Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Quenten Schwarz

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
27 Sep 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic only)

About this project

Advance knowledge in craniofacial birth defects  

If you are passionate about advancing your career in the biochemistry industry and keen to develop new therapies to treat birth defects, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), in partnership with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. 

Birth defects affect over 1 in 40 pregnancies and are the major driver of child mortality and life-long disability. Structural alterations of the head and face (i.e., craniofacial defects) form a significant proportion of these birth defects, with affected children often requiring life-saving surgery at birth and multiple rounds of reconstructive surgery throughout life.  

As the biological origins of these disorders are unknown, highly invasive surgical techniques remain the only form of treatment. It is imperative to understand how these disorders arise so that less invasive treatment options can be developed.  

In this project, we will use fish and mouse models that replicate the disease process to identify how craniofacial birth defects occur. By uncovering the biological defects at play, we will identify new pathways that can be targeted for preventative treatment or develop interventional therapies post-birth. New treatment strategies will be tested using in vivo animal models. 

This work is performed in association with clinician scientists at Cleft and Craniofacial SA who perform current best practice surgery on children with craniofacial defects. The intention is for this regular engagement with experts to lead to pre-clinical studies working towards meaningful therapies.  

You will join the Neurovascular Research Laboratory located within the CCB, under direct supervision of internationally recognised experts in neural crest and craniofacial development work. A hub of research excellence which supports fundamental discoveries in a wide range of human pathologies, the CCB provides you with access to cutting-edge resources for animal work, microscopy and gene editing. Importantly, you’ll also be supported with mentoring and join a vibrant cohort of research degree students in a highly engaging and collegial environment. 

What you’ll do 

In this project-based research degree, you will be trained in several cutting-edge technologies, including lineage tracing in animals, gene editing with CRISPR and Chimeric Receptor Trap technologies, production of transgenic animals, confocal, spinning disc and lightsheet microscopy, microCT, multiplexed spatial trancriptomics (RNAscope) and single cell bioinformatics analyses.  

There is potential for you to travel to other collaborative research centres within Australia, helping you to gain valuable hands-on experience and start building a collaborative network of colleagues 

Upon completion, you will be equipped with a broad set of employment-ready skills in molecular and cellular biology, animal science, embryology, high-end microscopy, spatial transcriptomics and bioinformatics analysis of single cell expression data.

Supervisory team

Women’s and Children’s Hospital
Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses.  Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents of Australia. 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 this group.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information.  
International applicants will not be eligible to receive the scholarship.

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:  
  • Willingness to work with animal models.
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 City West Campus in the heart of Adelaide.

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 Wednesday, 27 September, 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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