Undergraduate Research Scholarship project opportunities

Applicants must contact and collect mandatory written supervisor support evidence before applying for UQ Student Employability Centre’s (UQSEC) Summer or Winter Research projects.

Assessing changes in quality characteristics of barley varieties in competition with weeds

Contact supervisor for program application support: A/Prof Bhagirath Chauhan
Co-advisor: Dr Lee Hickey and Gulshan Mahajan

Suitable for students with a background in agriculture/genetics/biotechnology.

Preferred commencement date: 3/12/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Limited information is available on quality characteristics of barley varieties (malt extract, wort soluble protein, free amino nitrogen, wort beta glucan, alpha amylase) in competition with weeds
Hypothesis: Weed competition may influence the quality traits in barley varieties
Objective: To assess the quality characteristics of 8 barley varieties in competition with weed

Expected outcomes: The scholar will gain skill in evaluating quality traits of barley that is important from the industrial point of view. This study will enhance his/her learning skill. The student will need to produce a report at the end of the project.

Project location: UQ Gatton Campus

Assessing dormancy mechanism in wild turnip seeds in relation to temperature and light conditions

Contact supervisor for program application support: A/Prof Bhagirath Chauhan
Co-advisor: Gulshan Mahajan

Suitable for students with a background in Ag Sci or biochemistry.

Preferred commencement date: 3/12/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

The biochemical and physiological changes in weed seeds in response to different environments influence their dormancy and germination behaviour. Physiological changes in the seeds are related to the integrity of their cell membranes, which, in turn, depends on the nature of the enzymes, structural proteins of each species and oxidative stress.
Hypothesis: Enzymatic changes in seeds under different environment may influence the dormancy and germination behaviour of seeds.
Objective: To assess the dormancy, metabolic and enzymatic activity in wild turnip seeds in relation to temperature and light conditions.

Expected outcomes: The scholar will gain skill in assessing dormancy related mechanisms in weed seeds. This study will enhance his/her learning skills (enzymatic and metabolic activity like catalase, ascorbate peroxidase activity, α-amylase activity, proline, soluble protein and phenolics). This project will motivate the student to do further study in weed ecology. The student will need to produce a report at the end of the project.

Project location: UQ Gatton Campus

Biomarkers for host resistance to parasites

Contact supervisor for program application support: Prof Ala Tabor

Suitable for a student with a background in molecular biology – 3rd or 4th year student, UQ enrolled students only

Preferred commencement date: 26/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Cattle ticks cost cattle industries $28-38b annually. Several approaches towards managing ticks are studied at this laboratory. Ultimate goals include tests which can be used to select cattle that will be tick resistant.

Expected outcomes: The scholar will gain skills in nucleic acid extractions, cloning and sanger sequencing, shot-gun sequence analysis (including basic bioinformatics) – in association with tick resistance and CD45 allele analyses. The scholar will join a larger team investigating biomarker development for tick resistance.

Project location: UQ St Lucia Campus

SIPCA is required.

Designing molecular diagnostic assays for plant biosecurity diseases affecting the avocado industry

Contact supervisor for program application support: Dr Louisa Parkinson

Suitable for 3rd or 4th year Bachelor of Science or Biotechnology students with a keen interest in plant pathology, diagnostics and molecular biology. A background in plant science and molecular biology is ideal.

Preferred commencement date: 26/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Plant biosecurity and pathology diagnostics contributes towards food security and protecting agricultural crops by enabling the capacity for rapid detection and diagnosis of disease, potentially reducing further spread or damage to the industry. This project aims to develop a molecular diagnostic assay for a specific pathogen or pest of avocados. The student will be assigned a target pathogen for the diagnostic assay to detect and the student will use nucleic acid sequence data of the target pathogen to design a species-specific PCR-based diagnostic assay. The student will then test and optimise the diagnostic and write a final report on the findings.

Expected outcomes: Scholars will gain skills, training and workforce experience in:

  1. Molecular diagnostic design (Primer design for PCR-based diagnostic assays)
  2. Bioinformatics – using bioinformatics software & sequence databases, collecting & analysing nucleic acid sequence data, performing nucleotide alignments and selecting target sequences for diagnostic primers.
  3. Conducting molecular work in a PC2 laboratory alongside scientific researchers. Potential opportunity for outstanding scholars in being offered higher degree research (HDR) projects and/or casual work as research assistants.
  4. Planning and carrying out laboratory experiments, which will prepare scholars for independent research at Honours, Masters or PhD level.
  5. Scientific writing & communication. Outcomes include opportunity for publication in a scientific journal.
  6. Safe laboratory/workplace practice and culture.

Project location: Ecosciences Precinct, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park (accessible via the UQ lakes busway)

1-2 positions available.

Effects of pectins on starch digestibility

Contact supervisor for program application support: Prof Bob Gilbert
Co-advisor: Yeming Bai

Suitable for students with some familiarity with the techniques

Preferred commencement date: 28/11/2018

Project duration: 6 weeks

Pectin is a common component of starch-containing foods, such as pumpkin. We have found that pectin slows the rate of digestion of starch to glucose, which is nutritionally advantageous. The aim is to examine the relations between pectin and starch molecular structures using SEC to understand the reason for this.

Expected outcomes: The scholar will gain skills in measuring starch structure and fitting to Gilbert-group models, and performing statistical correlations with the resulting structural parameters. Co-authorship of paper.

Project location: UQ St Lucia Campus

Fungicide resistance to ascomycetes in macadamia

Contact supervisor for program application support: Dr Femi Akinsanmi

Suitable for 3rd or 4th year undergraduate or coursework masters students with a background in agriculture, biological sciences, or biotechnology.

Preferred commencement date: 26/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

There is a dearth of information on fungicide resistance in the macadamia ecosystems. High risk fungicides are used to control several macadamia pathogens, these pose significant threats to effective disease control. Prevalence of fungicide resistant strains in major fungal pathogens in the Australian macadamia industry will be studied. The scholar(s) will compare the efficacy of QoI (group 7) and group 3 fungicides on recent fungal isolates with historical isolates. Fungicide resistance generally emerges through mutations in the nuclear or mitochondrial genome, the sites of mutations in any fungicide resistant strains will be examined.

Expected outcomes: The scholar will use plant pathology techniques and molecular tools to examine the topic. Scholar will have an opportunity to contribute to publications from the research.

Project location: Ecosciences Precinct, Boggo Road (10 min. walk from UQ St Lucia Campus)

SIPCA is required. 3 positions available.

Genetic diversity in wild turnip weed

Contact supervisor for program application support: A/Prof Bhagirath Chauhan
Co-advisor: Dr Lee Hickey and Gulshan Mahajan

Suitable for students with a background in agriculture/genetics/biotechnology.

Preferred commencement date: 3/12/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Wild turnip weed ranked third in Queensland region in terms of revenue loss due to yield loss.  Knowledge on the genetic diversity of wild turnip is important for its management, as it provides needed information to understand patterns of weed invasion, heritability of traits (e.g. herbicide resistance), taxonomic relationships, point of origin, and gene flow.
Hypothesis: Different weed management practices might have influence on genetic variability in wild turnip weeds
Objective: To characterize genetic variation of wild turnip weed biotypes collected from different maternal environment of Queensland region.

Expected outcomes: The scholar may gain skill in DNA extraction and PCR techniques for assessing genetic variation in weed species. This study will enhance his/her learning skill in molecular biology. The student will need to produce a report at the end of the project.

Project location: UQ Gatton Campus

Planting the Computational Orchard

Contact supervisor for program application support: A/Prof Jim Hanan

Suitable for persons with plant science, computer science, or statistical backgrounds

Preferred commencement date: 12/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Development of new planting systems for Queensland orchards is a challenge because of the long time-frames for experimental work on trees. But what if we can grow a computational orchard that allows us to short circuit the process? This project will use data previously collected from experimental planting systems trials to develop functional structural plant models that address problems of interest to the scholar as well as to growers  and researchers in the area.

Expected outcomes: Scholars will learn the fundamentals of functional structural plant modelling, allowing visualisation and analysis of orchard data. They will develop  and present computational models of interest to researchers and growers in the team.

Project location: UQ St Lucia Campus

SIPCA is required. 2 positions available.

Role of odorant binding proteins in the oral cavity

Contact supervisor for program application support: A/Prof Eugeni Roura
Co-advisor: : A/Prof Axel Bidon-Chanal (Universitat de Barcelona)

Suitable for 3rd or 4th year undergraduate or coursework masters students with a background in food science, biotechnology, computer modeling.

Preferred commencement date: 12/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

The role of odorant binding proteins (OBPs) in flavour perception is still unclear. OBP have been related to the transport of flavour molecules in olfactory tissues. However, the presence of OBP in saliva raises the hypothesis that they may also be involved in taste perception. The objective of this project is to investigate this possible new role of the OBPs in flavour perception interacting with taste receptors (TRs) in the mouth. To this end, experimental along with computational approaches will be carried out. In a first phase, virtual screening assays will be used to filter out odorants that presumably can bind to both specific OBPs and TRs. Binding of the selected candidates will be experimentally tested to validate the computational predictions, and those that are validated will be deepen investigated to get insight on the mechanism by which OBPs and TRs may interact.

Expected outcomes: The student will deliver a computational tool to understand the functional properties of OBP in the oral cavity and the relationships between OBP and taste active compounds. In addition, the scholar will have an opportunity to contribute to publications from the research.

Project location: UQ St Lucia Campus

Sorghum germination and emergence at sub-optimal soil temperatures

Contact supervisor for program application support: Dr Joseph Eyre
Co-advisors: Dr Simon Clarke and A/Prof Daniel Rodriguez.

Suitable for scholars with a background in plant science, soils or agronomy and an interest in higher degree studies.

Preferred commencement date: 12/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Early sowing sorghum into sub-optimal soil temperatures can reduce the negative effect of heat stress at flowering.  However, low temperatures reduced can reduce emergence and crop uniformity. This high plant-to-plant variability is negatively correlated with yield (Martin et al 2005; Tokatlidis et al. 2010). We will develop 1) simple methods for land managers to evaluate sorghum seed quality and 2) relationships between seed emergence rate and seed quality across a range of soil types.

Expected outcomes: Scholars can learn seed quality assessment, image analysis and statistical modelling techniques. Scholars may also be invited to co-author reports and oral presentations

Project location: UQ Gatton Campus

Sorghum yield components estimation

Contact supervisor for program application support: Dr Joseph Eyre
Co-advisors: Dr James Watson, Mr James McLean and A/Prof Daniel Rodriguez.

Suitable for scholars with a background in plant science, mathematics or computing and an interest in higher degree studies.

Preferred commencement date: 12/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Understanding the processes of yield formation is critically important to crop improvement.  However, they are rarely estimated due to the cost of conventional gravimetric estimates. We will evaluate the suitability of morphometric relationships, image analysis and proximal sensing for estimation of yield components including stem and panicle biomass, grain number and abortion.

Expected outcomes: Scholars can learn field crops data collection, image analysis, crop modelling and statistical techniques. Scholars may also be invited to co-author reports and oral presentations

Project location: UQ Gatton Campus

Testing wheat for amylase expression pre-harvest

Contact supervisor for program application support: Dr Glen Fox
Co-advisor: Mr Galex Neoh

Suitable for 3rd or 4th year chemistry students and UQ students only.

Preferred commencement date: 19 or 26/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

The project will research a critical topic for the Australia wheat industry and explore variation in expression of amylase which can be expression pre-harvest (in the presence of no rainfall) and result in wheat being downgraded.  This project will examine expression in individual wheat grains to understand kernel to kernel variation and how that impacts on final amylase levels in wheat spikes.

Expected outcomes: The scholar will gain important laboratories skills in conducting highly precise enzyme assays. Further, the scholar will learn about the importance of experimental design and post laboratory testing data analysis. 

Project location: UQ St Lucia Campus

Using virtual plants to simulate photosynthesis in horticultural plants

Contact supervisor for program application support: Dr Inigo Auzmendi
Co-advisor: A/Prof Jim Hanan

Suitable for 3rd to 4th year students with a background in Plant Science. Students might have previous programing knowledge or not.

Preferred commencement date: 19/11/2018

Project duration: 10 weeks

Expected outcomes: Plants assimilate the carbon required for maintenance and growth through photosynthesis. Estimating photosynthesis is not straightforward in horticultural plants with a complex canopy structure like avocado, macadamia and mango, because individual leaves within the canopy present different photosynthetic characteristics. Therefore, different approaches to simulate photosynthesis could result into different estimates of carbon assimilation. This project will involve the use of virtual plants to simulate photosynthesis of individual leaves and whole canopy with specific management practices like mechanical hedging or topping, different planting density and tree shape. The results of these simulations will be used to evaluate several biochemical and physiological photosynthesis models under various management conditions. The final goal is to determine on each case the most adequate photosynthesis model, and propose new approaches if necessary.

Project location: UQ St Lucia Campus

SIPCA is required