Undergraduate Programs

IMB offers a range of opportunities for undergraduate students, whether you are enrolled at UQ or elsewhere, advance your studies and contribute to the world-leading discoveries of the institute.

Undergraduates may be eligible for the Director's Award for Research Training (DART).

IMB supports the UQ Winter Research Program, which provides an opportunity for students to gain research experience working alongside some of the university’s leading academics and researchers. Participation will extend your knowledge of an area of interest and develop your analytical, critical thinking, and communication skills.

IMB Undergraduate Research Projects are available in selected IMB Research Groups for between 4-6 weeks over the winter vacation period (from 11 June to 20 July).

Participation is open to undergraduate students who have completed at least one year of study, as well as Honours and Masters by coursework students. The program is open to students from The University of Queensland as well as other international or Australian universities.

All Winter Research Students will automatically be considered for a UQ Advantage Office Grant.

For further details see the UQ Student Employability Centre website.

Applications are now closed.

IMB supports the UQ Summer Research Program, allowing exceptional students the opportunity to gain valuable research experience working alongside some of the university’s leading academics and researchers. Participation will extend your knowledge of an area of interest and develop your analytical, critical thinking and communication skills.

IMB Undergraduate Research Projects are available in select IMB Research Groups for a duration between 6-10 weeks over the summer vacation period (from mid-November to mid-February), with a holiday break from 25 December to 1 January (inclusive). Applications are now open for the Summer 2019-2020 program and will close on Sunday, 8 September 2019.

For eligibility criteria, additional information and to submit your application, please see the UQ Student Employability Centre website.

If you are studying outside of UQ, IMB offers a limited number of high-calibre students the opportunity to complete an IMB Summer Research Program, in order for you to be able to experience IMB’s research environment as part of your research career progression. Scholarships of an equivalent value to the UQ scheme will be offered on a competitive basis. Non-UQ enrolled students (international and domestic), who are required to relocate to Brisbane to participate in the program, can apply to the UQ Advantage Office for a travel grant.

If you are not a current UQ student and wish to apply for the Summer Research Program, please email imb-outreach@uq.edu.au including a copy of your CV, academic transcript, and short description of your research interests and future goals. Please clearly state the name of the research project/supervisor name in the title of your email.

For a summary of the type of research undertaken by each IMB group, please visit the IMB Research Groups website.

Available Projects for Summer 2019-2020

 

 

Project title: 

 

Investigating the cellular machinery involved in blood vessel growth

 

 

Project duration:

 

6 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

When blood vessels grow, they need to form stable connections with their surrounding environment and with each other. If the cells in the blood vessel cannot form stable adherence connections to their surroundings they leak and collapse, which leads to loss of vascularisation and diseases such as cancer and stroke. This project will aim to generate blood vessel cells with mutations in their adherence machinery, causing them to adhere more or less to their surroundings. This will help us to learn the mechanisms by which blood vessels grow and interact with their environment, which will help us to develop novel treatments to manipulate vessels in disease.

 

 

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

Students will gain experience in growth and maintenance of blood vascular endothelial cells in culture, DNA mutagenesis cloning and transfection of constructs into cells, and analysis of the behaviour of these cells. Students will also be expected to keep detailed records of experiments performed and any results obtained.

 

At the completion of the project, students will be asked to give an informal short presentation of their findings to other members of the laboratory.

 

 

 

Suitable for:

 

This project is open to students with a background in molecular biology and DNA cloning and sequencing. 3rd and 4th year students are encouraged to apply.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr Emma Gordon

 

 

Further info:

 

Please contact Dr Gordon via email (e.gordon@imb.uq.edu.au) to discuss the project before submitting an application.

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

Breaking down the heart at single cell resolution

 

 

 

Project duration:

 

6-8 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

We have developed technologies providing insights into cell biology at single cell resolution. My lab is specifically interested in understanding how the heart develops by utilizing computational approaches to integrate multi-omic data sets from RNA-seq, ATAC-seq, CAGE and others to study mechanisms controlling heart development and stem cell differentiation. We have acquired data on millions of individual cells that we are developing into an integrated single cell level view of heart development. We will use these data to study mechanisms of development, diseases that impact the heart, and devising novel strategies to treat heart disease including heart regeneration.

 

 

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

Anyone interested in this project will plug into a team of bioinformaticians in my lab to implement cutting edge computational tools to solve focused questions contributing to this broader goal. The student will learn how to manage and manipulate large single cell data matrices from diverse omics platforms. The student will be embedded in a lab utilizing gene editing, genomics, and stem cell biology which provides a rich environment for cross-disciplinary training and designing experimental questions rooted in biological knowledge.

 

 

Suitable for:

 

Undergraduate, honours, or masters students with training in bioinformatics.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr Nathan Palpant

 

 

Further info:

 

Please send me expressions of interest as I have only 1 position available for this project. My contact information is n.palpant@uq.edu.au

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

 

Regulation of protein secretion by circadian and feeding rhythms

 

Project duration:

 

6-8 weeks

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

This project aims at characterizing the post-translational regulation of the secretion machinery involved in the regulation of protein secretion by the liver. The student will use classical biochemistry techniques on samples from mouse tissue or cultured cells to characterize the signalling pathways involved in this regulation.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Scholar will be initiated to experimental research and gain skills in laboratory biochemistry and molecular biology related to circadian clock biology.

 

Suitable for:

 

Suitable for student interested in experimental research in biology and team work.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Associate Professor Frederic Gachon

 

 

Further info:

 

Please contact Associate Professor Frederic Gachon (f.gachon@uq.edu.au) if you have any questions about the project.

 

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

Strategies to target bacterial lipid membranes to fight antimicrobial resistance

 

 

Project duration:

 

6-8 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

The predominant anionic lipids in bacterial membranes are phosphatidylglycerol (PG) and cardiolipin (CL), the presence of which provides a selectivity basis for cationic antimicrobial agents targeting bacteria over mammalian cells. CL, found in the bacterial inner membrane, forms lipid microdomains at the cell poles and division septum. It plays a key role in the maintenance of bacterial shape, and the structural regulation of membrane associated proteins. Polycationic antimicrobial compounds can induce phase boundary defects by sequestering anionic lipids such as CL, leading to membrane permeabilization and loss of bacterial function. Compounds targeting CL and CL microdomains might represent a hitherto underexplored strategy in the design of new antimicrobial agents.


We recently developed a series of CL-targeting tetrapeptides capable of resensitising multi drug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant bacteria Gram-negative bacteria to a selection of antibiotics during co-administration. Confocal imaging of E. coli following incubation with a fluorescent version of the tetrapeptide analogue revealed localisation of the peptide at the septal poles, consistent with known CL microdomain architecture.


This project will involve the synthesis of a fluorescent amino acid and its incorporation into the target tetrapeptide sequence to deliver an alternative fluorescent probe to further our understanding of how these compounds interact with bacterial membranes.

 

 

 

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

The student will have the opportunity to understand the unique challenges of antibiotic discovery and development in a globally recognised research group, and contribute to a high impact research area. Importantly, projects are designed to challenge the intern, and will NOT involve routine repetitive analysis. As such, it will require the intern to think beyond the usual “laboratory practical manual”, where an analytical mind and attention to detail is an asset for identifying and overcoming unforeseen difficulties. The student will have a clear set objectives and will receive continual guidance during the course of the project.

 

 

 

Suitable for:

 

This project is open to applications from students with a background in chemistry (second/third year chemistry) and a keen interest in medicinal chemistry, drug discovery and design, and the interplay between biology and chemistry.

 

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr Karl Hansford

 

 

Further info:

 

For additional information, feel free to contact Karl directly via email k.hansford@imb.uq.edu.au

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

 

Understanding the mechanism of GPCRs signalling

 

 

Project duration:

 

 

6-8 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most common signal-transducing proteins on the cell surface and the most common targets of human therapeutics. Certain GPCRs are overexpressed in chronic inflammatory diseases and cancers, which can be targeted in drug discovery. GPCR signalling is complex in that compounds can affect some signalling pathways but not others (biased signalling), bind to remote sites but still affect activity (allosteric interactions), or affect G-protein independent signalling. This summer research project will involve characterizing novel ligands and signalling pathways to fine-tune control over GPCR signalling and cell functions associated with disease.

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

 

The student will learn to perform cell culture, signalling assays, biochemical techniques and basic statistical analyses.

 

 

Suitable for:

 

This project is open to applications for UQ enrolled 3-4 year student with background in pharmacology, biology, immunology or biochemistry.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr James Lim

 

 

Further info:

 

 

Please see http://fairlie.imb.uq.edu.au/ for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

Cellular permeability of small structured peptides

 

 

Project duration:

 

 

6-8 weeks

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

Small structured peptides have countless applications in biology if they could selectively enter cells and specifically inhibit the protein of interest. These small structured peptides permeate cell membrane by several mechanisms including endocytosis, membrane translocation or macropincytosis. This summer research project will investigate novel small structured peptides for cellular permeability in a range of cancer cells with the possibility of discovering of new therapeutics.

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

 

The student will learn to perform cell culture, flow cytometry, biochemical techniques and basic statistical analyses.

 

 

Suitable for:

 

This project is open to applications for UQ enrolled 3-4 year student with background in pharmacology, biology, immunology or biochemistry.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr James Lim

 

 

Further info:

 

Please see http://fairlie.imb.uq.edu.au/ for more information.

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

Mapping inflammasome pathways

 

 

Project duration:

 

 

6-8 weeks

 

 

 

 

Description:

 

Inflammasomes are signalling complexes that trigger immune system activation and induce cell death. Several projects are available within this topic and can be designed to align to student interests. Typically, such projects involve molecular cloning, recombinant protein production, or cell biological techniques (cell maintenance, transfection, cell function assays, microscopy).

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

 

TBA

 

 

Suitable for:

 

TBA

 

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Associate Professor Kate Schroder

 

 

Further info:

 

Please contact Associate Professor Kate Schroder (k.schroder@imb.uq.edu.au) if you have any questions about the project.

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

Antibiotic-derived fluorescent probes to investigate bacterial mode of action

 

 

Project duration:

 

6-10 weeks

 

 

 

Description:

 

The research project is a microbiology / molecular biology proposal which applies a suite of novel fluorescent probes derived from antibiotics to examine how antibiotics interact with bacteria, using tools such as plate readers, high resolution confocal microscopy, and flow cytometry.

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

 

The scholars will be expected to gains skills in microbiological handling and characterisation, including microbiology assays, and use of equipment such as confocal microscopy and plate readers. There may be an opportunity to generate publications(s) from the research. A short written report and internal group oral presentation will be required at the end of the project, providing an opportunity to develop scientific writing and presentation skills. Attendance at IMB and divisional seminars is mandatory.

 

 

Suitable for:

 

Students who have some background in handling bacteria and are interested in studying bacteria at a molecular level, ideally with some previous experience at microscopy.

 

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr Mark Blaskovich

 

 

Further info:

 

Interested students must contact the supervisor/s, prior to submitting an application. For more information, please contact m.blaskovich@uq.edu.au.

 

 

 

 

Project title: 

 

Antibiotic-adjuvant conjugates to overcome bacterial resistance

 

 

Project duration:

 

6-10 weeks

 

 

 

Description:

 

This medicinal chemistry research project will employ synthetic chemistry to synthesise hybrid antibiotic derivatives, where an antibiotic core is functionalised to readily attach 'adjuvant' molecules, such as siderophores, quorum sensing inhibitors, biofilm disruptors and virulence inhibitors, or other antibiotics.

 

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

 

 

The scholars will be expected to gains skills in synthetic chemistry, including compound isolation, purification and characterisation. Students may also gain skills in biological characterisation (microbiology assays, confocal microscopy) if interested. There may be an opportunity to generate publications(s) from the research. A short written report and internal group oral presentation will be required at the end of the project, providing an opportunity to develop scientific writing and presentation skills. Attendance at IMB and divisional seminars is mandatory.

 

 

Suitable for:

 

Students who have a background in chemistry and have some practical experience in chemical synthesis and compound characterisation.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

 

Dr Mark Blaskovich

 

 

Further info:

 

Interested students must contact the supervisor/s, prior to submitting an application. For more information, please contact m.blaskovich@uq.edu.au.

 

 

Project title: 

Finding cell types using single-cell gene network analysis

 

Project duration:

10 weeks

 

Description:

The Human Cell Atlas (HCA) project is considered as the international effort at the scale and impact comparable to the Human Genome Project. The HCA has the participation of more than 1500 researchers from over 60 countries. In August 2019, the HCA released its largest single cell dataset containing 3.8 million cells from 30 organs. This dataset is a valuable resource for developing analysis method to identify cell types using RNA expression profiles. In this summer project, the student will apply existing methods to build single-cell gene networks and use these networks to predict cell types of a part of the whole 3.8 million cells.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students would learn skills in big biological data analysis. There are opportunities for presenting at conferences and co-authored publications.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from students with good analytical skills. Familiarity to R and/or Python scripting is required. 

 

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Quan Nguyen

 

Further info:

Prior to submitting an application, please contact Dr Quan Nguyen at quan.nguyen@uq.edu.au

 

 

 

Project title: 

How desmosomes allow epithelia to respond to cell death

 

Project duration:

8 weeks

 

Description:

Desmosomes are fundamental determinants of epithelial integrity, which couple cell-cell adhesion to the intermediate (IF) cytoskeleton, influence signalling and cross-talk with other elements of the cytoskeleton.

 

Epithelia possess intrinsic mechanisms that allow them to respond to the presence of injured cells that are undergoing apoptosis. These involve changes in cell mechanics, shape and movement that are driven by the actomyosin cytoskeleton. But how desmosomes-IF may contribute to these homeostatic processes is not known. We will evaluate this problem by depleting the linker proteins that couple desmosomes to the IF cytoskeleton.

 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Applicants will gain experience in mammalian cell culture, immunofluorescence microscopy, live-cell imaging and quantitative image analysis.

 

Suitable for:

Ideally, students will have experience in cell biology but we can tailor projects to provide initial experience in this area.

 

Primary Supervisor:

 

Alpha Yap

 

Further info:

a.yap@uq.edu.au (Please contact before submitting application)

 

 

 

Project title: 

Role of RIP kinases in atherogenic macrophages

 

Project duration:

8-12 weeks

 

Description:

Atherosclerosis is a maladaptive inflammatory disease driven primarily by macrophages, and is the root cause of life-threatening cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attacks, stroke). As the atherosclerotic plaque progresses, inflammatory and macrophage cell death pathways drive the formation of complex, unstable and rupture-prone lesions with large necrotic core(s). Previously we showed that necroptosis, a pro-inflammatory form of programmed cell death involving RIPK1, RIPK3 and MLKL, is activated in the vessel wall and drives atherosclerosis via activation of RIPK3 and MLKL (Karunakaran, Sci Adv, 2016).

 

RIPK1 (Receptor-Interacting serine/threonine Protein Kinase 1) is a central regulator of inflammatory cell function that coordinates inflammation, apoptosis and necroptosis in response to inflammatory stimuli. Recently, we found that silencing RIPK1 gene expression (using anti-sense oligonucleotides; ASOs) reduced atherosclerosis in mice.

 

Here, in this project we will investigate the mechanisms by which RIPK1 gene expression regulates atherogenic macrophage inflammatory pathways, including NF-kB activation and regulating inflammasome-dependent and/or -independent inflammation, and how silencing RIPK1 can promote anti-inflammatory macrophage phenotype, which could potentially reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.  

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Scholars will gain fundamental expertise and skills in biochemistry and immunology (e.g. western blot analysis, qPCR, ELISAs, tissue culture and scientific presentation skills). Students will be required to present their data as an oral presentation at the end of their research project.

Any quality data produced by the scholar will be duly acknowledged as authorship in abstracts and/or publications etc. Further, this project has potential to lead to a very successful honours project within the lab as well.

 

Suitable for:

This project is suited ideally for a 3rd year undergraduate student who is interested in pursuing an honours degree at UQ.

2nd year students who are interested in long-term research opportunities are also welcomed to apply. 

*Highly desirable: GPA > 6.0, previous research experience

Primary Supervisor:

Primary Supervisor: Dr Denuja Karunakaran, PhD

Secondary Supervisor: Prof Matt Sweet, PhD

Further info:

For further information, please contact Dr Denuja Karunakaran: d.karunakaran@imb.uq.edu.au

 

 

Project title: 

Role of RIP kinases in adipocytes during obesity

 

Project duration:

8-12 weeks

 

Description:

Cardiometabolic diseases (e.g. obesity, atherosclerosis) are characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation driven by the cooperation of innate immune system and dysregulated pathways within tissues (e.g. adipose tissue, vessel wall etc.). Obesity is a major public health burden worldwide, greatly increasing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and is characterized by adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance.

 

RIPK1 (Receptor-Interacting serine/threonine Protein Kinase 1) is a central regulator of inflammatory cell function that coordinates inflammation, apoptosis and necroptosis in response to inflammatory stimuli. Recently, we showed that silencing RIPK1 in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity reduced fat mass, body weight and adipose tissue inflammation.

 

In this project, we will explore how RIPK1 regulates adipocyte function. Specifically, we will investigate how RIPK1 drives adipogenesis and/or adipocyte inflammation, promoting changes in immune cell recruitment and responses within the adipose tissue during obesity. Long-term studies will investigate how adipocytes interact with these immune cells to promote an inflammatory environment.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Scholars will gain fundamental expertise and skills in biochemistry and immunology (e.g. western blot analysis, qPCR, tissue culture and scientific presentation skills). Students will be required to present their data as an oral presentation at the end of their research project.

Any quality data produced by the scholar will be duly acknowledged as authorship in abstracts and/or publications etc. Further, this project has potential to lead to a very successful honours project within the lab as well.

 

Suitable for:

This project is suited ideally for a 3rd year undergraduate student who is interested in pursuing an honours degree at UQ.

2nd year students who are interested in long-term research opportunities are also welcomed to apply. 

*Highly desirable: GPA > 6.0, previous research experience

Primary Supervisor:

 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Denuja Karunakaran, PhD

Secondary Supervisor: Prof Matt Sweet, PhD

 

Further info:

For further information, please contact Dr Denuja Karunakaran: d.karunakaran@imb.uq.edu.au