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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


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Academic background
Health Sciences, Sciences
Host campus
Master's, PhD, Honours
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Associate Professor Margaret Currie, Dr Elisabeth Phillips, Professor Bridget Robinson


PhD candidates are being recruited to join the Mackenzie Cancer Research Group, University of Otago, Christchurch. Our group has close working relationships with oncologists, pathologists and surgeons, and we have a strong focus on clinically relevant cancer research.

The tumour microenvironment comprises various resident and infiltrating host cells, secreted factors, cell signalling molecules and extracellular matrix components that surround cancer cells to form the tumour mass. The tumour microenvironment is extremely dynamic and may be affected by local and/or systemic conditions. Depending on context, the tumour microenvironment can have pro- or anti-tumourigenic effects, and is a key determinant of cancer cell growth, spread and resistance to therapy.

Potential student projects in this field may use cell culture models and/or clinical samples from patients with cancer to investigate:

  • Cancer-Associated Adipocytes in breast and/or prostate cancer.
  • Innate immune cells – phenotypic plasticity and function in the tumour microenvironment.
  • Obesity, inflammation and physical activity - effects on response to chemotherapy (breast cancer).
  • Exercise oncology – prehabilitation and rehabilitation exercise for individuals undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for early stage colon and breast cancer.

We are looking for enthusiastic and highly motivated science and biomedical students to join us for their PhD, BBioMedSc(Hons), or other postgraduate degree with a background in: cancer, cell biology, biochemistry or molecular biology.

Applicants must be eligible for admission to the PhD programme at the University of Otago.

Admission to the PhD programme

Funding Notes

Whether you are a domestic or an international student, the University of Otago has a range of Doctoral Scholarships available to you.

If you are a straight A student (GPA of 8 – 'A' grade) or higher, who has completed an Honours or Master's degree with an appropriate research component from a New Zealand university then you are likely to be guaranteed a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.

University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship

Other scholarship opportunities


In the first instance, applicants should contact Associate Professor Margaret Currie or Dr Elisabeth Phillips by email to discuss a project. Further information may be sought from suitable candidates that will include:

  • a copy of your CV
  • a copy of your academic transcript
  • a PDF copy of your research thesis

Further Information

The Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science has a number of potential topics and projects on offer in the fields of biomedical science and pathology for a range of postgraduate qualifications, including PhD and BBiomedSc(Hons).
We welcome enquiries and encourage all prospective students to directly contact potential supervisors in their field of interest.


Margaret Currie

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