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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Tuesday, 24 July 2018
Academic background
Host campus
Pathology and Molecular Medicine (Wellington)
Dr Ayesha Verrall, Dr Michelle Thunders


A talented student is sought for a doctoral project focused on identifying epigenetic markers of protection from Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. This project is to co-ordinate the collection blood cells from study participants in Indonesia and perform epigenetic analysis in Wellington.

The Innate Factors in Early Clearance of M. tuberculosis (INFECT) study recruits people who live with Tuberculosis cases in Indonesia and finds that almost a quarter of people remain uninfected despite heavy exposure. The Tuberculosis vaccine (BCG) enhances protection in this group and this is associated with changes in innate cytokine and cellular responses. Studies of healthy people suggest by inducing epigenetic changes that boost innate immune responses. Your project will test this hypothesis directly, by seeking evidence of epigenetic changes in people who are BCG vaccinated, exposed and uninfected, versus people who are BCG vaccinated but infected.

Your studies will advance understanding of how the world's most widely administered vaccine works, and suggest new pathways to developing improved vaccines. Our group, a collaboration between the University of Otago, Radboud University (Netherlands) and Universitas Padjadjaran, has already recruited over 1400 contacts to the Innate Factors in Early Clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis study and developed an extensive bioarchive of samples for future study.

Expressions of interest are sought from candidates with a first class honours degree in immunology (or equivalent) and whose previous experience demonstrate independent problem solving and ability to work cross culturally. The ideal candidate will see this project as a platform for deeper mechanistic work in immune function or genetics that could include analysis on other samples collected from the cohort.

You'll be supervised by Dr Verrall, an Infectious Diseases Physician and Senior Lecturer and Dr Thunders, a geneticist, both in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington. You'll work closely with our partners in collaborating institutions and will need to be present in Indonesia for most of the recruitment period. Appropriate co-supervision will be arranged to meet the successful candidate's needs. Successful applicants, international or domestic, will need to apply for a University of Otago PhD scholarship to support their tuition and living costs.


Dr Ayesha Verrall

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