HDR Scholarship - Drug releasing silk foam for ENT Biocompatibility and drug release characterisation of silk foam materials and aerogels for ENT applications

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Drug releasing silk foam for ENT Biocompatibility and drug release characterisation of silk foam materials and aerogels for ENT applications'.

Project Supervisor

Additional Supervision

Dr Filippo Valente (External Supervisor - Ear Science Institute Australia)


Geelong Technology Precinct (GTP), Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

As part of the Hearing Therapeutics research team at the Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA), this project aims to develop new silk biomaterials to treat chronic middle ear disease and other ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) medical conditions. Silk is a natural fibrous protein that is an excellent biomaterial due to its biocompatibility, mechanical strength, tuneable degradation and flexibility since it can be fabricated into a range of materials. Numerous tissue engineering applications have been published, including, by our group, as a material for eardrum repair.

The use of silk materials as a drug delivery vehicle is also a growing area of interest: silk products have been used to encapsulate different biomolecules including antibiotics, antibodies and vaccines where silk improves the compound stability and half-life and enables controlled drug release. This project will characterise biodegradable silk foam and aerogels for drug delivery, degradation and biocompatibility, to develop biomedical and surgical applications in the ENT space. This interdisciplinary project is Part of a joint project between Deakin University Fibre Materials and silk group (VIC) and ESIA (WA) and encompass studies in the field of cell biology, material science and pharmacology. The selected candidate will work at ESIA investigating the biocompatibility, and antimicrobial drug release and of silk-based materials developed together with Deakin.

The student will be based full time at Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA) in Perth. ESIA was established in 2001 as an independent not-for-profit Research Institute, dedicated to improving the lives of people with ear and hearing disorders, through patient driven research, education and treatment. In 2019, the Institute’s global excellence in research and clinical services was recognised by the World Health Organization. Ear Science now acts as a world Collaborating Centre for Ear and Hearing Care.

Data from the World Health Organization (2018) indicate that 466 million people have hearing loss worldwide. With 1 in 6 Australians suffering from hearing loss, our multi-disciplinary team works to improve the lives of those with hearing impairment and reconnect them with their world. The research conducted at the ESIA aims to enhance the lives of people living with ear and hearing disorders. ESIA provides the foundation of knowledge for the Institute, and team includes scientific disciplines such as biology, biochemistry, material science, physiology, and pharmacology, and involves laboratory studies with cell cultures, animal studies, biomaterials or physiological experiments.

Our basic science or Hearing Therapeutics team works in close collaboration with the team Brain and Hearing Team to extend the investigations into behavioural and social sciences, and with the silk fibres team at Deakin University, to develop novel materials for ENT applications. ESIA research facility is based at the QEII Biomedical Campus (Nedlands 6009), in close proximity to scientific research facility in the fields of biomedical and molecular sciences and bioengineering.

Project aim

Development of tissue engineering model in vitro and in vivo of silk foams and aerogels for ENT applications

  • Assess in vitro biocompatibility of functionalised silk biomaterials, developed as per the needs and guidance of ESIA
  • Review of best drug candidates for target treatments. Develop liquid chromatography analytic model for drugs release
  • Test efficacy of functionalised silk-foam with drug on selected bacteria and biofilm strains. Investigate in vivo response by implantation in animal models

Important dates

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,612 per annum tax exempt
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • Experience in cell biology and analytical techniques in the field of biomaterials and biochemistry.
  • Abilities in problem solving, record keeping, data management
  • Demonstrated ability to meet deadlines and set priorities for projects

How to apply

Please apply using the Find a Research Supervisor tool


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Ben Allardyce or  Dr Filippo Valente

Dr Ben Allardyce
Email Dr Ben Allardyce
+61 3 5227 2436

Dr Filippo Valente
Email Dr Filippo Valente
+61 8 6451 0561