Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
29 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.

About This Project 

Develop new depression treatments

If you’re motivated to build a career in biomedicine and interested in developing much needed new treatments for depression, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a unique project-based PhD with life-changing impact within our Health and Biomedical Innovation concentration, in partnership with Lyell McEwin Hospital.

Depression is a leading cause of disability. In Australia, about 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and, according to BeyondBlue, in any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression. 

Clinical outcomes from current treatments remain far from optimal with only 30% of individuals with depression achieving remission after the initial antidepressant treatment. We need to discover novel targets that can help us develop novel drugs to improve patient outcomes.

Orexin-A and orexin-B are hypothalamic neuropeptides that play key roles in regulating the sleep–wake cycle, mood, cognition and memory and have been suggested to be involved in the pathophysiology of depression. However, the precise role of orexins in depression is still unclear. 

Both hypoactivity and hyperactivity of the orexin system have been associated with depression. Findings have also suggested that the changes in the orexin system may be sexually dimorphic. Again, we need further urgent research to determine the role of orexins and their receptors in depression.

This project will investigate the orexin system in pre-clinical models of depression in mice. We aim to characterise how the orexin system in the brain is altered in stress-induced depression models in mice, determine if the changes in the orexin system in animal models of depression are sexually dimorphic, and test the orexin receptor agonists and antagonists for their ability to modulate the symptoms and neurochemical changes in the brain in depression models in mice.

You will become part of the Health and Biomedical Information (HBI) concentration, located in the heart of the BioMed City precinct. You will have access to world-class facilities for performing sensitive biochemical analyses, protein assays, western blotting, immunohistochemistry, fluorescent imaging, confocal microscopy and ELISAs. 

You will be supported by peers throughout the project and trained to perform the required techniques. The HBI provides a supportive and strong research environment within which to start building a robust professional network.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, under the direction of the supervisory team, you will be involved in planning experiments, preparing animal ethics, undertaking animal training, performing behavioural testing, conducting experiments, data analysis and preparing publications. We also expect you to participate in HBI research concentration activities, including attending research seminars and presenting your own results. 

You will contribute to discussions about the future directions of the research group and review relevant literature to answer important questions. Dissemination of new knowledge will occur via publishing scientific papers, and attending meetings, seminars, and conferences.

Upon completion, you will possess essential research skills, including the ability to plan and execute experiments, work with preclinical models, prepare animal ethics applications, perform animal experiments, perform laboratory analyses, use specialised equipment, write  and submit peer-reviewed publications, present at conferences, and use computer software to carry out qualitative and quantitative analyses.

The project will help you to develop good management and communications skills and how to work independently and as part of a team. The supervisors will support you in developing responsible and respectful behaviours and understanding the importance of integrity in research.

Our project is highly innovative and interdisciplinary. It provides excellent opportunities to learn about neurobiology of stress and depression, the role of biological sex, animal models of depression in mice, behavioural testing and neurochemical changes in depression. There is the potential to also interact with metropolitan psychiatrists. 

Where you’ll be based

You will be based within the Health and Biomedical Innovation concentration. We study the complex workings of the body and its interaction with environment. Our goal is to address fundamental questions about how the body and its environment work and to integrate this knowledge to increase our understanding of the human body as a whole, in both health and disease. This approach involves measuring changes in the body with disease and the impact of interventions and allows us to discover biomedical pathways to improve health while providing the foundational knowledge required for translation into clinical practice. We achieve this through initiating, and being sought for engagement with, strong partnerships with other national and international thought leaders in academia, clinical practice, industry, government and our community. 

Our work is disseminated through production of high-quality publications, engagement with end-users and the community at conferences and with public presentations. Our fundamental approach to science provides a strong basis for student engagement across all health science programs, integrating our research into our teaching practices to develop industry ready graduates and engage them in our research endeavours.

Our research pillars represent a new direction in health and chronic disease research, focusing on strong engagement with government, industry, regulatory bodies, policy-makers and the community.

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:
  • Willingness to work with animals
  • Proficiency in English reading, writing and speaking

Applicants who are also able to demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • Experience in working with animals and laboratory analyses

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 Friday, 27 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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