Developing an in vitro human sleep system

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Sleep is an essential activity and something most animals spend half of their life doing. In mammals, sleep is controlled by the hypothalamus, a tiny part of the mature brain containing a staggering number of different cell types. The control of sleep-wake states is heavily dependent upon specific cells referred to as “sleep neurons”. Loss of sleep neurons triggers narcolepsy in mice, dogs and humans, underscoring the evolutionary conservation of the sleep system. Yet, despite its importance, there are major knowledge gaps in our understanding of how the sleep system develops and how its remarkable cell specificity is achieved.

This project will use the latest arsenal of transcriptomics technologies and bioinformatics analysis to decode the development of the mouse hypothalamic sleep neurons. This knowledge will be used to generate sleep neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cell cells in culture. By applying our emerging insight of sleep neuron generation to human stem cell cultures we will generate sleep neurons in-a-dish, allowing for physiological in vitro studies and for cell transplantation experiments aimed at combating sleep deficits in narcolepsy and other sleep-wake disorders.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Stefan Thor

Faculty of Medicine


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of molecular genetics, immunohistochemistry, omics, bioinformatics, and human iPSC culturing would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of molecular genetics, developmental biology, neurobiology, and human iPSC is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process