Using genetics to understand the relationship between early life growth and future risk of cardio-metabolic disease

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.

Rapid weight growth during infancy and changes in body mass index (BMI) throughout childhood are associated with increased risk of cardio-metabolic diseases in later life, suggesting that early life interventions could be beneficial. Although implementing lifestyle interventions prior to the onset of disease is likely to be the most cost-effective strategy for reducing the impact of these conditions on society, the optimal time to intervene remains unclear. Mendelian randomization, a method that is analogous to a randomized controlled trial but involves individuals’ genotypes rather than treatments, can assess the causal effect of early life weight growth on cardio-metabolic disease risk, therefore identifying potential times for intervention. This project will use statistical genetics methods to investigate whether there is a time period in early life where rapid weight growth causes increased risk of cardio-metabolic disease in later life.

The successful candidate will gain experience across a wide range of advanced statistical genetics methodologies including Mendelian randomization, genome-wide association analysis (GWAS), genetic restricted maximum likelihood (G-REML) analysis of genome-wide data which can be used to partition variation in phenotypes into genetic and environmental sources of variation. Depending on the candidate’s level of experience, they will help develop and/or apply statistical genetics approaches to longitudinal data from the UK Biobank and the Early Growth Genetics Consortium.

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 Nicole Warrington

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 genetics and basic statistics would be of benefit to someone working on this project. Given this PhD project is quantitative and computer-based, the candidate should have knowledge or keen interest in learning in genetics, epidemiology, statistics, and statistical software such as R.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of genetics, statistics and/or epidemiology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of Unix, shell scripting and statistical programming 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