School of Medicine PhD Scholarship "Understanding immune dysregulation in obesity"

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    Western Sydney University
    Open until suitable candidate is found
    Formal sciences
    Natural sciences
    Professions and applied sciences



Applications are currently being accepted for a 3 year PhD project in immune dysregulation in obesity at Western Sydney University Blacktown and the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. The project will be conducted in the research group of Professor Golo Ahlenstiel and will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.


Obesity is associated with alterations in metabolism, immune function, inflammation and microbiome, however the inter-relationship between these factors remains ill-defined. Blacktown Public Hospital has recently implemented a large healthy weight and bariatric surgical program, which provides the ideal environment to address the poorly understood, but essential aspect of obesity. Samples obtained pre- and post-bariatric surgery will be used to understand how obesity and metabolic syndrome cause immune dysregulation promoting subsequent development of obesity related complications in liver, gut and cardiovascular system.


National statistics from Australian sources predict that normal-weight adults will constitute less than a third of the population by 2025, and that the prevalence of obesity will have increased by 65%. Bariatric surgery targets individuals with a body mass index (BMI) above 35, and significantly reduces stomach size by resection, diversion or banding. Patients achieve significant weight loss, resolution of diabetic state, improvement in cardiovascular risk factors and reduction in mortality. This project will examine the effects of bariatric surgery and subsequent weight loss on systemic, as well as liver and intestinal immune activity and dysregulation. In particular, how rapid weight loss alleviates chronic inflammation and immune exhaustion associated with obesity. Changes in microbiome and intestinal permeability will also be examined with respect to liver inflammation and immunopathology. This project will possess a strong clinical and translational focus, relating immune parameters to clinical outcomes. In vitro analysis of immune cell phenotypes will be performed by flow cytometry, RNAseq and primary liver and intestinal cell culture will be used to elucidate pathological mechanisms.

What is funded

  • Domestic students will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000 per annum to support living costs, supported by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset.
  • International students will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000 per annum to support living costs. Those with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver.


3 years


We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, that possess laboratory experience and a background in medical/health science and/or molecular biology. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with strong interests in the immunology of chronic hepatic and gastrointestinal disease

The successful applicant should:

  • hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) Research Master’s degree, or (iii) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in subjects relevant to immunology and disease.
  • understand of the importance of identifying the mechanisms of disease in order to generate novel treatments and interventions.
  • be willing to learn novel lab based and analytical techniques using a variety or advanced instrumentation.
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
  • International applicants must also meet English language proficiency.


The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.