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Summer research scholarships

Summer Research Scholarships in the Department of Physiology

Every year a number of summer research projects are offered in the Department of Physiology (11 were offered in 2018). Being selected for one of these projects means 10-weeks of paid, hands-on experience, working in a lab alongside researchers who are at the forefront of their field.
200-level students or above with a PHSL, NEUR or FUHB background are invited to apply, particularly those students who are keen on pursuing 400-level study in these subjects.


Projects Available

Dr Jeff Erickson

CaMKII inhibition as a novel therapy for diabetic cardiomyopathy


Cardiovascular disease remains the top cause of death in New Zealand and much of the world. While much progress has been made to combat cardiovascular disease, currently available therapies are not appropriate or effective for a large number of patients, particularly those with diabetes. We have identified a novel therapeutic target to prevent cardiovascular disease - CaMKII. We are currently offering a range of summer projects for students who are keen to get involved with testing CaMKII inhibition for health benefits in a number of diabetic models. Projects on offer can include molecular biology, tissue staining, whole animal physiology, and even human tissue studies. For more information, please contact Dr Jeff Erickson – jeff.erickson@otago.ac.nz

Associate Professor Kirk Hamilton and Associate Professor Fiona McDonald

The role of the Exocyst complex in trafficking ion channels in polarised epithelia


Proper trafficking of ion channels in epithelia is key to epithelial cell function. The Exocyst is a series of proteins that act as a complex and aids in tethering post-Golgi secretory vesicles for delivery of ion channels to the plasma membrane. The role of the Exocyst complex in trafficking ion channels is still emerging. In this project, we will investigate the role of the Exocyst complex in the targeting of two epithelial ion channels to the appropriate membrane (KCa3.1 and ENaC). This will be approached using a range of protein biochemistry, molecular biology, electrophysiological and imaging techniques. The implication of these results is to define novel trafficking partners of K+ and Na+ channels that may be used therapeutically in diseases. Interested students should organize a time to come and discuss the prospects further - kirk.hamilton@otago.ac.nz

Dr Karl Iremonger

Regulation of neural circuits controlling stress


Our laboratory focuses on understanding hypothalamic neural circuits which control stress. Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) neurons are activated in response to stress and are responsible for controlling the levels of stress hormones in the body as well as the behavioural responses to stress. The summer research project will use calcium imaging to study how the excitability of CRH neurons is controlled by neuropeptide signals and/or stress hormones. For more information, please contact Dr Karl Iremonger – karl.iremonger@otago.ac.nz

Dr Martin Fronius

How does ENaC sense shear force


The Fronius lab is investigating how ion channels are sensing shear stress and how this affects the function of blood vessels and blood pressure regulation. Focus of the summer research project is to understand how the epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) senses shear force. The research involves heterologous expression of αβγ and δβγ ENaC in Xenopus oocytes and the assessment of channel function in response to shear force by an automated electrophysiology system (Roboocyte 2). For more information please contact Dr Martin Fronius: martin.fronius@otago.ac.nz

How to Apply

Have a look at the list of possible projects available above.

Talk to the academics that are offering the projects you’re interested in to find out more about the project itself and see if it is suitable for you.

Apply directly with the academic involved.

What Happens Next

Selected students work with their academic supervisor to prepare an application for a summer student scholarship. Deadline for the letter of recommendation from the supervisor to Karla is 20st August 2019. Students are responsible for submitting their completed applications online by 23th August 2019.

How are the projects funded and how much will I get paid?

Funding comes from a variety of sources. For more information see the Summer Research Scholarship Programme Handbook, available for download from here.

Scholarship amounts are valued at $5,000. Payments are made in 3 instalments that are paid in early December, mid January and April (once the final report is approved). Please note students must be intending to enrol at any University in 2020 in order to be eligible for a summer scholarship. This is to ensure that the University meets its tax and legal requirements when advertising and paying a tax-free scholarship. If the student does not return to study in 2020, the University has the right to recover the tax from the student.

Have any questions that aren’t answered here? Contact Karla in the Physiology Admin office