Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Dr Nicole Dmochowska

Main Campus
Mawson Lakes

Applications Close
31 Jan 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:
All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$29,863 p.a. available to domestic and international applicants

About this project

Develop better neurosurgery methods for brain cancers

If you’re motivated to build a career in bioengineering and keen to develop better outcomes for those with brain cancer, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering an innovative project-based PhD with real-world impact within our Future Industries Institute, in partnership with Ferronova.

There is a critical need for practice-redefining treatments that increase survival of brain cancer patients, and/or improve the quality of life of survivors. 

Image-guided tumour neurosurgery with fluorescent molecules such as ICG partially addresses this need, facilitating maximal safe resection of brain tumours and consequently improving patient outcomes when compared to conventional neurosurgery. But while increasingly used, fluorescence guided neurosurgery remains limited by the poor tumour specificity of the agents currently available. 

In this cross-disciplinary research project, we want to investigate the performance of a novel highly fluorescent and stable molecular imaging formulation designed to specifically accumulate ICG within brain tumour tissues. 

The project will employ a patient-derived preclinical model that accurately mimics human glioblastoma to rigorously test its performance. The anticipated demonstration that molecular engineering of the formulation to target tumour-associated blood vessels and enable specific accumulation in malignant tissues would pave the way for rapid translation towards enabling extensive yet safe tumour resection. 

You will primarily work within the Future Industries Institute’s bioengineering lab, which is fully equipped for the preparation of nanoformulation, including contrast agents. You will also work in the state-of-the-art UniSA animal research facility, where preclinical studies will be performed. 

The project will allow you to engage with the Sid Faithfull Brain Cancer Laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer in Queensland, where several cutting-edge brain tumour models are available. You will also have valuable access to The South Australian Neurological Tumour Bank and their brain tumour patient tissues. 

You will be supported by a multidisciplinary team and industry partners with relevant expertise, providing you with a world-class research environment with excellent opportunities to progress successful outcomes to the clinical trialling phase.

Through the collaboration with Diagnostic Green, Ferronova’s R&D team, you will also gain knowledge in the GMP manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. There is a shortage of these critical skills so you will be positioned for exciting career opportunities post-graduation.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will conduct high quality research independently and in collaboration with the supervision team and other stakeholders. Specifically, you will develop and characterise ICG nanoformulation with excellent optical properties, and optimise the molecular targeting of the ICG nanoformulation to cells/tissues expressing the two target biomarkers FAP and PSMA. 

With guidance, you will contribute to patent application(s) protecting the intellectual property of the project and prepare animal research ethics applications. 

You will also assess performance in brain tumour models. This will be partially done at QIMR Berghofer, so occasional travel interstate will be required. 

We will support you to report research outcomes in scientific journals and present your work at national and international conferences.

Upon completion, you will have strong higher-level thinking, problem-solving and organisational skills and be able to manage cross-disciplinary research teams, including end-users and consumer representatives. You will also possess advanced skills in formulation science and preclinical research.

An entrepreneurial understanding of the pathways to and requirements of translating medical/pharmaceutical technologies will give you a competitive edge in the employment market. So too will an understanding of GMP manufacturing of pharmaceutical/medical products. You will enjoy a plethora of employment opportunities both in academia and the pharmaceutical industry.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the Future Industries Institute (FII) which was established with a new research culture in mind – one deeply engaged with industry, with the end goal of building economic growth through relevant innovation and industry partnership.

The Institute reflects the University’s strategic ambition to be Australia’s University of Enterprise which engages fully with the professions and industry globally, whose research is informed, leading edge and relevant. FII continues to forge national and international research partnerships in new industries and technologies that address real world issues. Our goal is to support a creative and engaged culture and to help develop a sustainable ecosytem in which innovation, complex, growth-focused industries thrive.

FII's research supports state and national research priorities and comprises top research teams able to collaborate across disciplines and to work with industry partners to deliver innovative solutions.

With a vibrant research environment, a strong industry orientation, and active international and national links, both academic and industry based, the Institute is among the very best in Australia and attracts and retains leading researchers.

Supervisory Team

Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $29,863 per annum is available to eligible applicants. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included. For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information for domestic students or international students.

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Additionally applicants must meet the projects selection criteria: 
  • Experience in developing nanoformulations

Applicant who can also demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • Experience in preclinical testing of nanoformulations

All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our Mawson Lakes Campus in the north of Adelaide. Note that international students on a student visa will need to study full-time.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Tuesday, 31st January 2023.

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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