Student Opportunities

The projects below can be at Honours or PhD level.

The impact of the microbiome on specific and non-specific vaccine responses

Humans are colonised by a large and diverse group of microorganisms, collectively known as the microbiome. A range of factors (antibiotic usage, poor maternal diet, malnutrition) can lead to dysregulation of the normal microbiota (dysbiosis). Dysbiosis has been associated with a number of different diseases and with defects in systemic immunity. This project will investigate whether dysregulation of the microbiome can influence how well we respond to vaccination.

Vaccine-induced epigenetic re-programming of innate immunity

In addition to generating specific immunity, it is becoming increasingly appreciated that vaccines can also elicit both beneficial and deleterious nonspecific responses; defined as effects vaccines have on morbidity and mortality not explained by the prevention of the targeted diseases. This paradigm shift challenges the conventional wisdom that vaccines are solely disease-specific interventions. An emerging mechanism for these effects is that vaccines alter (or ‘train’) innate immunity by epigenetically reprogramming innate immune cells. In this study we will determine for the first time, the genome-wide extent of vaccine-induced epigenetic changes in monocytes and NK cells.

Systems immunology – developing new approaches for systems level analyses of innate immunity.

Systems biology recognises that molecular and cellular processes such as the immune system and not regulated by simple linear pathways but via complex and multi-level networks. To dissect these networks we must study immune responses from a genome-wide perspective and at each of the different layers of regulation (e.g. genetic, transcriptional, post-transcriptional, epigenetic). This project will develop new computational biology and bioinformatics approaches to integrate these complexes datasets to gain new insight into the regulation of the immune system.

Computational biology: investigating network re-wiring in disease.

Disease phenotypes are rarely solely the consequence of individual mutations but rather represent the ripple effect of that mutation at a network or systems level. It is dysregulation at the network level which drives disease. To understand disease therefore we must understand how disease associated networks are perturbed. This project will develop new computational biology approaches to study complex networks in disease.

For further information on the above projects, please contact A/Professor David Lynn, EMBL Australia Group Leader.

Prebiotics in the prevention and treatment of chronic respiratory conditions in children.

There is growing evidence that dietary supplementation during pregnancy and early infancy can reduce the incidence of a range of chronic respiratory diseases. The mechanisms underlying this relationship appear to involve cross-talk between both microbes and their metabolites and the host. This project will combine analysis of microbiome dynamics, host immunity, and clinical measures of disease to investigate the potential of a suite of novel prebiotic supplements to reduce risk of debilitating respiratory conditions in vulnerable populations.

The role of the genitourinary microbiome and preterm birth.

The genitourinary tract is associated with a complex microbiome. Disruption to these microbial communities is associated with increased risk of STI infection, and elevated rates of preterm birth. Despite the societal impacts of this phenomenon, a lack of a clear understanding of the mechanisms involved hampers our ability to provide effective treatment or take preventative measures. This project will combine microbiome analysis with population health approaches, with the aim of informing health care practices and policy.

Mucosal immunology – microbiome-host interactions and susceptibility to respiratory infection

Susceptibility to respiratory infections varies substantially between people and is believed to be related to a range of factors, including host genetics, lifestyle, and the commensal microbiome dynamics. This project will focus on a group of mutations in human mucin-related genes and their ability to explain variations in infection rates between individuals. The project will involve a range of techniques (in vitro cell culture, animal models, human-based studies) and will aim to develop strategies to manage common seasonal infections.

For further information on the above projects, please contact A/Professor Geraint Rogers. 

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SAHMRI is located on the traditional lands of the Kaurna Nation.

The SAHMRI community acknowledges and respects the traditional owners, the family clans who are the Kaurna Nation from the Adelaide Plains region of South Australia. We acknowledge the clans of the Kaurna Nation and the sacred knowledge they hold for their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna Nation, their ancestors and the descendants of these living family clans today.