QBI offers summer and winter research programs for undergraduate, honours, and post-graduate coursework students enrolled at UQ.


QBI’s Winter Research Program 2020

UQ’s Winter Research Program provides an excellent opportunity for interested students to work with a researcher in a formal research environment to experience the research process and discover what research is being undertaken in their field of interest.

Students interested in pursuing a research career in neuroscience are encouraged to apply for the UQ Winter Research Program offered at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI). QBI is looking for exceptional and highly motivated students to spend 4 weeks contributing to research projects currently underway in our laboratories while earning a scholarship of AUD$1,500.

Due to COVID-19 and evolving Government advice, the current start date for the Winter Program will be 13 July 2020 and will run 3 to 4 weeks pending further advice. Social distance regulations will need to be maintained during these projects.


Winter research at UQ provides a range of benefits, including:

  • Experience to ‘test-drive’ research before embarking on future research studies (eg. Honours) or higher degree research projects (eg. master’s, MPhil or PhD);
  • An opportunity to develop new academic and professional skills to enhance employability;
  • Access to research networks and the opportunity to build connections with staff and postgraduate students;
  • Supervision by world-class UQ researchers;
  • Access to world-class facilities and experiences;
  • The possibility of obtaining credit towards your degree or the UQ Employability Award; and
  • A scholarship for qualifying students to receive an allowance of AUD$1,500, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ Student Employability Centre (UQ SEC).


To be eligible for the UQ Winter Research Program at QBI, students must:

  • Be currently enrolled in an undergraduate or honours or master’s by coursework degree at UQ at the time of application;
  • Remain an enrolled full-time student at UQ for the entirety of the Winter Program (ie. continuing study in the same degree in Semesters 1 and 2, 2020 and not completing/graduating in July 2020);
  • Be studying for a degree relevant to the research discipline;
  • Have a high level of academic achievement during their degree studies;
  • Have the potential to and an interest in undertaking postgraduate study (Master’s, MPhil or PhD); and
  • Undertake the research program at QBI, located on the UQ St Lucia campus.

Students may be eligible to participate in the Program and receive a scholarship more than once at the discretion of QBI. However, if the number of applicants exceeds available places and funding, preference will be given to first-time applicants.


Applications for QBI will be assessed by the Institute and placements will be awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account:

  • Student eligibility;
  • The availability of projects and supervisors;
  • The quality of the project;
  • The academic merit of the applicant;
  • Reasons provided for wanting to participate in the Program;
  • Skills and attributes of applicants to meet project requirements; and
  • Available funding.

Scholarship Support

All applicants will be automatically considered for a Winter Research Scholarship and those who qualify will receive funding of AUD$1,500, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ SEC.  No scholars are permitted to participate in the program in a voluntary capacity. If a student withdraws from the Program, or their placement is terminated, their scholarship will need to be returned for the equivalent full weeks remaining unworked.  More information about scholarships is available in the UQ Winter Research Program Guidelines for Scholars and Conditions of Participation documents via the UQ SEC website.

What will be my time commitment and obligations?

Scholars are expected to actively participate in an ongoing research project or to undertake a substantial piece of supervised research work. Where appropriate to the project, additional discipline-/project-specific obligations may also be required, such as training in research safety and ethics.

Winter research project work should not conflict with teaching weeks and should not commence prior to completing assessment or semester examination requirements.

At QBI, it is expected that scholars will be available and make a commitment to work on a full-time basis between 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday (up to 36 hours each week) during the Program.

Winter scholars accepted to participate in the Program at QBI will be requested by the Institute to complete a Student Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Deed (SIPCA) for their research project.

Towards the end of the Program, participating students at QBI may be requested by their supervisor to prepare and provide either a short-written report, or oral presentation during a lab group meeting, about their winter project work.

How to apply

Step 1 - Peruse the research projects listed below and choose a project from the list of available projects. Please note that students can submit only one application, but can specify a second QBI project preference option on the Application Form, if desired.

Step 2 – Check your eligibility: carefully read through ALL of the UQ SEC Winter Research Program information, including Guidelines for Scholars document, and Conditions of Participation contained at the UQ SEC’s website: https://employability.uq.edu.au/summer-winter-research

Step 3 – Email the relevant project contact person before applying to express your interest in the project and ascertain if they will support your application (attach your detailed academic CV and complete academic transcripts to your email).

Important Note: scholars accepted for the program at QBI are strongly encouraged to commence on Monday 13 July 2020 to participate in the compulsory UQ SEC Winter Research Welcome event and QBI’s compulsory student induction activities and requirements organised for that day including OHS training.

Step 4 – Submit an online application via the StudentHub and upload supporting documentation (CV, complete academic transcripts, supporting statement from a QBI supervisor) by Sunday 12 April 2020.  Reminder:  applicants can submit only one application, but can specify a second QBI project preference option on the Application Form, if desired.  Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

All applicants will be notified if they will be invited to participate in the Program by Monday 11 May 2020.

If you have any questions regarding the 2020 UQ SEC Winter Research Program at QBI, please email collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au.

Available projects

Associate Professor Ethan Scott: Computational analysis of visual habituation in zebrafish

DESCRIPTION: We are interested in a simple form of sensory learning referred to as habituation, and we use the visual system of zebrafish larvae to address the mechanisms by which habituation occurs.  We build our own microscopes to image the activity of tens of thousands of neurons simultaneously while animals see repetitive visual stimuli.  We then study how the visual network changes as habituation proceeds, seeking to identify exactly how information flows through the brain before and after learning. This last step involves the mathematical modelling of complex sensory networks.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Students will receive expert training that will depend on their specific role in the project (whether focussing on microscopy, neuroscience, or mathematical modelling). In any of these cases, we aim to extend the students skill sets, generate publishable data, and hopefully to contribute to a story in a way that will result in authorship for the students.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is suitable to optical physicists interested in advanced microscopy, biologists/neuroscientists interested in brain networks and learning, and mathematicians interested in modelling complex biological systems from big data.

DURATION: 4 weeks

CAMPUS: St Lucia

Multiple Positions available

Interested candidates should contact ethan.scott@uq.edu.au prior to applying.


Dr Fatima Nasrallah: Evidence-based approach detecting brain recovery following a concussion: the potential of advanced neuroimaging.

DESCRIPTION: Head trauma of a severity requiring medical attention is a frequent occurrence, with some several hundred admissions each year to hospital.  The grounds for admission can be vague, ranging from post injury headache or delirium, to transient or prolonged loss of consciousness. The factors leading to poor outcome are scarcely understood, in particular, poor outcome can occur in patients with no discernible abnormality to structural MR imaging.  However, more advanced MRI methods, such as functional connectivity MRI, and Diffusion Tensor Imaging, have shown higher sensitivity to detect abnormalities following concussion. More interesting, is the link between functional changes in the brain and history and number of concussions.

The project will investigate brain changes in athletes who have a history of concussion. Athletes are more vulnerable to the deleterious long-term effects of concussion because they are often subjected to repetitive trauma. MRI scans have already been acquired from 30 contact sports players on a 7T MRI scanner at the Centre for Advanced Imaging. The aim is to analyse the data from the MRI images and determine if there is a link between findings on MRI and a history of concussion.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES & DELIVERIES: The candidate will gain significant experience in image analysis of MRI data. The data is already available and does not include data collection, so there is a very high opportunity to generate publications from this research. The program will also engage the candidate in a research team where they will be exposed to other research taking place in the team and the institute as a whole giving them opportunities to develop new ideas and new collaborations.

SUITABLE FOR: The candidate will have some prior experience with MRI image processing or some background in computational science. Prior research internships would be a bonus but not necessary. Ideally, 3-4 year students from engineering, computer science, neuroscience, or psychology would be best fit for the project.

DURATION: 4 weeks

CAMPUS: St Lucia

Interested students are welcome to send an email to enquire further about the project, even before the application submission to f.nasrallah@uq.edu.au.


Dr Nela Durisic: Inhibitory Neuroreceptors in Neurological Disorders

DESCRIPTION: This project focuses on molecular structure and function of the GABAA receptor (GABAAR), a chloride channel that mediates most inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain. GABARs are involved in a range of neurological conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders and therefore they are important therapeutic targets for many drugs including barbiturates, neurosteroids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, among others. We have recently developed novel super-resolution microscopy methods, which allow us to directly visualize single GABAARs and monitor their behaviour in live neurons. The aim of this study is to examine how GABAAR properties change in neurological disorders.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES:  You will gain expert training in data processing methods relevant in high-end microscopy and will gain knowledge on the balance between inhibitory and excitatory function in the brain. Although the project is well focused, you will be given the opportunity to come up with your own ideas and generate publishable data. You will be asked to produce a short summary of your work at the end.

SUITABLE FOR: Students with an interest in neuroscience and a background in medicine, call biology, physics and other relevant areas are welcome to apply. Familiarity with programming languages is not necessary, however experience in MatLab, Python or Java will be well regarded. Only students in 3rd year or higher will be considered.

DURATION: 4 weeks

CAMPUS: St Lucia

Multiple positions are available.

Interested students are welcome to email n.durisic@uq.edu.au to further enquire about the project

QBI’s Summer Research Program 2020-2021

Learn new laboratory techniques in a world-class research environment.

UQ students fascinated and motivated by the potential of a research career in neuroscience are encouraged to apply for the Summer Research Program offered at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

Information about the 2020-2021 Program including available research projects and how to apply will be advertised on QBI’s website when available later this year