PhD: Marsupial Cancer and Viral Immunity

13 Feb 2024
Degree type: PhD
Location: Hobart, University of Tasmania
Supervisor: Dr Andy Files

About the research project

Disease is increasingly a driver of wildlife population declines in Australia. However, basic immunology tools for >99% of vertebrate species are scarce, limiting our ability to prevent and respond to emerging and endemic diseases, such as devil facial tumour disease and wobbly possum disease. The overarching goal of this project is to improve wildlife health by better understanding the marsupial immune response to viruses and cancer. Our primary focus is the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, but we will more broadly investigate immune responses to viruses and vaccine vectors.  This project will accelerate devil facial tumour disease vaccine progress and conservation immunology research. It will expand our knowledge of infection and immunity in Australia's iconic marsupials.

The student will develop recombinant proteins derived from devil facial tumour cells, adenoviruses, and wobbly possum disease virus. The recombinant proteins and cells lines will be used in diagnostic and immune profiling assays. The student will build on established protocols and integrate with a high-functioning and motivated team. The tools developed by the student will be used to immune-profile serum from healthy, diseased, recovered, and vaccinated marsupials to understand how protective and non-protective responses develop.

The project will generate highly-skilled students and researchers that are competitive in the international biotech sector. This project will move the whole field of animal immunology forward by making high-quality, low-cost immunology tools available to Australian researchers.


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $32,192 per annum (2024 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus
  • Applications are open to Domestic/ International/ Onshore applicants
  • English language score must be above minimum entry requirements for this project

The project will involve working with blood and other tissues from wildlife. The student will be required to complete a medical disclosure statement to ensure they can safely participate in the project.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with cell culture, molecular biology, and/or immunological assays
  • Demonstrated ability to write reports, thesis, and/or academic papers
  • Ability to work with a diverse academic and industry team
  • A strong commitment to animal welfare and wildlife conservation
  • Independently motivated and able to troubleshoot problems

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Assembly of plasmid DNA vectors
  • Production and purification of recombinant proteins
  • Basic computer programming skills (R, Python)
  • Driving license to pick up wildlife tissue samples
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Basic statistics

More Information & Apply Here