Modifying the epigenome of brain cancer

Modifying epigenomes of medulloblastoma to decipher molecular mechanisms of brain cancer development

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

As individuals we have trillions of cells, all of which are programmed to perform a specific function, which is dictated by how and when genes are transcribed or turned on. Since every cell in the human body contains the same DNA sequence, the process of controlling gene expression is achieved via the epigenome. Importantly, the epigenome and the proteins that control epigenetic mechanisms are dysfunctional in cancer cells, which offers novel opportunities to understand cancer development and develop therapies. Clinical benefit is underpinned by knowledge, and we first need to really understand how the epigenome is modified and the downstream effects that this has on cancer cell viability and expansion. We address this challenge by developing reliable and efficient technologies to create epigenetic maps of normal and cancer cells that allow us to study these processes in fine detail.

A major contributor to the epigenetic landscape is regulation of three-dimensional chromatin architecture by the SWI/SNF complex, which can disassemble, localise and eject nucleosomes to control chromatin accessibility. Subunits of this complex, such as BRG1, are frequently disrupted in medulloblastoma brain tumours. Unlike most other cancer types, medulloblastoma is a disease largely driven by dysregulation of epigenetic systems and there are very few (if any) genetic mutations contributing to disease onset and progression. This offers a unique opportunity to investigate epigenetic control of cancers. This project will use cutting edge genetic techniques to alter  SWI/SNF genes and monitor the effect on the 2D and 3D epigenome of medulloblastoma cells. Techniques used may include CRISPR gene editing, HiC, HiChIP, NOMe-seq, as well as other epigenetic and cell biology assays and next-generation sequencing data analysis.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Phillippa Taberlay


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:

  • Applications are open to Domestic/ International/ Onshore applicants
  • Applications are open to applications from a relevant discipline (epigenetics and/or neuroscience and/or cancer and/or bioinformatic data analysis)
  • English language score must be above minimum entry requirements for this project
  • 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 desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience or knowledge of epigenetics, neuroscience or bioinformatic data analysis would be an advantage

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact A/Prof Phillippa Taberlay 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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