Two PhD positions in C4 Photosynthesis available

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About the projects

Photosynthesis is the biological process used by all plants to transform light into chemical energy and produce carbohydrates for growth. Carbon fixation using the C4 photosynthesis process is a more efficient pathway for concentrating carbon dioxide, benefiting plants that evolved to survive hot and dry climates. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis aims to use photosynthesis research to increase the yield of important food crops thereby addressing global food shortages in a changing world climate. Our group at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment focusses on C4 photosynthesis by employing physiological and functional genomic approaches.

Two PhD projects are available at the Western Sydney University node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis.

(1) Regulation of C4 photosynthesis by sugar sensing

This PhD project will investigate the biochemical and molecular mechanisms by which sugar sensing regulates C4 photosynthesis. The project will involve two complementary approaches: (i) inducing physiological changes in wild type plants by environmental manipulations and (ii) a functional genomic approach to knockdown and overexpress key genes using models such as Setaria viridis, Arabidopsis thaliana and rice.

(2) Water use efficiency C4 photosynthesis

This PhD project will investigate the role of stomata and leaf structure in determining water use efficiency in C4 crops and grasses exposed to environmental change and extremes. The project will combine leaf gas exchange analyses with leaf anatomy, stomatal morphology and hydraulic conductivity.

The successful applicant will be based in Sydney, Australia at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, which hosts 50 scientists and 55 PhD students, comprising one of the highest concentrations of environmental researchers in Australia.

These molecular agriculture and plant physiology projects will suit an ambitious early career scientist who is willing to take advantage of a truly inspiring time in plant biology.

The student will be incorporated in the ANU-led ARC Centre Excellence, working closely with leading C4 photosynthesis experts including Professor Robert Furbank from the Australian National University, and will be supervised by Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum together with a multidisciplinary team composed of research-intensive faculty who are world experts in their fields.

Eligibility criteria

The successful applicant should:

  • hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • be able showcase an exceptional interest in plant biology.
  • demonstrate excellent academic performance in one or more of the following areas: molecular biology, genomics, DNA engineering or plant transformation (functional genomics); or microscopy, statistics or plant-water relations (physiology).
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
  • have good communication skills and be creative.

International applicants must also demonstrate English language proficiency.

How to apply

1. Contact Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum ( to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.

2. Complete the scholarship application form (PDF, 222.11 KB).

3. Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.

4. Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements.

5. All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:

  • Use the email subject line: Application_2018_097_HIE
  • Submit to
  • All attached documents must be submitted as PDF.
  • In the body of your email, include your full name, your student ID (if you are a current or previous Western Sydney University student) and the full title of the scholarship.

Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

Please contact the Graduate Research School via email at for more information.

Applications close 24 June 2018