Available Category 1 PhD projects - Health

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Chief Investigator Project title Project description Preferred educational background

Dr Jacky Suen

j.suen1@uq.edu.au

Developing genetic biomarkers for critical illness

Potential PhD students interested in critical care medicine and cardio-respiratory failure should get in contact. The project will focus on developing genetic based biomarker for end organ damage, including heart, lungs, and kidneys, using our world-renowned large animal model of cardiac surgery, CPB, heart failure, respiratory failurea, mechanical assist devices and sepsis.

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

A working knowledge of molecular biology, cell free DNA and bioinformatics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

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

Professor Loc Do

l.do@uq.edu.au

Contemporary evidence for water fluoridation program - a before-and-after population-based study

This study, funded by a NHMRC Ideas Grant, will conduct a new population-based study of child oral health in Queensland. The overarching purpose of this research is to provide contemporary high-level scientific evidence of causal relationship between water fluoridation and oral health outcomes to inform policymakers about effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation as a public health policy. This research is the after phase of an already initiated population-based epidemiological before-and-after study, following the before phase, the Queensland Child Oral Health Study (QCOHS) 2010-12. The study will evaluate changes in oral health status, perceptions of oral health and socioeconomic inequalities in oral health outcomes of Qld children in areas that implemented water fluoridation between 2009 and 2011 (New WF) relative to that among children in the negative control of non-fluoridated areas (No WF) and the existing positive control area of long-term fluoridated Townsville (Old WF).

Numerous scopes of PhD research are available. Examples are evaluation of effect of water fluoridation on socioeconomic inequalities in child oral health; changes in child health behaviours in the last decade; change in dental service use in the last decade.

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

A working knowledge of oral health, epidemiological methods, and statistics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

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

Dr Mathew Jones

mathew.jones@uq.edu.au

Targeting DNA replication and repair in human cancer cells

DNA replication is the fundamental mechanism of genetic inheritance and an essential process for all cellular life. In cancer cells, replication is corrupted and replication forks frequently stall and collapse causing DNA damage and copying errors that drive tumorigenesis. As a result, cancer cells are heavily dependent on the pathways that protect and repair stalled replication forks. Disrupting these mechanisms can be selectively toxic to cancer cells. A key player in the regulation of DNA replication and repair is DDK (Dbf4-dependent kinase also known as Cdc7). DDK is frequently overexpressed in cancer, but its role during DNA replication and the repair of stalled replication forks has not been well characterised. Our research uses chemical genetic approaches to selectively target DDK and gain valuable insights into its requirements and molecular targets. This project aims to understand how DDK coordinates DNA replication and repair to help develop new therapeutic strategies to target these processes in cancer cells. This project is suitable for a PhD student and provides an excellent opportunity to learn molecular and cell biology techniques and gain experience with long-read genome sequencing tools and genome engineering methods (CRISPR/Cas9).

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

A working knowledge of molecular biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of cell cycle and DNA repair is highly desirable.

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

Professor Grant Montgomery

g.montgomery1@uq.edu.au

Understanding genetic risk factors for reproductive disease

There is an unmet need for improved treatment for common disease affecting women's health. We have found genetic risk factors for these conditions and the next step is translation of the results to improve patient outcomes. The aim of this research are to understand the overlap in risk factors for related disease, characterise specific risk factors, and to determine if subtypes exist for some diseases that could lead to more effective and personalised treatments.

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

A working knowledge of genetic engineering and CRISPR technology Cell culture and organoid culture techniques would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of reproduction is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor David Johnson

david.johnson@uq.edu.au

Improving outcomes in people receiving peritoneal dialysis

The research project will:

  • Identify measurable, modifiable risk factors for adverse outcomes on peritoneal dialysis;
  • Identify and validate core peritoneal dialysis outcomes (including peritonitis);
  • Identify and evaluate the safety and efficacy of novel, cost-effective strategies for improving patient outcomes on peritoneal dialysis, including models of care (standardised PD training curricula), novel infection-prevention strategies (probiotics), better patient monitoring tools (PD-BUDDY, symptom monitoring with feedback) and PD commencement strategies (incremental PD).
  • Implement, monitor and report impact of study findings in practice and policy using the Australia and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant (ANZDATA) Registry, Peritoneal Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (PDOPPS) and ISN Global Kidney Health Atlas (GKHA).

The project will leverage 3 pillars (SONG-PD, PDOPPS and AKTN) supported by a foundation of patient and public involvement in co-production, clinical care-embedded research and established monitoring structures (ANZDATA Registry, PDOPPS, GKHA).

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

A working knowledge of Peritoneal Dialysis related to Chronic Kidney Disease would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of Chronic Kidney Disease is highly desirable.

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

Associate Professor Susan Jordan

s.jordan@uq.edu.au

Hysterectomy, Oophorectomy and Long-term chronic Disease - the HOLD study

This project will be based on a newly funded NHMRC Ideas grant that aims to investigate the long term health outcomes following hysterectomy. The study is broad so the  student would select parts of the work, or methodological issues around the work, to focus on. Below is a breif description of the study background, aims and methods:

Each year >27,000 Australian women have a hysterectomy for a benign condition, often with removal of one or both ovaries (oophorectomy). This surgery can profoundly affect women’s reproductive hormones and may influence risk of chronic conditions such as ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and cancer. Despite this, the long-term health effects of these procedures are unclear because few high quality studies have been undertaken and important potential effect modifiers such as menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) or surgery indication have been infrequently addressed. As a result, existing clinical guidelines are conflicting meaning treatment decisions are based only on short-term rather than long-term outcomes.

AIMS: 1) To assess the association between hysterectomy with & without oophorectomy and risk of a) cancer (overall & by type); b) other chronic disease including IHD, stroke & hip fracture; & c) all cause & cause-specific mortality. 2) To determine whether associations vary by age at procedure or MHT use.

METHODS: We will address the evidence gap by conducting a whole-of-population, cross-jurisdictional data linkage study including hospital morbidity, cancer, medicines, and death data.

SIGNIFICANCE: Our study is timely and clinically relevant given the availability of less invasive treatments for benign gynaecological conditions and the substantial decrease in MHT use in Australia since 2002. Unique in its size, scope, data quality and approach, our study will provide new high-quality evidence to inform clinical guidelines and enable informed decisions about whether hysterectomy is the best treatment for a woman’s short and long-term health.

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

A working knowledge of epidemiology and statistics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of epidemiology, statistics or relevant health sciences and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of women's health and administrative health data is highly desirable.

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

Professor Gita Mishra

g.mishra@sph.uq.edu.au

The Genetic variants, Early Life exposures, and Longitudinal Endometriosis symptoms Study (GELLES)

GELLES looks to address current inadequacies and evidence gaps on genetic factors, early life exposures, and symptoms of endometriosis during adolescence. The study will leverage existing data from two cohorts of participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health who have been followed since age 18-23 years. The study will collect additional data and DNA samples from these women. The new survey will cover early life history (e.g., in utero exposures, birth characteristics, and maternal smoking) and reproductive symptoms during adolescence (such as irregular menses and pelvic pain). GELLES will compare women with and without endometriosis and identify the combinations of factors and patterns of symptoms linked with increased risk of endometriosis and longer time to diagnosis. The study will produce high-quality evidence and provide new insights on the causal pathways and aetiology of this disease.

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

A working knowledge of life course epidemiology, biostatistics and reproductive health would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

Professor James Ward

james.ward@uq.edu.au

Interventions to address infectious diseases in remote Indigenous communities

Professor James Ward has two PhD scholarship opportunities available within his broad research program on eliminating sexually transmissible infections in remote Indigenous communities.  The types of projects available span Indigenous health, public health, epidemiology, Indigenous methodologies, genomics, geospatial mapping or social sciences, with the exact project determined in consultation with the two selected applicants.

STIs in remote Australia: STIs are responsible for a huge health, economic and social burden globally.  In Australia, Aboriginal communities have been particularly affected and their impact is greatest in young people aged 16-24 years, although elevated rates of STIs still occur in people up to 40 years.  Under the leadership of Professor Ward, the multidisciplinary team seeks to confront and eliminate Chlamydia trachomatis (CT), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG), Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) and Treponema pallidum (infectious syphilis) infections, with elimination defined by the World Health Organisation as a 90% reduction of each of the STIs.  In addition, and in parallel, the team will ensure that the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in these communities is reduced to the lowest possible level.

We have established unique Aboriginal governance processes to oversee the program of research ensuring feasibility and enabling Aboriginal self-determination.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. You may also be eligible for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Scholarship.

Interested parties are encouraged to contact Professor Ward to discuss.

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

A working knowledge of Indigenous health public health and indigenous methodologies would be of benefit to candidates working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of social research/epidemiology, genomics or geospatial mapping of and the potential for scholastic success.

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

Professor James Ward

james.ward@uq.edu.au

Multidisciplinary efforts to eliminate sexually transmissible infections in regional and remote Australia

Professor James Ward has two PhD scholarship opportunities available within his broad research program on eliminating sexually transmissible infections in remote Indigenous communities.  The types of projects available span Indigenous health, public health, epidemiology, Indigenous methodologies, genomics, geospatial mapping or social sciences, with the exact project determined in consultation with the two selected applicants.

STIs in remote Australia: STIs are responsible for a huge health, economic and social burden globally.  In Australia, Aboriginal communities have been particularly affected and their impact is greatest in young people aged 16-24 years, although elevated rates of STIs still occur in people up to 40 years.  Under the leadership of Professor Ward, the multidisciplinary team seeks to confront and eliminate Chlamydia trachomatis (CT), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG), Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) and Treponema pallidum (infectious syphilis) infections, with elimination defined by the World Health Organisation as a 90% reduction of each of the STIs.  In addition, and in parallel, the team will ensure that the risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in these communities is reduced to the lowest possible level.

We have established unique Aboriginal governance processes to oversee the program of research ensuring feasibility and enabling Aboriginal self-determination.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. You may also be eligible for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Scholarship.

Interested parties are encouraged to contact Professor Ward to discuss.

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

A working knowledge of Indigenous health public health and indigenous methodologies would be of benefit to candidates working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of social research/epidemiology, genomics or geospatial mapping of and the potential for scholastic success.

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

Professor David Copland

d.copland@uq.edu.au

Implementation of Comprehensive High-dose Aphasia Treatment (CHAT)

Aphasia is a language and communication disability that occurs in approximately 30% of stroke patients with over 120,000 people currently living with aphasia in Australia. Aphasia is associated with four times the community rate of depression. It negatively impacts quality of life more than cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. There is high quality evidence that aphasia therapy improves communication outcomes and individuals benefit more when aphasia therapy is provided in a higher dose. Yet this evidence has not been translated into practice. Major evidence-practice gaps in aphasia identified by our team include the inadequate amount and intensity of therapy received, the lack of collaborative goal setting, and a lack of conversation partner training.

To address these gaps, we have developed and trialled an effective, comprehensive high-dose aphasia program. Based on our work to date and our identification of translational barriers, the overall aims of this research are to evaluate current usual care speech pathology clinical practices in post-stroke aphasia rehabilitation and to evaluate the implementation of our proven, comprehensive, high dose aphasia treatment in the clinical setting. Our program, called CHAT (Comprehensive High-Dose Aphasia Treatment), incorporates evidence-based and goal-directed treatment of impairment and function. A suite of evidence-based implementation strategies will be used with participating hospitals and health services in metropolitan and regional areas with uptake sustained through clinical support networks.

This translation research will provide evidence required to directly influence policy and improve aphasia management and access, thus addressing key priorities of health professionals and services. It will provide a new model of care for delivering comprehensive and effective aphasia rehabilitation and establish a practical solution to optimise outcomes for patients.

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

A working knowledge of aphasia rehabilitation would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of speech-language pathology and the potential for scholastic success.

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

Professor John Hooper

john.hooper@mater.uq.edu.au

Associate Professor Paul Thomas

paul.thomas@health.qld.gov.au

Molecular and cellular determinants of CDCP1 targeted, payload-delivering antibodies

Preclinical and patient data support the receptor CDCP1 as a rational target for delivery of radionuclides and cytotoxins for detection and treatment of a range of cancers including high-grade-serous ovarian cancer.

The goal of this project is to understand the molecular and cellular determinants that predict the efficacy of CDCP1 targeted biomolecules including antibodies and peptides..

Aims:

  1. To perform mutagenesis studies of the CDCP1 extracellular domain to identify residues required for antibody binding.
  2. To undertake cryo-electron microscopy analysis of antibody/CDCP1 complexes to determine residues and motifs that mediate protein interactions.
  3. To quantify the effect of anti-CDP1 antibody affinity on cellular processing of the receptor.
  4. To determine the impact of affinity on efficacy of anti-CDCP1 antibodies at delivering payloads for detection and treatment of preclinical models of ovarian cancer.

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

A working knowledge of the following topics would be helpful for an incoming student, but not essential:

  • molecular biology
  • structural biology including electronmicroscopy
  • cell biology
  • cancer biology
  • cancer pathology
  • in vitro models of cancer
  • mouse models of cancer
  • immunohistological analysis of tumours

A background or knowledge of in vitro and animal models of cancer is highly desirable.

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

Professor Daniel Chambers

d.chambers2@uq.edu.au

The TELO-SCOPE study: Attenuating Telomere Attrition with Danazol. Is there Scope to Dramatically Improve Health Outcomes for Adults and Children with Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, progressive and ultimately fatal lung disease. In Australia approximately 10,000 individuals are affected, and the prevalence is increasing. The median survival time from diagnosis ranges from only 2 to 4 years. Recently approved medications slow progression of fibrosis but do not reverse disease.

IPF occurs in older individuals with genetic mutations in genes that promote cellular ageing leading to chronic lung epithelium damage. Although epithelial cell replication repairs damage, cell division shortens DNA leading to unstable DNA, cell ageing and death. Shortening of DNA is evident in stretches of specialised repetitive DNA at the end of chromosomes called telomeres. Telomeres function as protective caps to prevent chromosomal degradation.

Several studies have established a correlation between susceptibility to IPF and reduced telomere length in peripheral white blood cells. Relative telomere length (TL) in these cells can be measured using a flow cytometry-based technique called Flow-FISH. Our team has evaluated Flow-FISH in peripheral blood and found it to be a robust sensitive assay, with telomere length decreasing with age and in IPF patients with previously identified telomerase mutations. Given the fidelity of the assay our team, in collaboration with clinicians, will test patients at risk of IPF and evaluate IPF drug trials with respect to TL with the ultimate goal of finding drugs that increase TL and prevent premature cell death.

This is a unique opportunity for a student to undertake translational research in the field of pulmonary medicine at The Prince Charles Hospital.

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

A working knowledge of pulmonary disease, cell biology and genomics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of health sciences/pulmonary diseases and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of genomics is highly desirable.

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

Dr Fekade Sime

f.sime@uq.edu.au

Optimising the stability and dosing regimens of antibiotics for outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy

Outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy (OPAT) is increasing in scope and usage due to literature supporting its safety, patient acceptability and efficacy. OPAT is administered by healthcare professionals in the community or via self-administration by the patient. The use of infusion devices for continuous infusion over 24 hours increases feasibility of self-administered OPAT avoiding the need for multiple daily visits from healthcare personnel. However, in a community scenario, prolonged exposure of the antibiotic in an aqueous solution to ambient conditions increases the likelihood of drug degradation. A recent systematic review of the availability of the stability studies of antimicrobial in administration devices concluded that none of the included studies comply with regulatory standards. Consequently, there is uncertainty and lack of confidence for clinicians to use some antibiotics in an OPAT program. In Australia, there is a heightened concern due to the relatively high ambient temperature conditions. In this project, we aim to address drug stability problems associated with the use of antibiotic infusion in the community, to support clinical decision making and appraisal of dosing guidelines. We will assess whether stability of infusion preparations is acceptable, first in a simulated laboratory conditions. Next, for those antibiotics that fail to demonstrated adequate stability, we will perform a “real-life” stability study. We will also apply two innovative approaches to enable acceptable use by (1) designing novel formulation strategies that enhance drug stability and (2) using innovative mathematical modelling approaches that enable prediction of appropriate dosing regimens for OPAT settings. We will finally validate proposed novel dosing in a prospective clinical study. The project will generate robust data on antibiotic stability and optimal dosing for OPAT infusion preparation to inform clinical decision and appraisal of guidelines.

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

A working knowledge of pharmacokinetic analysis would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of pharmacy, medicine, clinical nursing and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of pharmacokinetics is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Dr Oliver Rawashdeh

o.rawashdeh@uq.edu.au

Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Neurogenerative Disorders

We are very keen to host a new team player to join one of our long-term research projects that encompass the study of sleep and circadian rhythms in neurodegenerative disorders and the discovery of novel therapeutic targets for the restoration and normalization of sleep dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. Our collaborative group consists of chronobiologists, neuroscientists, pharmacologists, and engineers interested in translational research. The PhD candidate will take interest and leadership in formulating scientific questions, develop new techniques, and mechanistic/therapeutic solutions. Training to design experiments, new techniques, and grantsmanship will be provided. Unique lab skills in emerging fields and initiatives within the broad framework are welcomed.

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

Candidates with research experience in small animal physiology and behaviour, ex-vivo and in vitro systems, and/or programming skills are strongly encouraged to apply.

A background or knowledge of neuroscience, physiology and biochemistry is highly desirable.

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

Dr Silvia Ciocchetta

s.ciocchetta@uq.edu.au

Targeted surveillance of major zoonotic arboviral and other vector-borne diseases in Australia using spectroscopy technology

Infectious diseases transmitted by vectors represent a significant health threat to the Australian biosecurity. Detection methods used in current surveillance of these pathogens are expensive, time consuming and require highly trained personnel. We propose to conduct a set of experiments to test the best spectroscopy technique to identify infected vectors and demonstrate its capacity as surveillance tool for vector control programs against these pathogens.

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

A working knowledge of molecular biology techniques including DNA/RNA extractions and qualitative and quantitative PCRs, microbiology techniques, handling biosecurity samples and geographical information systems would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of life science, biology, entomology, infectious disease epidemiology, species ecology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of biology, entomology, medical entomology and geospatial modelling is highly desirable.

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

Dr Julie Wixey

j.wixey@uq.edu.au

Examining long-term neuroprotection in the growth restricted newborn

Fetal growth restriction is where a baby fails to grow normally in the womb. The fetal brain is vulnerable to this condition and life-long disabilities in these infants include schooling and behavioural issues through to cerebral palsy. Currently there is no treatment to protect the growth restricted newborn from these adverse outcomes. This project will examine two promising treatments (stem cells and ibuprofen) to protect the growth restricted newborn brain. This research will greatly assist in the development and implication of treatments to improve life-long outcomes for growth restricted children.

A PhD opportunity is available for a student with an Honours/Masters degree in neuroscience, biochemistry, molecular biology or a related field to join the Perinatal Research Centre, UQ Centre for Clinical Research. The successful candidate will work on an exciting research project focused on neuroprotective therapies to reduce adverse brain outcomes following fetal growth restriction in a preclinical large animal model of growth restriction.

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

A working knowledge of neuroscience, biochemistry, or molecular/developmental biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The successful PhD candidate will utilise techniques including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalogram (EEG), behavioural testing, immunohistochemistry, ELISAs, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Previous work with animals is desired but not essential.

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

Dr Camille Guillerey

camille.guillerey@mater.uq.edu.au​

Immune regulation through bi-directional interactions between subsets of Natural Killer cells and Dendritic cells

This project will investigate interactions between two immune cell types: natural killer (NK) cells and dendritic cells (DCs). NK cells play an essential role in the early detection of infections or malignant transformation while DCs initiate and direct immune responses. Evidence for bi-directional interactions between NK cells and DCs has been provided in the early 2000s. Since then, our knowledge of NK cell and DC diversity has considerably increased. NK cells and DCs can no longer be considered as homogenous populations up to 30,000 phenotypic populations identified by mass cytometry in one individual  while four main human DC subsets have been described:  monocyte-derived DCs, plasmacytoid DCs and type 1 and 2 conventional DCs. Currently, we don’t know which NK subset(s) interact with which DC subset(s).

This project aims to provide a better understanding of the crosstalk between distinct NK cell and DC subsets. Specific interactions between human cell subsets in response to different stimuli will be investigated in vitro and in vivo. The candidate will have access to state-of-the-art technology including high-parameter flow cytometry (BD Fortessa and BD FACSymphony analysers) as well as cutting-edge humanised mouse models. By addressing an important knowledge gap in the field, this project will lay the foundation for preclinical research in a wide range of pathologies including cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders.

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

A working knowledge of cellular culture, flow cytometry and  animal handling would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of immunology is highly desirable.

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

Dr Loic Yengo

l.yengo@imb.uq.edu.au

Statistical Methods to detect and correct cryptic ascertainment in Biobank data collection

Project: Statistical Methods to detect and correct cryptic ascertainment in Biobank data collection.

Short Description. This project aims at developing new statistical methods to detect potential unmeasured confounders for epidemiological associations and correct their effects on estimation of risk. The methods explored in this project will be based on polygenic (risk) scores for a number of complex traits and disease and will quantify their distribution under various assumptions. The project will involve advanced modelling and statistical analyses of large volumes of data (genotyped and imputed SNP data, whole-exome sequencing. This research will be implied to better identify genetic risk factors for severe forms of COVID-19.

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

Expected start. In 2021.

The Team. The successful candidate will be doing their research within the Statistical Genomics Group (SG2) led by Dr Loic Yengo, who are internationally recognized leader in the field of complex traits genetics. SG2 provides a stimulating and highly interdisciplinary environment for PhD candidates to form and develop their research.

PhD advisor. Dr Loic Yengo is a research fellow and group leader within the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, Australia. He did his PhD in applied mathematics and is an expert in statistical modelling and analysis of genetic data. His research interests intersect statistical and quantitative genetics, genetic epidemiology and sociogenomics.

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

A working knowledge of programming in low-level languages such as C or C++ would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of statistics, (genetic) epidemiology, and/or computer ccience and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of quantitative genetics is highly desirable.

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

Associate Professor Fiona Simpson

f.simpson@uq.edu.au

The Ins and Outs of Endocytosis inhibition: Providing diverse opportunities for treatment of incurable cancers

This is a project which aims to investigate how tumours and normal tissue internalise drugs such as cancer therapy antibodies in real in vivo models and in patients. My laboratory has recently shown that changing this internalisation can alter therapy mechansims. 

The uptake of drugs by both target cells and normal cells in humans, a process called endocytosis, is critical for many medicines including antibody therapies, nano-medicines and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Our understanding of cellular uptake mechanisms has developed significantly in the last 5 years. However, these advances in cell biology have not fully translated to the drug delivery, design and immunological fields. The role of endocytosis is also important for naturally occurring nanoparticles, such as viruses and exosomes and CAR-T therapy has been shown to be antigen clustering dependent,

An example of this is the recent advance in cancer therapy using anti-PDL1 and anti PD-1 antibodies, known as checkpoint inhibitors. Recent data has shown that in cases of poor outcome the pharmacokinetic properties of anti-PDL1 antibody is an issue, with tumour degradation of the antibody occurring very quickly. Another example is the drive to understand CoV-virus entry into human cells to inform to inform potential anti-viral therapies. Findings from our program may be applied to multiple clinical settings (e.g. antibody therapy in multiple sclerosis or anti-HIV antibody therapy).

This project crosses the fields of cell biology, immunology, cancer, drug targeting and clinical trials. Techniques include (but are not limited to) imaging, electron microscopy, fluorescence activated cell sorting and in vivo work in murine models and patient samples. 

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

A working knowledge of cell biology and cellular trafficking / signalling would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of cell biology and cellular trafficking is highly desirable.

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

Associate Professor Andrew Mallett

a.mallett@imb.uq.edu.au

Implementation of Metformin therapy to ease decline of kidney function in Polycystic Kidney Disease - IMPEDE-PKD trial

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), a rare, devastating genetic disease for multiple generations of Australian families, is the fourth leading global cause of kidney failure, affecting 12.5 million people worldwide. Prolific cyst growth begins in childhood, and over decades culminates in enlarged painful kidneys, early-onset hypertension and chronic kidney disease. The crippling symptom burden of ADPKD occurs in conjunction with a high prevalence of anxiety, depression and poor quality of life. Despite this enormous burden, there is a lack of evidence for current therapies, and affordable, effective treatment options remain an unmet need for ADPKD sufferers and their families. To date, only one disease modifying therapy has been licensed for use in ADPKD, and its uptake has been stymied by its restricted availability, side effect profile and high cost.

The Implementation of Metformin theraPy to Ease DEcline of kidney function in PKD (IMPEDE-PKD) is an Australian-led global phase 3 randomised control trial to investigate the impact that metformin, an inexpensive and familiar drug, might have on ADPKD disease progression, in the hope that identification of effective and targeted therapies for ADPKD will slow kidney function decline, reduce morbidity and mortality, and improve the quality of life for affected Australian patients and families.

Successful candidates will join an established network of post-graduate and early career researchers, who are provided access to support in multidisciplinary research methods, and opportunities for knowledge exchange, networking and collaboration.

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

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

A working knowledge of Polycystic Kidney Disease would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of Medicine is highly desirable.

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

Dr Sandra Richardson

sandra.richardson@mater.uq.edu.au

Mobile DNA in the mammalian primordial germline

Approximately 2 weeks after a human embryo has implanted in the womb, germline specification occurs. In this process, a small population of primordial germ cells (PGCs) is set aside to form the germ lineage, ultimately giving rise to sperm and eggs. Thus, potentially before a woman is aware that she is pregnant, the embryo she is carrying contains the precursor cells destined to determine the genetic makeup of her grandchildren. This trans-generational link makes the genomic integrity of PGCs profoundly important.

Using mice as a model for mammalian development, our previous work has revealed that the genomes of early PGCs are mutagenised by the retrotransposon Long Interspersed Element 1 (LINE-1 or L1), a selfish genetic element or "jumping gene" that copies and pastes itself into new genomic locations. L1 activity in early PGCs leads to broad germline genetic mosaicism--the existence of genetically different cells within the same organism or tissue. L1 mutations arising in early PGCs are frequently transmitted to offspring, highlighting L1 mutagenesis as an ongoing source of new genetic diversity. However, the dynamics of L1 expression and retrotransposition in PGCs, how these activities are regulated, and the direct consequences of L1 dysregulation in PGCs remain incompletely understood.

The student leading this project will use in vitro assays to characterise L1 expression and retrotransposition during the cell fate transitions involved in PGC specification, identify cellular factors responsible for L1 regulation in this critical developmental niche, and take advantage of a well-characterised mouse model to elucidate the consequences of in vivo L1 dysregulation during PGC development.

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

A working knowledge of genetics, genomics, molecular biology techniques; microscopy, flow cytometry, mouse handling and dissection, mouse embryonic stem cell culture, CRISPR-mediated genome editing, short-read (Illumina) and long-read (Oxford Nanopore; PacBio) genome and RNA sequencing would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of mobile DNA biology, developmental biology and germline development is highly desirable.

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

Associate Professor Emma Hamilton-Williams

e.hamiltonwilliams@uq.edu.au

Islet-specific T cell responses in type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is the most common chronic disease of childhood. It is triggered by an immune dysregulation causing T cells to attack the insulin-producing islet b cells in the pancreas. This results in elevated blood-glucose and severe life-long complications. Our laboratory aims to develop a T cell targeted immunotherapy to prevent or treat T1D. For this goal to be successful, better tools are needed to detect and characterise islet-specific T cells in patient blood as a way to monitor responses to immunotherapy. An understanding is needed of how these T cell responses vary between different patient groups. This project aims to develop an approach to personalised immunomonitoring of islet specific T cells using state-of-the-art high-parameter immune profiling, single cell sequencing and clonotype analysis of islet-specific T cells in patient blood. This approach will later be used to characterise how these T cells respond to immunotherapy. The ideal candidate will have prior knowledge and academic achievement in the field of immunology. Practical experience in T cell biology, autoimmunity or sequencing analysis would be desirable. This project is aligned with a National Health and Medical Research Council funded grant and will be co-supervised by A/Prof Emma Hamilton-Williams, Prof Ranjeny Thomas and Dr Mark Harris. The supervisor team are highly experienced and provide broad expertise and experience in immunology, translational and clinical research.

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

A working knowledge of immunology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of T cell biology or autoimmunity is highly desirable.

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

Professor Gabrielle Belz

g.belz@uq.edu.au

Innate cells in protective immunity

Our work aims to understand how the immune system responds to (infections (including viruses, bacteria and parasites) and tumour cells. 

We are investigating how different types of immune cells develop, and what factors influences their decision to become one type of immune cell or another to mediate long term immune protection.

Understanding how the body deals with pathogens will give clues about how to enhance protective immunity. Our goal is to discover new therapies that boost our immune system to protect against infection.

We aim to:

  • Identify novel functions of innate lymphoid cells and NK cells in immune protection
  • Unravel the microbome-epithelial-immune interface protecting mucosal surfaces
  • Elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the generation of protective immunity in response to lung and gastrointestinal pathogens

Combining cellular, molecular biology, and high throughput technologies the candidate will investigate the role of novel transcription factors in governing innate cell fate using a number of approaches including flow cytometry, imaging and molecular approaches.

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

A working knowledge of immunology, bioinformatics, microbiology, pathogen infection and tumorogenesis would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

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

Dr Sarah Wallace

s.wallace3@uq.edu.au

MEASuRES: Driving quality improvement through Meaningful Evaluation of Aphasia SeRvicES

One scholarship is available for one of the following three topics:

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

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

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

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

3. Measuring what matters: Establishing clinically relevant benchmarks of change in post-stroke aphasia research and improving the ability to undertake economic evaluations.

Currently, our ability to demonstrate the effects of aphasia treatments is constrained by the outcomes selected to operationalise ‘treatment success’ and the tools used to measure them. Recent international collaborative efforts have produced a core outcome for aphasia treatment studies. There is now a need to harmonise these measures with those used more broadly in stroke research and to look beyond statistical significance to establish benchmarks of change that are meaningful to people with aphasia. This project has two main components:

  1. Clinically meaningful benchmarks of change. Minimal important Change (MIC) is the smallest measured change in score that is perceived as being relevant by the patients. MIC will be established for measures contained within the ROMA core outcome set (a minimum set of outcome measures for use in aphasia treatment studies). MIC will be established using anchor-based methods in a prospective, observational study.
  2. Improving economic evaluation methods. The EQ-5D is a patient-reported measure of health-related quality of life used in economic evaluations to calculate Quality of Life Years (a measure of disease burden). Although widely used in stroke interventions, the EQ-5D does not measure communication disability – a key predictor of health-related quality of life for people with aphasia. The SAQOL-39 (the measure of health related quality of life recommended by the ROMA core outcome set) will be mapped to the EQ-5D in order to facilitate its use in future economic evaluations of interventions which include people with aphasia.

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

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

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of psychology, speech pathology, health sciences, statistics, economics, or public health and the potential for scholastic success.

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

Emeritus Professor Jackob Najman

j.najman@uq.edu.au

Child and Adolescent Victimisation: Prevalence and predictors in Australia

This will be the first Australian study of the prevalence and the predictors of violence experienced by Australian children and adolescents. There is some evidence that a substantial minority of children experience violence in their early years. Depending on the successful candidate’s specific interests there is the opportunity to explore social and environmental factors (parental unemployment, neighbourhood characteristics) as well as intergenerational factors (e.g. parental poverty, domestic conflict, instability and violence) or child specific factors (victim of crime, maltreatment or violence) which may be associated with the victimisation of children using a large, multi-generational Australian data set. 

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

More details of this study and a list of publications are available at this link.

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

A working knowledge of community based quantitative research would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of social research/epidemiology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of public health is highly desirable.

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

Associate Professor Judith Greer

j.greer@uq.edu.au

A novel humanized mouse model for multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common chronic neurological disease affecting young adults in Australia. The standard animal model used in basic MS research is called the EAE model. EAE mimics some of the aspects of the disease process in humans (i.e. the mice experience an autoimmune attack on the myelin coating of their nerves and subsequently develop weakness and paralysis). Many drugs have been designed that can cure EAE; however, only a small number of them have shown any clinical benefits when they enter clinical trials for MS. Some of the drugs that prevent EAE have even been found to make MS worse. Therefore, there is an unmet need for improved pre-clinical animal models that can really help to facilitate the translation of basic research to the clinic.

The overarching goal of this project will be to validate a humanized mouse model as a novel translational tool for research in MS. Our lab has bred a unique human MHC class II-expressing strain of mice that does not have any immune system of its own, but which can grow a human immune system instead when stem cells found in the blood of humans are injected into newborn mice. These mice have the potential to be very useful in testing aspects of MS that cannot successfully be tested in standard animal models, and in the development of personalised-medicine approaches to treatment in the future. Specific project aims could include assessment of the pathogenicity of T cells and antibodies from MS patients, testing of a novel experimental drug that our lab has developed, investigating whether non-specific immune activation (e.g. following infection or vaccination) is sufficient to reveal dormant autoimmunity in the central nervous system, and testing the effects of gene mutations of small effect on a background of other risk genes.

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

A working knowledge of immunology, histology, and working with small laboratory animals would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

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

Associate Professor Coral Gartner

c.gartner@uq.edu.au

Centre of Research Excellence on Achieving the Tobacco Endgame - Examination of Policies to End Smoking in Australia

Our research centre has multiple topics available for projects related to our program of research on accelerating the decline in smoking in Australia. There are four scholarship opportunities related to this project, and the exact topic will be determined in consultation with the four selected applicants. You can read about our Research program here.

The types of research projects includes qualitative and quantitative research on stakeholder views on a range of possible policy options, policy analysis, epidemiological studies including simulation modelling studies, behaviour change interventions, product regulation and legal analysis.

CREATE’s ambitious goal is to determine the optimal mix of strategies that will help Australia become a smoke-free nation and produce a roadmap outlining how to implement these strategies while mitigating potential unintended impacts and increasing equity.

An additional top-up scholarship of $5,000 per annum may be available for exceptional applicants.

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

A working knowledge of tobacco control policy would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of public health, psychology, law, or a related field and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of health policy is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Professor Trent Woodruff

t.woodruff@uq.edu.au

Preclinical evaluation of complement receptor targeted drugs for neurological disease

There is now clear evidence that the innate immune complement system is associated with the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and motor neuron disease. What is less clear, is the role individual complement components and their receptors play in these diseases. Our laboratory has demonstrated that in contrast to other neuro-pathogenic complement factors such as C5a, the complement factor C3a exerts neuro-protective effects in the brain. We have developed several compounds that utilise this protective activity of C3a. This project will evaluate the preclinical properties of these compounds in pharmacological, pharmacokinietic, toxicological and analytical assays designed to identify lead candiates, and acccelerate progression towards clinical trials.

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

A working knowledge of pharmacology/drug development and neurological disease would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of drug development and neuroscience is highly desirable.

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

Dr Carlos Salomon Gallo

c.salomongallo@uq.edu.au

Role of tumour-derived exosomes in chemotherapy resistance in ovarian cancer

Chemoresistance is one of the major obstacles in the treatment of cancer patients.  It poses a fundamental challenge to the effectiveness of chemotherapy and is often linked to relapse in patients. Chemoresistant cells can be identified in different types of cancers, however, ovarian cancer has one of the highest rates of chemoresistance-related relapse (50% of patients within 5 years). Resistance in cells can either develop through prolonged cycles of treatment or through intrinsic pathways. Mechanistically, the problem of drug resistance is complex mainly because numerous factors are involved, such as overexpression of drug efflux pumps, drug inactivation, DNA repair mechanisms and alterations to and/or mutations in the drug target. Additionally, there is strong evidence that circulating miRNAs participate in the development of chemoresistance. The past decade has observed an extraordinary explosion of research in the field of EVs, especially in a specific type of EVs originating from endosomal compartments, called exosomes. Exosomes are a specific subtype of secreted vesicles that are defined as small (~30-120 nm) but very stable membrane vesicles that are released from a wide range of cells, including healthy and cancer cells. As the content of exosomes is cell type specific, we recently proposed that the exosomes are “fingerprints” of the releasing cells and their metabolic status. Exosomes released from cancer cells may modify the phenotype of target cells inducing cancerous phenotype, contributing to tumour growth and metastasis. Exosomes from ovarian carcinoma cells are present in the peripheral circulation. Condition-specific changes in the concentration of tumour-derived exosomes may be of clinical utility in the early identification of women with ovarian cancer.

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

A working knowledge of extracellular vesicles, protein analysis, cell culture, in vivo experiments and miRNA analysis would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of cell biology is highly desirable.

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

Dr Andrea Viecelli

a.viecelli@uq.edu.au

Incremental Haemodialysis Trial - INCH-HD

Most patients in the developed world with end-stage kidney disease commence dialysis on a thrice weekly haemodialysis (HD) prescription. There is some evidence this intensive dialysis approach may hasten loss of residual kidney function (RKF), with associated poorer patient outcomes, providing justification to consider starting less frequent, incremental HD (twice weekly) in suitable patients. Incremental dialysis may not only preserve RKF, but provide similar outcomes with a lower dialysis burden and thus be an attractive option for patients, with the additional benefit of cost savings.

INCH-HD is a prospective, multicentre, open label, randomised controlled trial in adults starting HD to determine the efficacy, safety and impacts on quality of life of incremental, twice weekly HD compared to conventional, thrice weekly HD.

Successful candidates will join an established network of post-graduate and early career researchers, who are provided access to support in multidisciplinary research methods, and opportunities for knowledge exchange, networking and collaboration.

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

A working knowledge of nephrology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

Preference is for the candidate to be co-located with the Australasian Kidney Trials Network in Brisbane, but consideration will be given to candidates requiring to be located off-site such as in other states.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

Associate Professor Edward Heffernan

e.heffernan@uq.edu.au

IMHIP-Youth: Developing, implementing, and evaluating a culturally valid model of social and emotional wellbeing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents who experience detention

Applications are welcomed from individuals interested in undertaking PhD research that will contribute to developing and/or evaluating meaningful and culturally valid services to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Queensland who experience detention.

Applicants from a broad range of backgrounds are invited to apply, with applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders particularly welcomed.

Applicants are invited to submit a research proposal that will contribute to a Medical Research Future Fund Indigenous Health Research funded project that aims to develop, implement and evaluate a culturally valid model of social and emotional wellbeing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents who experience detention.

Topics of study could include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing, examining and evaluating approaches to culturally valid co-design
  • Advancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programme evaluation
  • Developing the evidence base for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models of social and emotional wellbeing care
  • Developing and undertaking culturally and age appropriate approaches to collecting and representing young people’s stories
  • Analysis of routinely collected (linked data) about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people

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

A working knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait social and emotional wellbeing paradigms and models and/or qualitative or quantitative research methodologies would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of social science, public health, community development or related discipline and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of working with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples, or experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health or community development sectors is highly desirable.

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

Dr Sandra Richardson

sandra.richardson@mater.uq.edu.au

Jumping Genes in Mammalian Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Samantha Stehbens

s.stehbens@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Yaqoot Fatima

fatima.yaqoot@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Genevieve Healy

g.healy@sph.uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Roslyn Boyd

r.boyd@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Dr John Kemp

j.kemp2@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Abu Sina

a.sina@uq.edu.au

A potential pan-cancer diagnostic utilizing DNA methylation landscapes

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Luregn Schlapbach

l.schlapbach@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Karen Weynberg

k.weynberg@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Glen Lichtwark

g.lichtwark@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

Dr Adam Ewing

adam.ewing@mater.uq.edu.au

Applying long-read sequencing technologies to cancer genomes

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

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

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

Dr Laura Fenlon

l.fenlon@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Luke Connelly

l.connelly@uq.edu.au

The Economics of Child, Adolescent, or Youth Health

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

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

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

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

Dr Paul Gardiner

p.gardiner@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Fisher Wang

x.wang18@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Jean-Pierre Levesque

jp.levesque@mater.uq.edu.au

Understanding the mechanisms of neurogenic heterotopic ossification following spinal cord injuries

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Bartholomaeus

a.bartholomaeus@uq.edu.au

Mechanistic and comparative toxicity of commercial essential oils

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

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

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

Dr Run Zhang

r.zhang@uq.edu.au

Monitoring inflammation through quantitation of redox-mediated macrophage polarisation

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Jian Zeng

j.zeng@uq.edu.au

Statistical methods for risk prediction of common diseases

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

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

Statistical genetics with an interest in computer programming

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

Professor Gita Mishra

Please contact Reshika Chand to discuss this project:

r.chand@uq.edu.au

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

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

The successful applicants will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Public Health, Biostatistics, Life Course Epidemiology

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

Domestic applicants only