Phd scholarship - Detection and characterisation of animal influenza viruses

A PhD scholarship is available at the Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (GCEID) – a multidisciplinary collaboration between Deakin, Barwon Health and CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL). 

The PhD student, under the guidance of the Chief Investigator, will initiate and conduct research on the topic of ‘detection and characterisation of animal influenza viruses’, led by Professor Soren Alexandersen. The successful applicant will be based at Geelong.

Project aim

Influenza A virus is highly diverse, with many types and subtypes infecting humans and a multitude of animal species. 

This project will work with already available samples and those collected from various animals and humans, focusing on specific risk groups working at the animal-human interface (including farmers, animal workers and veterinarians). 

Using state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques, including targeted 1 RT-PCRs, high resolution melt RT-PCR and next generation sequencing, this project aims to detect and characterise influenza A viruses that may have significant zoonotic or reverse zoonotic potential (the ability to infect animals and humans). If time is available within the project, samples collected at the animal-human interface may also be screened for one or more other known or potential zoonotic infections such as Q fever, leptospirosis, Yersiniaenterocolitica and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Human infection of influenza viruses

Human infection of influenza viruses can be initiated by other species e.g. the 2009 "swine" HlNl pandemic, as well as more sporadic cases of vH3N2 swine influenza – seen in the USA among country fair visitors who were exposed to swine. 

In nature, wild birds, in particular waterfowl, host many types of influenza A viruses. Generally those viruses rarely affect people directly, but they may infiltrate, for example, commercial poultry and from there people are potentially exposed. Other species like turkeys are highly susceptible to mammalian influenza viruses, such as swine and human influenza viruses. 

Humans can be infected by human seasonal influenza viruses, which change over time, but can also be infected directly by animal influenza viruses e.g. in the case of the highly pathogenic Eurasian HSNI or the low pathogenicity Chinese H7N9 avian influenza viruses.

Value and duration


  • A stipend of $26,682 (2017 rate) per annum, tax exempt.
  • A relocation allowance up to $1,500 (2017 rate) awarded to students who are moving from interstate or overseas in order to study at Deakin.
  • Paid sick, maternity and parental leave.
  • Tuition fee coverage for the duration of 4 years
  • Students overseas health cover


Three years

Important dates

closing date

31 December 2016

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants must meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements, be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (First Class) or a master's degree with a substantial research component in a related field. Please refer to the entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information.
  • Ability and willingness to work at the GCEID facilities, at Deakin sites and other partner sites in Geelong as needed. This may require work under high-containment conditions and fieldwork to collect samples.
  • Applications are open to Australian/New Zealand citizens, Australian permanent residents and international students.

How to apply

Please refer to the how to apply for a research degree page for application information.

Further information

If you wish to discuss your research interests and project proposal before applying, please contact Professor Soren Alexandersen via email or phone +61 3 4215 9635