How do plants open up?

Examining molecular mechanisms for stomatal opening in diverse land plants

Degree type


Closing date

10 October 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

The evolution of the adjustable stomatal pore was a major event in the development of life on land. Stomatal opening enables plants to acquire carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and growth, while closure prevents excessive plant water loss. In flowering plants, stomata open to acquire CO2 in response to signals including blue and red light, low intracellular CO2, and the plant's internal timekeeper – the circadian clock. Circadian rhythms enable plants to predict and prepare for regular environmental changes including dawn and dusk.

The genetic pathways that drive stomatal opening are currently limited to a small number of plant species. We do not yet understand how these pathways evolved and if there is diversity in genetic mechanisms for stomatal opening between evolutionarily-distant plant groups. This project aims to investigate the evolution of molecular mechanisms for stomatal opening in land plants. Specifically, this project will examine the diversity of opening mechanisms that operate in modern land plants through transcriptomic, proteomic, and bioinformatic approaches.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Frances Sussmilch


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


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

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Applicants must have experience in one or more of the following disciplines:

  • Molecular biology
  • Bioinformatics

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:

  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research, analytical and communication skills and the ability to work independently and as part of a research team

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with transcriptomics and/or proteomics (benchwork and/or data analysis)

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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