Evolution of plant cellular responses to water

Evolution of mechanisms by which plant cells respond to the availability of water

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

The successful conquest of dry land by plants depended on the evolution of mechanisms to manage the acquisition and loss of water. These mechanisms are fundamentally important to plant success in nature and in agriculture. Plants must maintain the turgor of their cells in order to grow and retain the rigidity and structural integrity of tissues and organs, including leaves. Loss of cell turgor during water loss causes wilting, and at some critical point tissue death. Plants can increase cell turgor by increasing the concentration of salts and organic molecules to drive the uptake of water via osmosis. The capacity for a plant to maintain cell turgor pressure is vital for growth and is strongly correlated with drought tolerance.

The aim of this project is to understand the evolution and function of mechanisms for osmoregulation and cell growth, allowing success in natural and agricultural systems. This project will incorporate physiological approaches to investigate the relative capacity of diverse, evolutionarily-distant land plant groups to regulate cell turgor, in addition to genetic approaches in key model land plant species to determine how this process is regulated at a molecular level.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Frances Sussmilch


The successful applicant will receive a scholarship which provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

International applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must already have been awarded a first-class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills

Applicants from the following disciplines are encouraged to apply:

  • Plant physiology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular biology

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Research experience in the fields of molecular biology, plant physiology and/or genetics
  • Excellent written and verbal scientific communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a research team
  • Quality of academic record

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Frances Sussmilch to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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