PhD Studentship in Neural Mechanisms of Drosophila Locomotion

Brisbane, Australia
24 Jan 2018
End of advertisement period
14 May 2018
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Queensland Brain Institute

Established in 2003, QBI ( is situated on the St Lucia campus of UQ. It is home to more than 450 staff and students, including 41 group leaders, working across a range of disciplines, who are focused on discovering the fundamental mechanisms that regulate brain development and function in health and disease.

Over the past decade QBI has become known as one of the world’s leading neuroscience research institutes. It played a key role in contributing to UQ attaining the highest possible score of 5 for neuroscience, in the 2010, 2012 and 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) reviews, one of only two universities in Australia to achieve this.

The role

A PhD student position is available based in the van Swinderen lab to work on a research project collaboratively with the Dickson and Chuang groups at the Queensland Brain Institute.

As animals walk, run, or hop, motor circuits in the spinal cord convert descending “command” signals from the brain into the coordinated movements of many different leg muscles. How are command signals from the brain deconvolved into the appropriate patterns motor neuron activity?  We aim to answer this question for Drosophila by studying the functional organization of leg motor circuits in the ventral nerve cord, the fly’s analogue of the spinal cord. In Drosophila, individual neuronal cell types can be reproducibly identified and manipulated using genetic reagents that have been developed to target specific descending neurons, interneurons, or motor neurons.

In the thesis project, the successful student will learn a range of methods including genetics, multiphoton imaging, optogenetics and quantitative behavioural analysis, and use these methods to elucidate the structure and function of the motor circuits controlled by a specific class of descending neuron. This may be, for example, a descending neuron that, when activated, causes the fly to walk backwards (see Bidaye et al, Science 6179:97), or one that elicits turning. Understanding the circuit mechanisms behind those simple actions will shed light on general computational principles of neural networks, and may even help us to design smarter robot.

To know more about the van Swinderen, Dickson and Chuang Groups, please go to:

The person

Expressions of Interest are invited from outstanding and enthusiastic, international and Australian, science graduates ideally with a background in neuroscience, cell biology or biophysics or other relevant scientific discipline. Candidates will have a First Class Honours degree or equivalent and should be eligible for UQ scholarship consideration.  Experience in fly genetics is not required. Some background in neuroscience and quantitative methods, as well as familiarity with MATLAB or other programming languages, would be an advantage.

Applicants must fulfil the PhD admission criteria for the University of Queensland, including meeting English language requirements, and demonstrating excellent capacity and potential for research. Demonstration of research ability through publication output in peer reviewed international journals is desirable.

For further information on entry requirements, please visit  Successful applicants must accept and commence within 6 months of receiving an award.


Selected prospective international and domestic students will receive assistance to apply for University living allowance and tuition fee scholarships.  The 2018 Research Training Program (RTP) living allowance stipend rate is AUD$27,082 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for three years with two possible extensions of up to 6 months each in approved circumstances (conditions apply).  For further information on scholarships refer to:


To discuss this role and for further information, please contact Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen (

To submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) for consideration, ensure you use the UQ Jobs online recruitment system by following the Apply button below.  All applicants must supply the following documents: cover letter; complete official tertiary academic transcripts (with grades/GPA scores, and official grading scale details) and award certificates (testamurs); and a detailed academic resume/CV.

Important:  please do not send your EOI directly to the contact person listed in this section of the advertisement.  EOIs not received via the UQ Jobs online system will not be considered.

For information on completing the application process click here.

Please note the different EOI closing dates below for domestic and international candidates leading up to the UQ Graduate School higher degree by research application and scholarship round timelines as advertised on their website:

Expression of Interest Closing Dates:

International candidates: 14 May 2018 – for consideration in relation to the UQ international scholarship rounds with commencement in Research Quarter 1 (January) 2019.

Domestic candidates: 9 April 2018 – for consideration in relation to the next UQ domestic scholarship round with commencement in Research Quarter 3 (July/August) 2018.

Advertised:  24/01/2018

Applications close:  14 May 2018 (11:55 PM) E. Australia Standard Time