Available PhD projects - health

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Chief Investigator Project title Project description Preferred educational background

Professor Walter Thomas

w.thomas@uq.edu.au

How tissues generate the peptide hormone angiotensin II

The circulatory renin–angiotensin system (RAS) produces a peptide (AngII) to control blood pressure, and fluid/salt balance. Many tissues (e.g., brain, heart) also possess an independent, tissue RAS, but how these function has evaded researchers. Based on new data, we now define a model whereby infiltrating macrophages (following damage to the heart) drive the activation of this system to trigger the local generation of AngII. This project addresses the question of where exactly in the heart the RAS components are turned on, how they interact to generate AngII and whether the activation of the local RAS is beneficial or not to cardiac function.

Students will enrol through the School of Biomedical Sciences.

BSc Hons or equivalent

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

Dr Chun Xu

chun.xu@uq.edu.au

Functional nano-cement
scaffolds for the treatment of osteoporotic bone defects
 

This project has the potential to produce novel customized bone repair scaffolds with better regeneration ability for osteoporotic bone defect repair. It will advance the knowledge base on biomaterials technology and osteoporosis treatment, and contribute to a more sustainable Australian health system.

Students will enrol through the School of Dentistry.

PhD candidate with a medical, biological or chemical engineering background would be preferred.

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

Professor Peter Soyer

p.soyer@uq.edu.au

Implementation of an innovative teledermatology network for the early detection of melanoma in high risk Australians

Range of projects across a variety of educational backgrounds exploring the impact of the innovative teledermatology network on the early detection of melanoma. Examples of potential projects include bio-statistical analysis of clinical outcomes in control vs intervention group, assessing the psychological impact of the intervention, and exploring telehealth aspects of the project.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

health and/or medical science, bio-statistical,  psychological,
computing/ICT

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

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.

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

Dr Quan Nguyen

quan.nguyen@uq.edu.au

Two students are sought. One will be funded directly from Dr Quan Nguyen's ARC DECRA and the other will be funded under UQ's capacity building scheme.
Molecular characterization of development and disease through single cell regulatory networks

This project aims to use single-cell gene regulation networks to predict cell types and cell states in healthy and disease tissues. Computational approaches are needed to recapitulate how the over 37 trillion cells program the shared genome sequence in a human body to create astoundingly diverse forms and functions. This project integrates millions of high-resolution single-cell gene expression profiles with large-scale population regulatory data to systematically reconstruct gene regulatory networks. These networks are the molecular basis for understanding human cells, which should contribute to the unprecedented ability to control and reprogram cells, to detect aberrant cells, and to understand how cells respond to the environment. Particularly, this project will contribute to studying cancer cell types and cell states at single-cell levels.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Computational biologist with experience in programming and gene expression analysis

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

Molecular characterization of primary tissues by single cell spatial transcriptomics

This project aims to use innovative single-cell spatial sequencing of intact tissues to study heterogeneity in cell types and cell states within the tissues.   This project will comprehensively integrate single-cell and population genetics with spatial transcriptomics, a novel information dimension that is just beginning to be measured through recent advance in genomics technology. Traditional machine learning approaches and recent deep learning methods will be applied for data analysis. This approach aims to computationally reconstruct biological regulatory networks between genes and between cells, which underlie development (e.g. aging) and diseases (e.g. cancer). The systematic understanding of regulatory networks and biomarkers that are specific to individuals and cell types in physiological context will contribute to early disease diagnosis, targeted drug discovery and precision medicine.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Computational biologist with experience in programming and gene expression analysis

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

Dr Patrick Harris

p.harris@uq.edu.au

A multifaceted approach to the treatment and prevention of antibiotic-resistant infections

The aim of this PhD is to undertake a phenotypic and genomic analysis of bacterial isolates cultured from patients enrolled in international randomised clinical trials of novel treatment strategies for patients with bloodstream infections caused by multi- resistant gram-negative bacteria. 

A secondary aim is to explore the application of whole genome sequencing to rapid diagnostics, infection control practice and outbreak response.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Either:

Medical degree (e.g. MBBS), preferably within or having completed advanced training program related to infectious disease (e.g. FRCPA, FRACP) (or overseas equivalent)   

OR

Science degree with an interest in microbiology, molecular biology or genomics

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

Professor Peter Sly

p.sly@uq.edu.au

Wearing masks to reduce traffic-related air pollution exposure and improve children’s respiratory health

Air pollution is a major killer and cause of considerable burden of disease. In Vietnam, children living in the big cities are exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP), especially when travelling to and from school. Such exposure increases the risk of acute and chronic respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and asthma and increases their risk of hospitalization. We aim to measure children’s exposure to TRAP, assess the effect of TRAP exposure on children’s respiratory health and to undertake a randomized control trial of wearing a mask to reduce TRAP exposure in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Master of Public Health with understanding of the situation in Vietnam

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

Associate Professr 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

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

Professor David Fairlie

d.fairlie@imb.uq.edu.au

 

Dr Abishek Iyer

a.iyer@imb.uq.edu.au

Targeting the cell surface in Immunometabolism

This project will investigate new insights into the interplay between inflammation and metabolism in the pathogenesis of diseases including cancers. Ancient pathways link these physiological responses to nutrients and danger signals and provide important clues to drug discovery through effects of intervening in signal transduction on inflammatory diseases and cancers. 

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

A degree in Science or Biomed or Biotech (BSc Hons/Masters).


A background or experience in biochemistry, cell biology, endocrinology, pharmacology, or immunology would be an advantage.

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

Professor Robert Parton

r.parton@uq.edu.au

Structural and Functional Analysis of Plasma Membrane Microdomains in Health and Disease

Surface pits called caveolae have been linked to diseases such as muscular dystrophy and cancer. We have shown that caveolae can be disassembled in response to multiple stresses, releasing proteins called cavins into the cell. This project will examine how caveolae are disassembled and identify cavin-interacting components.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

BScHons in biological sciences

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

Dr Victor Anggono

v.anggono@uq.edu.au

Regulation of glutamate receptor dynamics in mammalian central neurons

This project aims to understand the molecular mechanisms of neuronal communication and how neurons modify their synaptic strength. The student will combine biochemical, molecular and cell biological techniques to provide mechanistic insights into the molecular processes that control glutamate receptor trafficking in the postsynaptic compartments.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute.

Honours First Class or Masters by Research. 
A background in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Neuroscience or related disciplines would be advantageous.

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

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
 

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

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.

Students 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.

Professor Glenn King

glenn.king@imb.uq.edu.au

Gain from pain: new tools from venomous animals for exploring pain pathways

Many venomous animals use their venom defensively and envenomation is frequently associated with rapid and often excruciating pain. In most cases the molecular mechanisms by which they achieve this is unknown. A diverse array of biochemical, pharmacological and biophysical techniques will be used to explore animal venoms for new pain-causing toxins, to determine their structure and mechanism of action. This project is likely to uncover toxins that employ new mechanisms of pain signalling, leading to new insights into pain physiology.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Honours or MSC degree  in the biological sciences, with a focus on protein and peptide  chemistry. Experience with venomous invertebrates would be  a distinct advantage, as would be familiarity with venom proteomics.

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

Development of a first-in-class neuroprotective drug for protecting the brain after stroke

We have developed a peptide drug (Hi1a) that prevents stroke-induced brain damage. Hi1a is the most potent known inhibitor of acid-sensing ion channel 1a (ASIC1a), which is robustly activated during stroke-induced cerebral acidosis. Inhibition of ASIC1a by Hi1a prevents the neuronal death caused by ASIC1a activation. We plan to conduct preclinical safety and efficacy studies with Hi1a to develop a data package for supporting its registration as an Investigational New Drug (IND). We will optimise the dose and mode of administration of Hi1a, determine its optimal and maximal therapeutic time window, and examine its performance across a range of ischemic and haemorrhagic stroke models.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

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

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

Associate Professor Dominic Ng

d.ng1@uq.edu.au

Photoswitch control of protein kinase signalling using optogenetic approaches

Protein kinases promote phosphorylation reactions and are integral components of the signal transduction circuitry that controls all aspects of cellular physiology. Traditional methods of studying kinase function and regulation are limited by the highly complex and integrated nature of intracellular signalling pathways.

The project will develop an optogenetic system for photoswitch control of protein-protein interactions as a tool to precisely manipulate the activation of protein kinases signalling modules and subsequent phosphorylation cascades with precise spatio-temporal control.

This new strategy will better define the role of signal transduction pathways in determining cell fate and their contributions in pathomechanisms underlying devastating diseases such as cancer and degenerative conditions.

Students will enrol through the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Honours First Class or Masters by Research. 

A background in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Pharmacology, Biophysics or related disciplines would be advantageous.

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

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.

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

 

Professor David Craik

d.craik@imb.uq.edu.au

Developing Factor XIIa inhibitors as new leads for preventing thrombosis

Existing drugs used to prevent blood clots have a range of side effects, including the risk of uncontrolled bleeding after an injury. This project will use naturally-occurring peptides found in plant seeds as a starting point for developing new drugs that only target blood clotting that causes disease. A series of peptides will be produced in our laboratory, then tested for their activity against an enzyme implicated in disease-related blood clotting and in several blood clotting assays.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Molecular biology; Chemistry

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

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