QBI offers summer and winter research programs for undergraduate students.

Summer Research Program 2017/18 

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 up to 10 weeks contributing to research projects currently underway in our laboratories while earning $360 per week.  The program will begin on Monday 20 November 2017 and run through until Friday 2 February 2018 with a holiday break from 25 December 2017 to 1 January 2018.

Applications now closed for the 2017-2018 program

Information about the 2018-2019 program will be advertised when available in mid-2018

Examples of Summer Projects

Project title:

Computational analysis of single-molecule movements

Project duration:

8-10 weeks

Description:

With developments in super-resolution microscope technology, it is now possible to image the movement of individual molecules in living neurons​. Interpreting these experiments, however, requires advanced mathematical/computational models and tools. The student will develop algorithms in Matlab to help understand these data.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Improved algorithms for the analysis of single-molecular imaging experiments.

Suitable for:

A strong mathematical background and good programming skills are essential. Prior knowledge of neuroscience is not required.

Primary Supervisor:

Prof Geoffrey Goodhill

Further Information:

Please see www.qbi.uq.edu.au/goodhillgroup and www.cns.qbi.uq.edu.au for more information about the lab.  You can contact Prof Goodhill at g.goodhill@uq.edu.au; all enquiries should be accompanied by your CV and academic transcripts.

 

Project title:

The mathematics of neural coding

Project duration:

8-10 weeks

Description:

In the lab we are imaging the activity of many neurons in the zebrafish brain simultaneously. This leads to large and complex datasets which we are mining to understand more about the mathematical/computational principles for how information about the world is represented in patterns of neural activity.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

You will help develop mathematical/computational techniques to analyse these data.

Suitable for:

A strong mathematical background and good programming skills are essential. Prior knowledge of neuroscience is not required.

Primary Supervisor:

Prof Geoffrey Goodhill

Further Information:

Please see www.qbi.uq.edu.au/goodhillgroup and www.cns.qbi.uq.edu.au for more information about the lab.  You can contact Prof Goodhill at g.goodhill@uq.edu.au; all enquiries should be accompanied by your CV and academic transcripts.

 

Project title:

Effects of human epilepsy mutations on inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain

Project duration:

6-10 weeks

Description:

Epilepsy is a devastating neurological condition, affecting 1-3% of the global population and >30% of people with epilepsy do not respond to currently available medications. Generalised epilepsy syndromes are often caused by hereditary mutations to the GABA type-A receptors (GABAARs) that mediate fast neurotransmission throughout the nervous system. The mechanism by which mutations disrupt GABAAR synaptic activity is still unknown. The aim of this project is to examine how epilepsy mutations affect GABAAR function, by looking at parameters such as ligand affinity, channel gating properties, receptor surface expression, mobility and synaptic clustering in order to understand how epilepsy occurs and to identify the most appropriate ways to therapeutically modulate these receptors. We offer two projects.

Project 1 will employ artificial synapses to examine epilepsy-causing GABAARs as they would operate in a real synapse. Using patch-clamp electrophysiology will enable us to determine how the functional properties of the mutant receptors shape the activation and deactivation phases of synaptic currents. If time permits, you will also test the effectiveness of four commonly used and four new drugs with anti-epileptic potential, and quantify their mode of action.

Project 2 will visualize inhibitory synapses at high resolution to extract detailed structural and quantitative information. For this we will use several single molecule imaging approaches to measure surface distribution of receptors and follow their movement. These methods include super-resolution photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) and single particle tracking PALM (sptPALM). Since neuronal synapses are three dimensional structures, 3D super-resolution imaging will also be performed.

Together these two projects will provide a detailed characterisation of the molecular pathogenesis and pharmacological profile of generalized epilepsy, free of the complications of traditional methods.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

  • Learn how to culture HEK293 cells.
  • Learn how to transfect HEK293 cells.
  • Learn patch-clamp electrophysiology.
  • Learn how to pharmacologically evaluate the effects of clinically-used drugs on GABAARs.
  • Learn how to use the super-resolution microscopy techniques: PALM, dSTORM and sptPALM.
  • Learn how to analyse super-resolution microscopy data.

Possibility of co-authorship on publications arising from this research.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from students with a background in biomedical sciences, pharmacology, biochemistry or biophysics.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Joe Lynch​

Further Information:

Please contact Professor Lynch prior to submitting an application.

j.lynch@uq.edu.au

+617 33466375

The project will be carried out at the Queensland Brain Institute.

 

Project title:

Human agenesis of the corpus callosum, autism spectrum disorder and brain wiring

Project duration:

10 weeks

Description:

Agenesis of the corpus callosum is a brain wiring alteration that occurs during brain development.  Many people have some characteristics that are similar to those with autism spectrum disorder. We are investigating brain wiring connectivity using high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological testing to understand how brain connectivity underpins the function of the brain. We also want to understand the underlying causes of agenesis of the corpus callosum by performing genetic analyses of DNA from people with these disorders compared to controls. The work will have a significant impact on our understanding of how changes in brain wiring impact brain function.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The applicants can expect to learn both theoretical and practical MRI theory, and gain experience in processing and analysing structural MRI data as part of an ongoing research project in the laboratory. Depending on the enthusiasm and commitment of the applicant, this project offers a great opportunity to be trained in advanced concepts of comparative neuroanatomy and brain development.

Suitable for:

This project is suitable for year 3-4 students with a background in science or mathematics and who are looking for an Honours or PhD project.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Linda Richards

Further Information:

 

Prior to submitting an application or for further information, please contact:  Professor Linda Richards

 

Project title:

Function of genes and molecules in agenesis of the corpus callosum and brain developmental disorders

Project duration:

10 weeks

Description:

Identifying a causal genetic mutation in a person requires functional studies to determine if the mutation causes a change in the function of the gene. This work requires in-depth analysis in animal models to examine gene function in cellular proliferation, differentiation, migration and cortical wiring. We are interested to understand the basic mechanisms regulating these developmental events and how they are altered in human brain disorders including agenesis of the corpus callosum, ventriculomegaly, hydrocephalus and cortical malformations. This work has a significant translational impact on understanding the causes of brain developmental disorders.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The applicants can expect to gain laboratory experience and actively participate in histology, microscopy and analytical techniques as part of an ongoing research project in the laboratory. Depending on the enthusiasm and commitment of the applicant, this project offers a great opportunity to be trained in advanced concepts of comparative neuroanatomy, brain development and evolution.

Suitable for:

This project is suitable for year 3-4 students with a background in science and who are looking for a Honours or PhD project.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Linda Richards

Further Information:

 

Prior to submitting an application or for further information, please contact:  Professor Linda Richards

 

Project title:

The function of early neuronal activity on the formation of neocortical circuits

Project duration:

10 weeks

Description:

How does the brain acquire its connectivity pattern during development? This project aims at elucidating the main roles of early sensory and spontaneous activity in the formation of neocortical circuits. By combining molecular, electrical and developmental manipulations in developing mammalian embryos and pups, this project will study how early events affect the precise formation of cortical features required for normal cognitive development. The work will have a significant impact on our understanding of how the brain is wired for function.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The applicants can expect to gain laboratory experience and actively participate in histology, microscopy and analytical techniques as part of an ongoing research project in the laboratory. Depending on the enthusiasm and commitment of the applicant, this project offers a great opportunity to be trained in advanced concepts of comparative neuroanatomy, brain development and evolution.

Suitable for:

This project is suitable for year 3-4 students with a background in science and who are looking for a Honours or PhD project.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Linda Richards

Further Information:

 

Prior to submitting an application or for further information, please contact:  Professor Linda Richards

 

Project title: 

Tracking developmental changes in the brain through adolescence: how exactly do differences in brain maturation lead to psychopathology?

Project duration:

6-10 weeks

 

Description:

Adolescence is a time of rapid change in the brain, but few studies have detailed changes in brain development during this sensitive period. Using brain imaging (MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging), we are studying developmental brain changes that occur from late childhood into the teenage years in 400 twins, and how changes in the brain relate to differences in cognitive and emotional functioning. This will substantially increase our understanding of the adolescent brain. It will also provide leads into how neurodevelopmental processes can go wrong during this period and contribute to mental health problems e.g. anxiety and depression, and help us understand why adolescence is not an equally vulnerable period for all individuals.

Students will have the opportunity to assist with data collection – brain scanning, cognitive and behavioural assessments, and gain skills in image processing (e.g. Freesurfer, FSL) and data analysis.  They will be given access to preliminary datasets, with either a cognitive or mental health focus, in order to explore basic concepts regarding the data. As an alternative, students could choose to do a literature review in the area of adolescent development. This could be a broad review (for example, covering aspects of neurodevelopment, cognitive and emotional health, genetic and environmental factors), or, it could have a specific focus.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will be required to give a short oral presentation at the end of the project. Those choosing to do a literature review will complete a written review over the course of the project.

 

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from students in Psychology (Neuropsychology, Experimental psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience) or with a background in image/signal processing, and would be suitable for candidates looking to progress to honours and/or a PhD.

Primary Supervisor:

 

A/Prof Margie Wright

 

Further info:

Email: n.hansell@uq.edu.au; margie.wright@uq.edu.au

 

 

Project title:

Principles of neural development applied to understanding brain cancer

Project duration:

10 weeks

Description:

Brain cancer is a significant health problem in Australia. One of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer is glioblastoma (GBM) and the prognosis for these patients is extremely poor. What is needed is a deeper understanding of the cause of brain cancer. We are approaching this challenge by utilising the principles of neural development to understand how tumours first arise in the brain and how they are able to continue to grow and metastasize in order to find the causes and treatments for adult and pediatric brain cancers that originate from glia. Nuclear factor one (NFI) genes have been implicated in brain cancer and in glial development. We have generated a number of animal models of Nfi gene mis-expression to determine the function of NFI genes in brain cancer. This work will have a significant impact on our understanding of the cause and progression of brain cancer.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The applicants can expect to gain laboratory experience and actively participate in histology, microscopy and analytical techniques as part of an ongoing research project in the laboratory. Depending on the enthusiasm and commitment of the applicant, this project offers a great opportunity to be trained in advanced concepts of comparative neuroanatomy, brain development and evolution.

Suitable for:

This project is suitable for year 3-4 students with a background in science and who are looking for a Honours or PhD project.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Linda Richards

Further Information:

 

Prior to submitting an application or for further information, please contact:  Professor Linda Richards

Project title:

Functional analysis of sleep-related genes in Drosophila melanogaster

Project duration:

6 weeks up to 10 weeks

Description:

Sleep is an essential process required for all aspects of health, including the maintenance of normal nervous system function. This is especially obvious from deficits exhibited following sleep impairment, which is typically associated with sleep disorders. The specific physiological and molecular mechanisms that lead to these deficits are not well understood. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster shares most of the fundamental features of sleep with mammals and therefore is an excellent model to address this question. One experimental approach is to examine the cognitive and behavioral deficit that follows sleep deprivation and correlate these behavioral changes with altered genetic and molecular processes. This will not only lead to an improved understanding of why organisms require sleep, but may also help us strengthen or knowledge of sleep disorders which affect millions of people worldwide.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The student will be testing candidate genes predicted to achieve key sleep functions. This will involve characterising genetic expression profiles of mutations in these genes, and measuring how controlling their expression affects sleep intensity and attention-like readouts.

Suitable for:

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

Primary Supervisor:

Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen

Further Information:

 

For further information about the van Swinderen lab group, visit the QBI website.

https://qbi.uq.edu.au/vanswinderengroup

 

Project title:

Generation of novel tau antibodies

Project duration:

6 to 10 weeks

Description:

One of the main pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the intraneuronal accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). The main component of NFTs is the protein tau in a hyperphosphorylated state. Immunization with anti-tau antibodies has demonstrated a reduction in tau pathology, however, behavioural improvements have only been achieved in some instances. This may be due to the fact that only approximately 0.1% of peripherally administered antibodies is estimated to enter the brain and as tau is predominantly localized intraneuronally, the amount of antibody that not only enters the brain but also crosses the cell membrane, is probably even less. This challenges the therapeutic potential of antibody-based treatments of neurodegenerative diseases and demonstrates the need for better antibody-delivery strategies to target brain-derived proteins. A potential mechanism to increase target engagement of tau specifically in neurons is through antibody engineering. This project aims to clone the variable regions of a novel anti-tau antibody and generate antibody formats which have previously been demonstrated within our group to increase neuronal delivery of antibodies. This project will form the foundations for later therapeutic analysis in tau transgenic mice.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The student will gain experience in molecular cloning, cell culture and biochemical techniques such as gel electrophoresis and ELISA.

Suitable for:

This project is open to third year science or biomedical students with a background in biochemistry and/or molecular biology.

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Rebecca Nisbet

Further Information:

 

Prior to submitting an application please contact Rebecca Nisbet: r.nisbet@uq.edu.au All enquiries should be accompanied by your CV and academic transcript. For more information about the Goetz lab group visit qbi.uq.edu.au/gotzgroup 

 

 

Project title:

Protein-Protein Interaction in Neurobiology

Project duration:

8 to 10 weeks

Description:

Understanding how neurons communicate with each other is fundamental to unravel how brain processes information during learning and memory. Our lab is interested in a number of synaptic proteins that regulate various aspect of neuronal functions, including the trafficking of ion channels and activity-dependent gene expression. The aim of this project is to examine in details the interaction between the epitranscriptomic regulator, namely fat, mass and obesite-associated protein with a number of novel binding partners that we recently identified through a yeast two-hybrid screen.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will develop skills in recombinant DNA technology and molecular cloning, mammalian tissue culture technique, Western blotting and co-immunoprecipitations, immunostaining and confocal microscopy. There is a possibility of co-authorship in publications arising from this research.

Suitable for:

This project is open to students with a background in biomedical sciences, biochemistry, neuroscience or molecular biology.

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Jocelyn Widagdo (Anggono lab group)

Further Information:

 

Prior to submitting an application, please contact: Dr Jocelyn Widagdo (ARC DECRA Research Fellow): j.widagdo@uq.edu.au All enquiries should be accompanied by your CV and academic transcript. For further information about the Anggono lab group visit qbi.uq.edu.au/anggonogroup

 

Project title:

Does selective attention alter orientation tuning in visual brain areas?

Project duration:

8 to 10 weeks

Description:

Mechanisms of selective attention play an important role in regulating neural responses to sensory stimuli. This project will combine behavioural testing and electroencephalography (EEG) in healthy human volunteers to determine whether spatial attention influences orientation tuning in visual areas of the brain.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The scholar can expect to learn about human behavioural testing, data analysis, and the use of EEG to understand brain function. It is expected that the scholar will give a presentation on his or her work in a laboratory meeting, and that the results will eventually be suitable for publication.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from UQ enrolled scholars with a background in experimental psychology or human cognitive neuroscience. Preference will be given to applicants in later stages of their degree (e.g., 3rd year, honours) who already have some experience with behavioural testing and/or EEG.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Jason Mattingley and Dr Matthew Tang (Mattingley lab group)

Further Information:

 

For further information about the project, please contact Professor Jason Mattingley at the Queensland Brain Institute j.mattingley@uq.edu.au All enquiries should be accompanied by your CV and academic transcript. For further information about the Mattingley lab group visit qbi.uq.edu.au/mattingleygroup

 

Project title:

How is visual information integrated to make simple perceptual decisions?

Project duration:

8 to 10 weeks

Description:

Virtually all aspects of daily life require us to make decisions, but it is not clear how the brain takes information from sensory stimuli in the environment and uses this to select appropriate responses. This project will combine behavioural testing and electroencephalography (EEG) in healthy human volunteers to determine how the brain integrates discrete visual motion signals to decide on their average direction.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The scholar can expect to learn about human behavioural testing, data analysis and the use of EEG to understand brain function. It is expected that the scholar will give a presentation on his or her work in a laboratory meeting, and that the results will eventually be suitable for publication.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from UQ enrolled scholars with a background in experimental psychology or human cognitive neuroscience. Preference will be given to applicants in later stages of their degree (e.g., 3rd year, honours) who already have some experience with behavioural testing and/or EEG.

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Jason Mattingley and Dr Dragan Rangelov (Mattingley lab group)

Further Information:

 

For further information about the project, please contact Professor Jason Mattingley at the Queensland Brain Institute j.mattingley@uq.edu.au All enquiries should be accompanied by your CV and academic transcript. For further information about the Mattingley lab group visit qbi.uq.edu.au/mattingleygroup

 

QBI’s Winter Research Program 2017

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

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

Applications for 2017 now closed

Information about the 2018 program will be advertised when available in early 2018

Contact

Ms Janet Voight 
Higher Degree by Research Manager 

   +61 7 3346 6401

  qbistudents@uq.edu.au

 

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