Revealing the mechanobiology of neural tube formation

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.

The brain and the spinal cord control most functions of the vertebrate body and the mind, yet how they first form is poorly understood. Both structures arise from a common precursor, the neural tube, which forms very early in embryonic development. To generate the forces that sculpt and shape the neural tube, changes in cellular architecture must be tightly coordinated in space and time. Failure of the neural tube to form correctly results in some of the most common and severe birth defects.

The global remodelling of tissue architecture during neural tube morphogenesis is driven largely by changes in cell shape. These cell shape changes are powered by mechanical forces that are generated by cellular actin networks and transmitted through adhesive complexes formed between cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM). This force generation and transmission is critical for correct neural tube formation. However, the dynamic interplay between the actin cytoskeleton and ECM remains unknown due to a lack of tractable in vivo models and live imaging.

This project will use quantitative live imaging approaches to determine how the interaction between cellular actin networks and the ECM generates the forces required to form the neural tube. Neural tube development will be studied using transgenic avian embryos with opportunities to complement the work using human induced pluripotent stem cell models. 

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 Mel White

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 developmental biology and/or imaging would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

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

A background or knowledge of mechanobiology and/or avian embryo biology 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