Transcriptomic Mapping of Glaucoma Genes

Single Cell Transcriptomic Discovery of Glaucoma Genes

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

The development of RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) technology has allowed for the rapid quantification of individual gene transcripts. Integrating this high-throughput data with computational and statistical methods provides a toolbox to study the molecular functions of human tissues. Critically, to date, the majority of RNA-seq studies have been conducted on 'bulk' samples, consisting of millions of individual cells-the result of which is that transcript quantification represents the average signal across the cell population being studied.

Recent technological advances to isolate single cells, and barcode their expressed genes has enabled the transcriptomes of single cells to be sequenced in a high-throughput manner. By sequencing a large number of single cells from an individual sample it is now possible to dissect the cellular composition of apparently homogenous tissues or cell cultures. This is analogous to the difficulty in identifying the cause for a strange tasting smoothie without inspecting each individual ingredient. Merging this expression data with genome-wide profiles enables the identification of cell and context specific expression profiles. By design, "bulk sample" analysis results in an averaging of any cell-to-cell variation. This leads to a critical issue for cell biology research, as we know that substantial cellular heterogeneity in genome regulation exists.

To dissect the genetic drivers of gene expression, it is possible to test for association between the genotypes of single nucleotide polymorphisms and expression levels of genes in individual cells Statistically significant effects are called expression quantitative loci (eQTL), and can be used to refine causative variants at disease or trait associated loci, definitively identify the active gene at that locus, and can be merged to establish cell and context-specific regulatory networks. This PhD will apply leading molecular technology to further understand the genetic drivers in variation in Intraocular Pressure and Primary Open Angle Glaucoma.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Alex Hewitt


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 $31,500 per annum (2023 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.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


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

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • BSc(Hons) or equivalent
  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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:

  • Computational experience, Basic coding (R / Python)

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Prof Alex Hewitt to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • 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.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the 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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