Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Professor Elina Hypponen-Hedger

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
27 Sep 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic only)

About this project

Advance knowledge about the connection between the immune system and psychiatric disorders 

If you are keen to build a career in genetic epidemiology and interested in advancing our knowledge about psychiatric disorders, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within Australian Centre for Precision Health (ACPreH). 

The immune system is thought to be involved in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. Given the wide array of inflammatory drugs already in clinical use for various immune-mediated diseases, this presents significant opportunities for drug repurposing and precision medicine.  

However, to realise these opportunities, we first need a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the precise immune mechanisms involved, and we need to be able to distinguish between causal, coincidental, and consequential mechanisms. 

Recent studies applying Mendelian randomisation (MR), a method that uses genetic variants as instrumental variables to derive estimates of underlying causality, have demonstrated that well-known immune modulators like C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 may play causal roles in several psychiatric disorders.  

Our project aims to systematically explore an array of inflammatory exposures by employing a scalable MR method called generalised summary-data-based MR and complementary genetic epidemiology methods, including transcriptome-wide association and co-localisation analyses.  

We anticipate being able to identify specific inflammatory mechanisms associated with psychiatric disorders, and better understand the nature of the relationships between inflammatory mechanisms and psychiatric disorders. This will enable us to distinguish between cause, correlation and consequence.  

We also aim to identify specific genes, pathways, and immune cell types involved in the inflammatory processes associated with psychiatric disorders and prioritise mechanisms potentially amenable to therapeutic intervention.  

You will join the Australian Centre for Precision Health (ACPreH), which brings together a multidisciplinary group of leading experts in genomics and population health focused on improving societal and individual health outcomes.  

What you’ll do 

In this project-based research degree, you will conduct statistical and genetic analyses using open-source software tools and packages available within the R statistical framework or other programming environments. You will also use the Gadi high-performance computing cluster from the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) organisation.  

We will support and encourage you to attend and present your work at national and international scientific conferences, and to publish findings in appropriate peer-reviewed journals. There may be an opportunity to complete an industry-based internship, and to follow-up interesting findings using SAHMRI’s wet-lab facilities. Throughout the project, there will be scope for you to focus on specific psychiatric disorders and psychiatry-related traits in line with your research interests. 

You will work with an internationally recognised team in genetic epidemiology and work collaboratively with other leading researchers in their respective fields. Upon completion, you will be proficient in highly sought-after skills that will leverage the ever-growing availability of large-scale genetic and epidemiological data, and that can be applied across a range of research disciplines. 

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the Australian Centre for Precision Health. We bring together a multidisciplinary group of leading experts in genomics, population health and evidence translation to create the next generation of solutions for global health problems. 

Our goals are to prevent disease before it strikes, and to create innovative solutions to address issues focused on health and wellbeing. We do this by developing ways to improve risk prediction and risk factor discovery, as well as disease screening and health education. Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses.  Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents of Australia. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included for this group.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information.
International applicants will not be eligible to receive the scholarship.

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Additionally, applicants must meet the projects selection criteria:  
  • A first degree in the health or medical sciences, psychology, or computer science.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • A keen interest in psychiatric disease AND/OR the immune system.
  • A keen interest in learning and applying new statistical or genetic epidemiological methods.

Applicants who are also able to demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • Knowledge of one or more high-level statistical or computer programming languages (e.g., R, python).
  • Experience using a high-performance computing cluster and bash scripting.
  • Previous research experience in the fields of psychiatric disease AND/OR the immune system.
  • Experience applying genetic epidemiology methods like Mendelian randomization.
  • Experience conducting systematic reviews.

All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate. 

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City West Campus in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Wednesday, 27 September, 2023

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

IMPORTANT: This site is optimised for the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome. Note that earlier versions of any browsers mentioned are supported, but likely to demonstrate slower response times.

By choosing to continue, you agree to the privacy policy. Show Privacy Policy

Research and industry

Other projects you may be interested in

Latest news


If you wish to develop your own project please review our guidelines and contact the Graduate Research Admissions team if you have any questions. 

Contact us