Available Category 1 PhD projects - Science, agriculture, environment & agribusiness

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Chief Investigator

Project title

Project description

Preferred educational background

Associate Professor Daniel Ortiz-Barrientos

d.ortizbarrientos@uq.edu.au

The evolution of reproductive isolation during polygenic adaptation

This project seeks to understand mathematically, and via computational experiments, the genetic connexion between polygenic evolution and speciation. Theory on how genetic correlations between adaptation and speciation arise are largely lacking, particularly when considering reproductive barriers such as hybrid sterility and inviability. As a student, you will have ample room for exploring this connexion and will have access to empirical data discovering the mechanisms underlying this genetic correlation.  In this project, you will also explore how systems biology can inform the origins of hybrid sterility and inviability and its relation to adaptive traits modulated by complex genetic networks.

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 population genetics, quantitative genetics, linear algebra and using high performing computing would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of R and Python programming is highly desirable.

*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 Daniel Rodriguez

d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au

Optimising sorghum yield through agronomic management

In the Northern Grains Region, managing heat and moisture stress at critical growth stages remains the highest research priority for increasing yields and reducing the likelihood of un-economical crops. The main adaptation strategy for farmers to manage these stresses is to avoid the overlap between heat stress events and flowering. This can be achieved by targeting optimum flowering windows and selecting more than one hybrid to hopefully spread the risk of all of their crops flowering in the same window. Initial results from previous project show that to fit the flowering of sorghum around low risk windows for heat and water stresses, farmers could sow the crop into soil moisture, at soil temperatures lower than the recommended 16°C. Under these conditions, farmers would need to achieve rapid and uniform establishments, and balance the decision on the likely benefits of reduced stresses around flowering, with the higher risk of early frost damage and greater establishment losses. The overall aim of this project is to develop the knowledge and tools to inform early sowing decisions across eastern Australia.

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 agronomy and crop physiology climate risk management in broad acre cropping predictive modelling of crops climate prediction would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of statistics, crop physiology and computer programming 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.

Dr Jean Giacomotto

j.giacomotto@uq.edu.au

and

Professor Bryan Mowry

b.mowry@uq.edu.au

Investigating the neuronal and developmental role of brain-disorder associated genes using the fast-developing zebrafish brain

The project will aim to use the zebrafish animal model to unveil both the normal and pathologic role of genes recently associated with human brain disorders such as schizophrenia. The applicant will have the opportunity to use state-of-the-art genetic and microscopy technology.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute.

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, human biology and/or genetics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

*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 Hamish McGowan

h.mcgowan@uq.edu.au

Unlocking the archives of the Kimberley’s past

The successful candidate will be working under the supervision of Prof. Hamish McGowan, Prof Patrick Moss and Prof Simon Haberle. They will join a multidisciplinary team of scientists from Australia’s leading research intensive universities (Australian National University, The University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, The University of Melbourne, and Wollongong University) who aim to reconstruct the environmental history of the Kimberley region of northwest Australia.

The project will involve participation in the collection of sediment cores from sites in the Kimberley. You will then have responsibility for developing paleo-environmental histories from the cores using a range of proxy. This new knowledge will shed light on the weather and climate experienced by Australia’s earliest inhabitants and the possible impact on the thousands of rock art panels they painted.

The candidate will enrol through the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES). The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) is part of the Faculty of Science at the University of Queensland and is located on the St Lucia campus (Brisbane, Australia) of the University. SEES is a vibrant, multidisciplinary School with extensive teaching and research programs covering the fields of Geology, Geography, Environmental Management, Occupational Health and Safety Sciences and Planning. The successful applicant will reside in the Atmospheric Observations Research Group.

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 geography, geology, and environmental science, with experience in the anlysis of paleo-environmental archives including pollens contained within them, would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of computational programming experience with Matlab, Python, R, or equivalent 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 Daniel Rodriguez

d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au

Optimising sorghum yield through agronomic management

The overall aim of this project is to answer How do combinations of hybrid and crop managements positively modify stress environments and yield distributions in early sown sorghum; and how the practice positively influences the cropping system, increases farm profits and reduces risks?

Across Australia’s Northern Grains Region, managing heat stress and dry spells around critical growth stages remain critical to increase farmers yields and reduce the likelihood of un-economical sorghum crops. For the case of heat stress at flowering, the main adaptation strategy farmers have to reduce yield losses, is to avoid the overlap between heat stress events and flowering, by targeting optimum flowering windows. Initial results show that to fit the flowering of sorghum around low risk windows for heat and water stresses, the crop would need to be sown into soil moisture, at soil temperatures lower than the recommended 16°C. Under these conditions, farmers need to achieve rapid and uniform crop establishments, and balance the decision on the likely benefits of reduced stresses around flowering, with the higher risk of early frost damage.

Topics that this PhD project could address include: crop establishment in cold soils; the crop sensitivity to early frost damage; how early sowing changes the frequency of stress environments around flowering, and how these changes impact yields; cropping systems benefits i.e. early crops offer the opportunity of sowing a winter crop after a short summer fallow; the existing genetic diversity and the role of different physiological traits in relation to early planting and stresses also require specific researching.

The successful student will enrol through Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation.

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 agriculture, crop physiology, cropping systems and stress physiology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

*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. 

Dr William Woodgate

w.woodgate@uq.edu.au

Leaf to landscape: Near-instant vegetation growth and productivity rates.

This broad topic could take you in many directions based on your specific interests. From leaf-level physiological and spectral measurements, to detailed 3D canopy reconstructions from laser scanning data, through to simulation models to scale the leaf signal to above-canopy sensor platforms. This research topic will involve field site visits across Australia and then recreating these sites in a computer vision environment. It will lead to a more direct link between satellite earth observation and plant productivity and health monitoring. 

This PhD is part of a collaborative project with domestic and international partners including CSIRO, The University of Western Sydney, the University of Tasmania, University of New England, CalTech, the University of Valencia, Ghent University and Oxford University. 

You will be part of the Remote Sensing Research Centre at the University of Queensland in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and have access to its resources and staff support.

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 scientific programming (e.g. python), image processing, and field work experience would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of biophysical remote sensing or plant physiology and the potential for scholastic success.

*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 Matt Trau

m.trau@uq.edu.au

Single molecule sensing on nanopillars: A platform technology for reading complex molecular circuits in a single cell

Single molecule detection has opened an entirely new direction in life science research. The interaction between biomolecular components within a cell are complex and dynamic, with bulk analytical methods only able to provide averaging information, typically from multi-cellular samples. Single molecule, single cell platforms can overcome this limitation and provide deeper understanding about the dynamic behaviour of individual cells. Moreover, single molecule detection provides the required sensitivity needed to unravel complex and highly dynamic molecular circuits, along with the ability to visualise cellular heterogeneity.

This PhD project aims to develop an entirely new platform technology to visualise these complex and dynamic molecular circuits (e.g. signalling pathways) in real time, and within any biological sample, from single cell extracts to enable a new generation of single molecule sensitive platform.

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 biotechnology with interest in nanotechnology and microfluidics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of molecular biology 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 Reuben Rideaux

r.rideaux@uq.edu.au

Behavioural and neural investigations of human sensory and cognitive processes

Virtually all aspects of human behaviour are underpinned by brain processes that decode sensory input from the environment, compute information in support of learning, memory and higher cognitive processes, and control actions that enable adaptive responses. The overarching goal of this project is to characterise some of the perceptual and cognitive processes that support adaptive human behaviour, and to determine the role of specific brain areas and networks in these processes.

Despite the enormous strides that have been made in understanding human sensory and cognitive processes over the last 20 years, there are still many fundamental gaps in our understanding of how the brain regulates these processes. We now have the capacity to image the living brain using methods such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as people undertake various perceptual and cognitive. This project will use these different techniques, alone and in combination, to better understand the neural processes that underpin perception and cognition.

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 human behavioural testing, statistical analysis, and/or computer programming would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of experimental psychology, sensory or cognitive neuroscience and/or computer science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of human behavioural testing (experimental psychology), neuroimaging, data analysis, and /or programming proficiency in MATLAB/Python is highly desirable.

*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 Alex Wu

c.wu1@uq.edu.au

Advancing crop growth simulation capabilities for optimising crop grain yield

The project aims to advance a leading plant/crop growth simulation model to allow testing and redesigning of key plant physiological traits for crop resources capture and growth, and their dynamics throughout the crop life cycle with environmental interactions. Initial focus will be on traits such as leaf photosynthesis and stomatal conductance, which affect crop water use; leaf development, area expansion, and leaf angle, which affect within-canopy light distribution and photosynthetic processes. The project will deepen physiological understanding on how cereal crop species have adapted to different environments by studying crop species and genetically modified materials, develop algorithms to capture the new knowledge in the simulation model, and exercise the model to explore untapped adaptation avenues for higher yields in water limited environments.

The candidate will work closely with the chief investigator and a team of leading crop physiologists, modellers, and plant biotechnologists on conducting glasshouse experiments, developing new tools to generate genetically modified materials for analysis, and advancing the plant/crop growth simulation model. This experiment-modelling strategy will establish a new method for optimising crop designs, which will serve to guide plant breeding and bioengineering strategies.

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 plant physiological analysis would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of plant physiology, crop modelling and plant biotechnology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of photosynthesis, crop physiology, mathematical modelling, and/or plant gene manipulation experience 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 Samuel Robinson

sam.robinson@uq.edu.au

Identification and characterisation of new pain-causing toxins from animal venoms

Almost all venomous animals use their venoms for defensive purposes—many solely. Defensive stings or bites, such as those of ants, wasps, scorpions and spiders, are often associated with intense pain caused by toxins that directly target sensory neurons, hijacking or overstimulating neuronal transmission. These pain-causing toxins have the potential to be used as tools to study the nervous system and uncover new pain signalling components (i.e. ion channels and/or receptors). The focus of this project will be the discovery and characterisation of pain-causing toxins from ant venoms.

The aims of this project will be:

  1. Discovery of novel pain-causing toxins
  2. Determine the mode of action of pain-causing toxins
  3. Use newly identified pain-causing toxins to investigate mammalian pain pathways

Techniques learned/applied may include (but are not limited to) venom collection, fractionation and purification; transcriptomics, proteomics and mass spectrometry; peptide synthesis; ion channel electrophysiology, microscopy, and in vivo pain models.

The identification and characterisation of new pain-causing toxins from venoms will provide new knowledge about methods of chemical defence used by venomous animals and has the potential to elucidate new components of human pain signalling. A better understanding of our pain physiology may ultimately lead to the development of new or improved pain treatments.

The project will be completed at the UQ Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) under the supervision of Dr. Sam Robinson, Dr. Jennifer Deuis, and Prof. Irina Vetter. UQ has a strong, internationally-focused research culture, and it is consistently ranked in the top 1% of world universities. The IMB is a leading research institute in the Asia-Pacific region and is internationally renowned for excellence in venom research (with experts in all aspects of venom biology including venom-peptide pharmacology, chemistry, structural biology, and venoms-based drug discovery) and pain research (it is home to the IMB Centre for Pain 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 basic pharmacology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology and/or biomedical science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of basic pharmacology 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 Neena Mitter

arcbioclayhub@uq.edu.au

A new horizon for crop protection: dsRNA-based biopesticides to target fungal pathogens

This project is part of the ARC Research Hub for Sustainable Crop Protection, a large multi-institute research program encompassing members of state Departments of Agriculture, University of Queensland, University of Adelaide, La Trobe University, University of Tasmania, Curtin University and various industries including NuFarm. The candidate will be an active member of the Hub and will be provided opportunities for research networking, relationship building and career development through academia and/or industry. Our team is focused specifically on using new BioClayTM particles to deliver interfering RNA molecules to disrupt invasion of a key fungal diseases affecting Australian and International Crops.

RNA interference, or gene silencing, offers a significant opportunity to improve fungal disease resistance in plants. The main aim of this project is to assess the efficacy of Bioclay-delivered dsRNA for sustained protection against fungal pathogens. The project will include controlled environment bioassays and molecular investigations on the uptake and responses of selected crops and fungal isolates to the Bioclay-delivered RNAi molecules.

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 and plant pathology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of plant pathology and RNAi 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.

Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich

m.blaskovich@imb.uq.edu.au

Antibiotic Conjugates: Joining Together to Fight Antimicrobial Resistance

With a near-empty antibiotic pipeline and growing antimicrobial resistance, there is a global search for novel approaches to treat infections. This project will investigate three innovative new approaches to address this urgent unmet need, all based on a core concept where existing antibiotics are functionalised so they have a chemical handle that can be used to attach other moieties. It builds on an advanced platform of bespoke derivatised antibiotics that we have developed over the past five years.

AIM 1. Antibiotic-antibiotic hybrids: Combine the power of two classes of antibiotics.  Combination therapy, where two or more distinct drugs are co-administered, is routinely used to overcome resistance in diseases such as cancer and viral infections, but rarely used for bacterial infections. We will systematically link pairs of different antibiotics and compare these dual-acting covalent antibiotic-antibiotic hybrids against the matching non-linked combination to assess synergistic efficacy against resistant bacteria.

AIM 2. Antibiotic-adjuvant hybrids: Supplement antibiotic activity with other mechanisms.  Antibiotics will be coupled with moieties that increase or supplement the parent antibiotic efficacy, creating antibiotic-conjugated adjuvants. Siderophores can increase antibiotic cellular penetration. Biofilm disrupting agents can improve the efficacy of antibiotics that struggle to penetrate and kill biofilms associated with resistance. Antivirulence factors target pathogen excretions that promote adhesion, invasion and colonisation.

AIM 3. Immune activation: Leverage the immune system to help fight infections.  This aim will explore how we can activate the immune system to more effectively eliminate infections, by using antibiotics as markers that label bacteria for destruction by triggering an antibody-based immune response. Based on the Antibody Recruiting Molecule approach that has been developed for other diseases, we will functionalise surface-binding antibiotics by linking them to small molecules capable of eliciting an antibody response and bacterial killing by human phagocytes.

All three aims will rely on our expertise in antibiotic development to advance promising candidates through a validated progression of assays that assess both antimicrobial activity and drug-like properties, culminating in testing for in vivo efficacy, toxicity and pharmacokinetics.

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 synthetic organic chemistry would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of synthetic or medicinal chemistry and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of small molecule and peptide synthesis 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 Fabio Cortesi

f.cortesi@uq.edu.au

Reef fish vision in a changing world

Teleost fishes have more colour perception channels than any other vertebrate on the planet. However, the reason for this diversity remains poorly understood. This project will help elucidate why fishes have such diverse colour vision by studying representatives from the most vibrant ecosystem on earth, the Great Barrier Reef.   Reef fishes inherently experience large changes in their light environment as conditions fluctuate with depth, season, and increasingly also due to human-induced sediment suspension and/or algal blooms. As a consequence, some reef fishes seem able to adjust their visual system (phenotypic plasticity) to accommodate such changes in light environment. However, we currently do not understand how common visual system plasticity is, how it affects reef fish behaviour and whether this can mitigate the impacts of environmental change.  As part of your PhD project, you will investigate phenotypic plasticity of the visual system in marine fishes, such as surgeonfishes and anemonefishes. You will be exposed and learn a variety of techniques from behavioural experiments in the field and lab, over physiological and morphological analyses, to the molecular assessment of vision on the genomic, tanscriptomic and epi-genomic levels.

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, animal physiology and/or animal behaviour would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Professor Yongping Wei

yongping.wei@uq.edu.au

Understanding the historical institutional regulations for future water resources management in Australia

Water resources have been central to Australia’s economic and social history, however, have suffered multiple environmental and socio-economic crises. This project will develop an understanding of the historical dynamics of the institutional regulations on water resources using a combination of computer-based text mining and manual content analysis. It will identify impropriate government regulations which led to over allocation for the economic development in history and support institutional reform for future water resources management. This project will also provide a distinctive reference point for understanding differences between from presettlement and contemporary Australian water resources management.

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 natural resources management would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of water governance, natural resource management, environmental sociology, environmental management and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of water governance 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 Peter Kopittke

p.kopittke@uq.edu.au

Building soil organic carbon to build soil fertility and mitigate climate change

The use of land for food production causes a profound decrease in soil organic carbon stocks with the concomitant release of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. This project aims to determine how this decrease in soil carbon stocks can be reversed in order to help mitigate climate change. This project will utilise novel approaches to understand the factors that influence the stability of organic carbon in soils with this enabling the development of land management practices to help build soil fertility and sequester organic carbon.

The successful candidate will collaborate closely with several postdoctoral positions. These other positions include one that is seeking to develop X-ray tomography for analyses of root distribution in large soil cores as well as a position that is seeking to develop synchrotron-based approaches for imaging nutrient distribution in soils.

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 agriculture or environmental science would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of soil science and a clear understanding of soil organic carbon 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.

Dr Thomas Durek

t.durek@imb.uq.edu.au

Development of a new class of ligase enzymes for protein engineering and drug development

We have recently identified an enzyme-family that can efficiently catalyse cyclisation and ligation of a range of structurally and functionally diverse peptides and proteins. The favourable kinetics and short sequence requirements of these enzymes make them ideal candidates for development as a universal tool for efficient peptide and protein engineering, including production of peptide macrocycles or precision engineering of large protein conjugates of therapeutic value, such as antibody drug candidates or immunotoxins.

The project aims to further optimize these enzyme for biotechnological applications. Techniques employed will include molecular evolution, protein expression and purification, protein engineering and Xray crystallography. The enzymes will be used to create unique protein constructs of potential therapeutic value such as immunotoxins. Techniques used in this part will include protein chemistry and purification, mass spectrometry, cell culture, cell biology and microscopy and biochemical assay development.

This highly-multidisciplinary and collaborative PhD project will be well integrated into ongoing research at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science .

Further reading:

  1. Harris, K. S, et al. Efficient backbone cyclization of linear peptides by a recombinant asparaginyl endopeptidase. Nat. Commun. 2015, 6, 10199.
  2. Rehm, F. B. H.; et al. Site-Specific Sequential Protein Labeling Catalyzed by a Single Recombinant Ligase. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 17388-17393.
  3. Du, J. Q.; et al. A bifunctional asparaginyl endopeptidase efficiently catalyzes both cleavage and cyclization of cyclic trypsin inhibitors. Nat. Commun. 2020, 11, 1575.
  4. Rehm, F. B. H.; et al. Improved Asparaginyl-Ligase-Catalyzed Transpeptidation via Selective Nucleophile Quenching. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 60, 4004-4008

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 and protein expression and purification would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of protein engineering 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 James De Voss

j.devoss@uq.edu.au

Synthesis of inhibitors of mycobacterial cytochrome P450s

This project will undertake the synthesis of a range of complex steroid derivates as inhibitors of a family of cytochrome P450s. These particular enzymes catalyse the first key step of the cholesterol degradation pathway in some bacteria. Understanding the bioinorganic and bioorganic chemistry and the inhibition of these enzymes is crucial to the development of new chemicals to prevent infection of humans or crops. Several of the bacteria targeted are potent human pathogens that cause for example, the global pandemic tuberculosis and Buruli ulcer, a serious skin disease on the rise in Australia. Due to the critical role of cholesterol in bacterial growth and the potential for inhibition using analogs of this steroid, the increased understanding of the cholesterol degradation pathway revealed by this project may have far reaching consequences for medical and biotechnology researchers and companies developing applications in the future. 

Key to the project will be the ability to take readily available steroidal precursors and synthetically modify them to produce a range of derivatives to test as both substrates and inhibitors of these P450 enzymes.

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 organic synthesis, spectroscopic and spectrometric characterisation of organic compounds would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of organic synthesis 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 Bruce Topp

b.topp@uq.edu.au

Study of the breeding of self-fertile macadamia cultivars

QAAFI leads the Australian macadamia breeding program which is developing new cultivars for the national $250million industry.  Australia is the world’s second largest producer of macadamia, with cultivation of 17,000 ha in Queensland and New South Wales.  We are selecting for the industry defined target traits of yield, tree size, nut quality, rootstocks and pest resistance using modern quantitative genetic analysis and incorporating genomic technologies. Our vision is to have Australian-bred cultivars as the nut of choice.

Macadamia is predominantly a self-incompatible nut crop and this creates complications in commercial orchards with a requirement of cross-compatible cultivars and insect-pollinators. Some level of self-fertility has been identified in macadamia. Incorporation of self-fertility in elite cultivars may reduce production costs and assist in sustainable orchard production. The extent of this variability in our existing germplasm and the mechanism of self-compatibility is unclear. In addition, current trait-phenotyping is time consuming and costly. Exploiting genetic and molecular technologies may assist us in rapid selection of elite self-fertile cultivars.

In this project, the RHD scholar will observe the variability in the degree of self-fertility in breeding progeny, elite selections, cultivars and wild germplasm maintained by QAAFI’s National Macadamia Breeding and Evaluation Program. Inheritance of the self-fertility trait and genetic correlation with other traits will be evaluated. Experiments will be conducted to elucidate the mechanisms of self-compatibility and genome-wide assocaiton studies will be conducted to identify markers associated with the trait. 

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 plant reproductive biology, plant breeding, quantitative and molecular genetics, statistics and data analysis would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of plant reproductive 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.

Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun

mamun@sph.uq.edu.au

Environmental exposures in pregnancy and birth outcomes in Queensland: A study for better policy and health outcomes

Water disinfection by chlorination is one of the most effective measures to safeguard public health. However, emerging global evidence on disinfection by-products, mainly Trihalomethanes (THMs), associated adverse birth outcomes, demands evidence-based policies and practices for supplying safe water. The overarching aim of this project is to investigate the nature and extent of the association between THMs and adverse birth outcomes including low birth weight, small-for-gestational age, preterm births and peri-viable births by linking the Queensland Health water data and Queensland Perinatal Data Collection (QPDC) data; and explore whether the association between THMs levels and birth outcomes is robust to adjustment for potential confounders. This PhD will build on work undertaken through on-going collaborations with partners. Findings of this project will be a major contributor to the advocacy for revising the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for THMs.

We are seeking who has excellent academic record and a particular interest and commitment in conducting high quality research in health and wellbeing.

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

A background or knowledge of the environmental health/public health is highly desirable. Domestic and international candidate (onshore) are eligible to apply.

*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 Mark Morrison

m.morrison1@uq.edu.au

Biodiversity and host-specificity of gut methanogenic Archaea

This PhD project aims to provide a deep functional understanding of recently discovered microbes from the Domain Archaea that inhabit the digestive tracts of native Australian herbivores, humans, and other animals. In consultation with the supervisory team, the successful applicant will develop a research plan that brings novel Archaeal taxa to life via metagenomics. The person will also use our globally unique collection of bioresources and innovations in molecular microbiology research, to help define the roles of Archaea in the low methane carbon economy of native Australian herbivores. Very little is known about the microbes that co-evolved with these animals to support their nutrition and health. As such, this project will help address the knowledge gaps and support the development of new strategies relevant to the health, population dispersal, and conservation of these iconic animal species. The knowledge gains from this project are also expected to provide new opportunities relevant to agriculture and medicine. As such, the project's national benefits are both timely and broad, and should be of interest to applicants with interests in natural sciences, medicine, or agriculture.

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 microbiology including cultivation methods, molecular biology, (meta)genomics, and/or bioinformatics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of microbial physiology, metabolism, statistics, or computational biology 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 Rohan Teasdale

r.teasdale@uq.edu.au

Characterisation of the machinery for the formation of endosome-transport carriers

This project aims to investigate the cellular components which generate carriers that transport material between compartments within the cell. The process of sorting proteins and sending them to the right place is a fundamental mechanism critical to understand how individual proteins function as the move around within cells. The generated knowledge about how cells organise themselves through the movement of proteins between endosomal intracellular compartments will provide significant benefits by enhancing our capacity to understand this conserved cellular pathway which ensures the integrity of all cellular processes including signalling, communication, homeostasis and development.

This PhD project will be focused on determining the endosome trafficking machinery essential for the formation of endosome-transport carriers. This will require the development of a panel of CrispR mediated knock-out cell line models that will be used to determine which endosome associated protein trafficking machinery are directly responsible for the formation of sub-types of ETCs.

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 mammalian cell culture and microscopy would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of endosome associated biology 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 Ernst Wolvetang

e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au

Safer gene editing tools in human stem cell models

Current CRISPR-Cas9 assisted genome editing tools are powerful, but suffer from unwanted on- and off-target mutagenesis. We have developed a novel genome editing platform (termed CAST) that virtually eliminates mutagenesis, yet has comparable efficiency to normal Cas9. In this project we wish to assess the ability of this tool to genetically modify various human stem cells and investigate the role of local epigenome modulation in this process. The overarching goal of this project is to enable safe and efficient genome modification in cell types that will ultimately be used for regenerative medicine approaches and thus has great commercial and health implications. Specific project aims could be understanding and leveraging the modular nature of our system to modify specific gene loci and optimisation of the cellular specificity and efficacy. Others may be more specific genetic disease associated applications.

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

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

A background or knowledge of bioinformatics 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 Sassan Asgari

s.asgari@uq.edu.au

Exploring m6A RNA methylation in mosquitoes in response to infection

Mosquitoes transmit a variety of viruses to humans and animals through blood feeding. This project aims to investigate one of the most common modifications of RNA molecules, known as N6-methyladenosine (m6A), in an important mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, and its alterations upon infection by viruses and symbionts. The project involves various techniques including methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeRIP-Seq), bioinformatics analyses of the MeRIP-Seq data to determine differentially methylated RNAs, cell culture, PCR, and a number of other molecular biology techniques. Expected outcomes of this project include fundamental understanding of RNA methylation in mosquitoes and their role in mosquito biology and infection.

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

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

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

A background or knowledge of RNA-Seq data analysis 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 Nicholas Clark

n.clark@uq.edu.au

Forecasting ecosystem responses to environmental change

Dr Nicholas Clark is seeking a PhD candidate to work on an exciting new ARC funded project: forecasting ecosystem responses to environmental change

There is a growing consensus that using models to anticipate the future is vital to mitigate the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems. Yet most ecological models are one-off attempts to predict what ecosystems might be like in many years or decades. This makes it hard for decision-makers to use these models. It also favours models that are not easily scrutinised and improved. A new international study will use an iterative cycle to 1) forecast how species occurrences and abundances will change over short timescales; 2) use predictions to inspect model failures and 3) improve models so that we can continue to learn. This represents a new way of thinking in ecology that, like weather forecasting, has the power to advance our understanding of ecological processes.

The candidate will work within a vibrant team of quantitative ecologists and spatio-temporal modellers to tackle two major questions in ecological modelling:

(1) When can multivariate models improve forecasts of species distributions, abundances and biodiversity compared to simpler models? 

(2) What aspects of models and data control forecast uncertainty across space and time?

The student will be based at The University of Queensland within the School of Veterinary Science, supervised by Dr. Nicholas Clark and A/Prof Ricardo Soares Magalhães. The candidate will work with a diverse group of international researchers, including Dr Konstans Wells (Swansea University, UK), Prof Ethan White (University of Florida, USA) and A/Prof Wenbiao Hu (Queensland University of Technology). Additional support will be given by partners at the Ecological Forecasting Initiative and the Spatial Epidemiology Laboratory, including assistance in computer-based data analysis, model building and scientific communication. The selected student will have the opportunity to work with all partners on this project but will be based at UQ.

This project will help develop the candidate’s skills in critical thinking, project management, data management and analysis, writing and communication. Expected applications of the project are incredibly diverse, meaning the student will be well prepared for a future career in research or with government and non-government land management, biosecurity or conservation agencies.

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 ecology and mathematical modelling would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of ecology or environmental modelling and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of R or Python programming and time series analysis 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 David Hume

david.hume@uq.edu.au

Macrophage control of mammalian growth and development

Macrophages are specialised phagocytic cells that are present in all mammalian tissues, where they play critical roles in homeostasis and host defence. This PhD project will focus on tissue macrophage heterogeneity in rats  and the role of macrophages in the control of development, physiology and homeostasis in one or more major organ systems including liver, kidney, pancreas, muscle and the gastrointestinal tract, depending on candidate interest and expertise.

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 immunology, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of working with experimental animals is highly desirable.

Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are eligible for this project.

*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 Eugeni Roura

e.roura@uq.edu.au

Heat tolerance (HT) in lactating sows: dietary strategies, metabolic biomarkers and microbiome signature

Environmental hyperthermia is a welfare and economic problem in pig reproduction, particularly given the rise in heatwave episodes and the hyperprolificity of modern sows. This project aims to address the impact of heat stress in gestating and lactating sows by testing different nutritional interventions with complementary modes of action, reducing metabolic and microbial heat production and increasing cellular protection. In addition, resilient sows will be selected and characterized in terms of blood and liver biomarkers (differential transcripts, proteins, and metabolites) and microbiome profiles associated with heat tolerance. The proposal is the first-ever studying heat tolerance metabolic biomarkers and microbiome signatures in gestating and lactating sows using a holistic approach under controlled environments.

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 animal science, veterinary science, biological science would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and glycomics 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 Margaret Mayfield

m.mayfield@uq.edu.au

The role of positive species interactions in maintaining plant community diversity

Professor Margie Mayfield is seeking a PhD student to join the Mayfield Lab at the University of Queensland to work on an ARC funded project on the generalisable importance of positive species interactions to coexistence outcomes in natural plant communities.  This project is funded by an ARC grant awarded to Professor Mayfield at the University of Queensland with international partners: Lauren Shoemaker (University of Wyoming, USA), Lauren Hallett (University of Oregon, USA) and Oscar Godoy (Universidad de Cadiz, Spain).  There are three project elements that the successful candidate will have the opportunity to work on as part of this research team:

  1. the development of models to explore the importance of positive species interactions to accurately predicting coexistence outcomes at local scales and across variable environments;
  2. the use of empirical data to determination if certain types of plant functional traits are more involved in facilitative relationships than others and
  3. an exploration of the generalisable importance of facilitation to coexistence outcomes in three distinct annual plant systems in Western Australia, California and Spain. 

Project elements 2 and 3 involve field work, while project element 1 is computer-based.  The selected student will focus on one or two elements of this larger project, with the focus negotiable. The selected student will have the opportunity to work with all partners on this project but will be based at UQ.

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 field ecology and  mathematical modelling would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of R- programming language and coexistence theory 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.

Associate Professor Bryan Fry

bgfry@uq.edu.au

The evolution of prey-selectivity for snake venom neurotoxins, and the parallel evolution of neurotoxin resistance in prey

Venom is a dynamic evolutionary trait that have underpinned the explosive radiation of the advanced snakes. The ability to block nerve impulses from triggering muscle contraction is an efficient way in which to subjugate prey items. This project will use a world-class biomolecular interaction facility, which has at its core the only Octet HTX in the Southern Hemisphere, to investigate what amino acids in the nerve receptors of prey animals are selectively targeted by snake venoms in a taxon-specific manner. For example, we have shown that the king cobra, which specialises in feeding on other snakes, has a venom that is highly selective for the post-synaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors of the colubrid snakes upon which it feeds, and is dramatically much less potent upon non-prey animals like rats.

As there are several key amino acid variations between snake and rodent nicotinics, the testing of the venom against native nicotinics and mutated versions where a snake specific amino acid is swapped into a rodent receptor and testing undertaken to ascertain if such a swap increases sensitivity. With each difference tested one-by-one in such a systematic way, the identificatoin of the snake-specific particular amino acids selectively bound by king cobra venom can be elucidated. Similarly, we have shown that the venoms of snakes in the genus Aspidelaps and Elapsoidea are both highly selective for lizards. As these two genera are not each others closest relatives, this is due to a functional convergence between them.

In a similar manner as for the king cobra, by comparing lizard versus rodent, the particular amino acids selectively bound can be ascertained, and a determination made whether Aspidelaps and Elapsoidea have not only functionally converged in evolved lizard-specific venoms, but if there is also if there is a molecular convergence whereby the same amino acids in the lizard nicotinics have been targeted in a 'the target selects the toxins' manner. Other projects will examine the evolution of resistance in prey. For example, we have shown that of all the lizards tested so far, the Australian Eastern bearded dragon is unique in being almost totally resistant to snake venom neurotoxins. As these lizards are slow moving, they are highly vulnerable to predatory snakes. In contrast, we have shown that fast moving relatives like the Gilbert's dragon lizard are not resistant, which is consistent with their greater ability to escape relative to bearded dragons.

For this part of the PhD, the student would extract DNA from the lineages intervening between Gilbert's and bearded dragons, as well as additional species of bearded dragon to determine when this form of resistance evolved. Is it found in all bearded dragons? Is it found only in bearded dragons? Or do related genera such as Rankinia (eg mountain heath dragon (Rankinia diemensis)) share this trait?

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 evolutionary biology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of biochemistry and molecular biology 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 Myron Zalucki

m.zalucki@uq.edu.au

A perimeter defence in Australian processionary caterpillars

Microscopic, detachable hairs on processionary caterpillars cause clinical reactions when they enter the skin or internal tissues of humans and animals. There is a time delay between exposure and the most serious effects, inferring an action more complex than simple irritation. The project aims to test a novel mechanism – how the hairs form a perimeter defence around caterpillars that primes the immune system of potential predators, how these hairs function within the layered caterpillar defensive system and how far setae can disperse. The research will inform relevant authorities and in particular veterinarians of the risks being exposed to processionary caterpillar hairs and add to the theory of predator-prey interaction.

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 entomology, chemistry, molecular biology and handling small mammals would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of working with mice 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 Jonathan Rhodes

j.rhodes@uq.edu.au

Managing Ecosystem Services in a Highly Connected World

Are you are interested in using multidisciplinary science to solve global sustainability problems? If so, this may be the PhD project for you. This exciting project will use conceptual and mathematical models to develop new knowledge of how landscape change and climate change affect the benefits people obtain from nature (known as ecosystem services). The benefits people get from nature are enormous. Yet, these benefits are under threat from rapid land use change and climate change. At the same time, where ecosystem services are produced and where they benefit people can be vastly different, especially in a world that is highly connected through trade, movement of people, and flows of information. The successful candidate for this PhD project will work on characterising global flows of ecosystem services and integrating these with models of land use change and climate change. They will then assess how they interact to drive ecosystem service outcomes. This project is part of a larger Australian Research Council Future Fellowship Project and will provide the successful candidate the opportunity to work with some of the world’s leading ecosystem service scientists. This project will suit applicants with a passionate interest in sustainability science and a strong mathematical, statistical, or modelling background.

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 environmental modelling and data analysis would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of environmental management or sustainability science or related disciplines (including relevant social and economic sciences) and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of ecosystem services is highly desirable.

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

Professor Kristofer Thurecht

k.thurecht@uq.edu.au

Development of novel polymer-protein conjugates

This project aims to develop novel technologies using hybrid polymer-protein conjugates. The project will deliver significant improvements in preparation of new bioconjugates, with applications in biomedical imaging and separations technologies. Development themes include: separations membranes, contrast agents, imaging methods/apparatus, therapeutics delivery and clinical translation. The project will be conducted in partnership with international collaborators at Nottingham University.

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 medical imaging and materials science would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of chemistry, biology, biotechnology and/or physics and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of nanotechnology and membrane technologies 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 Catherine Lovelock

c.lovelock@uq.edu.au

Characterizing climate change mitigation and adaptation through restoration of coastal wetlands

Coastal blue carbon describes the carbon stored in soils and biomass of coastal wetlands which has an important function in regulating greenhouse gases. They also provide coastal protection, habitat for biodiversity, fisheries and amelioration of land-based pollution. Coastal wetlands have been degraded globally, reducing their capacity to store carbon and to support and protect coastal communities and their economies. This PhD researcher will develop a project to assess how restoration of coastal wetlands can contribute to climate change mitigation and how this might be influenced by sea level rise and other climate change factors.

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 techniques for monitoring coastal wetlands would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of ecology, biogeochemistry or hydrology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of vulnerability of coastal wetlands to climate change 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 Jochen Mueller

j.mueller@uq.edu.au

Transforming our understanding of the chemical exposome

Despite many benefits associated with the use of chemicals, there is consensus that their accelerated production and use is increasingly affecting environmental health. Effective tools to understand spatiotemporal trends and factors that drive chemical exposure are urgently needed. This project aims to develop these tools by combining established programs in systematic sampling and archiving with advanced informatics and analytical techniques.

The project expects to identify emerging chemicals of concern, assess factors that affect exposure and model exposure based on chemical production, use and fate. Outcomes will support evidence-based regulation and management of chemicals to minimise adverse impacts of chemical exposure in Australia.

Up to four PhD scholarships are available as part of this five year program of work, working with the ARC Laureate Fellow and a team of postdoctoral research fellows. Several projects are available and potential candidates should discuss their preferred topic with Prof Jochen Mueller prior to applying. The broad topics include:

  • Development and application of analytical methods – both target and non-target – for analysis of emerging chemicals of concern in environmental and human samples;
  • Evaluation of factors that drive human exposure to chemicals by assessing links between measured exposures (e.g. in blood or urine) and underlying metadata (e.g. age, gender, sources of chemicals, population lifestyle) using big data Bayesian and other statistical methods;
  • Integration of data from new and existing biomonitoring programs of human exposures (e.g. blood, urine, breast milk) and environmental monitoring programs (e.g. air, water, soil, food)  to establish spatiotemporal trends;
  • Application of mechanistic modelling to predict changes in human exposure to chemicals over time and space and thus assess effectiveness of policy and regulation for exposure control.

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 exposure science or chemical/data analysis methods would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of environmental science, analytical chemistry, exposure science, data analysis/modelling or related fields and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of organic chemistry 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.

Associate Professor Bradley Launikonis

b.launikonis@uq.edu.au

Sarcoplasmic reticulum-mitochondrial functional interactions in skeletal muscle with human exercise or RyR mutations

This is a fundamental biological project about how muscle can adapt to stressful changes in its use. That is, when muscle use is changed through acute, repeated, high intensity contractions, the muscle remodels itself within a day or so to be able to cope with similar, repeated challenges. The changes inside the muscle after intense, acute contractions affect the way the muscle produces its own energy. It is not understood how the muscle changes so quickly after a single session of intense, acute contractions. It is important to understand energy regulating mechanisms in muscle, as these processes: (i) affect muscle performance, relevant to exercise; and (ii) will apply to almost all cells in the body and therefore will benefit many areas of biological research. Furthermore, as the performance of the muscle is improved following the acute, intense contractions, so is the quality of the muscle. There is economic gain to be had from understanding how to improve muscle (meat) quality. This project expects to find potential ways to apply its findings in agricultural settings to improve livestock's meat quality.

Muscle in the body of animals and human has the ability to adapt to stress placed on it, to improve performance. This allows new physical tasks that have been unfamiliar to become easier. One form of stress on the muscle is the demand to work longer without fatigue. This can be important for animal survival or athletes training for sport. A single session of intense muscle contractions can lead to the muscle increasing its capacity for endurance within 24 hrs. This project aims to examine this phenomenon in animals and human to decipher the mechanism involved in the beneficial muscle changes experienced in such a brief time. The approaches used will include the use of advantaged calcium inaging techniques on the confocal microscope with human muscle fibres obtained from needle biopsies and muslce fibres from genetically modified mice. The latest techniques to assay sarcoplasmic reticulum and mitochondrial calcium content, developed in the host lab, will be used in the 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.

A working knowledge of muscle physiology and imaging/microscopy would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of biological or biomedical sciences 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.

Dr Mel White

melanie.white@imb.uq.edu.au

Understanding how actin network remodeling drives neural tube formation in the developing embryo

The brain and the spinal cord arise from a common precursor, the neural tube, formed very early in embryonic development. Changes in cellular architecture must be tightly coordinated in space and time to generate the forces that sculpt and shape the neural tube. Failure of the neural tube to form correctly results in some of the most common and severe birth defects.

The morphological changes that shape the neural tube are driven by remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton but the dynamics of this process are poorly understood due to a lack of live imaging.

This project will use quantitative live imaging approaches to study how the actin network is remodeled in real time during neural tube morphogenesis and which are the key molecules regulating this. Neural tube development will be studied using transgenic avian embryos with opportunities to complement the work using zebrafish and human iPS cell models. 

This is an opportunity to join the newly established Dynamics of Morphogenesis lab at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB). You will have access to a fantastic range of infrastructure including one of the largest and most comprehensively equipped imaging facilities in Australia. The lab values an open, supportive and collaborative environment in which to pursue your scientific excellence. As one of the founding members of the lab, you will have the chance to influence lab culture and the flexibility to tailor your research to suit your interests. To take full advantage of this you will need to be passionate about science, driven to succeed and ready to use your initiative.

Skills in molecular, cell and developmental biology, live imaging or biophysics would be of benefit but enthusiasm and initiative is of most importance. 

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 developmental biology techniques or quantitative imaging would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of mechanobiology 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 Bin Luo

b.luo1@uq.edu.au

Solar rechargeable batteries for wearable electronics

This project aims to develop a new solar battery as a sustainable power source for future wearable electronics. The research will develop solar rechargeable Zinc-Manganese oxide batteries based on new stretchable microelectrodes and materials engineering for the direct storage of solar energy. Expected outcomes include new classes of planar-type solar batteries, functional microelectrodes and energy materials, as well as new knowledge generated from collaborations across materials science, photoelectrochemistry and nanotechnology disciplines. These will not only expand the applications of solar batteries to a new domain of wearable electronics, but also may eventually lead to new industry advances in functional materials for clean energy.

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 nanomaterials for energy storage application would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of energy storage 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 John Dwyer

j.dwyer2@uq.edu.au

How will Australia's subtropical rainforests respond to climate change?

This project will combine field surveys, trait measurements and experimental approaches to reveal general rules about how climate governs the range of strategies that rainforest plant species can adopt in any given environment. It will capitalise on existing, spatial climate gradients throughout Southeast Queensland (SEQ) and quantify how plant strategies (viewed as ensembles of functional traits) change in response to higher temperatures and lower water availability. This general knowledge will be translated into models to predict viable strategies at different positions along gradients. Because the seedling stage is crucial for successful recruitment in both natural and restoration contexts, field data will be validated using an experiment on rainforest seedlings assessing tolerance to drought, heat waves and their interaction.

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 surveying rainforest tree communities and designing and conducting ecological experiments would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of plant functional traits, statistical models in ecological contexts, intermediate ability to code in R is highly desirable.

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

Dr Tim Duignan

t.duignan@uq.edu.au

Prediction of new electrolyte solutions for improved electrical energy storage

This project aims to predict the properties of electrolyte solutions in order to develop improved energy storage devices. Electrolyte solutions play a central and fundamental role in a huge range of important systems and applications. They carry the electrical currents that make life possible, they control the chemical properties of the ocean such as its acidity and ability to absorb carbon dioxide. They also carry the electrical current between the positive and negative terminals of a battery. Optimising the electrolyte is, therefore, crucial to improving the stability, charging rate and lifetime of batteries. To do this we need accurate predictive models of the properties of electrolyte solutions. Unfortunately, we still cannot predict even some of the most basic properties of electrolytes solutions.

In this project, we will use state of the art computational techniques to directly simulate electrolyte solutions and calculate their properties. We will then use these simulations to improve approximate models that can rapidly predict the properties of many different electrolyte solutions. These models will then be used to identify suitable candidate electrolytes for use in real energy storage devices. By joining this project, the successful candidate will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills in programming, computational chemistry and energy storage technology.

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.

Applicants with experience in any of the areas of physics, chemistry, chemical engineering, mathematics or computer science are encouraged to apply.

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

Dr Kai Voss-Fels

k.vossfels@uq.edu.au

New mate allocation strategies to accelerate genetic gain in agricultural species

In crop and livestock breeding, combining numerous desirable alleles for important agronomic traits, such as disease resistance, drought and heat tolerance, end-use quality and high yield potential in the shortest possible time remains a major challenge. Because of the number of alleles that need to be considered for these traits, the number of possible mating combinations increases exponentially. This projects aims to develop novel strategies that enable breeders to design improved breeding programs via more efficient mate allocations, ultimately contributing to substantially increasing the rate of genetic gain. To address this, an integrated approach will be used that combines computer simulations with linear programming and evolutionary computing which are widely used for solving highly combinatorial problems. Using large scale public and commercial data sets we will evaluate the decrease in germplasm development time that can be achieved with this approach compared to traditional breeding approaches.

The successful applicant will enrol through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI).

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 applied statistical genetics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of animal or plant breeding 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.

Associate Professor Timothy Bredy

t.bredy@uq.edu.au

Exploring the role of chromatin associated RNAs and trans splicing in learning and memory

This project will employ state of the art genomics, molecular and behavioural methods to elucidate the causal relationship between a novel class of alternatively spliced RNA and brain function.

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

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

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

A background or knowledge of Genomics and RNA biology 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 Stephen Williams

srw@uq.edu.au

Fundamental computations underlying brain function

We use advanced electrophysiological and imaging techniques to explore the fundamental computations underlying brain function - our work is focussed on the rodent and human neocortex.

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 would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of physics is highly desirable.

*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 Elizabeth Gillam

e.gillam@uq.edu.au

Development of Nano-scale Biocatalysts from Cytochrome P450 Enzymes Attached to Virus-Like Particles, for Environmentally Friendly Fine Chemical Production

The project will involve the development of reusable, nano-scale biocatalysts for use in fine chemical synthesis. We will use virus-like particles (VLPs) as scaffolds for attaching cytochrome P450 enzymes to create nano-catalysts for diverse applications in green chemistry, including the sustainable production of bioplastics from seed oils. The research is aimed at gaining a fundamental understanding of the way in which P450s can be immobilised in VLPs as well as how such systems can be customised for industrial application. The research is to be undertaken in collaboration with CSIRO Biocatalysis Group and will run in parallel with several industry-funded collaborations, offering the successful student the opportunity to be involved in frequent interactions with the industry partners.

A working knowledge of molecular biology techniques, or HPLC/GC-MS analysis of small molecules would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of Biochemistry, Chemistry, Biotechnology, Structural Biology, Synthetic Biology, Molecular Biology or Plant Biology 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.

*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.

Dr Nidhi Bansal

n.bansal@uq.edu.au

Understanding biochemical and microbiological changes during donor human milk processing

This project involves alternative pasteurisation of donor human milk to improve feeding solutions for babies in neonatal intensive care units.  The work will involve processing as well as analysis of human milk. The project seeks to understand the microbial changes due to processing as well assay biochemical properties, structure and digestibility of human milk pre/post-processing.

  • A working knowledge of biochemistry, enzymology and dairy chemistry 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 biochemistry and/or dairy chemistry and the potential for scholastic success.
  • A background or knowledge of microbiology is highly desirable.

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

Dr Mojtaba Rajabi

m.rajabi@uq.edu.au

Present-day state of tectonic stress in the Australian continent

Knowledge of the present-day crustal stresses is essential for understanding geodynamic processes such as earthquakes and global tectonics. It is also a key control on the stability of all underground openings and management of geo-reservoirs. The present-day stress pattern of the Australian continent has been the subject of scientific debate for over 30 years. The most recent analyses of in-situ stress in the Australian continent revealed massive spatial perturbations on the orientation of maximum horizontal stress. However, there are still lots of questions about the causes and consequences of present-day stress field in the Australian continent.

One of the most significant obstacles in developing a detailed understanding of tectonic stress in Australia is that almost all the in-situ stress data for the continent only shows the stress orientation and, hence, does not describe the full 3D stress tensor that defines the stress state at a point with six independent components (i.e. stress magnitudes and orientation). This stress magnitude information is critical for neotectonic deformation, subsurface resource utilisation and any model calibration. Therefore, this lack of stress magnitude information precludes any geomechanical model calibration to understand the controls on in-situ stress field of Australian continent. This PhD project aims to analyse in-situ stress magnitudes using wellbore data, and to construct 1D to 3D geomechanical models using state-of-the-art numerical tools, at different scales, to understand the causes and consequences of present-day stress field in the Australian continent.

Applicants should possess a BSc Hons, MSc, or equivalent, majoring in a relevant discipline (e.g. Geology, Petroleum Engineering and Geophysics) with experience in the interpretation of geophysical logs and/or analysis of in-situ stress using wellbore data. In addition, one or more peer-reviewed research publications with evidence of timely delivery of high quality research outputs are 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 Warwick Bowen

w.bowen@uq.edu.au

Scalable and reversible computing with integrated nanomechanics

This project aims to build the first scalable computing architecture based on nanomechanical motion, integrated on a silicon chip and proven in harsh environments. This could extend the performance of computers in space and high-radiation environments, e.g. allowing robust satellite stabilisation. The project will leverage our know-how in phononics and nanofabrication to enable previously unprecedented control of nanomechanical motion, and exquisitely low energy dissipation. It aims to construct a nanomechanical processor capable of digital servo control, built from nanomechanical waveguides, transistors, logic gates and analogue-to-digital converters. It will also develop reversible logic gates, a key step towards ultralow-power computing.

Honours degree, or equivalent, in physics or related discipline. Laboratory experience in nanotechnology, photonics or precision measurements would be an advantage.

*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 Jacquiline Romero

m.romero@uq.edu.au

Sharing secrets using quantum physics

Information security is a major challenge of our modern times.  This project aims to develop experimental tools for increasing security in future information networks using quantum physics. We will leverage on the properties of photons–spatial and temporal degrees of freedom–which can be used as carriers of high-dimensional quantum information. Our project aims to deliver proof-of-principle demonstrations of quantum secret sharing and an analysis of various noise and loss regimes to help with real-world deployment.

By the end of the PhD, you are expected to have developed a range of technical skills like optical design, programming, device modelling and fabrication. You will be conversant in quantum communication and computation, positioned to take advantage of the growing quantum technologies  industry globally.  You will also learn important transferable skills like how to communicate your research and how to collaborate with a diverse group. There will be opportunities to travel to international and local conferences and present your work.  You will interact with other experimentalists and theorists working in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) and the School of Mathematics and Physics.

The candidate should have a Masters, First Class Honours degree, or equivalent in Physics, Optics, or Engineering. The candidate should be self-motivated and equipped with creative problem solving skills. Preference will be given to candidates who satisfy any of the following:

  1. Strong coursework on optics, quantum optics, and quantum information
  2. Can model optical and on-chip systems using Matlab/Mathematica/Python/C++/Lumerical
  3. Laboratory experience in optics or device fabrication

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

Dr Andries Potgieter

a.potgieter@uq.edu.au

Determining crop phenology and/or crop type discrimination metrics using hyperspectral sensing technologies and machine learning algorithms for major winter crops in Australia.

The primary focus of this PhD position is to undertake functional research in the exploration and analysis of multi-temporal and -spatial hyperspectral sensing data. Developing and application of current and novel data fusion approaches to integrate climate, sensing and biophysical data for detecting of crop type and phenological stages for main winter crops across Australia. This PhD is part of the four year project funded and supported the GRDC funded  “CropPhen: Remote mapping of grain crop phenology and crop type prediction” project lead by UQ QAAFI (Project : UoQ2002-010RTX). 

Read more about the project and its application to industry here.

Essential:

  • MASTERS degree in the area of Remote Sensing and/or Machine Learning (ML) or artificial intelligence with a background in crop physiology or environmental sciences or closely related sciences.

Preferable

  • Background and experience in the area of design and application of multi-modal data fusion algorithms to support systems modelling.
  • Working knowledge of ML software and libraries such as TensorFlow and/or Pytorch.

*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 Pat Scott

pat.scott@uq.edu.au

The world as a neutrino telescope

Dark matter interacts extremely weakly with regular matter, but it does still interact enough to scatter off nuclei occasionally in many models. The Sun sits in bath of dark matter particles, with many of them passing through it every day. Some dark matter particles scatter off a nucleus in the Sun, and lose enough energy to become gravitationally bound to it. They then return on bound orbits, scatter again and again, losing more energy and sinking down to the core of the Sun. They then annihilate with each other, producing a shower of energetic particles. Those particles include neutrinos, which travel straight through the Sun, and can be detected here on Earth using neutrino telescopes such as IceCube, Super-Kamiokande and ANTARES.

The first part of the project is to combine the results of these three neutrino telescopes, to produce one of the strongest probes of interactions between dark matter and nuclei to date. The second part is to determine the projected sensitivity of the next generation of neutrino telescopes (KM3NeT, IceCube Gen2/Pingu, Hyper-Kamiokande), in order to build an analysis framework that will allow all three experiments to combine their results, and collaborators involved in the GAMBIT project to combine the results with those from all other experiments.

Starting point: arxiv:1601.00653

Strong Hons/MSc thesis research results in astroparticle physics or adjacent fields (particle physics, astrophysics, general relativity, mathematical physics, computational physics, etc).

*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.

Associate Professor Shih-Chun Lo

s.lo@uq.edu.au

Organic light-emitting devices

Positions are available for PhD students to work on the Australia Research Council supported project in developing a new class of lighting technology based on organic light emitting devices for augmented realities. The research is interdisciplinary and the candidates will work closely with world-class researchers in physics and chemistry and gain a first class postgraduate education at the state-of-the-art research centre.

1st class Honours degree or equivalent degree in Physics or Engineering or Chemistry with skills and experiences in condense matter physics/semiconductors/optics/spectroscopy

Mandatory requirements:

  1. Excellent academic performance to Honours/Masters level, evidenced by a high Grade Point Average (GPA); and
  2. International applicants must meet the University of Queensland's English Language Proficiency (ELP) requirements.

*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 Gideon Rosenbaum

g.rosenbaum@uq.edu.au

Magmatic response to slab tearing

Spatially and geochemically anomalous arc magmas (SGAM) provide unique records of complexities in the subduction process and are commonly associated with ore mineralisation (e.g., gold and copper). By linking SGAMs to independent geophysical constraints on the dynamics and geometry of the subducting slab, this project aims to explicitly resolve how changes in the shape/form/geometry of the slab through time are expressed in the geochemical and metallogenic record.

The PhD project will involve the following research activities (depending on the research interests, skills, and qualifications of the selected candidate):

  1. Three-dimensional visualisation of slab structures;
  2. Geodynamic reconstructions;
  3. Structural geology/geophysics in supra-subduction zones;
  4. Geochemical investigation of arc magmas;
  5. Petrological investigation of magmatic plumbing systems in arc settings.
  • BSc (Honours) and/or MSc in geological sciences;
  • Demonstrated knowledge and skills in at least one of the following sub-disciplines: structural geology, tectonics, geodynamics, geophysics, igneous petrology, geochemistry and/or volcanology;
  • Proof of English language proficiency.

*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 Dirk Kroese

kroese@maths.uq.edu.au

Partially Observable MDPs, Monte Carlo Methods, and Sustainable Fisheries

Reinforcement learning is an learning paradigm that is widely believed to play an important role for enabling machines to behave in an intelligent way. While significant advances have been made in the last few years, most works focus on fully observable environments, and there are still many challenges associated with dealing with partially observable environments. In particular, large and complex environments often demand lot of computation and large number of samples. This project aims to develop computationally and sample efficient reinforcement algorithms under Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes, a general framework for decision making under uncertainties (including partial observability). In particular, several ideas will be explored, implemented and tested - these includes integrating planning and reinforcement learning, and leveraging recent advances in sample efficient reinforcement learning for Markov Decision Processes.

  • Highly motivated with effective communication skills
  • Strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, and programming, as evidenced by a relevant degree and course grades
  • Knowledge and experience in machine learning / deep learning is highly desirable
  • Prior research experience in a related field is 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.

Dr Tyler Neely

t.neely@uq.edu.au

Superfluid Turbulence Cascades in a Dilute Atomic Film

Uniformly trapped Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) superfluids have recently emerged as the premier system for the experimental study of two-dimensional quantum turbulence and point vortices. This PhD project aims to answer open questions in turbulence by stirring many vortices into a superfluid Bose-Einstein condensate. This will be accomplished through technical innovations on the UQ BEC apparatus enabling the trapping and manipulation of larger superfluids. The project seeks to determine how an effective viscosity can be experimentally realised in a superfluid through vortex shedding, how vortex dynamics redistribute energy across broad length scales in superfluids, and how superfluid turbulence can arise from classical fluid instabilities. The outcomes of this project will elucidate the links between quantum and classical fluids, and provide unambiguous tests of theoretical models in real-world systems. These results will be beneficial to the understanding of the physics of quantum superfluids, and will inform the engineering of quantum-enhanced devices that utilise trapped superfluid media for precision sensing.

This experimental project will allow for the development of diverse and transferable skills, including electronic and optical design, experimental system design and implementation, software design, and data analysis. This project will also allow for attendance of related international workshops and conferences.  There will also be the opportunity to interact with other projects within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS), as well as the theoretical quantum atom optics group at the University of Queensland.

Students will enrol through the School of Mathematics and Physics.

The candidate should have a masters or honours-equivalent degree in Physics/Optics or closely related fields, including a significant research component. In particular, coursework in quantum optics and condensed matter is highly valued. Previous laboratory experience in a ultracold atoms lab and/or publications are highly desired. The ideal candidate will be able to communicate effectively and actively participate in weekly group meetings and journal club presentations as well as physics seminars and colloquia.

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

Professor Naomi Wray

naomi.wray@uq.edu.au

Prediction of complex traits in human populations

Complex traits in humans, including quantitative traits such as height and diseases such as diabetes, are determined by genetic and environmental factors. Accurate assessment of the genetic and environmental contributors to a trait is therefore key to realising the potential of genomic information and its application in personalised medicine.  For example, accurate assessment of genetic risk to heart disease could identify candidates for increased or early screening programs.  The aim of this project is to develop and evaluate novel methods for polygenic risk prediction, including the use of haplotypes and family information.  The project will use data from large publically available sources, such as the UKBiobank.

The candidate will conduct their research as part of the Program in Complex Trait Genomics (PCTG).  This research group is based at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, at the St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland.  The group is lead by Profs Naomi Wray, Peter Visscher and Jian Yang who are leaders in field of quantitative genetics and authors of many highly cited papers.  The candidate will have the opportunity to join a vibrant group of over 50 researchers with expertise in quantitative genetics, statistics, computer programming and population genetics.

Candidates with a background in quantitative/population genetics, statistics, mathematics and other quantitative fields will be considered. Programming skills (R, C/C++) and prior experience in analysing genetic data (e.g. GWAS) are desirable.

*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 Dietmar Oelz

d.oelz@uq.edu.au

Modelling and simulation of molecular motor driven cytoskeleton dynamics and its function in the secretory pathway

The project aims to elucidate the impact of cytoskeleton dynamics on morphology and function of neurosecretory cells and of neuron cells using computational simulation and continuum modelling. 

It is not well understood how the transport of secretory, respectively synaptic vesicles to their sites of exocytosis is guided and controlled. Since mechanical guidance through the cytoskeleton is believed to play a pivotal role it is our goal to identify the mechanism(s) by which cortical F-actin and microtubules as well as their associated motor proteins contribute to the processes leading to exocytosis, respectively neurotransmitter release. 

The applicant should have a background in (applied) mathematics or (computational) physics. Familiarity with partial differential equations and some programming language (e.g. Julia, MATLAB, Python, C, or other) 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.