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

Summer Research Program 2022-2023

In our Summer Research Program, you'll have the opportunity to work with QBI researchers in a formal research environment. You'll gain first-hand experience of the research process and discover what research is being undertaken in your field of interest.

If you're currently enrolled in an undergraduate or Honours or Master’s by coursework degree at UQ and interested in pursuing a research career in neuroscience, we encourage you to apply.

We're looking for exceptional and highly motivated students to spend 6-10 weeks contributing to research projects currently underway in our laboratories. While you're here, you'll earn a scholarship of AUD$360/ per week. 

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants are eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week. To apply for the additional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander scholarship, please email collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au indicating your interest, after following the how to apply instructions below. Only some of the projects listed below are eligible for this additional scholarship. Check the details of the project you're interested in to see if the additional scholarship is included.

The program will commence from 28 November 2022 and run through until  17 February 2023 with a holiday break from 23 December 2022 to 3 January 2023.

Applications opening soon

Applications open from 15 August 2022 and close on 18 September 2022. Prepare ahead of time by reviewing our available projects now.

Benefits

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

  • experience to ‘test-drive’ research before embarking on future research studies, such as Honours or Higher Degree Research projects such as Master’s, MPhil or PhD
  • enhance your employability through opportunities to develop new academic and professional skills
  • 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 
  • the possibility of obtaining credit towards your degree or the UQ Employability Award
  • a scholarship for qualifying students to receive an allowance of AUD$360/- per week.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the UQ Summer Research Program at QBI, you 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,  2023 and not completing/graduating in December 2022)
  • 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.

Assessment and selection

You will be assessed by QBI staff who will determine your suitability. Placements will be awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account:

  •  eligibility
  •  availability of projects and supervisors
  • quality of the project
  • academic merit 
  • reasons provided for wanting to participate in the Program
  • skills and attributes of applicants to meet project requirements
  • available funding.

Scholarship support

All applicants will be automatically considered for a Summer Research Scholarship. If you qualify you'll receive funding of AUD 360/- per week, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ SEC.  

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants are eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week. To apply for the additional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander scholarship, please email collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au indicating your interest, after following the how to apply instructions. Only some of the projects listed below are eligible for this additional scholarship. Check the details of the project you're interested in to see if the additional scholarship is included.

No scholars are permitted to participate in the program in a voluntary capacity.

If you withdraw from the Program, or your placement is terminated, your scholarship will need to be returned for the equivalent full weeks remaining unworked.

Time commitment and obligations

It is expected that you will be available and make a commitment to work on a full-time basis between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (up to 36 hours each week) during the Program.

You're 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 28 November 2022 to 17 February 2023.

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.

If you're accepted to participate in the Program at QBI, you'll be asked to complete a Student Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Deed (SIPCA) for your research project.

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

Welcome event and student induction

Scholars accepted for the program at QBI are strongly encouraged to commence on 22 November 2022 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.

How to apply

You can only submit only one application but you can specify a second preference in your application.

Step 1 - Choose a project from the list of available projects listed below.

Step 2Check your eligibility.
Carefully read through all of the UQ SEC Summer Research Program information on the UQ Careers and Employability website

Step 3 – Email the relevant project contact person to express your interest in the project to ask if they will support your application. In this email, attach your detailed academic CV and complete academic transcripts. If they support your EOI you'll need to include their supportive statement in your application.

Step 4 – Submit an online application via UQ Student Hub and upload supporting documentation by 18 September 2022.

This should include your:

  •  complete academic transcripts
  • personal statement explaining why you wish to be considered for the project
  • resume
  • supporting statement from the project supervisor (this may be a copy of any email correspondence)

All applicants will be notified if they will be invited to participate in the Program by 24 October 2022.

Have questions?

If you have any questions regarding the 2022/2023 UQ SEC Summer Research Program at QBI, please email collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au.

Available projects

Explore the projects listed below to find one suitable for you. New projects are added regularly. Check back here to see the latest. 

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

 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. (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6387/430/tab-figures-data). 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, immunohistochemistry 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.

Your suitability

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

Duration

8-10 weeks with the applicant working onsite for 20-24hrs a week, with the option of working the remaining 8-12hrs remote.

Contact

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


 

Dr Matilde Balbi and Montana SamantzisInvestigating the effects of longitudinal brain stimulation following stroke
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, previous research has identified that recovery after brain stimulation is highly variable and may depend on both the timing and duration of stimulation.

For this project the student will perform mesoscale brain imaging following stroke in awake mice. They will investigate whether there are changes to neuronal activity and connectivity depending on the duration of brain stimulation given following stroke.

Expected outcome and deliverables

The student will gain skills in mouse handling, brain imaging, and brain stimulation. They will also learn how to perform basic analysis of brain imaging data. The student will be expected to participate in lab meetings and will have practice presenting their data.

Your suitability

 This project is open to applications from students with a background in biomedical sciences, psychology or engineering. Previous experience with mouse handling or analysis of brain imaging data is a bonus.

Duration

10 weeks on-site at QBI for 36 hours per week.

No remote working is possible for the project.

Extra scholarship support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicant, you're eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week, making your total stipend $720/ per week.

Contact

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 Reuben RideauxBehavioural and neural investigations of multisensory perception
Description

The project will investigate the neural basis for multisensory perception in humans. To investigate these neural mechanisms, we will use machine/deep learning, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and spectroscopy (fMRS), electroencephalography (EEG), eye tracking, and/or psychophysics. 

The research will be conducted at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) within the Mattingley Lab group (on the St Lucia Campus). QBI is an exciting place to work, and our group has a reputation for being inclusive and friendly, with weekly meetings where we discuss research on a broad range of topics. 

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The student will gain skills in machine/deep learning, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and spectroscopy (fMRS), electroencephalography (EEG), eye tracking, and/or psychophysics. They will also learn how to perform basic analysis of behavioural and/or brain imaging data. I always endeavour to publish the results of summer projects in a peer-reviewed journal. Students may also be asked to produce a report or oral presentation at the end of their project.

Your suitability 

This project is open to applications from students with a background in biomedical sciences, psychology, or engineering. Previous experience with machine learning, neuroimaging, and/or psychophysics is a bonus.

Duration

6-10 weeks with 20-36 hours of engagement per week.

You'll will be required on-site for the project.

Extra scholarship support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicant, you're eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week, making your total stipend $720/ per week.

Contact

Students are highly encouraged to contact the lab before applying. For further information on the project please contact Dr Rideaux by email (r.rideaux@uq.edu.au). For general info on the lab have a look at our website.


 
Associate Professor Steven ZurynGenome editing to study gene function and neurodegeneration
Description

Our laboratory studies genetics to uncover the functions of genes that regulate processes such as neurodegeneration and mitochondrial function. This project will focus on using new genome editing technologies (CRISPR) to understand how genes function in these processes. You will work with experts in the lab to test whether specific genes contribute to protecting the mitochondrial genome, a requirement for life and correct neuron function. We primarily use the genetic model organism C. elegans to conduct these studies. You will develop new genetic hypotheses and models to explain processes that contribute to disease.

Expected outcome and deliverables

 At a technical level, you will learn molecular biology approaches and genome editing technologies used around the world. At a conceptual level, you will gain insight into how genes contribute to disease. More specifically, this project will lead to the development of new hypotheses aimed at understanding the contribution of mitochondrial gene function to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. You will also learn how to present research and contribute to publications. 

Your suitability

This project is open to applications from motivated students with a background and/or interest in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics or similar. 

Duration

8-10 weeks 20-36 hours of engagement per week.

You'll be required on-site for the project.

Contact

If you would like to know more information before applying, please contact Steven Zuryn (s.zuryn@uq.edu.au). Also visit our lab’s website or www.zurynlab.com 


 
Dr Adam WalkerStudying mechanisms and treatments for motor neurone disease (MND) and frontotemporal dementia
Description

Neurodegenerative diseases such as motor neurone 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, human iPSC-derived 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. 

Your suitability

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.

Extra scholarship support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicant, you're eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week, making your total stipend $720/ per week.

Express your interest

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:

  • your CV, 
  • academic transcript, and; 
  • 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 Tara Walker: Does the chemokine Lymphotactin regulate adult neurogenesis?
Description

Physical activity strongly increases neural precursor proliferation in the adult hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. However, the underlying regulatory mechanisms of exercise-induced adult hippocampal neurogenesis are still unknown. Using proteomic screening, we found increased plasma levels of the chemokine lymphotactin (XCL1) in running mice. Our data show that XCL1 has proliferation-enhancing and pro-neurogenic effects on adult neural precursor cells in vitro, and a reduction in proliferation was observed in dentate gyrus primary cells isolated from XCL1 KO mice (Leiter et al., 2019, Sci Rep). It has been shown that XCL1 switches between two distinct protein folds that exert different functions in the immune system; however, it is unclear which of these affects neural precursor cells or microglia, both of which express XCL1 receptors.

Using a combination of cell culture and histological approaches, this project will investigate the effects of the two stable isoforms of XCL1 on adult hippocampal neurogenesis. The project aims are:

  • Aim 1. Which isoform of XCL1 increases neural precursor cell proliferation in vitro?
  • Aim 2. Which isoform of XCL1 increases proliferation and adult neurogenesis in vivo?
Expected outcomes and deliverables

You will gain skills in cell culture, 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.

Your suitability

This project is open to applications from 2nd-4th year students with a background in molecular biology, neuroscience, biotechnology or other related fields.

Duration

8-10 weeks, 36 hours per week. You'lll be required on-site for the duration of the project.

Contact

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


Dr Zhaoyu Li and Yi Rong: Mechanism of neurobehavioural change during aging
Description

Aging is a process with progressive physiological and cognitive declines. It could happen at different levels and lead to diverse aging related phenotypes. Aging in the nervous system gives rise to a series of motor and cognitive behaviour declines and is the major risk factor for many neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzherimer’s disease (AD). Though important, it remains poorly understood of how brain functions change with aging.

We aim to dissect mechanisms underlying this process using C. elegans as a research model. This organism has a short lifespan of only 3 weeks and a simple nervous system of 302 neurons. We will use optogenetics, imaging, genetics and behavioural approach to study behaviour and neural function change during aging.

We are interested in recruiting 2 students in neural activity and behaviour research during aging, respectively.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

You will gain skills in:

  • optogenetics
  • imaging
  • genetics
  • behavioural analysis.

You will be expected to give a presentation at the end of the project.

Your suitability

This project is open to applications from students with an interest in:

  • neuroscience
  • behaviour
  • aging.
Duration

8-10 weeks with 20-36 hours of engagement per week.

You will be required on-site for the project.

Extra scholarship support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicant, you're eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week, making your total stipend $720/ per week.

Contact

For further information or to discuss the project, please contact Dr Zhaoyu Li, zhaoyu.li@uq.edu.au


Dr Matilde Balbi: Investigating the relationship between neuronal activity patterns and behaviour
Description

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in Australia and has very limited treatment options. It is not well understood how neural activity patterns that are disrupted following stroke are related to behaviours. To further investigate this, research needs to thoroughly determine the relationship between patterns of brain activity and behaviour both at rest and after injury.

For this project, the student will perform data analysis on behavioural videos that were recorded during mesoscale brain imaging in awake mice. They will investigate whether there are changes to neuronal activity depending on the behaviour of the mice and will use innovative tools including Deep Lab Cut and Face Map.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

You will gain:

  • skills in using machine learning based software to analyse behavioural data
  • knowledge of using Deep Lab Cut and Face Map.

You'lll be expected to participate in lab meetings and will have practice presenting data.

Your suitability

This project is open to applications from students with a background in:

  • biomedical sciences
  • psychology, or
  • engineering.

Previous experience with the analysis of mouse behavioural data is a bonus.

Duration

10 weeks with 36 hours per week on-site at QBI.

Remote working is possible for the project, but you're encouraged to participate in the lab environment.

Extra scholarship support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicant, you're eligible for an additional scholarship of AUD$360/ per week, making your total stipend $720/ per week.

Contact

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 Hu: Functional 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

You will gain skills in:

  • genetic manipulation
  • molecular cloning
  • optical imaging.

You'll have an opportunity to generate publications from your research.

At the end of your project, you may also be asked to produce a report or oral presentation.

Your suitability

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

Duration

10 weeks. You'll be required to work on-site at QBI for the duration of the project.

Contact

For further information on the project please email Dr Zhitao Hu via z.hu1@uq.edu.au.


 

Professor Bruno van Swinderen and Dr Zhaoyu Li: Mutant gene discovery in C. elegans to understand general anaesthesia
Description

We are interested in understanding how general anesthetics such as propofol work. These drugs are routinely used to promote unconsciousness and thus to allow painless surgery in humans. We are keen to develop propofol reversal agents that would allow a more rapid and better controlled recovery from surgery. We are using the nematode C. elegans as a model, as this simple animal can also be rendered inert by propofol. However, one drug we are interested in testing seems to rapidly kill worms, and we are interested in understanding why, as this could provide clues regarding the propofol mechanism itself.

The project will involve 3 successive aims, which together encompass a well-delineated and potentially rewarding project.

  1. Mutagenize wild-type nematodes to change their DNA, with a view to isolating animals that are not affected by the drug (i.e., that still survive and visibly move around amid their dead sibs).
  2. Isolate the mutation using a well-established genetic strategy.
  3. Whole genome sequence of  the mutants to identify genes affected which render  animals resistant to this lethal drug.
Expected outcomes and deliverables

You will be exposed to a variety of techniques, including:

  • pharmacology
  • behavioural analysis
  • forward genetics
  • genomic analysis.

You'll also be generating results that will form the beginning of a larger project centred on identifying the protein target of an anaesthetic analogue, with a view to understanding its mechanism of action and how it could potentially be re-engineered as an anaesthesia reversal agent in humans.

The broad hypothesis is that the propofol target is slightly different in C. elegans, which is what makes the propofol analogue lethal in this model.

Your suitability

This project is open to applications interested in neuroscience research with a view to a getting a head start on a potential honours project.

It would also be suitable for students more broadly interested in medical questions, such as the problem of general anaesthesia.

Duration

8-10 weeks for 30-36 hours per week. You'll be required to work on-site at QBI in a laboratory environment.

Contact

For further information or to discuss the project, please contact Professor Bruno van Swinderen or Dr  Zhaoyu Li for more information or details:  b.vanswinderen@uq.edu.au or zhaoyu.li@uq.edu.au


No Winter Research Programs available in 2022

Check back here for details of the 2023 Winter Research Program.

 

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  collaborators@qbi.uq.edu.au

 

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