Australian students

The best way to find out the current postgraduate opportunities at our lab is to talk directly with Jimmy Botella. Make an appointment and let him know your plans and ideas.


International students

UQ is a truly cosmopolitan university with more than 12,000 international students from over 144 countries. In our group, we have people from Spain, Russia, Malaysia, India, China, Vietnam, Japan Taiwan and Thailand, so you won't feel a stranger here....

International students need to apply to UQ for admission and there are UQ scholarships for international students. For information on admission please visit the University web site ( Scholarship information can be found here:


At the PGEL we receive a large number of requests on a weekly basis, therefore we have developed a standard procedure for international students enquiries. In order to be considered  as a potential candidate at the PGEL you will need to provide:

  • A detailed CV

  • A letter explainng your reasons to choose our laboratory

  • A proposed research plan for your degree based on our latest publications

Available Projects at the PGEL

Development of non-transgenic technology for targeted gene mutations in plants (Honours/Master)

This project is in collaboration with Prof. Zhu, director of the Shanghai Center for Plant Stress Biology (Chinese Academy of Sciences). CRISPR technology allows to target genes for mutation with an unprecedented accuracy and does not leave any secondary effects in the genome. This technology is now being used in all major crops for genetic improvement but as any new technology, CRISPR can still be improved. We want to develop enhanced CRISPR systems to speed up the production of better crops.


Plant defence mechanisms controlled by G-proteins (Honours/Master/PhD)

Plants are always fighting a multitude of pathogens and they have developed very sophisticated defence mechanisms during evolution. Some of those mechanisms are now relatively well known but new ones are still being discovered. G-proteins are a new player on this never ending battle and they seem to be really important. As prove of that, if you mutate one of the subunit genes, plants get extremely sensitive to pathogens. We want to know more about the mechanisms controlled by G proteins to protect plants.


Biotechnological control of Fusarium diseases in sorghum (Honours/Master/PhD)

Fusarium is a soil borne fungal pathogen that has a devastating effect in many different agricultural crops. Natural resistance to Fusarium is not available for many crops therefore biotechnological approaches can prove to be the only available alternative to solve this important problem. Our group discovered that Arabidopsis mutants insensitive to the plant hormone jasmonic acid are fully resistant to Fusarium oxysporum. The objective of this project is to genetically modify sorghum with constructs directing the expression of mutated receptor proteins in order to achieve insensitivity to jasmonic acid and test whether the GM plants have increased or decreased sensitivity to Fusarium.


“Next generation” diagnostic technologies (Honours/Master/PhD)

Up to a third of the agricultural production is lost due to three major causes: disease outbreaks, insect attack and weed competition. Among them, losses caused by crop diseases are the most important issue globally, especially in agriculturally reliant countries. In the absence of resistance, the ideal method to control disease outbreaks is by early detection in the field before it spreads to neighbouring farms. It is therefore essential to develop new disease diagnostic technologies that are sensitive, reproducible, highly specific and (if possible) able to detect multiple pathogens in a single assay.

We are working with Professor Matt Trau from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to develop the next generation of diagnostic technologies combining Molecular Biology and Nanotechnology. Our methods aim to eliminate expensive equipment and complicated sample preparation in order to be able to deploy them in the field.


Crop yield improvement (Honours/Master/PhD)

Given the imminent food crisis that humanity will face in the next 50 years, crop yield enhancement is of paramount importance. Among all foods of plant origin, the Poaceae family, with members such as rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, barley, oat, rye and millet occupies a preeminent place in feeding humanity, not only as a direct source of carbohydrates but also as an increasing part of farm animal diets. We are interested in improving yield by controlling genes with a direct positive effect on yield. Some of the yield-enhancing genes have been characterized in rice but they can be applied to other grain crops.


Custom projects (Honours/Master/PhD)

Although it is not the usual way to do it, you can contact us and propose your ideal research project. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to accommodate your project in our current research but at least we will have a think about it.