science)

*This project is available until July 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.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

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

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

Virtual Reality in Residential Aged Care

Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging field within residential aged care for the management of behavioural and psychological symptoms in residents. This project will develop and test a suit of VR applications in RAC facilities.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

A background in Psychology, design and virtual reality applications is desirable.

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

Associate Professor James Fraser

j.fraser1@uq.edu.au

Microevolution of Cryptococcus neoformans

The pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. If the infection is survived, relapse caused by evolved forms of the original infecting strain is common. Our research has uncovered similar genetic changes in isolates from unrelated patients that implicate epigenetic processes in relapse and reveal potential vulnerabilities of the pathogen. The proposed work is to  investigate these changes using genomics, fungal genetics, systems biology, and/or protein chemistry, to assist in our antifungal drug development efforts.

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

BSc (Hons) or equivalent

*This project is available until November 2018 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Associate Professor Timothy Bredy

t.bredy@uq.edu.au

Novel DNA modifications underlying sex differences in fear-related learning and memory

Studies involve an investigation into the role of epigenetic mechanisms and how they influence fear related learning in male and female mice.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

Undergraduate Class I Honours or Masters degree with strong Genetics and Molecular Neuroscience background.

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

Cell-type specific profiling of nascent RNA in the brain during learning

Studies involve an investigation into the role of RNA mediated mechanisms and how they influence fear related learning and memory.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

Undergraduate Class I Honours  or Masters degree with strong Genetics and Molecular Neuroscience background.

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

Associate Professor Kate Stacey

katryn.stacey@uq.edu.au

The core inflammasome as a model for caspase activation

Inflammasomes are large protein complexes that play a very important role in defence against infectious disease, but also contribute to a wide range of inflammatory pathologies including in Alzheimer’s Disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There is consequently enormous interest in control of inflammasome activity. This project is a study of fundamental mechanisms involved in the activation of caspase-1, that lies at the heart of inflammasome function. The student will use a broad range of techniques in cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry and electron microscopy.

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

B. Sc. with good understanding of principles of biochemistry and molecular biology, and some research experience in these fields.

*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 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.

Students 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.

Dr Philip Stevenson

p.stevenson@uq.edu.au

Understanding how cytomegaloviruses establish systemic infection

Human cytomegalovirus infects most of us and causes congenital harm. This reflects its capacity for systemic spread. Vaccination could potentially prevent such spread, but empirical attempts at vaccination have so far failed. We need to understand better how infection works. Murine cytomegalovirus provides an accessible model. We showed that it spreads in dendritic cells, using chemokine signals to manipulate their migration. We will define which signals are required.

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

Honours in virology.

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

Associate Professor David Jenkins

d.jenkins@uq.edu.au

and

Dr Tina Skinner

t.skinner@uq.edu.au

Peer support in maintaining physical activity and health following an exercise training intervention for cancer survivors: A randomised controlled trial

The proposed investigation will combine high intensity intermittent exercise with a structured peer-support program to investigate whether cancer survivors can maintain the necessary
amount and intensity of exercise to sustain improvements in health, functional capacity and quality of life for 12 months following a brief (4 week), supervised training intervention.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. 

A degree in Exercise Physiology, or equivalent; eligible for entry to UQ’s PhD program and to become an Accredited Exercise Physiologist with Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA); https://www.essa.org.au 

The successful applicant will have excellent communication skills and attention to detail.

Willingness to become DXA and phlebotomy qualified.

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

Associate Professor Luke Guddat

luke.guddat@uq.edu.au

Ketol-acid reductoisomerase: An important antituberculosis drug target

The project is aimed at validation of ketol acid reductoisomerase as a new drug target for the treatment of human tuberculosis.

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

Master or Honours level Microbiology

*This project is available until December 2018 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Inhibitors of hypoxanthine-guanine-xanthine phosphoribosyltransferase as versatile drugs to treat infectious diseases.

The project is aimed at in vivo and in vitro testing enzyme inhibitors as new antimalarial drugs.

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

Master or Honours level in Molecular and or Cellular parasitology

*This project is available until September 2018 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Dr Mitchell Stark & Professor Peter Soyer

m.stark@uq.edu.au

Deciphering the molecular hallmarks of nevus progression to melanoma

With direct access to a large collection of study participants and clinical specimens from ongoing skin imaging studies, the successful candidate will perform targeted, whole exome/genome, and transcriptome sequencing and methylation arrays together with associated comprehensive bioinformatics analysis. Functional validation will follow in in vitro and in vivomodels.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BSc with Honours/Masters are a minimum and preferably with 1-2 years work experience or equivalence.

Laboratory and bioinformatic skills are essential.

*This project is available until November 2018 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Dr Mark Blaskovich

m.blaskovich@uq.edu.au

Lipopeptide antibiotics for XDR Gram-negative infections

The polymyxins are a drug class considered to be a last-resort treatment option for multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extremely drug resistant (XDR) Gram-negative infections. Unfortunately resistance is rapidly developing against these antibiotics, leaving no effective therapies and resulting in patient death. This project aims to develop an antibiotic with superior spectra of action and improved safety profiles compared to the polymyxins, with activity against polymyxin-resistant bacteria. It is based on a related class called the octapeptins, for which we recently published the first synthesis (Cell Chemical Biology, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2018.01.005; Biorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2017, 27, 2407). This project will conduct additional structure-activity relationship studies with associated microbiological and ADMET testing.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Medicinal chemistry with strong synthetic chemistry background; peptide chemistry a benefit. This project is cross disciplinary, and a background or aptitude to also conduct biological testing (MIC assays, cytotoxicity, protein binding, plasma and microsomal stability, confocal microscopy) would be beneficial.

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.

Students 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.

Students 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.

Professor Maher Gandhi

m.gandhi@uq.edu.au

Integrating immunity and genetics in Follicular Lymphoma to establish a prognostic score fit for the modern era

A novel study of immunity and genetics in clinical samples involving Follicular Lymphoma.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

MBBS, Experience in clinical and laboratory haematology. Prior publications in the field of haematology desirable.

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.

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

Engineering, Health

Professor Michael Roberts

m.roberts@uq.edu.au

Physiologically-based pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of therapeutic stem cells for liver disease

Time course and targeting of stem cells to damaged livers as a result of liver disease.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Background in science, medicine, pharmacy or related field with an interest in biochemistry, physiology, and possibly mathematical modelling

Dr Gabriel Cuellar Partida

g.cuellarpartida@uq.edu.au

Development of bioinformatics methods and applications aimed at dissecting the basis of complex traits and diseases

The aim of this project is to develop bioinformatics methods that integrate genotypic, DNA methylation and gene expression data to investigate the role of genomic imprinting on complex traits and disease.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Bioinformatics, Software engineering, Genetics, Statistics, Epidemiology

Professor David Evans

d.evans1@uq.edu.au

Development and application of a Mendelian randomization framework aimed at dissecting the biological basis of complex disease

The aim of this project is to identify genes and molecular biomarkers (i.e. gene expression and gene methylation) that causally affect risk of complex disease using a combination of genome-wide association studies and Mendelian randomization approaches.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Epidemiology, Statistics, Genetics, Psychology
Using Methods in Genetic Epidemiology to Elucidate the Relationship Between Viral Infection and Risk of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body's natural defense mechanisms attack healthy tissues by mistake. It has long been thought that viral infections might play a role in triggering autoimmune disease. This project aims to find genes that influence the body's response to viral infection and subsequently whether the same genes are involved in autoimmune disease pathology.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Epidemiology, Statistics, Genetics, Psychology

Dr Jatin Patel

j.patel@uq.edu.au

Defining the biology of vascular stem cells for tissue regeneration

This project aims to understand the fundamental biology of vascular stem cells by defining their in vivo niche and molecular identity. Further, this project will delineate the important role vascular stem cells play in regenerating the circulatory system and their potential use as a cell therapy in treating cardiovascular disease.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

The ideal candidate will have a BSc (Hons), with courses in biomedical science, animal handling, cell/molecular biology and cardiovascular anatomy

Dr Xiaowen Liang

x.liang@uq.edu.au

Visualisation and early prediction of ROS-mediated treatment response in liver cancer by a novel nanoplatform

Change of tumour microenvironment has potential to serve as an early predictor of drug efficacy. This proposed project aims to develop a new technology to accurately measure tumour microenvironment during treatment, and to explore the correlation between this potential predicator and tumour growth. This technology would significantly improve the patient prognosis by revealing non-response to chemotherapeutics early and allowing the timely administration of alternative therapies.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Biomedicine and Biological Science /pharmacology

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.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Molecular Biology, animal handling and surgery, immunology.

Associate Professor Timothy Carroll

timothy.carroll@uq.edu.au

A common sub-cortical system for human eye and limb control? - 1

The capacity to produce fast and accurate visually-guided movement was crucial for survival long before animals evolved a cerebral cortex, suggesting that basic control systems may be conserved across species. This project will test the extent to which the human brain controls reaching movements via structures and control mechanisms known to be used for rapid eye movements, and for prey capture by lower vertebrates such fish. The notion that complex, human limb movements can be controlled by primitive subcortical systems challenges conventional thinking about movement-related brain activity, and therefore has important implications for the design of human-machine interfaces and training protocols in rehabilitation, industry and sport.

The project involves experiments in humans using non-invasive brain stimulation, and measurements of eye and limb movements in response to precisely controlled visual and auditory stimuli. It will provide opportunities to develop expertise in electrophysiology, motion capture and coding for electronic device control and data analysis.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences.

Neuroscience, Exercise Science, Neurophysiology, Medicine, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Engineering
A common sub-cortical system for human eye and limb control? -2

The capacity to produce fast and accurate visually-guided movement was crucial for survival long before animals evolved a cerebral cortex, suggesting that basic control systems may be conserved across species. This project will test the extent to which the human brain controls reaching movements via structures and control mechanisms known to be used for rapid eye movements, and for prey capture by lower vertebrates such fish. The notion that complex, human limb movements can be controlled by primitive subcortical systems challenges conventional thinking about movement-related brain activity, and therefore has important implications for the design of human-machine interfaces and training protocols in rehabilitation, industry and sport.

The project involves experiments in humans using non-invasive brain stimulation, and measurements of eye and limb movements in response to precisely controlled visual and auditory stimuli. It will provide opportunities to develop expertise in electrophysiology, motion capture and coding for electronic device control and data analysis.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences.

Neuroscience, Exercise Science, Neurophysiology, Medicine, Physiotherapy, Psychology, Engineering.

Dr Luke Kelly

l.kelly3@uq.edu.au

Optimising the spring in your step to enhance running performance

This project is part of an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Sport and Asics. This project will incorporate the use of novel musculoskeletal imaging, biomechanical and neurophysiological research tools to explore ways to augment / enhance the function of the human foot during running, with specific emphasis on the plantar fascia. This research will have direct implications for management of running injury and athletic performance.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences.

Exceptional candidates with a background in Exercise SciencePhysiotherapy, PodiatryBio/mechanical Engineering or related disciplines are encouraged to apply.
Sensorimotor control of foot function: Adapting the mechanical function of the foot to optimise balance and gait performance

This research will examine how the brain and spinal cord integrate sensory feedback to tune foot muscle activation in response to loading and balance challenges. This research will incorporate advanced neurophysiological and biomechanical research tools to gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of the foot in balance and locomotion. Findings from this research will be used to directly inform strategies for enhancing foot function and ultimately reducing injury and pain in this important part of the body.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences.

Exceptional candidates with a background in Exercise Sciences (Exercise Physiology, Sport & Exercise Science), Clinical Sciences (Physiotherapy, Podiatry) or related disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Professor David Copland

d.copland@uq.edu.au

PAPAR@cai.uq.edu.au
Using NeuroImaging to Predict Aphasia Recovery and Treatment Response

The aim of this research is to determine whether brain activity and structure observed after stroke predict subsequent aphasia (language impairment) recovery and response to treatment. Participants will be tested on a clinically language battery and scanned at 1, 3 and 6 months post-onset, with half the participants receiving treatment at 1 month. Imaging will be used to identify language-related brain activity, white matter tract integrity, and lesion-symptom mapping.

Students will enrol through the School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences.

Background in one or more of the following: Speech Pathology, Clinical Linguistics, Psychology, NeuroImaging, Cognitive Science, Cognitive Neuroscience
Stimulating aphasia recovery after stroke with daily music exposure

In this project, participants with aphasia (language impairment) will have MRI scans and language assessments at 2 week post-stroke. They will then receive either usual care alone or will listen to music daily (minimum 1 hour) for 2.5 months in addition to receiving usual care. All participants will then be scanned and re-tested at 3 months and 6 months post-onset. We will determine whether the addition of daily music listening to usual care has a clinically significant impact on aphasia recovery and measure effects on cognition, mood, and depression. Neuroimaging will determine how music listening impacts on language-related brain activity, brain structure and connectivity.

Students will enrol through the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Background in one or more of the following: Speech Pathology, Music Therapy, Clinical Linguistics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, NeuroImaging, Cognitive Neuroscience

Professor David Craik

d.craik@imb.uq.edu.au

Taking Australia from the Farm to the Pharm

The overall aim of this project is to develop peptide-based drugs that are able to cross cell membranes and inhibit specific intracellular cancer targets, leading to more effective, safer and cost effective drugs. 
Our critical discovery that certain classes of cyclic peptides can cross
cell membranes and bind to specific targets inside cells has opened the possibility to inhibit these intracellular cancer targets with highly specific peptide-based drugs.
We will use stable, cyclic, disulfide-rich peptides as frameworks to design novel drugs that can penetrate into cells and block protein:protein interactions.
The major outcome of this project will be new drug leads to treat melanoma and leukaemia with higher specificity, lower toxicity and a lower likelihood to develop resistance than current therapies.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

Molecular biology; Plant tissue culture; Chemistry
 
*This project is available until October 2018 unless a suitable candidate is found prior.

Dr Lin Luo

l.luo@imb.uq.edu.au

Controlling inflammation in chronic disease

Macrophages are regarded as ‘guardian immune cells’ functioning at the front line of innate immunity. By secreting an array of cytokines, macrophages also control inflammation throughout the body. However, in a wide variety of common diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many others, inflammation is ‘out of control’. New ways to curtail macrophage function and inflammatory cytokines are urgently needed. As part of University of Queensland (UQ)/ Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Centre for Inflammatory and Disease Research, we have identified a selective regulator of inflammatory responses, a protein called SCIMP. 

In this project, the roles of SCIMP and its effectors, in Toll-like receptor-driven inflammation will be investigated. This research will entail multiple approaches including proteomics, structural biology, protein biochemistry and cell imaging, and applicants ideally will have completed courses or training in immunology, cell biology and/or biochemistry. 

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

Applicants ideally will have completed courses or training in immunology, cell biology and/or biochemistry.

Dr Christina Schoeder

c.schroeder@imb.uq.edu.au

The potential of membranes – peptide engineering to modulate ion channels

Naturally derived disulfide-rich peptides interact with a range of human ion channels and receptors as agonists and antagonists and have been shown to be important and useful drug leads and research tools. This program focuses on the discovery of new molecules targeting these channels as well as understanding the mechanistic details behind the peptide-receptor interactions in order to engineer more potent and selective peptides to modulate the activity of therapeutically relevant ion channels and receptors. 

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

  • organic/medicinal chemistry
  • peptide chemistry
  • chemical biology
  • pharmacology

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

Dr Nathan Palpant

n.palpant@uq.edu.au

Stem cells and cardiovascular development

This project utilizes genomics data coupled with CRISPR gene editing and human pluripotent stem cells to identify novel mechanisms that underlie differentiation into the cardiovascular lineage.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

  • Cell biology
  • Cardiovascular development
  • Genetics
Identifying genetic determinants of cardiovascular development and disease

This project will utilize and develop computational genomics tools for analysis of single cell RNA-sequencing data to identify novel genetic mechanisms underlying cardiac development and disease.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

  • Computational and statistical genetics 
  • Bioinformatics

Professor Jenny Stow

j.stow@imb.uq.edu.au

Macrophage Polarisation and Control of Pulmonary Inflammation

Uncontrolled inflammation contributes to many chronic diseases, including cystic fibrosis. This project aims to find macrophage molecules and drug targets to switch off inflammation in disease, using models of disease and human cells, working with clinicians.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

Strong in at least one of the following:

  • Cell biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Physiology
  • Biotechnology
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.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

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

Dr Kelly Smith

k.smith@imb.uq.edu.au

Left-right patterning of the heart

For the heart to form the correct shape and architecture, not only must the correct number and type of cells be generated but they must assemble in the correct pattern, both at a cell-cell level but also on a whole organ scale. We have identified a previously unidentified asymmetry in the developing heart that is essential for later morphogenesis, patterning and, therefore, function of the heart. The project will use fluorescent transgenic zebrafish embryos to follow tissue morphogenesis in real-time (timelapse imaging) and use drugs and mutant lines to study the molecules that instruct this asymmetric development.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

Molecular Biology Developmental Biology
Investigating cell adhesion dynamics during cardiomyocyte morphogenesis

The heart forms its unique shape through altering cell shapes and modifying cell-cell junctions. To form a bulge in the cardiac chamber wall, cardiomyocytes elongate. To do this, they must reorganise their actomyosin network within the cell and they must also alter their cell-cell junctions, altering the number of junctions they have as well as how many neighbouring cells they are in contact with. The project will investigate a protein essential for cell-cell junctions and investigate how it signals to the actomyosin network to bring about cell shape changes. We use the zebrafish model to study embryonic heart development, employing transgenic fluorescent reporter and mutant lines.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

Molecular Biology Developmental Biology

Professor Matthew Sweet

m.sweet@imb.uq.edu.au

Combating infectious diseases by harnessing macrophage functions

The project aims to characterize a molecular pathway that constrains the ability of macrophages to kill intracellular bacterial pathogens, and to inhibit this pathway as anti-infective approach.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

B. Sc hons, majoring in immunology, cell biology and/or biochemistry.
Demystifying histone deacetylase functions in immune cells

The project aims to understand how one member of the histone deacetylase family of enzymes (HDAC7) controls innate immune-mediated inflammatory and antimicrobial responses.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

B. Sc hons, majoring in immunology, cell biology and/or biochemistry.
The dual-edged sword of zinc as an innate immune antimicrobial weapon against uropathogenic E. coli.

The project aims to understand how innate immune cells utilize zinc as a direct antimicrobial weapon against bacterial pathogens, and how uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC, the major cause of urinary tract infections) subverts this host defence pathway.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).

B. Sc hons, majoring in immunology, cell biology and/or biochemistry.

Dr Hang Ta

h.ta@uq.edu.au

Smart magnetic resonance imaging nanosensor for detecting and grading diseases

The early detection and accurate characterization of life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer are critical to the design of treatment. This project aims to develop smart magnetic resonance imaging nano-sensors that can detect, sense and report the stage or progression of cardiovascular diseases such as thrombosis, the leading cause of death in Australia and worldwide.

Students can enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) or the School of Pharmacy. Discuss with Dr Ta.

Chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, pharmacy, biochemistry.
Activatable nanomaterials for advanced diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular disease accounts of over one third of all deaths in Australia and is forecasted to become the leading cause of death in Australia and worldwide. This project will develop next-generation activatable nanomaterials for drug delivery with an imaging sensor mechanism to monitoring drug release in cardiovascular diseases.

Students can enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) or the School of Pharmacy. Discuss with Dr Ta.

Chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, pharmacy, biochemistry.
Cardiovascular diseases on the chip

Every newly developed drug need to be tested through numerous rounds of animal testing before they can be tested on human. However, a rodent or chimp’s response to a medication does not alsway translate smoothly in a person. This project aims to develop chips that mimics the biological processes of cardiovascular diseases, which allows testing new therapies freely on “subjects” without harming any living creatures and lessen the need for animal testing.

Students can enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) or the School of Pharmacy. Discuss with Dr Ta.

Chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, biotechnology, nanotechnology, pharmacy, biochemistry.

Dr Run Zhang

r.zhang@uq.edu.au

X-ray induced photoacoustic nanoprobe: Break depth dependency of bioimaging

This project aims to develop a nanoprobe using an X-ray excited luminescence “nanolaser” as the local light source to activate coupled responsive photoacoustic sensors. In-situ imaging of specific biomarkers at the molecular level is key to understanding their roles in physiological and pathological processes, but current imaging techniques using fluorescent probes cannot detect biomarkers in deep tissues due to shallow light penetration. By capitalising on the tissue penetrating property of X-rays and acoustic waves and collecting acoustic waves as the read-out signal, real-time monitoring of biomarkers in deep tissues could be achieved, advancing detection technology for deep-tissue biomarkers.

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

Chemistry and materials science, bio-nanotechnology

Dr Josephine Bowles

jo.bowles@uq.edu.au

Investigating the timing and mechanism of spermatogonial stem cell allocation in the fetal testis

This project addresses a fundamental biological question: how the spermatogonial stem cell (SCC), a unique type of stem cell that generates sperm throughout life, is allocated during fetal development. We aim to determine exactly when and how SSCs are specified, and further, whether a genetic pathway that is used by in vitro stem cells is also employed, in vivo, by testicular stem cells – all of this work will be done in the mouse model.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Experience or interest in the fields of developmental biology, stem cell biology or reproductive biology

Associate Professor Trent Woodruff

t.woodruff@uq.edu.au

Therapeutic blockade of neuroinflammation for the treatment of Huntington’s disease

This project will test the efficacy of novel drugs targeting innate immune-mediated neuroinflammation in mouse models of Huntington’s disease (HD). It will also identify mechanistic activity using in vitro neuron/glia cultures and clinical validation using HD patient ex vivo samples.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Background in pharmacology or neuroscience research

Associate Professor Bradley Launikonis

b.launikonis@uq.edu.au

Ca2+ cycling and heat generation in muscle

This project will uncover the mechanisms that enable mammalian skeletal muscle to play a major role in generating the heat required to maintain a constant body temperature. The ability to modulate body heat played a defining role in the evolution of species, their behaviour and global distribution.  All vertebrates have muscle but only mammals and birds can use muscle to provide an essential modulatory role in whole body resting heat production. The muscle spends most of its time in a resting state (not contracting), when vital heat production must occur. How heat production occurs in resting muscle is of fundamental importance and will be defined for the first time, providing new avenues to manipulate metabolic rate and counter obesity.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BScHons in physiology or similar
Effect of heavy load exercise on Ca2+ handling in human skeletal muscle

This project will look at the movements of calcium associated with delayed onset muscle soreness and uncover the mechanisms that the muscle fibres employ so that the muscle is protected from long-term injury. The project will be based around imaging calcium, associated proteins and membrane networks inside human muscle fibres from subjects before and after strenuous exercise.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BScHons in physiology or similar

Associate Professor Michael Piper

m.piper@uq.edu.au

Transcriptional regulation of brain size during development

Here, we aim to understand the factors mediating normal brain size during development, as well as how these factors contribute to adult neurogenesis and neurodevelopmental disorders such as hydrocephalus.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BSc (Hons – first class)

Professor Murray Mitchell

murray.mitchell@uq.edu.au

Evaluation of biomarkers and  responsive cell pathways in reproductive biology

The project involves the measurements of compounds (lipids, nucleic acids and proteins/cytokines) from biological fluids (e.g milk/plasma) and cell culture media.  In particular, we are examining the roles of eicosanoids and endocannabinoids in fertility and pregnancy using Mass Spectrometry and ELISA. Other techniques such as PCR arrays and miRNA profiling will also be used with the aim to study higher and lower fertility metabolic and reproductive pathways, including within exosomal cargo.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Degree in any related area from cell to molecular biology or equivalent

Dr Paul Gardiner

p.gardiner@uq.edu.au

Stand up to dementia

This project explores relationships of lifestyle behaviours with cognitive decline. The project may incorporate epidemiological as well as health behaviour intervention approaches.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Health and related fields such as Medicine, Public Health, Psychology etc.

Associate Professor Paul Dawson

paul.dawson@mater.uq.edu.au

Genetics and pathology of fetal and neonatal sulphate deficiency

This PhD project will investigate the genetics and pathophysiology of nutrient sulphate deficiency in human fetal and neonatal development. The project will incorporate clinical, biochemical, genetic and molecular biology approaches.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Biomedical Science degree, preferably with Honours or equivalent research experience.

Professor Chen Chen

chen.chen@uq.edu.au

Biomarkers of diabetic retinopathy

Using diabetic mouse models, we are looking for early biomarkers to predict diabetic retinopathy.  Pathophysiological roles of identified biomarkers will also be investigated.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BSc (Hon) in physiology, molecular biology or pathology.

Associate Professor Rohan Teasdale

r.teasdale@uq.edu.au

The role of SNX proteins in formation of endosome transport carriers

The spatial arrangement of proteins within a cell is of fundamental importance and impacts on all biological processes and pathways.  Membranes and proteins are in constant motion within cells and transport pathways control and direct this traffic flow. This flux of internalized and secreted material must be precisely coordinated and this is achieved through a common network of intracellular membrane-bound compartments, the endosomal system. Fidelity of transport through the endosomal system thus requires mechanisms that precisely sort cargoes for delivery to a range of different destinations. This is achieved by cargo engaging specific sorting machinery that is responsible for their accumulation into tubules that then undergo scission to generate endosome-transport carriers (ETCs). Overall this project will determine the contribution of individual sorting nexin proteins has on the formation of the distinct ETC types and to the sorting of a range of cargo actively transported by these vesicles. A detailed definition of these ETC’s at the molecular level will reveal the number of transport pathways emanating from endosomes to other organelles which represents the final membrane transport pathway yet to be fully described.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Cell Biology, Microscopy

Dr David Simmons

d.simmons@uq.edu.au

Novel regulators of placental trophoblast cell-cell fusion: implications for preeclampsia

The cellular barrier separating the placental circulation consists in large part of syncytiotrophoblast (STB) cells, a highly specialized multinucleated cell that mediates critical transport and endocrine functions. The health and function of the post-mitotic STB relies on the input of new material by fusion with underlying mononuclear progenitor cells, a process which is dysregulated in pregnancy complications such preeclampsia (PE). Our lab has identified a novel regulator of trophoblast cell-cell fusion, one which is also dysregulated in placentas complicated by PE. The current project aims to characterize this new pathway at the molecular level, using primary human cell cultures and transgenic mouse models.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

The ideal candidate will have a BSc (Hons), with courses in cell biology, developmental biology and/or genetics. Previous experience with tissue culture and molecular biology methodologies a plus

Dr Jana Vukovic

j.vukovic@uq.edu.au

Understanding the role of microglia as regulators of adult neurogenesis in the intact, injured and ageing brain

The hippocampus is one of the primary brain structures critical for learning and memory. The continuous and regulated production of new neurons – adult neurogenesis – in this part of the brain is believed to underpin some of the hippocampal-based cognitive functions. These newborn neurons are produced from a pool of neural precursor/stem cells, and we have previously shown that microglia (the resident immune cells) play a key role in this process although the mechanisms behind this remain poorly understood. The project will investigate the role of microglia as regulators of adult neurogenesis following traumatic brain injury and during ageing, and the implications of this for behavioural outcomes.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Molecular biology / Immunology / Neuroscience

Associate Professor Ethan Scott

ethan.scott@uq.edu.au

Neural mechanisms of vestibular perception in zebrafish

The vestibular system allows us to perceive gravity and movement, but we do not have a thorough understanding of how the brain processes information from vestibular sensors in our inner ears. This project proposes a novel preparation in the zebrafish model for exerting forces on the inner ear with a laser, thereby stimulating the vestibular sense. Critically, this means that the animal will experience vestibular stimuli while it is stationary. This will allow calcium imaging of neurons that respond to vestibular cues, and the use of optogenetics to stimulate or silence these neurons. This will reveal just what cells and circuits mediate vestibular perception, processing, and behaviour in a way that has been previously impossible.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Optical Physics, Bioinformatics, or Neuroscience

Associate Professor Tracy Comans

t.comans@uq.edu.au

Develop and evaluate a picto-graph tool to measure quality of life 

This project will develop a quality of life instrument for economic evaluation of health care programs that uses pictures rather than written questions. The instrument will be designed to be easier to complete for those with cognitive decline / dementia or other issues that affect written communication.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Psychology or speech pathology / communication background interested in instrument development and quality of life