Mode
Internal

Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Associate Professor Beben Benyamin

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
30 Jan 2023

Study Level
PhD

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

Investigate the causes of motor neuron disease


If you are seeking to advance your career in genomics and interested in advancing our knowledge about the causes of motor neuron disease, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a ground-breaking project-based PhD in our Australian Centre for Precision Health (ACPreH).

Motor neuron disease (MND) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that often occurs in people with no family history of it. Although rare variants in a small number of genes can explain some cases, there are few answers about what causes MND.

Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs, 8% of the human genome) are embedded throughout the human genome and could be a causal factor contributing to MND. In line with this evidence, an anti-retroviral therapy, Triumeq (that targets one HERV), is now in a Phase 3 clinical trial, with initial results showing it to be safe and tolerable as an MND therapy. 

However, we are still unsure of the extent that HERVs contribute to the cause and progression of MND. Our project aims to systematically investigate the contribution of HERVs as a causal factor contributing to MND. The results will inform the next trial phases so that effective treatment can be found to improve the quality of life of those with MND.

You will conduct this research at the Australian Centre for Precision Health (ACPreH) and the Allied Health and Human Performance Unit. The Centre and Unit bring together multidisciplinary leading experts in allied health, genomics, population health and evidence translation to improve human health. Being part of this dynamic and world-leading cohort, you will have access to valuable experience, expertise and guidance.

Working mainly at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), you will have exclusive access to UniSA’s supercomputing resources with 100 CPUs and a 100TB hard drive. MND genomics and epigenomics data from the University of Queensland, and Target ALS (MND transcriptomic data) is available to be used at ACPreH.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will learn how to use advanced statistical and epidemiological methods to manage and analyse the big omics and health data, using high-performance computing resources. 

Upon completion of the research project, you will be proficient in computer programming and have the ability to write computer programs for efficient and automated data management and analysis. You will also possess bioinformatic and statistical genetic skills to analyse big health and genomic data and be adept at scientific writing and presenting findings. 

You will benefit enormously from involvement in this innovative and well-resourced project, with the opportunity to learn and collaborate with world leaders nationally and internationally in the field of MND genomics and precision medicine. 

There are opportunities to visit both the University of Queensland and Flinders University MND labs and present your research at local (ACPreH monthly seminar), national (e.g., Australian MND Research Symposium), and international (e.g., International Symposium on ALS/MND) conferences. 

You will attend important online genomics, computing and statistical workshops to improve your skills, such as the International Statistical Genetics Workshop. 

Your expertise in statistical genomics and big data are highly sought after and you can expect outstanding employment options within academia or the pharmaceutical and genomic industries on completion of your studies.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the Australian Centre for Precision Health (ACPreH). We bring together a multidisciplinary group of leading experts in genomics, population health and evidence translation to create the next generation of solutions for global health problems.

Our goals are to prevent disease before it strikes, and to create innovative solutions to address issues focused on health and wellbeing. We do this by developing ways to improve risk prediction and risk factor discovery, as well as disease screening and health education.

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 applications 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: 
  • High level numerical and analytical skills
  • High level verbal and written communication skills
  • Demonstrated experience and ability to work collaboratively and independently 
Applicants who can also demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • Knowledge in genetics, genomics, statistics or epidemiology
  • Proficiency with statistical programming languages such as Python or R
The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and 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 Monday 30 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 research.admissions@unisa.edu.au. You will receive a response within one working day.

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