PhD scholarship: Applying graph theory techniques to studying the evolutionary dynamics of genetic networks


Enrolment status New students, Currently enrolled students
Student type Domestic students
Level of study Higher Degree by Research
Study area Science and Mathematics
HDR funding type Living stipend scholarship
Scholarship value $28,597 per annum (2021 rate), indexed annually
Scholarship duration Three years with the possibility of two 6-month extensions
Opening date 4 May 2021
Closing date 4 June 2021


Supervisor – Professor Diane Donovan

The overall aim of this project is to use mathematical techniques to study properties of genetic networks for plants. The goal is to explore relationships within the network to map genotypes to phenotypes providing valuable information for crop management, and for understanding how natural populations adapt to novel conditions. In particular, genomes for individuals will be associated with vertices in a graph and relationships within and between distinct genomes represented as weighted edges. In this framework the underlying problem will be studied as complex descriptions and dynamics of mathematical networks where techniques from graph theory, linear algebra and computational approaches will reveal properties of the underlying genetic network, and its relationship to crop and natural variation.

A working knowledge of Matlab and R would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture (the Centre) is a nationally funded research centre headquartered in the School of Biology, Faculty of Science, at UQ's St Lucia Campus. The Centre is a consortium of five Australian universities, led by UQ, with nodes at UQ, Macquarie University, Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, and University of Tasmania, and includes a number of leading domestic and international partner institutions.

The $110M dollar Centre is funded by a seven-year $35M grant from the ARC and an additional $75M in cash and in-kind contributions from national and international partners. With a uniquely multidisciplinary team, the Centre will deliver new strategies to address the problems of food security and climate change, establishing Australia as a global leader in these areas. It is globally recognised that due to the projected 25% increase in human population over the next 30 years, that food crops will need a doubling in genetic gain in order to meet demand. Moreover, pressure on arable land and sustainability comes from the current reality that more than 60% of the world-wide calorie intake by humans comes from just three crops, maize, wheat and rice. Moreover, climate change will impact these crops. At the same time, even despite adequate calorie intake in some communities, 10% of the world’s population is undernourished. The Centre aims to discover adaptive strategies underpinning productivity and resilience in diverse plants and deepen knowledge of the genetic and physiological networks driving key traits.

The Centre aims to supply breeders with an unparalleled predictive capacity through developing novel quantitative and computational approaches to link new and prior knowledge of interlocking gene and other mechanistic networks with traits across biological levels. The Centre will accelerate technologies to transfer successful networks into crops and build legal frameworks to secure this knowledge.

The three key research themes of the Centre are to:

  • Discover and integrate different mechanisms of plant success in different environments;
  • Develop models that connect mechanisms and genomes for predictions; and
  • Innovate the path to crops including gene technology, law and society.

The Centre has 17 Chief Investigators and 27 Associate Investigators who will collaborate with Partner Investigators from 11 different organisations. Overall, the team of investigators spans 13 Australian universities and research institutes and 14 national and international research partner organisations. Further information about the Centre may be found here.


To be eligible, you must meet the entry requirements for a higher degree by research.

This scholarship is open to Australian citizens, permanent residents and International students who are currently in Australia at the time of application and commencement.

Applications are closed.

Before you get started

If this scholarship has rules, download and read them.

How to apply

New students

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  1. Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  2. Select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'.
  3. Select ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and type in ‘GENETIC NETWORKS-DONOVAN’ in the 'Name of scholarship' field.

See an example of what you have to do

Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

Current students

If you are a current student, please contact Prof Diane Donovan, to express your interest, including an academic CV and cover letter detailing why you are interested in this project and how your current research experience will allow you to contribute to outcomes.

Selection criteria

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of mathematics and plant genetics and the potential for scholastic success.

Prior research experience in a related field is highly desirable.

Applications are closed.


Professor Diane Donovan
+61 7 3365 1354
Applications are closed.

Terms and conditions

Read the policy on UQ Research Scholarships.

A domestic part-time student with carer’s responsibilities, a medical condition or a disability, which prevents them from studying full time may be eligible for scholarship consideration, on a case by case basis.

Applications are closed.