Thursday, July 21, 2016

PhD opportunities at La Trobe University’s LIMS

La Trobe Institute for Molecular Sciences (LIMS) is pleased to offer 8 PhD scholarship opportunities for outstanding candidates. Successful scholarship applicants will receive a living expense stipend of AUD$26,288 p.a. (tax free) and a full tuition fee remission scholarship
LIMS embodies La Trobe University's strategic vision: to be globally recognised for its research excellence, creativity and innovation in relation to the big issues of our time. Launched in 2009, LIMS brings together the University's leading scientists to create new levels of collaboration, and a multi-disciplinary approach to drive innovation and produce translatable research outcomes.
Located in the “most liveable “city of the world, Melbourne, Australia, it is home to well over 100 PhD students.  LIMS also has close involvement with the Bendigo campus, Victoria’s historic Goldfield regions.
The Institute's vision is achieved through excellence in six areas of research strength as outlined below. Each research strength is defined as a broad area and candidatures are offered in these areas; the actual project will be tailored to the background, interest and capabilities of the successful applicant.
One project is offered in Cancer
The Cancer theme investigates the mechanisms of cancer initiation and progression, the crosstalk between cancer cells and the surrounding environment, and the potential of novel therapeutic approaches for combating disease. Research spans the fields of cancer metastasis, cancer cell crosstalk with the microenvironment, pro- and anti-tumour immunity, and therapeutic sensitivity and resistance. Current projects work to identify key drivers of cancer progression including secreted or exosomal factors; the targets, mechanisms of resistance and side effects of therapeutics; development of novel biomarkers for predicting cancer spread; and identification of ways that cancer cells co-opt the immune system to promote progression.
Contact person: Dr Belinda Parker
One project is offered in Infection and Immunity
The Infection and Immunity theme studies the molecules used by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi to infect humans, animals and plants, and the immune response associated with this. The overarching aim is to develop the next generation of antibiotic molecules to fight infection and develop molecules that combat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Current projects include the role of complement and defensins in fighting bacterial and fungal infections; design of novel molecules to combat autoimmune conditions; migration and death of white blood cells in sepsis; and infection by viruses such as influenza and cytomegalovirus, and the immune response to them.
Contact person: Prof. Weisan Chen
One project is offered in Neurobiology
The Neurobiology theme investigates the biology and diseases associated with the nervous system. Members have research interests ranging from biophysical studies of proteins, to cellular and molecular analyses, and the use of in vivo models to study the pathophysiology of neuronal biology and disease. Researchers focus on disorders of the nervous system including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and prion diseases and Multiple Sclerosis. Current projects include the study of protein-protein interactions in Alzheimer's disease; the development of new diagnostics for neurodegenerative diseases; investigating the pathogenesis of Multiple Sclerosis; and understanding how cells deal with misfolded proteins.
Contact person: Prof. Andrew Hill
One project is offered in Molecular Design
The Molecular Design theme uses molecules to solve real world problems across a broad range of disciplines, including chemistry, biochemistry and genetics. Researchers have diverse interests ranging from computational studies on the interaction of drugs with proteins, to molecular synthesis, and surface and material science. Current projects include the design of new metal-based radiopharmaceuticals; synthesis of drugs targeting resistant strains of malaria and hospital born "superbacteria"; generation of anti-microbial surfaces using peptides; small molecule platelet inhibitors; and the design of metal catalysts to form difficult bonds, such as the C-F bond found in many pharmaceuticals.
Contact person: Dr Jason Dutton
One project is offered in Molecular Imaging
The Molecular Imaging theme uses a broad range of methods to characterise molecular structure and function. Understanding the fundamental science that underpins disease and ageing, as well as the complex interplay between organisms and their environment, inherently relies upon molecular imaging. The group uses the latest technologies for characterising molecules and their dynamics to understand molecular processes at the organism, cellular and macromolecular scale. Current research projects include using molecular imaging and spectroscopy to investigate the inhibition of cell-death by viruses; understanding the role of metals in cells; and developing new techniques for the visualisation of molecular function within live cells.
Contact person: Dr Brian Abbey
One project is offered in Molecular Sensing
The Molecular Sensing theme seeks to combine chemistry, physics and biology to identify and quantitate key chemical and biochemical species in the environment and in the human body. Research encompasses both fundamental and applied research with a view to real world applications in areas such as medical diagnostics, environmental sensing, food testing and remote atmospheric sensing. Current projects include the development of advanced luminescent sensing materials; remote sensing of small molecules in the upper atmosphere; new sensing strategies based on surface doped diamond; and development of point-of-care test for early diagnosis of sepsis.
Contact person: Dr Conor Hogan 
The Bendigo campus offers two additional projects specific to the region:
Bacteriophage based antibiotics
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has over the past few decades become one of the biggest challenges facing medicine.  Now alternatives are sought in an attempt to minimise the use of antibiotics and preserve them for specific applications. An alternative to antibiotics is to use lytic bacteriophage, entities which are endogenous killers of bacterial cells. Their discovery dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, but until recently their therapeutic application and exploitation was limited. In this project bacteriophages will be identified for diverse pathogenic bacteria with an aim of developing a novel antibiotic strategy. The work will involve a range of microbiology, molecular biology and pharmaceutical techniques, as well as bioinformatics analysis of bacteriophage genomic data.
Contact person:  Prof. Joseph Tucci
Muscular control of the arthritic hip 
Osteoarthritis (OA) particularly affects weightbearing joints in the lower limb and is increasing in prevalence in the ageing Australian population.  This disease not only impacts on the quality of life of affected individuals but also places significant cost burdens on the health system through joint replacement procedures. Conservative treatment of OA patients traditionally involves rehabilitation programs involving physical exercise of muscle groups around the affected joint.  While there is strong evidence for the efficacy of rehabilitation programs for knee OA, there is a very little evidence for benefit of hip OA programs. The project aims at developing a rehabilitation program for the gluteal muscles that stabilize the hip joint. The work will involve a wide range of skills in intramuscular and surface EMG, real time ultrasound (RTUS), gait-analysis techniques, development of evidence-based rehabilitation programs, experimental design, and data analysis.
Contact person:  A/Prof Rod Green
How to applyApplicants are required to have documented previous research experience (e.g. MSc degree) and will be enrolled for studies in the appropriate member discipline: Biochemistry, Chemistry, Genetics, Pharmacy or Physics. 
To express interest in an area of research strength, please email your interest to the contact person for each position.  You will be guided through the project setting and scholarship application process. 
Deadline for application: 31 August 2016.  Please ensure that your expression of interest reaches the contact person before the stipulated deadline. 
For general enquiries, please address your questions to Dr. Adam Mechlar


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