CERA

Careers and study

2021-2022 Hector MacLean Summer Scholarship

Applications for the Hector Maclean Summer Scholarship are open to students enrolled at the University of Melbourne in an undergraduate degree in biomedicine, science, medicine or other relevant courses.

Scholarship details

Duration: 4-8 weeks, full-time or part-time, dependent on the supervisor’s approval.

This period can comprise a placement in either Block 1 (22 November to 17 December 2021) or Block 2 (24 January to 18 February 2022), not including the Christmas closure period (24 December 2021 to 3 January 2022, inclusive).

Positions can run across both Block 1 and 2, with exact dates to be negotiated between the student and supervisor.

Location: Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne – Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, East Melbourne.

Scholarship value: $200 per week, pro-rata, tax-free; up to a maximum of $1600.

It is expected that up to 3 scholarships will be offered.

About Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne

Ophthalmology is part of the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne. The Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) is co-located with the Department of Surgery.

Ophthalmology research at CERA has a strong reputation for its clinical and translational focus. We rank 4th in the world for academic output in Ophthalmology, according to the 2017 Centre for World University Rankings by subject and conduct eye research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment of eye diseases, vision loss and blindness.

We have developed our comprehensive research program by focusing on three integrating themes concentrating on translational research:

  • Innovative diagnostics and treatment.
  • Regenerating vision.
  • Understanding eye health.

Position Summary

We are seeking outstanding students enrolled at the University of Melbourne in an undergraduate degree in biomedicine, science, medicine or other relevant courses to participate in our summer vacation scholarship program.

How to Apply

Application Forms can be requested at [email protected].

Please email your complete application and supporting documentation to [email protected] by 5.00 pm on Friday 1 October 2021.

Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.

Only students enrolled in University of Melbourne science, biomedicine, medicine, or other relevant degrees are eligible to apply.

Please note students enrolled at other universities cannot be considered.

Documents to be submitted

  1. Completed 2021-2022 Hector MacLean Summer Scholarship Application Form.
  2. Brief CV of no more than three pages including an outline of any previous research experience.
  3. A copy of your most recent academic transcript (this can be your unofficial transcript downloaded from the university website or a scanned copy of your official transcript).

What happens once you have submitted your application?

  1. Applications will be reviewed and students will be selected for interview.
  2. Students selected for an interview will be advised by phone and/or email in the week beginning Monday 18 October 2021. For this reason, it is IMPORTANT that your contact information is up to date, accurate and that you access your email.
  3. It is anticipated that interviews will be held at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, East Melbourne from 25 October 2021.
  4. We match students to projects after feedback from the prospective scholars and the supervisors.
  5. The timing of the project placement is then determined in consultation with the Hector McLean scholar and supervisor.

 

All successful students will be required to attend an Induction Program held on Monday, 22 November 2021 before commencing their project.

Successful applicants will be required to write a short report at the conclusion of their scholarship.

Supporting information

Find more information and download the application form for the Hector Maclean Scholarship.

RNA base editing strategies as potential therapeutic of inherited retinal dystrophies

Project: RNA base editing strategies as potential therapeutic of inherited retinal dystrophies.

Supervised by: A/Prof Guei-Sheung Liu.

Research Group: Genetic Engineering Research.

Project Summary: Inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs) are significant contributors to global vision impairment and blindness, with no cure to date.

Gene therapy by supplementation is restricted to certain forms of IRDs and therefore alternative therapeutic approaches are required. Specific mutations underlying these conditions have been identified, although efficient strategies to target these mutations have not been developed.

Recently, CRISPR base editing has allowed targeted modification of single bases using adenosine and cytosine deaminases without causing sequence breaks.

Compact CRISPR systems that target RNA have also been demonstrated to perform efficient and specific base editing. Their compact size allows delivery using a single viral vector which is the delivery method of choice.

The current project aims to compare two established compact CRISPR RNA base editors, to investigate their potential in correcting point mutations present in the retina efficiently and specifically. Successful demonstration of ocular RNA base editing using these systems would provide a novel therapeutic approach against IRDs.

This project would be suitable for medical or biomedical science students who are interested in
genetic engineering and biotechnology to engage in translational eye research.

Applicants with proficiency in genetics or molecular biology subjects are encouraged to apply.

Optimising adeno-associated virus (AAV) transduction efficacy in cell and tissue models

Project: Optimising adeno-associated virus (AAV) transduction efficacy in cell and tissue models.

Supervised by: Dr Thomas Edwards and Dr Doron Hickey.

Research Group: Gene Therapy group.

Project Summary: A range of cell biology techniques will be used to interrogate the effect of supplementary agents on the in vitrotransduction efficacy of AAV.

The successful applicant will need laboratory experience and be able to demonstrate independent working.

Genetics detective: are mitochondrial DNA mutations responsible for unexplained vision loss?

Project: Genetics detective: are mitochondrial DNA mutations responsible for unexplained vision loss?

Supervised by: Dr Isabel Lopez Sanchez and Sona Samuel.

Research Group: Mitochondrial Biology and Disease.

Project Summary: In this project, the student will apply molecular biology techniques (PCR, restriction enzyme digestion, gel electrophoresis) to investigate the presence of mitochondrial DNA mutations known to cause blindness, using clinical samples from ~250 patients with unexplained vision loss.

This important work may provide a genetic diagnosis to patients affected by vision loss, and will lead the pathway for discovery of novel disease-causing genes.

Automated identification of corneal conditions using Artificial Intelligence

Project: Automated identification of corneal conditions using Artificial Intelligence.

Supervised by: Dr Srujana Sahebjada and A/Prof Mark Daniell.

Research Group: Surgical Research Unit.

Project Summary: Keratoconus is a common condition that affects the cornea and despite its increasing prevalence, the cause of keratoconus is largely unknown.

There are many clinical gaps regarding keratoconus in terms of subclinical detection, clarifying its disease stage and identifying which features should be used to predict its progression. These gaps impact on a clinician’s decision-making process for keratoconus disease management.

The project aims at developing machine learning algorithms to identify features that define early subclinical keratoconus that are currently refractory as well as identify a series of features that are involved in a) disease staging, as well as b) risk of progression of keratoconus.

It provides an exciting opportunity to be a part of this project which includes collecting data, conducting big data analysis, generating AI model and manuscript writing.

Deep phenotyping of inherited retinal disease using advanced imaging techniques

Project: Deep phenotyping of inherited retinal disease using advanced imaging techniques.

Supervised by: Dr Thomas Edwards and A/Prof Lauren Ayton.

Research Group: Gene Therapy Unit.

Project Summary: Successful candidate will develop and apply multi-modal imaging techniques to characterise inherited retinal disease.