Available Category 1 PhD projects - Health

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Chief Investigator Project title Project description Preferred educational background

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.

Professor Irina Vetter

i.vetter@imb.uq.edu.au

Bivalent analgesics: rational design of selective ion channel inhibitors with optimised mechanism of action

The project aims to develop disulfide rich peptides with a two-domain architecture. The candidate will design, produce and characterise novel bivalent peptides with the aim of generating analgesic drug leads.

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 biochemistry and bioinformatics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of biochemistry and/or bioinformatics and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of multidomain peptides 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 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 Nathan Palpant

n.palpant@uq.edu.au

Engineering stem cells with customised functions

Evolutionary pressures have enabled cells to differentiate into diverse tissues required for specific functions. Cell functions are highly adaptable, with genetic changes enabling cells and organs to function even in severe environments like high altitude. Learning how to control cell decisions and functions will enable the creation of cells and tissues with customised biology. However, this requires an understanding of how cell decisions and functions are determined. While powerful new technologies in cell biology and genomics are revealing in depth insights into the inner workings of cells, translating descriptive data into mechanistic knowledge of cell biology remains an enormous challenge. My research program aims to deconstruct how the genome controls cells, with the goal of harnessing control over cell differentiation pathways and functions. The long-term vision is to design pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) not seen in evolutionary or anatomical contexts that not only function in a biological niche (like regenerating the heart) but also deliver a customised therapeutic value that address major medical and biotechnological needs.

This PhD project will integrate with my broader program of work to systematically distil complex genomic data from cells and organisms to enable discovery into the mechanisms controlling cell decisions and functions. The outcomes can be applied across diverse fields of biology including evolutionary biology, developmental biology, synthetic cell biology, and the future of custom engineered cell therapeutics. This work establishes a foundation for predicting and controlling cell state and behaviour, defining rules underlying repurposing of regulatory genes, and enabling custom design of cell functions not yet seen in the natural world.

The project is designed to identify the decision-making DNA elements of cells, perturb how the genome receives information (e.g. signalling pathways and epigenetic features) to understand how decision-making factors are controlled, and engineer cell decisions by manipulating elements of the genome that control specific pathways or functions. The PhD student will be incorporated into my research group that comprises a discovery pipeline integrating wet and dry lab methods linking genome regulation with cell function using cutting edge bioinformatics, cell biology, and gene editing techniques.

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 stem cells and genomics would be of benefit to candidates working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of cardiovascular disease, genomics and stem cell biology 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.

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.

Professor Andreas Obermair

a.obermair@uq.edu.au

Endometrial cancer treatments – patient information needs and support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Sandra Richardson

sandra.richardson@mater.uq.edu.au

Jumping Genes in Mammalian Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Samantha Stehbens

s.stehbens@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Yaqoot Fatima

fatima.yaqoot@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Genevieve Healy

g.healy@sph.uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Sandie McCarthy

s.mccarthy@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

A background or knowledge of cancer care is highly desirable.

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

Professor Jakob Najman

j.najman@uq.edu.au

Prevalence and predictors of victimisation of Australian children

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

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

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

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

Professor Roslyn Boyd

r.boyd@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Di Yu

di.yu@uq.edu.au

Differentiation and function of novel cytotoxic T-cell subsets

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

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

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

Professor Ruth Hubbard

r.hubbard1@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Dr John Kemp

j.kemp2@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Abu Sina

a.sina@uq.edu.au

A potential pan-cancer diagnostic utilizing DNA methylation landscapes

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

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

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

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

Professor David Paterson

d.paterson1@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Shyuan Ngo

s.ngo@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Helen Cooper

h.cooper@uq.edu.au

Identifying a molecular signalling network governing synapse formation

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

PhD Project

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

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

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

Associate Professor Luregn Schlapbach

l.schlapbach@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Ethan Scott

ethan.scott@uq.edu.au

Brain-wide sensory processing in zebrafish

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

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

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

Dr Henry Marshall

h.marshall@uq.edu.au

Lung cancer Screening (The International Lung Screening Trial)

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

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

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

Dr Karen Weynberg

k.weynberg@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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 Henry Marshall

h.marshall@uq.edu.au

Artifical Intelligence chat bot for smoking cessation

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Adam Ewing

adam.ewing@mater.uq.edu.au

Applying long-read sequencing technologies to cancer genomes

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

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

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

Professor Glenn King

uqgking3@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Peter Noakes

p.noakes@uq.edu.au

Understanding neuromuscular synaptic loss in Motor Neuron Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Emanuele Pelosi

e.pelosi@imb.uq.edu.au

Genetic and environmental causes of uterine malformations

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Laura Fenlon

l.fenlon@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Luke Connelly

l.connelly@uq.edu.au

The Economics of Child, Adolescent, or Youth Health

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

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

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

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

Dr Paul Gardiner

p.gardiner@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Linda Richards

richards@uq.edu.au

Control of cellular differentiation in the developing brain

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

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

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

Associate Professor Mark Smythe

m.smythe@imb.uq.edu.au

Towards the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Shyuan Ngo

s.ngo@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Fisher Wang

x.wang18@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Melissa Reichelt

m.reichelt@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Jean-Pierre Levesque

jp.levesque@mater.uq.edu.au

Understanding the mechanisms of neurogenic heterotopic ossification following spinal cord injuries

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Loic Yengo

l.yengo@imb.uq.edu.au

Genetic and Molecular consequences of non-random mating in humans

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

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

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

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

Dr Sumaira Hasnain

sumaira.hasnain@mater.uq.edu.au

Cellular and Behavioural Effects of Stress on Chronic Inflammatory Diseases

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

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

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

Dr Yvonne Eiby

y.eiby@uq.edu.au

Effective cardiovascular support for very preterm neonates

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

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

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

Andrew Bartholomaeus

a.bartholomaeus@uq.edu.au

Mechanistic and comparative toxicity of commercial essential oils

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

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

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

Dr Run Zhang

r.zhang@uq.edu.au

Monitoring inflammation through quantitation of redox-mediated macrophage polarisation

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Jian Zeng

j.zeng@uq.edu.au

Statistical methods for risk prediction of common diseases

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

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

Statistical genetics with an interest in computer programming

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

Professor Gita Mishra

Please contact Reshika Chand to discuss this project:

r.chand@uq.edu.au

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

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

The successful applicants will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Public Health, Biostatistics, Life Course Epidemiology

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

Domestic applicants only

Dr Sarah Wallace

s.wallace3@uq.edu.au

MEASuRES: Driving quality improvement through Meaningful Evaluation of Aphasia SeRvicES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Irina Vetter

i.vetter@uq.edu.au

The role of ion channels in pain pathways

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


Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Pharmacology
Biomedical Science
Pharmacy
Medicine

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

Associate Professor Brett Collins

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

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

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

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

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

Associate Professor Brett Collins

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

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

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

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

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

Dr Daniel Watterson

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Daniel Watterson

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Rachel Stephenson

r.stephenson@uq.edu.au

Developing an effective vaccine against Group A Streptococcus

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


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

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

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

 

Dr Barbara Rolfe

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

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

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

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

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

Associate Professor Nick West

n.west@uq.edu.au

Blocking TB Latency: The Key to Reducing Therapy Duration

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

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

BSc Hons
BSc MSc
BBioMed

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

Professor Paul Alewood

Dr Markus Muttenthaler

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

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

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Medicinal Chemistry
Peptide Chemistry
Chemical Biology
Pharmacology
Oncology

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

Associate Professor Dominic Ng

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

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

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

Students will enrol through the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Honours First Class or Masters by Research. 

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

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

Professor Kwun Fong

Please contact Annette Dent

annette.dent@health.qld.gov.au

Volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath to diagnose lung disease

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

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

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

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

Professor Glenn King

glenn.king@imb.uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Paul Alewood

Dr Christina Schroeder

Dr Markus Muttenthaler

m.muttenthaler@imb.uq.edu.au

Venom peptide drug discovery

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

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

Chemistry
Chemical Biology
Bioinformatics
Pharmacology
 

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

Professor Istvan Toth

i.toth@uq.edu.au

Development of new peptide based delivery system for GAS vaccine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka

n.dissanayaka@uq.edu.au

Anxiety in persons with dementia

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

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

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

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

Professor Istvan Toth

i.toth@uq.edu.au

Development of new adjuvants and vaccine delivery systems

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

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

Biological / medicinal chemistry

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

Professor John Fraser

Contact Dr Jacky Suen

j.suen1@uq.edu.au

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

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

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Biomedical science, physiology, molecular biology.

Professor Grant Montgomery

g.montgomery1@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

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

Dr Felicity Davis

f.davis@uq.edu.au

Identifying and exploiting novel pharmacological targets for breast cancer treatment

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

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Pharmacology, signal transduction, physiology, stem cells

Professor Zhi Ping Xu

gordonxu@uq.edu.au

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

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

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

Engineering, Health

Professor David Evans

d.evans1@uq.edu.au

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

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

The successful applicant will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Epidemiology, Statistics, Genetics, Psychology

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

Professor Jenny Stow

j.stow@imb.uq.edu.au

Big data image analysis and advanced cell imaging

Two related projects:

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

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

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