Available PhD projects - health

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Chief Investigator Project title Project description Preferred educational background

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
Dementia modelling using large data

This project will develop new methods of data analysis to incorporate into future models of dementia care. Large datasets will be interrogated to understand the patterns of care and health care usage of people with dementia and identify predictors of poor and good outcomes. Data will be drawn from linked datasets and available longitudinal studies.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

High level quantitative analysis skills required preferably with large data. Must be familiar with latent class analysis or have the ability to gain this skill.

Associate Professor Michelle Hill

m.hill2@uq.edu.au

Control of selective microRNA release via exosomes and microvesicles

This project aims to understand the fundamental mechanisms regulating the selective loading of microRNA (miRNA) to extracellular vesicles (exosomes and microvesicles) to effect cell-to-cell communication.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Biochemistry, Biomedical Science
Rapid functional and taxonomic skin microbe characterisation

This multi-disciplinary project aims characterise human skin microbes using a broad range of molecular techniques including FT-IR spectroscopy for rapid taxonomic identification, mass spectrometry for microbial metabolite identification and proteomics analysis, also proteomics and RNA sequencing to monitor response of skin cells to microbial products.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Biochemistry, Chemistry, Microbiology, Bioinformatics 

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 Trent Woodruff

t.woodruff@uq.edu.au

 

Discovery of new innate immune therapeutics for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease

This project will develop and test novel therapeutics targeting the innate immune system to block inflammation. It will also progress these compounds into early preclinical animal testing regimes in models of neurological disease.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Background in pharmacology/ pharmacokinetics or drug discovery

Therapeutic blockade of neuroinflammation for the treatment of motor neuron disease

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

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Background in pharmacology or neuroscience research

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

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

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

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 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.

Associate Professor Coral Gartner

c.gartner@uq.edu.au

Clinical trial of nicotine vaporisers for smoking cessation among priority populations living with co-morbidities

This pragmatic, open-label randomised partial cross-over trial aims to evaluate if adding a nicotine maintenance intervention (a nicotine vaporiser) to standard quit support intervention improves quit rates for these populations and whether offering both interventions concurrently is more effective and cost-effective than offering the interventions sequentially.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

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

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.

Dr Melinda Martin-Khan

m.martinkhan@uq.edu.au

Improving quality of care for people with dementia in the acute care setting (DemQI)

This multi-disciplinary project will implement a whole of hospital assessment system, and a Research Collaboration for Quality Care.  The aim is to replace the nursing admission assessment for adult patients at the beginning of an acute care episode to an electronic assessment which comprehensively targets assessment and risk in less than 15 minutes; and reports Quality Indicators for patient outcomes. 
The project will include all older adults admitted to acute care, but focus on opportunities to improve the quality of care for people with dementia by improving the screening for cognitive impairment in hospital. 

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Research experience either in the field, Masters or Hons. Students who are currently completing honours and due to finish in 2017 with a strong GPA will also be considered. 

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

Dr Sumaira Hasnain

sumaira.hasnain@mater.uq.edu.au

Targeting Immunopathology in Chronic Disease

Misfolding of some proteins occurs during biosynthesis, especially the complex secretory and transmembrane proteins assembled in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). When protein misfolding occurs in the ER it leads to a condition known as ER stress. Part of normal cellular housekeeping, a complex molecular network has evolved to promote proper folding, and identifies and degrades misfolded proteins. Protein misfolding is an inherent part of ageing and evidence is accumulating that with age the stress response declines. This project will be focussed on the working hypothesis that the unfolded protein response decreases in the intestinal epithelial cells with ageing and that this may be the primary contributor to the low-grade inflammation reported in ageing and could be targeted to ensure healthy ageing. 

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BSc Hons
Targeting Immunopathology in Chronic Disease

The cytokine, IL-22 is a regulator of mucosal integrity and tissue repair. We recently identified IL-22 as a major regulator of glucose homeostasis. Our studies show that IL-22 potently repressed the production and accumulation of reactive oxygen species and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) in human and mouse islet cells exposed to inflammatory cytokines, free fatty acids, tunicamycin or H2O2, while decreasing basal RNS production in unstressed cells. Using an oxidative RT-PCR array, we further showed that IL-22 down-regulated key oxidative stress inducing genes and concomitantly up-regulated antioxidant genes, demonstrating that IL-22 suppresses oxidative and Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) stress within the pancreatic β-cell to improve the production of high quality insulin.  in this project  the aims is to delineate the relationship between IL-22, and gut/hypothalamic satiety signaling and determine if these effects are indirectly regulated by IL-22 in obesity.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

BSc Hons

Associate Professor Antje Blumenthal

a.blumenthal@uq.edu.au

Enhancing host defence mechanisms in severe bacterial infections

New options to treat bacterial infections are needed because of the rapid increase in antibiotic resistance. One very attractive strategy is to boost the body’s own defence mechanisms against bacteria. Using molecular, cell biological and in vivo techniques, this project defines host cell molecular mechanisms that can be manipulated to better control bacterial infections.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Immunology, Microbiology, Cell biology
Innate immune signalling in Mycobacterium tuberculosisinfection

This project investigates the functions of a new innate immune receptor in the host response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection using a range of molecular, cell biological, biochemical and immunological approaches.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Cell Biology, Immunology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics.

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

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)

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 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

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

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 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.

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 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 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 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

Dr Christina Schoeder

c.schroeder@imb.uq.edu.au

Targeted peptide delivery by nanobody conjugation

This project aims to use plant-derived cyclic disulfide-rich peptides conjugated to an antigen-presenting cell targeting nanobody to deliver otherwise unstable peptide epitopes in order to raise antibodies for the use in biotechnology application or treatment of disease. 

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

  • chemical biology
  • chemistry
  • molecular biology
  • immunology
  • biochemistry

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 Enda Byrne

enda.byrne@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 (IMB).

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

Professor David Craik

d.craik@imb.uq.edu.au

Development of peptide-based scaffolds for intracellular cancer targets

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).

Chemistry

Associate Professor Margie Wright

margie.wright@uq.edu.au 

Neurodevelopment during Adolescence: A Longitudinal Imaging Study

Adolescence is a risk period for the emergence of psychiatric disorders. The onset of these disorders during the critical period of adolescence coincides with when the brain is changing rapidly. This project uses imaging to track developmental changes in the brain through adolescence in a large sample of twins.  Concurrent assessments of cognition, social behaviour, and mental health, as well as genetic information is integrated with the imaging data. This work will provide new knowledge about the role of genotype and environment on normal brain development in adolescence, and an understanding on how neurodevelopmental processes go awry and contribute to psychopathology. The project will interest students who want to study human brain development, as well as adolescent depression or related and co-occuring problems from a developmental psychopathology perspective.

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

Psychology/ Cognitive Neuroscience/ NeuroImaging/ Quantitative Genetics/ Translational Neuroscience/ Psychiatry

Dr Alexander Puckett

a.puckett@uq.edu.au

Cortical-layer-specific functional imaging of the human brain

This project aims to record layer-specific cortical activity in humans by leveraging ultra-high field (7T) magnetic resonance imaging.

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

Science graduates ideally with a background in neuroscience, neuroimaging, or biomedical engineering

Associate Professor Helen Cooper

h.cooper@uq.edu.au

Associate Professor Michael Piper

m.piper@uq.edu.au

Aberrant ependymal development and the formation of hydrocephalus

Foetal hydrocephalus is a prevalent neurodevelopmental condition associated with severe intellectual impairment. Breakdown of the ependymal cell layer, which acts as a barrier between brain tissue and the ventricular space, is a major cause of hydrocephalus. Despite the importance of these cells, we have little understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate their production. This project will identify critical signalling pathways governing the establishment of the ependymal layer.

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

Neuroscience. Cell biology, Molecular biology, Developmental biology or Stem cell biology

Professor Jochen Mueller

j.mueller@uq.edu.au

Estimating per capita use and release of chemicals by wastewater analysis

This multidisciplinary project aims to assess human use and exposure to chemicals including drugs, pharmaceuticals, lifestyle chemicals and environmental pollutants in the Australian population through the systematic collection and analysis of wastewater. Up to 4 PhD positions will focus on different aspects, including i) estimating per-capita human usage/exposure to chemicals, ii) relating trends in measured chemicals to exposure, use and/or population health, iii) wastewater treatment plant efficiency, and iv) release of chemicals to the environment via effluent and biosolids. PhD students will gain experience in state-of-the-art chemical analytical techniques, as well as theoretical and practical experience in waste water epidemiology and temporal/spatial analysis techniques.

A top-up scholarship ($5,000/annum) is available from the project funds for successful candidates.

Students will enrol through the School of Biological Sciences.

First class (I) and IIA honours or MSc in environmental science/chemistry/ toxicology (or related)

Professor David Copland

d.copland@uq.edu.au

Predicting and Promoting Aphasia Recovery

The aim of this research is to determine whether brain activity and structure observed after stroke predict subsequent language symptom recovery and response to treatment.

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

Speech pathology, cognitive neuroscience, psychology or related discipline.

Professor Jennifer Fleming

j.fleming@uq.edu.au

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to evaluate the effect of a metacognitive approach to prospective memory rehabilitation in people with traumatic brain injury

Prospective memory, or memory for intentions, is a common problem for people with severe traumatic brain injury. Compensatory strategy training combined with a metacognitive approach to rehabilitation may assist in reducing failures of prospective memory in everyday life. This project aims to evaluate whether a 6-week prospective memory rehabilitation programme is associated with functional and structural changes in the brain using a mulit-modality imaging approach. It will involve designing a prospective memory task suitable for use within a MRI scanner, testing the task with non-injured controls, and evaluating pre-post intervention effects using fMRI.

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

A background in image processing, occupational therapy or neuropsychology

Dr Luke Kelly

l.kelly3@uq.edu.au

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.
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.

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.

Professor Janet Hardy (CIA)

Dr Rebecca Olson (CIH)
r.olson@uq.edu.au

Medicinal Cannabis to Relieve Symptom Burden in the Palliative Care of Patients with Advanced Cancer

This study addresses the lack of high quality evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis in palliative care patients. The PhD Candidate will work on the qualitative sub-study to the clinical trial, gaining in-depth insight into patients’ perceptions of medicinal cannabinoids.

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

  • Background in Social Science & Health (e.g., Sociology of Health & Illness, Medical Anthropology, Criminology)
  • Experience in conducting qualitative research 

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.

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 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

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 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 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

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

Associate Professor Allison Pettit

allison.pettit@mater.uq.edu.au

Osteal Macrophages as Therapeutic Targets for Fracture Repair

Fragility fracture associated with osteoporosis is a substantial health problem costing $1.62 billion to treat in 2012 in Australia. There is no approved therapy to improve and accelerate fracture healing to help reduce this increasing health burden. This research will advance understanding of fracture repair in healthy and osteoporotic bone and progress development of a fracture therapy to improve bone repair by promoting specialised immune cells.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Minimum of undergraduate in biomedical science or veterinary science within Honours or equivalent research training experience.