Restoring the cell identity network to improve the function of aged cells

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.

Ageing is the greatest risk factor for virtually all degenerative diseases but meaningful interventions to move the focus away from merely treating its symptoms are missing. To slow or even reverse aspects of cell ageing we need to understand the underlying processes to implement effective strategies targeting it. Findings from the field of transcription factor (TF)-mediated reprogramming point towards epigenetic changes as fundamental drivers of the ageing process. The fact that mature cell types can be reprogrammed back towards a pluripotent state (so called iPS cells) by the forced expression of four transcription factors (Oct4, Klf4, Sox2, c-Myc [OKSM]), a process that resets the epigenome, demonstrates that development is not unidirectional. Furthermore, iPS cell generation has recently been expanded to functionally compromised aged blood stem cells. Considering that the resulting iPS cells were able to generate young healthy animals with a normal hematopoietic system and life spans, the ageing process per se, at least on a cellular level, appears to be an epigenetic phenomenon that can be manipulated. A possible PhD project linked to this funded project will either investigate redistribution of cell identity TFs during organismal ageing and leverage insights to improve/restore the function of aged cells; or focus on characterising the DNA-protein interactions responsible for the gradual resetting of the epigenetic ageing clock of somatic cells during iPS cell generation. This will help set a basis for future strategies to directly improve the function of aged cells without a need for pluripotency induction. 

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 Christian Nefzger

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 cell culture and basic molecular biology techniques would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of epigenetics is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. 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