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  Exploring mechanisms underlying viral infections in initiating pulmonary fibrosis


   Stem Cell Biology

   Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Respiratory viral infections are the most prevalent illnesses in humans. In addition to their immediate health effects, these infections can result in long-term lung conditions like pulmonary fibrosis and worsen existing chronic lung diseases. Severe respiratory viral infections can trigger the development of pulmonary fibrosis, which often remains long after the infection has resolved. Notably, following the COVID-19 pandemic, post-COVID-19 pulmonary fibrosis has become a major concern, characterized by features of fibrotic disease such as alveolar epithelial cell dysfunction, fibroblastic foci, extracellular matrix changes, and immune cell infiltration. In this project, we will use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to investigate post-viral pulmonary fibrosis.

This project will involve generating alveolar epithelial cells, immune cells and fibroblasts from induced pluripotent stem cells and testing their response to severe respiratory viral infections. This project will use iPSCs from healthy donors and people with preexisting lung disease. Students will learn how to grow, genetically modify and differentiate pluripotent stem cells. The project will also involve techniques such as flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, confocal microscopy, and quantitative PCR. Depending on the direction of the work, generation and analysis of transcriptomic and/or proteomic data may also be necessary.

This research project will be conducted within the Stem Cell Biology Department at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). MCRI is Australia’s largest child health research institute and ranked in the top 3 child health institutes globally for research impact. The Stem Cell Biology Department comprises >200 researchers focused on the development of stem cell-driven therapies.

Applicants should have a strong background in one of the following disciplines: biomedical sciences, infectious disease or respiratory biology. They are expected to hold an Honours/Masters Degree or work experience in a relevant field.

Students will be enrolled through the Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne. Scholarships and Fee Waivers are available from the University on a competitive basis. Eligibility and competitiveness for a PhD scholarship is desirable. Successful students usually require a GPA equivalent to 85/100 in order to be competitive. More information on Graduate research scholarships can be found here –https://gradresearch.unimelb.edu.au/scholarships. Note that English language requirements apply. Specifically, candidates need to have an IELTS score of 7.0 overall, with written 7.0 and no band less than 6.0. 

Applications should be directed to Rhiannon Werder (). To receive a reply to your inquiry, you will need to:

* Construct a short 4 sentence paragraph outlining why you are interested in mechanisms underlying pulmonary fibrosis, which cell lineages you are interested in studying in pulmonary fibrosis and provide a single question that you would like to answer regarding the role of these cell types in pulmonary fibrosis development.

* Provide a copy of your CV

* Provide a copy of your academic transcripts - as this will enable us to determine your eligibility for a scholarship.

* Provide evidence of English proficiency, if applicable

* Names and contact information of two referees

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Register your interest for this project


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