STEM Summer Research Brisbane Courses

Earn 6 research credits over 6 weeks of study at the University of Queensland. You will participate in weekly research group meetings, and attend departmental seminars that relate to the discipline of your project. Available research projects will focus on math, engineering, biology, physics and chemistry. You will complete a minimum of 240 hours of research.

  • Make sure your courses transfer back for credit with your home school – this is your responsibility.

Choosing Your Research Project

  • Review Project titles and descriptions below.
  • List 3 (in order of preference) in your personal essay.
  • Program is highly individualized, with limited enrollment.
  • You will need to complete a brief Literature Review in consultation with your research supervisor prior to departure before the start of the program. More details here.
  • We encourage you to contact Arcadia’s Assistant Dean of STEM programs, Dr. Jessie Guinn, to discuss your particular research interests further.

Course

Course ID Title Credits Syllabus
AUUQ RSLW 392S International Independent Research in STEM Fields 6 PDF

Summer 2019 Research Projects

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR
Understanding colour perception in coral reef fish (read more)
Astronomy
Hunting for massive black holes in globular clusters (read more)
Modelling the structures observed in Protoplanetary Disks (read more)
Biological Science and Genomics
Brett Ferguson Project A: Discovery and Characterisation of New Components Required for the Development and Control of Legume Nodules: those required early in the molecular process of legume nodule development (read more)
Brett Ferguson Project B: Discovery and Characterisation of New Components Required for the Development and Control of Legume Nodules: acting to control legume nodule numbers (read more)
Brett Ferguson Project C: Discovery and Characterisation of New Components Required for the Development and Control of Legume Nodules: regulated by acid soils to inhibit nodule formation (read more)
Biomedical Science
Immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes (read more)
Novel approaches for preparation of targeted nanoparticles for autoimmune diseases (read more)
Biomedical Science and Cell Biology
Effect of Serine/Threonine Phosphorylation in Growth Hormone Receptor on Signalling (read more)
Cancer Biology
Novel immunotherapy targets in B cell lymphoma (read more)
Role of GHR-mediated signalling in melanoma (read more)
Chemistry and Microbiology
Metallodrugs to treat complex skin problems (read more)
Microbiology and Environmental Science
Emma Gagen Project A: Understanding the microbiology behind transformation of coal mine spoils to functional soils (read more)
Emma Gagen Project B: Microbial iron cycling for accelerated rehabilitation of iron ore mines (read more)
Physics
Coupled modes in whispering-gallery resonators (read more)
Psychology and Mental Health
Romantic relationships among adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum: A review of the literature (read more)
The utilisation of tools, strategies and techniques by health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing for adults on the autism spectrum (read more)
Science Education
What activities from science coursework develop employability? The student perspective. (read more)

*OPEN - PROJECT STILL AVAILABLE FOR STUDENT COMPLETION
RESERVED - PROJECT ALREADY TAKEN BY A STUDENT

Description of Research Projects

Animal Behavior

Understanding colour perception in coral reef fish

Dr Karen Cheney

Colour vision is essential for many animals to find food and mates, and avoid predation. However, the visual systems of most animals differ from that of humans. We therefore use visual modelling and behavioural experiments to understand how animals perceive objects in their environment. You will be trained in running behavioural experiments with coral reef fish to understand how fish perceive colour patterns.

Background that the student needs to have: All training will be provided in performing animal behavioural experiments, experimental design, visual modelling, spectrophotometry and animal husbandry. Students must be interested in neurobiology, marine science, visual ecology, animal behaviour and/or fish biology.


Astronomy

Hunting for massive black holes in globular clusters

Dr Holger Baumgardt

Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) are black holes between 100 to 100,000 solar masses. Unlike stellar-mass or supermassive black holes found in the centres of galaxies, astronomers currently do not have clear evidence for the existence of IMBHs. In this project you will compare observational data of stars in globular clusters with the results of N-body simulations to search for intermediate-mass black holes in globular clusters.

Background that the student needs to have: Some programming or data analysis skills (in e.g. Python, C, Matlab, …) are necessary

Modelling the structures observed in Protoplanetary Disks

Professor Tamara Davis and Dr Josh Calcino

Our view of the disks around young stars is being revolutionised by next generation instruments and interferometers such as the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), and the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research (SPHERE) imager on the Very Large Telescope (VLT). Observations by these instruments have revealed a plethora of structures such as spiral arms, dust rings, and dust traps. One method of understanding these structures is by trying to recreate them using hydrodynamical simulations. Simulations provide astronomers with a method of experimentation within a virtual environment. The participating student will gain knowledge in the field of protoplanetary disks, including gas and dust dynamics, planet-disk interactions, and how to interpret observations at different wavelengths. They will gain skills using high-performance computing, simulation software, and ray-tracing software.

Background that the student needs to have: Experience with a Linux terminal is necessary. Experience with high-performance computing is desirable, but not necessary.


Biological Science and Genomics

Brett Ferguson Project A: Discovery and Characterisation of New Components Required for the Development and Control of Legume Nodules: those required early in the molecular process of legume nodule development 

Dr Brett Ferguson

Nitrogen fertiliser use in agriculture is inefficient, costly and can be environmentally damaging. Legume crops represent an economically and environmentally sound alternative, as their relationship with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria enables them to thrive in the absence of nitrogen fertiliser. The bacteria (commonly referred to as rhizobia) are housed in specialised root organs, called nodules. Identifying critical components in the development and control of legume nodules is now needed to optimise the process and improve agriculture sustainability. Project aims to discover and functionally characterise novel factors that are required early in the molecular process of legume nodule development. Findings could enhance the current nodulation model and could help to underpin future strategies to reduce the over-reliance on nitrogen fertiliser use in agriculture.

Background that the student needs to have: background/interest in genetics, molecular signaling and development, and plant physiology.

Brett Ferguson Project B: Discovery and Characterisation of New Components Required for the Development and Control of Legume Nodules: acting to control legume nodule numbers

Dr Brett Ferguson

Nitrogen fertiliser use in agriculture is inefficient, costly and can be environmentally damaging. Legume crops represent an economically and environmentally sound alternative, as their relationship with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria enables them to thrive in the absence of nitrogen fertiliser. The bacteria (commonly referred to as rhizobia) are housed in specialised root organs, called nodules. Identifying critical components in the development and control of legume nodules is now needed to optimise the process and improve agriculture sustainability. Project aims to discover and functionally characterise novel factors that act to control legume nodule numbers. Findings could enhance the current nodulation model and could help to underpin future strategies to reduce the over-reliance on nitrogen fertiliser use in agriculture.

Background that the student needs to have: background/interest in genetics, molecular signaling and development, and plant physiology.

Brett Ferguson Project C: Discovery and Characterisation of New Components Required for the Development and Control of Legume Nodules: regulated by acid soils to inhibit nodule formation

Dr Brett Ferguson

Nitrogen fertiliser use in agriculture is inefficient, costly and can be environmentally damaging. Legume crops represent an economically and environmentally sound alternative, as their relationship with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria enables them to thrive in the absence of nitrogen fertiliser. The bacteria (commonly referred to as rhizobia) are housed in specialised root organs, called nodules. Identifying critical components in the development and control of legume nodules is now needed to optimise the process and improve agriculture sustainability. Project aims to discover and functionally characterise novel factors that are regulated by acid soils to inhibit nodule formation. Findings could enhance the current nodulation model and could help to underpin future strategies to reduce the over-reliance on nitrogen fertiliser use in agriculture.

Background that the student needs to have: background/interest in genetics, molecular signaling and development, and plant physiology.


Biomedical Science

Immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes 

Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams

We are developing a liposome based nanoparticle for antigen-specific immunotherapy of type 1 diabetes. This nanoparticle delivers a relevant disease antigen and an immunomodulatory drug to induce T-cell tolerance and suppress disease. This project will use immunology based techniques to investigate the mechanisms of immune suppression.

Background that the student needs to have: Advantage to have studied an immunology subject. Project will involve animal work (mouse).

Novel approaches for preparation of targeted nanoparticles for autoimmune diseases

Dr Meghna Talekar and Professor Ranjeny Thomas

Current therapeutic strategies for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) focus on providing symptomatic relief and are not effective in managing its underlying aetiology. Our lab has focused on using nanoparticles for tolerizing dendritic cells (DC’s) for RA treatment, with this work currently being progressed into clinical trials. The current project aims to use novel approaches to prepare targeted nanoparticles for applications for autoimmune therapy.

Background that the student needs to have: This project is suitable for someone with an interest in formulation development for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.


Biomedical Science and Cell Biology

Effect of Serine/Threonine Phosphorylation in Growth Hormone Receptor on Signalling

Dr Yash Chhabra

Growth hormone receptor (GHR) is an archetypal member of class I cytokine receptor family. GHR has important functions across several physiological systems. It is therefore no surprise that the levels of GHR and its signalling cascade is tightly controlled as aberrant GHR signalling can result in cancer or dwarfism. GHR endocytosis and degradation is one such node that regulates GHR level and occurs even in the absence of its ligand (GH) to maintain appropriate GHR levels and ensure homeostasis. This project will undertake approaches to determine potential serine and threonine residues that undergo phosphorylation and evaluate its role in signalling and GHR stability.

Background that the student needs to have: Basic knowledge of class 1 cytokine receptors and cell biology.


Cancer Biology

Novel immunotherapy targets in B cell lymphoma

Dr Jay Gunawardana

The research of the Blood Cancer Research Laboratory aims to understand the immunology of blood cancers, with an interest in identifying new treatment targets which are less toxic and more effective. Specifically, the group studies the interface between the tumour cell and the immune microenvironment in various subtypes of malignant lymphomas. We utilise a broad range of approaches including genomics, molecular and cellular biology techniques and functional immunoassays. Researcher profile links: https://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/17111; https://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/4606

Background that the student needs to have: Completion of genetics, immunology and molecular biology courses (and relevant lab components) is required. Previous wet lab experience in a research lab highly preferred.

Role of GHR-mediated signalling in melanoma

Dr Andrew Brooks

Recent reports have confirmed highest levels of Growth Hormone Receptor (GHR) transcripts in melanoma, one of the most aggressive forms of human cancer. Yet the mechanism causing elevated GHR levels in melanoma remains unknown. Here, using human malignant melanoma cells, we will evaluate the effect of GHR signalling on the phenotype switching in melanoma by evaluating the effects of MITF and BRN2 transcription factors on GHR levels and its downstream signalling.

Background that the student needs to have: Basic cell biology and biochemistry.


Chemistry and Microbiology

Metallodrugs to treat complex skin problems

Dr Zyta Ziora

The spread of resistant bacteria, leading to untreatable infections, is a major public health concern, and recently the antibiotic discovery to combat these pathogens has slowed down since their golden era in the 1940s to 1960s. The twenty-first century is a renaissance of the metals, as one of the possible alternatives to treat diseases caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria. Metals have been used as antimicrobial agents since antiquity, but throughout most of the history their modes of action have remained unclear. Recent studies indicate that different metals cause discrete and distinct types of injuries to microbial cells as a result of oxidative stress, protein dysfunction, or membrane damage. Today, antimicrobial metal compounds have a multitude of applications in industry, agriculture and healthcare. Silver is the most promising among them due to its multidirectional activity. Therefore, development of silver resistant bacteria is very difficult and requires multiple mutations in the cell.

Background that the student needs to have: The student, potential candidate for this project has to have a basic knowledge about bio-inorganic chemistry and be familiar with purification methods such HPLC, and spectroscopic methods such MS and NMR.


Microbiology and Environmental Science

Emma Gagen Project A: Understanding the microbiology behind transformation of coal mine spoils to functional soils

Dr Emma Gagen

Most mines fall short of sufficient topsoil for effective post-mining rehabilitation. This project focuses on following the soil microbial community during transformation of coal mine spoils to functional soils. On this project there will be opportunity for any of the following, depending on your research interests and background knowledge: cultivation of soil microbes, soil microbiology assays, molecular biology and bioinformatics.

Background that the student needs to have: Some microbiology experience is required eg. MICR2000 or ERTH3003. Or if a molecular biology/bioinformatics project is desired, MICR3004 would be ideal.

Emma Gagen Project B: Microbial iron cycling for accelerated rehabilitation of iron ore mines

Dr Emma Gagen

Microbes have played a role in formation of iron duricrusts that cap iron ore deposits in Brazil. This research placement would be part of a larger project investigating ways to harness microbial iron cycling for accelerated remediation of iron ore mines. Research placements might include electron microscopic analysis of samples from a field-scale rehabilitation trial, or microbial ecology analyses (diversity and/or metagenomics) of field or rehabilitation trial samples.

Background that the student needs to have: Some microbiology experience is required eg. MICR2000 or ERTH3003. Or if a molecular biology/bioinformatics project is desired, MICR3004 would be ideal.


Physics

Coupled modes in whispering-gallery resonators

Joel Corney

Optical resonators formed from microspheres or microdisks support high-quality "whispering gallery modes", in which the incoupled light circulates many times in a highly confined space. This provides a way of enhancing nonlinear optical effects, leading for example to novel quantum states of light.
In this theoretical project, you will calculate the nonlinear dynamics than ensues when the resonator can support multiple simultaneous modes. In particular you will explore the impact of various competing or enhancing effects on the threshold response of the device.

Background student needs to have: Some knowledge of quantum physics is essential (equivalent to a second-year course on the topic). Familiarity with ordinary differential equations would be an advantage.


Psychology and Mental Health

Romantic relationships among adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum: A review of the literature

Dr David Harley and Dr Katie Brooker

The ability to engage in meaningful relationships is important for the quality of life for people with and without disabilities. Adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum have an interest in developing romantic relationships. However often adolescents and adults on the spectrum experience difficulties with maintaining such relationships. This may be due to a range of factors including those related to their diagnosis such as: limited social interaction and communication abilities, limited previous experiences with friendships, lack of flexibility, emotional dysregulation and sensory sensitivities. The aim of this project is to conduct a review of the literature on romantic relationships among adolescents and adults on the spectrum with or without intellectual disability. This review will inform the development of tools and resources for adolescents and adults on the spectrum as part of Program 3 of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC). The Autism CRC is the world’s first national, cooperative research effort focused on autism. Taking a whole of life approach to autism focusing on diagnosis, education and adult life, Autism CRC researchers are working with end-users to provide evidence-based outcomes which can be translated into practical solutions for governments, service providers, education and health professionals, families and people with autism.

Background that the student needs to have: Interest in improving the healthcare experiences of adults on the autism spectrum with or without intellectual disability, experience conducting literature reviews desirable but not essential

The utilisation of tools, strategies and techniques by health professionals to improve the health and wellbeing for adults on the autism spectrum

Dr David Harley and Dr Katie Brooker

In comparison to the general population, adults on the autism spectrum experience higher rates of a range of physical and mental health conditions. The health disparities become even greater when the adult on the spectrum has co-occurring intellectual disability. Many adults on the spectrum have unique needs that are related to their diagnosis due to communication and sensory differences, that when not taken into consideration can result in barriers to accessing healthcare and unmet healthcare needs. To address this gap, the Health Hub (www.autismcrc.com.au/healthhub), a source of information, resources and tools for adults on the spectrum, their support people and health professionals, has been developed. This project will focus on consulting health professionals about their needs and preferences for accessing these tools and resources. This project is part of Program 3 of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC). The Autism CRC is the world’s first national, cooperative research effort focused on autism. Taking a whole of life approach to autism focusing on diagnosis, education and adult life, Autism CRC researchers are working with end-users to provide evidence-based outcomes which can be translated into practical solutions for governments, service providers, education and health professionals, families and people with autism.

Background that the student needs to have: Interest in improving the healthcare experiences of adults on the autism spectrum with or without intellectual disability


Science Education

What activities from science coursework develop employability? The student perspective.

Asst. Professor Susan Rowland

Have you ever wondered how other students see themselves as developing professionals? We are conducting course-related research projects in which students tell us about the parts of courses that they feel develop their employability. In your section of the project we will be working with the collected data from students to develop a heat map of multiple courses. You may also be interviewing academics (faculty) to develop maps of their courses with them.

Background that the student needs to have: If you have an interest in data analysis and visualization and science education, this will be an interesting project for you. We aim to publish the work in a peer reviewed journal.