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

QBI’s Winter Research Program 2021

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 4-5 weeks contributing to research projects currently underway in our laboratories while earning a scholarship of AUD$360/per week. The program will run during the University’s inter-semester vacation period from Monday 21 June 2021 through until Friday 23 July 2021.

The program begins 21 June 2021

Benefits

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$360/- per week, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ Student Employability Centre (UQ SEC).

Eligibility

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, 2021 and not completing/graduating in July 2021);
  • 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.

Selection

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$360/- per week, 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 21 June 2021 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 18 April 2021.  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 Friday 21 May 2020.

If you have any questions regarding the 2021 UQ SEC Winter Research Program at QBI, please email collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au.

Available projects

Dr Matilde Balbi: Closed-loop joystick navigation for mice

DESCRIPTION: Refined forelimb movements are a distinctive feature of the mammalian motor system. Goal directed limb movements allow us to perform most tasks of daily living and to manipulate objects in our environment. These highly coordinated voluntary movements integrate relevant sensory inputs and motor command.  Sensorimotor integration is often disrupted in neurological disorders, such as stroke. Mice are very dexterous with their forelimbs and share many kinematics features with humans.

This project aims to:

  1. Further develop a miniature robotic joystick for applying force to guide or perturb mouse forepaw movements and integrate it to our automatic system
  • program system for applying force perturbation
  • Integration of miniaturized hardware and implementation of microprocessors (Arduino, Raspberry pi)
  • Program a real-time processing routine and a GUI
  1. Develop a system for high-speed videos to track and quantify forelimb movements of mice, combined with simultaneous calcium imaging recordings
  • Adapt the system for online tracking and closed loop applications
  • Program a real-time processing routine and a GUI

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will be expected to build and test the apparatus, making sure that the method reaches high sensitivity of detection. Scholars will be responsible to modify/ generate codes that are accessible to any user.  Scholars will be expected, with the help of the supervisor, to find new innovative solutions that can improve the system.   

SUITABLE FOR: The project is suitable for students with knowledge of Phyton and experience with creative problem solving.

DURATION: 5 weeks

CAMPUS: St Lucia

For further information on the project please contact Dr. Balbi  by email (m.balbi@uq.edu.au). For general info on the lab have a look at our website: balbilab.com. Students can contact the supervisor to ask more info about the project prior applying.


Dr Matilde Balbi: Automated string-pulling task

DESCRIPTION: Rodent models of neurological disease are often characterized by motor deficits. Behavioural tests like the tapered beam test or the cylinder test provide sensitive measures of motor function. However, manual frame-by-frame scoring of the video recordings, necessary to obtain test results, is time consuming and prone to human bias.

The aim of the project is to build an automated string-pulling task and video recording systems to process and store results.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will be expected to build and test the apparatus, making sure that the method reaches high sensitivity of detection. Scholars will be responsible to modify/ generate codes that are accessible to any user.  Scholars will be expected, with the help of the supervisor, to find new innovative solutions that can improve the system.

SUITABLE FOR: The project is suitable for students with knowledge of Matlab and experience with creative problem solving.

DURATION: 5 weeks

CAMPUS: St Lucia

For further information on the project please contact Dr. Balbi  by email (m.balbi@uq.edu.au). For general info on the lab have a look at our website: balbilab.com. Students can contact the supervisor to ask more info about the project prior applying.


Professor Geoffrey GoodhillGraphical user interface design for visual stimuli

DESCRIPTION: We aim to understand the computational principles by which stimuli in the world are represented by patterns of neural activity, and how these representations emerge during development. To do this we are recording the activity of thousands of neurons simultaneously, at single-cell resolution, in the brain of the larval zebrafish, and also recording zebrafish behaviour. While recording neural activity, we present visual stimuli to the fish by playing movies of artificially generated spots and shapes designed to mimic prey and other environmental cues that the fish might encounter in its natural environment. We are seeking a skilled software engineer, computer scientist or programmer to develop a new user-friendly graphical user interface for fast and flexible generation of a wide range of these artificial visual stimuli using Python.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: You will be embedded in an interdisciplinary team of neuroscientists, engineers, mathematicians and physicists. While in the lab you will gain exposure to cutting edge experimental neuroscience and state-of-the-art computational analysis techniques from machine learning, applied mathematics and statistical physics.

Project aims:

  • Develop an extensible modular package for the generation of movies of artificial visual stimuli in Python.
  • Develop a graphical user interface for users to specify the design of the stimuli (i.e. shape, size, position, speed, direction etc.) and various optical corrections.

Project devlierables are source code and comprehensive package documention.

SUITABLE FOR: 

  • Strong skills in coding in Python and demonstrated experience in GUI design are essential.
  • Experince with version control (GitHub) and creation of software documentation is required.
  • A background in mathematics and experience with standard Python scientific packages such as numpy and scipy are also highly desirable.
  • Previous knowledge of neuroscience is not essential.

DURATION: 4-5 weeks on site

CAMPUS: St Lucia

Please contact Professor Goodhill (g.goodhill@uq.edu.au) prior to submitting an application. Further background can be obtained from the following article: goodhill.org/pub/avitan20.pdf


Dr Susannah TyeWhy does deep brain stimulation (DBS) work for some and not others?

DESCRIPTION: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a therapy in which electrodes are implanted into the brain and are used to deliver electrical stimulation alter activity. This technology is used for an increasingly diverse set of neurological and psychiatric disorders, but not all patients response. In the Tye laboratory, we are interested in why some groups responde, and not others.

In this project you will help identify in preclinical animals models what does DBS do to the brain, and how this relates to treatment response. The overarching goal would be to identify the most important biological correlates of treatment response.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will learn how to analyse behavioural and microscopy data, and perform stastical analyses to identify new patterns in data. By the end of the project scholars should have an appreciation of quantitative methods in behavioural neuroscience and biological psychiatry.

SUITABLE FOR: Suitable for any undergraduate student with an interest in neuroscience. Basic statistics and computer skills preferable.

DURATION: 5 weeks on site

CAMPUS: St Lucia


Professor Fred Meunier: Applying artificial intelligence to analyse super-resolution large datasets

DESCRIPTION: Super-resolution techniques are gaining momentum and are now opening new avenues for biologists, allowing direct visualisation of molecules in both fixed and living cells for the first time. In the last 5 years, my laboratory has focused on establishing single molecule imaging at The University of Queensland. Using this super-resolution technique, we have been able to track single molecules in their native environment and reveal critical changes in their behaviour associated with key physiological or pathological processes. The goal of this project is to apply artificial intelligence to analyse large dataset of stemming from single molecule imaging experiments.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will gain skills in single molecule imaging data analysis, be involved in analysing the data, and have an opportunity to generate publications from their research.  Students will be asked to produce a report or oral presentation at the end of their project.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applications from students with a background in Math/Physics and/or Biology. Matlab or Python experience would be a plus.

DURATION: 5 weeks

CAMPUS: St Lucia

Please contact Prof Fred Meunier (f.meunier@uq.edu.au) and Ms Rachel Gormal (r.gormal@uq.edu.au) for application and send your CV.

QBI’s Summer Research Program 2021-2022

UQ’s Summer 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 Summer Research Program offered at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI). QBI is looking for exceptional and highly motivated students to spend 6-10 weeks contributing to research projects currently underway in our laboratories while earning a scholarship of AUD$ 360/ per week. The program will commence from Monday 29 November 2021 and run through until Friday 18 February 2022 with a holiday break from 25 December 2021 to 2 January 2022.

APPLICATIONS OPENING SOON
Applications open from 23 August 2021 and close on 26 September 2021

Benefits

Summer 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$360/- per week, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ Student Employability Centre (UQ SEC).

Eligibility

To be eligible for the UQ Summer 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 Summer Program (ie. continuing study in the same degree in Semester 1,  2022 and not completing/graduating in December 2021);
  • 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.

Selection

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 Summer Research Scholarship and those who qualify will receive funding of AUD 360/- per week, 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 Summer 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.

The period of eligibility for scholarship payments for the Program is from 6 weeks up to 10 full weeks between the time period of 29 November 2021 to 18 February 2022.  The research period is normally offered in two parts to allow for the Christmas/New Year holidays when the University is officially closed.

Summer 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.

Summer 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 summer 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 Summer 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 29 November 2021 to participate in the compulsory UQ SEC Summer 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 26 September 2021.  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 22 October 2021.

If you have any questions regarding the 2021/2022 UQ SEC Summer Research Program at QBI, please email collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au.

Available projects

 
Dr Tara Walker: Investigating the role of ferroptosis in the regulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis

DESCRIPTION:  Ferroptosis is a non-apoptotic, caspase-3-independent form of cell death. In the brain, ferroptosis has been linked to cell death in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders. However, whether it plays a role in normal brain physiology via the programmed elimination of neural precursor cells (NPCs) during adult neurogenesis is unknown.

Glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) acts as a core negative regulator in the ferroptotic pathway. In this project we will investigate whether a cell type-specific depletion of GPX4 will increase the rate of ferroptotic cell death in adult NPCs and result in a decrease in adult neurogenesis and associated hippocampus-dependent learning and memory function. To induce ferroptotic cell death specifically in NPCs, GPX4 floxed mice have been crossed with Nestin-CreERT2 transgenic mice, to generate a GPX4(f/f)::NestinCreERT2 transgenic mouse line (GPX4NPCKO). Following treatment of these GPX4NPCKO mice with tamoxifen, GPX4 will be specifically depleted in the Nestin+ adult NPCs. To investigate the effect of GPX4 depletion on spatial learning, two hippocampus-specific learning tasks, the active place avoidance test and the novel object recognition test, will be used.

Following behavioural testing, the mice will be perfused with saline and their brains hemisected. One hemisphere will be post-fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and 40 mm frozen brain sections cut using a microtome. The number of BrdU+/NeuN+ cells (surviving neurons), DCX+ (immature neurons) and Ki67+ cells (proliferating precursor cells) will be counted.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will gain skills in animals behavioural testing, histology and microscopy. This project will likely generate data that will be included in an associated manuscript on which the scholar will be an author. Students will be asked to present their work as an oral presentation to the research group at the completion of the project.   

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applications from 3rd or 4th year students with a background in molecular biology, neuroscience, biotechnology or other related fields. Applications from students who may be interested in undertaking Honours or Masters research units in our lab in 2022, or future higher degree research (MPhil/PhD), will be viewed favourably.

DURATION: 8-10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia - applicant will be required on-site for duration of the project.

For further information or to discuss the project, please contact Dr Walker (t.walker1@uq.edu.au). 


 

Dr Adam Walker: Studying mechanisms and treatments for motor neuron disease and frontotemporal dementia

DESCRIPTION: Neurodegenerative diseases such as motor neuron disease (MND) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are inevitably fatal and have no effective therapeutics. MND primarily affects the spinal cord and causes paralysis, whereas FTD primarily affects the brain and causes progressive and debilitating changes to behaviour, language and personality. Despite these many differences in disease symptoms, most people with MND and FTD develop similar characteristic pathology in neurons involving a DNA/RNA-binding protein known as TDP-43. Our lab aims to understand how dysfunction of TDP-43 and related proteins causes neurodegeneration. We use various biochemical and imaging techniques to study neuronal cell cultures, genetically modified mice, and human samples.

Recently, using advanced genetic engineering and proteomics approaches, we have identified genes and proteins that likely control neurotoxicity in MND and FTD. The aim of this project is to define how these potential new therapeutic targets contribute to neurodegeneration, to guide future drug development for people living with these devastating diseases.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: You will work alongside current lab members and may use a range of techniques including CRISPR/Cas9 genetic engineering, neuronal cell culture and transfections, lentiviral production and cell transductions, transgenic mouse motor behaviour assessment, mouse brain and spinal cord surgery and dissection, immunoblotting, and advanced microscopy, depending on the final agreed project aims.

Students will be involved in weekly lab meetings and journal clubs, will present their results in a lab meeting, and will produce a final report that may contribute towards research publications.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applications from students with an interest in biochemistry, cell biology and neuroscience, and we welcome lab members with a diversity of past experience.

We encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, LGBTIAQ+ students and others from backgrounds underrepresented in STEMM.

Applications from students who may be interested in undertaking Honours or Masters research units in our lab in 2022, or future higher degree research (MPhil/PhD), will be viewed favourably.

DURATION: 6-10 weeks, by arrangement between student and lab.

CAMPUS: St Lucia.

Please send expressions of interest to Dr Adam Walker (adam.walker@uq.edu.au), Dr Rebecca San Gil (r.sangil@uq.edu.au), Dr Leon Luan (w.luan@uq.edu.au), Dr Adekunle Bademosi (a.bademosi@uq.edu.au), or Dr Heledd Brown-Wright (h.brownwright@uq.edu.au).

So that we can consider your expression of interest, in your initial email you must include:

  1. your CV,
  2. academic transcript, and
  3. a short description of your research interests and future goals.

If applicable, you are welcome to also provide a brief description of relevant relative-to-opportunity considerations that may have impacted your past record of achievement.

We will invite shortlisted candidates to meet and discuss specific details of available projects prior to final application submission.


 

Dr Dragan Rangelov and Professor Jason MattingleyNeural correlates of surprise responses in healthy adult humans

DESCRIPTION: Accurate representation of the environment is critical for adaptive behaviour. Research has suggested that the brain constructs an internal model of the environment and uses that model to predict and prepare for the future. One way to investigate such internal models is to characterise the brain’s responses to unexpected events. Recent reseach in our lab has shown that the quality of sensory encoding is better for events that are unexpected (‘surprising’) relative to those that are expected. The aim of this reseach project is to further explore the brain’s responses to expected and unexpected visual and auditory stimuli. To estimate the quality of sensory encoding, we will use computational modelling of electroencephalography (EEG) data in healthy human adults. The results of these analyses will be contrasted with already collected recordings of brain activity in the primary visual cortex (V1) in a non-human animal model.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will gain skills in recording EEG data and computational modelling of multivariate brain imaging data. In addition, scholars will gain skills in using modern open-source data-science tools as the analyses will be performed using Python and R programming languages. Depending on the quality of the experimental results, there will be an opportunity to contribute to scientific publications arising from the research. Scholars may also be asked to produce a report or oral presentation at the end of their project.

SUITABLE FOR: Experience with computer programming and multivariate data analyses is highly desirable. This project is open to applications from students with a background in engineering and/or computer sciences, biology, medicine or psychology, and who have experience with multivariate data analyses using computer programming (MATLAB, Python, R).

DURATION: 10 weeks and applicant will be required on-site at Queensland Brain Institute for the project.

CAMPUS: St Lucia.

For further information, please contact Dr Dragan Rangelov (d.rangelov@uq.edu.au).


 

Dr Dhanisha JhaveriUnderstanding molecular and cellular mechanisms in the brain underpinning stress resilience

DESCRIPTION: Chronic and uncontrollable stress such as that experienced during the current COVID-19 pandemic is a major risk factor for many neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression, for which treatment remains a challenge. Therefore, the search for neurobiological mechanisms, specifically those involving defined cell subtype(s) or circuit(s) that confer resilience i.e. the ability to avoid deleterious behavioural changes in response to chronic stress, represents a novel strategy for discovering antidepressant therapeutics.

The discovery of neurogenesis (i.e. the production and integration of new neurons) in the adult mammalian brain has emerged as an unparalleled mechanism to understand how life experiences shape cellular plasticity, and in turn alter behavioural outcomes. A major focus of our lab is to understand how adult-born neurons contribute to the development of, and recovery from, stress-induced affective behaviour. Using mouse models, our lab has uncovered an important role for adult-born neurons in the regulation of anxiety-like behaviour.  Recently, advanced transcriptomics approaches have identified new molecular candidates that may play critical role(s) in this mechanism of stress resilience.

The primary aim of the project is to establish whether and how these candidate genes contribute to stress-induced anxiety-like behaviour.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: The outcomes of this study will provide a new framework for understanding the role of adult-born neurons in mood regulation and identify potentially new molecular targets for promoting stress resilience.

You will work alongside current lab members and may use a range of techniques including neuronal cell culture, mouse brain dissection, histology, advanced microscopy, animal behaviour.

Students will participate in the lab meetings, journal clubs, QBI seminars and present their data in a lab meeting.  They will also communicate their results via a written final report that may contribute towards research publications.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applications from students with an interest in neuroscience, cell biology, molecular biology, regenerative medicine.

Applications from students who may be interested in undertaking Honours or Masters research units in our lab in 2022, or future higher degree research (MPhil/PhD), will be viewed favourably.

DURATION: 8-10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus - applicant will be required on-site for duration of the project.

Please send expressions of interest to Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri (dhanisha@uq.edu.au) and include copies of your CV and academic transcripts. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to meet and discuss project details prior to final application submission.


 

Associate Professor Ethan ScottQuantitative analysis of neural activity and behaviour in zebrafish larvae

DESCRIPTION: There are two foci that this project could take:

  1. The quantification of behavioural mechanics and the development of closed-loop behavioural paradigms, or
  2. the mathematical analysis and modelling of whole-brain calcium imaging.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Outcomes would include the development of a system for closed-loop stimulation during calcium imaging and/or the successful modelling of activity across the brain during such stimulation. Toward the end of the project, the student would present the results to the lab group as a whole.

SUITABLE FOR: The project is suitable for advanced undergraduate students with training in mathematics or neuroscience.

DURATION: This is a 10-week project.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus - but compatible with remote work using already-collected data.

Applicants can contact Associate Professor Ethan Scott (ethan.scott@uq.edu.au) if they have questions about the project.


 

Associate Professor Ethan ScottLight sculpting for targeted in vivo photoactivation

DESCRIPTION: The aim of this project will be to sculpt UV laser light, using a spatial light modulator, to illuminate individual targeted neurons in vivo. These neurons will be identified through calcium imaging, and then sculpted light will be used to illuminate these cells using a photoactivatable GFP.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Students should have a background in optical physics sufficient to approach the project, although further training and mentorship will be provided as the project proceeds. Deliverables include the successful illumination of targeted neurons and the imaging of these neurons’ structures once they are labelled.

SUITABLE FOR: The project is suitable for advanced undergraduate students with training in physics.

DURATION: This is a 10-week project.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus - without access to the laboratory, the project could be approached from a modelling perspective, with a greater emphasis on the theory of light sculpting.

Applicants can contact Associate Professor Ethan Scott (ethan.scott@uq.edu.au) if they have questions about the project.


 

Professor Bruno van SwinderenNeural correlates of visual attention in behaving flies making choices in a realistic virtual reality environment

DESCRIPTION: We have designed a virtual reality environment for Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies that places these animals in the context of a wrap-around arena onto which naturalistic visual stimuli can be displayed. Tethered flies control the position of images by walking on an air supported ball. The scholar will be provided with electrode-implanted flies to test in this arena, in order to determine brain responses to novel/surprising events in a naturalistic environment, with a focus on examining changes in oscillatory brain activity.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: The scholar will learn basic behavioural approaches, brain recordings, and signal processing. One key question to be addressed is whether naturalistic stimuli (and surprising events therein) evoke stronger brain resppnses than traditional stimuli used in this field (e.g., geometrical shapes).

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applicants with a background in biology, computer science, engineering, or maths. We are particularly interested in 3rd year students considering honours research in our lab, on this or other research projects related to understanding the role of sleep in optimising attention.

DURATION: 6-10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus.

Applicants can contact Professor Bruno van Swinderen (b.vanswinderen@uq.edu.au) if they have questions about the project.


 

Dr Tristan Wallis and Professor Fred MeunierStudying nanoscale protein dynamics using Python based machine learning and computer vision

DESCRIPTION: The Meunier lab has a primary research focus on the nanoscale dynamics of proteins involved in neuronal communication (neuroexocytosis). We are interested in tracking the movement of individual molecules using advanced super resolution microscopy techniques which allow us to visualise molecules far below the diffraction limit of visible light. Processing, visualising and interpreting data from these experiments requires development of a) algorithms to facilitate analysis of nanoscale molecular trajectory information and b) functional graphic user interfaces (GUIs) to allow non-coders to use these algorithms. The successful applicant will be assisting with both of these aspects using the Python programming language. We are particularly interested in using computer vision (OpenCV) and machine learning to automatically detect and assess regions of interest for further analysis in super resolution movies.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Based on previous research student output, we anticipate that at the end of the 6 week project the applicant will have been involved in the generation of one or more Python GUI software tools for analysis of super resolution data. The applicant will have gained insight into aspects of neurobiology and super resolution microscopy, and will have gained significant experience with using Python to analyse super resolution data. Depending on the degree of involvement, the applicant will be included on publications directly related to the software they have contributed to.  At the conclusion of the project, the applicant is encouraged to prepare a report, and give a formal oral presentation to our laboratory, and an informal presentation to the other summer reearchers and supervisors.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is suitable for a student with a general background in biological sciences and an interest in neurobiology, Python programming, data science and statistics.

DURATION: 6 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus. The student is generally preferred to be on site for face to face interaction and learning, but in the event of potential COVID restrictions, should be able to work remotely on various coding and data analysis tasks.

For further information please contact Professor Fred Meunier (f.meunier@uq.edu.au).


 

Professor Pankaj Sah and Dr Roger Marek: Identification of neural populations in the prefrontal cortex linked to fear and its extinction

DESCRIPTION: The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain important for planning but also has a key role in memory formation and consolidation. We are currently investigating prefrontal neural populations that are activated during different stages of fear learning and its extinction.  These paradigms aim to understand the circuits that lead to a many anxiety related disorders like PTSD. We are using a viral expression system that tags neurons that encode particular memories - called the neural engram with a fluorescent marker. This allows us to identify the cells involved in memory formation in the prefrontal cortex. The aim of this project is the quantification of these populations of neurons across the prefrontal cortex using software-guided approaches. It will also involve using state of the art microscopy to record these cells. If time permits the candidate may also engage in behavioural training.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: The scholar will gain skills in data collection, research planning, and advanced microscopy with quantification, and likely inclusion in a publication. Students may also be asked to produce a report or oral presentation at the end of their project.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applications from students with a background in chemistry, medicine, and biomedical sciences in the third or fourth year of their undergraduate studies.

DURATION: 8 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus. The project will require at least 1 week initial training on-site, however, the remainder of the 8 week project could be done remotely if required due to COVID-19.

For further information please contact Dr Roger Marek (r.marek@uq.edu.au).


 

Professor Pankaj Sah and Ms Caixia LinNew ways to assess changes in gait in mice to understand the neural pathways that drive movement

DESCRIPTION: 

Background

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. PD is characterized by the loss of dopamine neurons in the midbrain and dopamine replacement therapy remains the standard for symptomatic relief. However, severe PD symptoms in advanced PD patients such as freezing of gait (FOG)are shown to be insensitive to dopamine replacement treatment. FOG is characterised by a sudden inability to initiate or continue walking, especially while turning, in stressful time-constrained situations and upon entrance into and through confined spaces such as doorways. Deep brain stimulation in the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) has been reported to be an effective treatment for PD patients with FOG symptoms. The mechanisms by which DBS of the PPN relieves FOG symptoms remains unknown. The main reason for this is because we have little understanding of how tehse structures drive movement and how disruption of thier activity changes it.

Aim

This project aims to investigate the locomotion contribution of PPN involved neural circuits, such as the connection between the PPN and the substantia nigra.

Approach

Specific connection between the PPN and other motor related areas will be labelled using viral injections. These viral vectors label cells involved in movement and allow optogenetic control of gait.  Behavioural experiments such as gait analysis and grip strength will be tested in combination with optogenetics manipulation to understand the contribution of these circuits  to locomotion.  Software approaches like Ethovision and Gigait or similar will be used to analyze the videos obtained from gait experiments. There is also the opportunity to develop novel software to analyse these video data

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will be involved in mouse handling and testing motor function with behavioural experiments. They will obtain skills in movement related behavioural experiments, behavioural data analysis, scientific writing and presenting of scientific data. Students will be asked to produce a brief report and oral presentation at the end of their project.

Scholars will learn current approaches to interrogate neural function. They will learn about viral vectors and how these can be used to manipulate neural circuits.  They also have the opportunity to work within a team to develop novel software to record and quantify movements like walking.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to life sciences and computer sciences students with a strong interest in neuroscience and data analysis. Experience with MATLAB or other programming language strongly preferred.

DURATION: 8-10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus. The applicant will be required to be onsite for the initial 3 weeks after which remote work is optional.

For further information, please contact Ms. Caixia Lin (Caixia.Lin@uq.edu.au).


 

Dr Margreet RidderExploring the neuroanatomical connections involved in Parkinson’s disease

DESCRIPTION: 

Background

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that results from loss of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain. Freezing of gait (FOG) and postural instability are often seen in patients with advanced PD.  In FOG patients experience brief, episodic absences or marked reduction of forward progression of the feet despite having the intention to walk. Deep brain stimulation of the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) offers relief of FOG for some patients, yet its mechanism is unknown. The PPN is a nucleus in the brain stem and contains different neuronal cell types with ascending and descending connections to a range of brain areas, including many motor related areas.

Aim

This project aims to reconstruct neurons in specific motor related areas and quantify the synaptic connections they receive from different classes of PPN neurons in rodents.

Approach

Specific neuronal population and synapses will be fluorescently labelled using state-of-the art technology delivered using viral vectors. 

After labelling of cells and their synaptic connections, histological techniques will be used to create fluorescent images of individual neurons. Finally, Imaris software will be used to reconstruct neurons and their connections, and obtain quantitative data on the types of neurons and their synapses.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will be involved in neuronal labelling, tissue fixation and fluorescent microscope. They will obtain skills in neuroanatomy, anatomical data analysis, scientific writing and presenting of scientific data. Students will be asked to produce a brief report and oral presentation at the end of their project.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to life sciences students with a strong interest in neuronal anatomy. Experience with MATLAB or other programming language preferred but not required.

DURATION: 8-10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus. The applicant will be required to be onsite for the initial 3 weeks after which remote work is optional.

For further information, please contact Dr. Margreet Ridder (m.ridder@uq.edu.au).


 

Dr Matilde BalbiCharacterization of different neural populations following optogenetic stimulation to enhance stroke recovery

DESCRIPTION: Stroke is the leading cause of disability in Australia and has very limited treatment options. Direct brain stimulation is a promising strategy to promote functional recovery after stroke. However, the mechanism underling how brain stimulation at specific frequencies drives different neural populations and how this affects stroke recovery is not well understood.

In this project, the student will be provided with the chance to work on the electrophysiological data collected from awake mice that received acute optogenetic stimulation after stroke. The student will use MATLAB to extract and extinguish single-neuron activity from multiple cortical regions (spike sorting) and investigate how different types of neurons modulate their activity during stroke recovery.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Scholars will be responsible to modify/ generate codes that are accessible to any user. Scholars will be expected, with the help of the supervisor, to find new innovative solutions that can improve data analysis and collection. Students will present their work at lab meetings.

SUITABLE FOR: Candidates with working knowledge of MATLAB coding are encouraged to apply. Neuroscience knowledge is a plus. We encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, LGBTIAQ+ students and other underrepresented minorities in STEMM.

DURATION: 10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus. Applicant will be required on-site for the project.

For further information on the project please contact Dr Balbi by email (m.balbi@uq.edu.au). For general info on the lab have a look at our website.


 

Dr Zhitao HuFunctional roles of CAPS in synaptic transmission and autism

DESCRIPTION: Recent genetic research has recognised the Ca2+-dependent activator protein for secretion (CAPS, also called CADPS in human) as an ASD risk gene. The human CAPS gene is located within the susceptibility locus for autism that was mapped to human chromosome 7q31-q33, with mutations in CAPS being identified in patients with autism. Functional studies have observed autistic-like phenotypes in CAPS-knockout mice and aberrant CAPS splicing in autistic patients. Moreover, a mouse model with copy number variation in the CAPS gene also exhibits an autistic-like behavioural phenotype. These advances have strongly indicated that CAPS is a candidate autism susceptibility gene. Since its discovery, studies on CAPS have focused on its function in synaptic transmission, with severe defects in SV and DCV exocytosis being observed in CAPS knockout neurons. Despite these advances, however, it remains largely unclear how CAPS regulates synaptic transmission, and how CAPS dysfunction in the synapse could contribute to autism. The goal of this project is to uncover the molecular mechanisms that underlie the function of CAPS in the synapse.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES AND DELIVERABLES: Students will gain skills in genetic manipulation, molecular cloning, and optical imaging, and have an opportunity to generate publications from their research. Students may also be asked to produce a report or oral presentation at the end of their project.

SUITABLE FOR: This project is open to applications from students with a background in biology.

DURATION: 10 weeks.

CAMPUS: St Lucia campus. Applicant will be required on-site for the project.

For any inquiries, please email Dr Zhitao Hu (z.hu1@uq.edu.au).