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 Summer Research Program offered at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

QBI will be accepting applications from students with excellent academic achievement and a desire to pursue a future in neuroscience research to spend up to 10 weeks contributing to research projects currently underway in our laboratories. The program will begin on Monday 21 November, 2016 and run through until Friday 3 February, 2017 with a holiday break from 24 December, 2016 to Monday 2 January, 2017.

Benefits

By participating in the research program scholars will gain a range of benefits, including:

  • an opportunity to develop new academic and professional skills to enhance employability;
  • experience to test drive research before embarking on future research studies;
  • access to develop links in research networks and connections with other staff and postgraduate students;
  • supervision by outstanding researchers;
  • access to world class facilities and experiences;
  • the possibility of obtaining credit towards your degree or the UQ Advantage Award; and
  • a scholarship for qualifying students to receive an allowance of AUD$300 per week, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ Advantage Office.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the UQ Summer Research Program at QBI, students must:

  • be currently enrolled in an undergraduate, honours or masters by coursework degree at UQ at the time of application;
  • have completed at least one year of full-time study at the time of application;
  • be studying for a degree relevant to the research discipline;
  • have a high level of academic achievement during their undergraduate degree; and
  • have the potential to and an interest in undertaking postgraduate study (masters, MPhil or PhD).

Selection

Applications will be assessed by QBI and scholarships will be awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account:

  • the availability of projects and supervisors;
  • the academic merit of the applicant;
  • reasons provided for wanting to participate in the program;
  • the quality of the project;
  • available funding; and
  • skills and attributes of applicants to meet project requirements.

Students may be eligible to receive a position and scholarship more than once at the discretion of QBI. However, if the number of applicants exceeds available places and funding, preference will be given to first-time applicants.

Scholarship Support

All applicants will be automatically considered for a Summer Research Scholarship and those who qualify will receive funding equivalent to AUD$300 per week, paid jointly by QBI and the UQ Advantage Office.  This allowance may be paid fortnightly, or as one or more lump sums, as determined by QBI.  The scholarship funding is not paid during periods away from the University such as during the Christmas break when the University is closed (from 24 December 2016 to 2 January 2017).  Stipends are based on weekly participation in the program and no part-week payments will be made.  Scholars must participate in the Program for at least 6 weeks to be eligible to receive a stipend.  No scholars are permitted to participate in the program in a voluntary capacity.

If a scholarship recipient withdraws from the Program, their scholarship will need to be returned for the weeks unworked.

What will be my time commitment and obligations?

Scholars are expected to participate in an ongoing research project or to undertake a substantial piece of supervised research work. Where appropriate to the project, additional discipline-/project-specific obligations may also be required, such as training in research safety and ethics.

The period of eligibility of scholarship payments is up to 10 full weeks, commencing 21 November, 2016 through to 3 February, 2017.  The research period is normally offered in two parts to allow for the Christmas holiday when the University is closed.

At QBI, it is expected that scholars will work on a full-time basis (up to 36 hours per week) during the 10-week program.

QBI scholars will also be asked to prepare and provide a short presentation about their summer research project and reflect on their experiences at the end of the program.

How to apply:

Step 1 - Peruse the research projects listed below (when available) and choose one project from the list of available projects.

Step 2 – Check your eligibility.

Step 3 - Read through the UQ Summer Research Program information and Guidelines for Scholars document contained at the UQ Advantage Office website: http://www.uq.edu.au/undergraduate/summer-research.

Step 4 – Email the relevant project contact person to discuss the topic, project duration and workload requirements, and your available commencement and completion dates (attach your detailed academic CV and academic transcripts including grading system information).  Note:  scholars are strongly encouraged to commence the program on Monday 21 November, 2016 to participate in the compulsory UQ Advantage Office Summer Research Welcome event and QBI student induction activities and requirements organised for that day including OHS training.

Step 5 – Submit your completed Application Form and supporting documentation via the online application form http://www.uq.edu.au/uqadvantage/submit-application by 11:59pm on Wednesday 31 August, 2016.  Please note that applicants can submit one application only, but can specify a second preference option on the Application Form within QBI, if desired.  Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

All applicants will be notified if they will be invited to participate in the Program by Friday 23 September, 2016.

If you have any questions regarding the 2016-2017 UQ Summer Research Program at QBI, please contact Ms Janet Voight, Research Higher Degree Manager, The Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane Queensland, 4072 Australia, Email: qbistudents@uq.edu.au Phone: +61 7 3346 6401.

QBI Group Leaders participating in 2016-2017 and their available projects:

 

 

Project title:

Mathematical/computational neuroscience

 

Project duration:

8-10 weeks

 

Description:

The Goodhill lab aims to understand the mathematical/computational principles underlying brain development and function, using experimental mathematical and computational techniques. We are particularly interested in how nerve fibres are guided to make the right connections during neural development, how neural activity is structured during development, and how machine learning techniques (such as deep learning) can be used to help answer these questions. Within these parameters a project can be designed around the interests of the student.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will learn about how mathematical and computational techniques can be used to understand brain development and function, and use these to generate new results. At the end of the project they will give a presentation about their work.

 

Suitable for:

Students with a strong background and high achievement in mathematics, physics, engineering or computer science, who are interested in learning about this area.

Primary Supervisor:

 

Prof Geoffrey Goodhill

Further info:

Please see http://cns.qbi.uq.edu.au and http://www.qbi.uq.edu.au/professor-geoffrey-goodhill for more information. Contact Prof Goodhill (g.goodhill@uq.edu.au) to discuss before making an application.

 

 

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. Generalized 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 characterization 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 info:

Please contact Professor Lynch prior to submitting an application.

j.lynch@uq.edu.au

phone: +617 33466375

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

 

 

Project title:

What is the role of NFIX in adult neurogenesis?

Project duration:

6-10 weeks

 

Description:

Our lab studies the biology of neural stem cells. In particular, we focus on the role of the transcription factor, NFIX, in mediating the transition from neural progenitors to neurons and glia within the brain.

 

We have an opportunity for a student to join the lab over the summer break to study the function of NFIX in adult neurogenesis.

 

The project will probe the effects of NFIX deletion in the adult mouse brain using various molecular biology techniques.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Scholars will gain experience in all aspects of lab work, including brain sectioning, immunofluorescence, and data analysis. Scholars will also have an opportunity to write up results for publication. A brief lab meeting presentation will be expected from scholars following their stay in the lab.

 

Suitable for:

Applications are invited from students with a background in biology and/or chemistry, but this is not essential. Applicants should be highly motivated and capable of independent work.

Primary Supervisor:

 

A/Prof Michael Piper

Dr Oressia Zalucki

Further info:

Please contact Michael Piper (m.piper@uq.edu.au) or Oressia Zalucki (o.zalucki1@uq.edu.au) for more information on the project prior to submitting an application.

 

 

Project title:

The role of Nsd1 in the developing brain

 

Project duration:

6-10 weeks

 

Description:

Our lab studies the biology of neural stem cells. In particular, we focus on the role of the transcription factor, NFIX, in mediating the transition from neural progenitors to neurons and glia within the brain.

 

We have an opportunity for a student to join the lab over the summer break to study transcriptional targets of NFIX, focussing on the nuclear receptor binding SET-domain 1 (Nsd1) gene.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Scholars will gain experience in all aspects of lab work, including brain sectioning, immunofluorescence, and data analysis. Scholars will also have an opportunity to write up results for publication. A brief lab meeting presentation will be expected from scholars following their stay in the lab.

 

Suitable for:

Applications are invited from students with a background in biology and/or chemistry, but this is not essential. Applicants should be highly motivated and capable of independent work.

Primary Supervisor:

 

A/Prof Michael Piper

Dr Oressia Zalucki

Further info:

Please contact Michael Piper (m.piper@uq.edu.au) or Oressia Zalucki (o.zalucki1@uq.edu.au) for more information on the project prior to submitting an application.

 

 

Project title:

Role of Nuclear factor I in cortical development

Project duration:

10 weeks

 

Description:

The Nuclear Factor One (Nfi) genes are transcription factors that regulate development of the cerebral cortex. They do this by regulating the switch between proliferation and differentiation in radial progenitor cells. In humans, deficiency of NFI due to mutation or deletion of these genes is associated with severe brain developmental defects, including agenesis of the corpus callosum and ventriculomegaly. In this project, we will investigate the expression of NFI in various cell types during development and the effect of knockout of NFI on cortical development and wiring.

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 cortical development and transcriptional regulation.

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:

 

Prof. Linda J Richards

 

Further info:

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

Sinead Eyre at s.eyre@uq.edu.au

 

Project title:

Cortical development in marsupials

Project duration:

10 weeks

 

Description:

Marsupials are born at an early stage and complete development inside the pouch. This project aims at identifying cellular, anatomical, functional and developmental features of cortical wiring that differ between marsupials and placentals using dunnarts as animal models. The ability to transfect genes of interests in the brain of developing young allows a great range of experimental manipulations to understand the general rules governing brain wiring.

 

 

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:

 

Prof. Linda J Richards

 

Further info:

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

Sinead Eyre at s.eyre@uq.edu.au

 

Project title:

Optogenetic control of Drosophila brain function in virtual reality

 

Project duration:

6-10 weeks

 

Description:

We have developed a virtual reality paradigm for tethered, walking Drosophila flies. Combined with optogenetic tools, this approach allows us to manipulate brain function in real time, in behaving animals interacting with visual objects in an attention paradigm. We are interested in dissecting the neuroanatomy involved in visual selective attention, with a focus on a structure in the fly central brain called the ellipsoid body (EB). The project will involve testing key EB circuits to test a hypothesis on how visual attention might be regulated in a small brain.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The scholar will gain skill in Drosophila genetics, as well as in applications of the software (Matlab and Python) and hardware used in our visual attention paradigms. The scholar will also become acquainted with analysis methods for behavioural genetic data. It is likely that data acquired during this research project will make its way into a publication, as this is an ongoing research project in the lab, driven by a postdoctoral researcher.

 

Suitable for:

Students should be interested in neuroscience, and preference will be given to students considering to do an Honours project in the lab. Familiarity with Matlab is a plus.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

Dr Martyna Grabowska (in the laboratory of Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen)

 

Further info:

Please contact A/Professor Bruno van Swinderen for further details: b.vanswinderen@uq.edu.au

 

 

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.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will have the opportunity to assist with data collection - brain scanning and cognitive assessments.  They will also have the opportunity to gain skills in image processing (e.g. Freesurfer, FSL) and data analysis.

 

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:

 

AProf Margie Wright

Further info:

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

 

 

Project title:

Markers of oxidative stress in brain tissue from adult vitamin D deficient mice

 

Project duration:

6 to 10 weeks

 

Description:

The brain is very susceptible to oxidative damage. Antioxidant enzymes; superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione (GSH), and catalase (CAT) protect the brain against oxidative damage.  In schizophrenia, a higher level of SOD3 (an isoform of SOD) and nitric oxide synthase 3 (NOS3) have been shown in the prefrontal cortex and under oxidative stress, neurons produce higher levels of iNOS (inducible nitric oxide synthase) enzyme to produce NO. Elevation of iNOS may lead to the production of large amounts of nitric oxide.  By contrast, low levels of vitamin D poorly regulates NF-kB (nuclear factor kappaB; a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA and production of cytokine) and NF-kB-mediated elevation of iNOS enzyme. The aim of this project will be to assess change in neural oxidative stress markers in control and adult vitamin D deficient mice. Brain tissue extracts will be homogenised and then assayed for Glutathione reduced (GSH) and nitric oxide (NO).

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Scholars will gain skills in laboratory based techniques and in data collection and analysis. Students will have an opportunity to present their work to the group and discuss their findings with the goal of generating publications from their research. The student will also learn about various communication skills in science by producing a written report and an oral presentation at the end of their project.

 

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from UQ students with a background in neuroscience, biology or chemistry in their 3rd or 4th year of studies.

Primary Supervisor:

 

Associate Professor Tom Burne

 

Further info:

Please contact A/Prof Tom Burne (t.burne@uq.edu.au) or Dr Pauline Ko (p.ko@uq.edu.au) for more information on the project prior to submitting an application.