Saving neurons from neurodegeneration

Combination therapies to protect neurons in neurodegenerative diseases

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Degeneration of neurons is the key cause of the functional changes in neurodegenerative disease such as those that cause dementia and motor neuron disease, resulting in the loss of the ability to think, speak, walk and swallow. We are investigating causes of neurodegeneration and treatment strategies to protect neurons. There is increasing evidence that different parts of the neuron, for example the cell body and the long processes known as axons, degenerate by different mechanisms. This means that a combination of more than one drug may be needed to protect neurons. This project will investigate whether there are axon-specific alterations in response to disease-related insults, as well as whether we can design combination therapies to protect both the cell bodies and the axons against degeneration. To investigate these aims, we will utilise the mouse visual system. The visual system is an ideal intermediary step between cell culture systems and transgenic animals. This is because neurons in the retina share important features with neurons affected in neurodegenerative diseases, but are much more accessible, and due to the organisation of the system allow axonal alterations to be examined.

The project will involve the use of well-characterised techniques including histology and molecular biology, as well as the development of novel techniques to measure changes in the axon, including viral transduction, multi-omics approaches, and bioinformatic analysis to investigate the aims. Together, this project will provide essential knowledge for how we can protect neurons in neurodegenerative disease and how new drugs should be targeted for providing neuroprotective strategies.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Rachel Atkinson


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.

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.

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 Rachel Atkinson 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.

Apply now Explore other projects

Why the University of Tasmania?

Worldwide reputation for research excellence

Quality supervision and support

Tasmania offers a unique study lifestyle experience