New Toxin Tools for Dissecting Pain

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.

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 animal and plant 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 fractionation and purification (HPLC); peptide synthesis; ion channel electrophysiology; microscopy; calcium imaging; 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 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).

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)


Dr Sam Robinson

Institute for Molecular Bioscience


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 ion channel electrophysiology and pain physiology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of basic pharmacology, pain physiology and venom biology is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2026. 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