Funding for young science leaders and support for PhD students

EMBL Australia is offering secure funding for young science leaders to set up their own research group supported by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

Also high on the agenda is building a bioinformatics community, through the launch of the Australian Bioinformatics Network. And getting feedback from scientists on their bioinformatics needs.

Plus: PhD symposiums, travel grants and training school. And how to get maths students interested in systems biology.

From Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head EMBL Australia

As we begin a new year, it’s exciting to see fresh growth at EMBL Australia. Applications have just opened for three Group Leader positions, which will be based at the brand new, state of the art, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) due to open in Adelaide toward the end of the year.

These positions will go to three bright young scientists looking to establish their own research groups, with five years of generous funding extendable for another four years.

As a recent survey found, early career researchers are initially attracted to life in science but come face to face with an increasing scarcity in research posts, and an uncertain future in research funding based on ever-constricting metrics – all of which conspire to discourage our best young talent from entering a research path.

If this trend is not reversed, it will cripple Australian science output as senior leaders are not replaced, leaving Australia behind in the fast-moving pace of international research.

With up to nine years secure funding, the first young scientists to enter the EMBL Australia Partner Laboratory program, initially at Monash and now at SAHMRI, are obviously enjoying a rare privilege. If successful, they will serve as an example of how to grow our best science and maintain our future position as a leading nation in the international research community.

In this month’s bulletin:

Applications open for SAHMRI Group Leaders

Three of the world’s best young scientists will be supported to set up their own research group by EMBL Australia and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), which is scheduled to open at the end of 2013.

The three new EMBL Australia Partner Laboratory Group Leaders will receive generous funding for five years with the option to extend it for another four years, funded by contributions from SAHMRI’s parent institutions: The University of Adelaide, The University of South Australia and Flinders University.

Queensland-born Dr Edwina McGlinn came home from Harvard in 2011 to become EMBL Australia’s first Group Leader at its Monash node in Melbourne.

With five years’ funding locked in, Edwina’s free to be more creative in her science and can take on longer-term projects that don’t fit within a shorter funding cycle.

“I was excited that it was a different model for Australia, with five or more years of funding,” Edwina says. “It wasn’t just about coming back to Australia.”

“At EMBL Australia, young researchers get a flying start to their careers with the security of continued funding. Nurturing our young research talent by providing career and training opportunities with more certainty will have the most far-reaching benefits for biomedical outcomes in this country,” says EMBL Australia’s Scientific Head Nadia Rosenthal.

Further details including application instructions can be found here.

Applications close on 28 February 2013.

Tell us about your bioinformatics needs and win an iPad

You don’t need to generate lots of data or be an in-depth exploiter of databases to be involved in bioinformatics. Today almost all biomolecular researchers use the tools of bioinformatics, many on a daily basis.

We’re asking Australian scientists to let us know about their bioinformatics needs. Based on your feedback, we’ll work to build a better, more useful resource for Australian scientists at BRAEMBL: the Bioinformatics Resource Australia – EMBL.

We’re therefore encouraging a wide range of scientists and stakeholders with an interest in bioinformatics to complete a quick online survey at:

There are no compulsory questions and it will only take about 15 minutes of your time. One lucky participant will win an iPad in a prize draw.

BRAEMBL incorporates and expands on the EBI mirror project hosted by the University of Queensland. Its mission is to:

  • enable optimal exploitation of the tools and data of bioinformatics by Australian scientists
  • contribute to the global biomolecular information infrastructure in a way which showcases Australian science.

Building an Australian bioinformatics community

The Australian Bioinformatics Network (ABN) has hit the road, promoting bioinformatics and building a community of bioinformaticians in Australia.

Director David Lovell met with researchers and students in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, giving presentations at the Sydney Bioinformatics Research Symposium, BioInfoSummer and the 3rd Brighton Bioinformatics Retreat in Melbourne.

You can watch his presentations on Slideshare:

The ABN is also building international connections. Last year, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Global Organisation for Bioinformatics Learning, Education and Training (GOBLET).

“Australia is not alone in facing major informatics challenges in its life science research, and as a member of GOBLET, it has the chance to gain from and contribute to this international effort to address the learning and education needed to meet those challenges,” David says.

Dr Bruno Gaeta, from the University of New South Wales, represented Australia and the Asia-Pacific at the GOBLET kick-off meeting on 28 November 2012 in Amsterdam. The ABN and the Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Network have agreed to jointly support Australia’s engagement with GOBLET by jointly funding travel of Australian representatives.

Inspiring maths students to choose a career in systems biology

From understanding the growth of embryos to protecting coral reefs against bleaching, mathematics students at the AMSI Summer School Careers Afternoon heard about the possibilities of the ideas and methods of systems biology.

Systems biology offers mathematicians the chance to work on research with immediate real-world outcomes, says Dr Sarah Boyd, who is leading the development of SBI Australia, the first international node of Hiroaki Kitano’s Systems Biology Institute.

“Mathematics is absolutely crucial to systems biology. It is founded on mathematical principles and modelling, using maths to generate hypotheses and explore biological systems,” Sarah says.

“Systems biology encourages researchers from all disciplines to bring inspiration, creativity and expertise to international teams, and focus on these really big challenges to make a difference in the world.”

SBI Australia welcomes interest from undergraduate and postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research and industry organisations who would like to be part of this exciting new venture.

For more information about SBI Australia, contact Sarah:

Applications for PhD training school open at the end of February

Are you a first year PhD student looking to kick start your research? Or do you have students commencing doctoral studies in your lab in the next few weeks?

Applications will open soon for the inaugural EMBL Australia PhD Course, which will bring together up to 60 high-achieving first and second year PhD students for a two-week residential program at the University of Melbourne in July 2013.

To be run at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, this intensive program will equip students with cutting edge techniques and new technologies in molecular biology, structural biology, bioinformatics, systems biology, biomedical imaging, developmental biology and neuroscience.

The course will be taught by senior Australian and international scientists from EMBL, CSIRO, universities and leading research institutes.

Email us at to express your interest in attending, and for more information on the PhD Course and our other programs for students, visit:

Study in Europe: round two of our PhD travel grant program now open

There are still five grants available for PhD students interested in travelling to EMBL in the second half of 2013 to train in one of EMBL’s labs, go to a conference or take a short course at any of EMBL’s five European facilities: Heidelberg and Hamburg in Germany; Grenoble in France; Hinxton in Cambridgeshire, England; or Montorotondo near Rome, Italy.

Australian PhD students can apply for $3,500 for a short visit (up to six weeks), or $7,500 for a long-term visit (up to six months).

Applications close on 5 April 2013. Further details and application forms can be found on EMBL Australia’s website

Meet PhD students from around the world at the 15th EMBL PhD Symposium

The theme of this year’s PhD Symposium is Competition in Biology – The Race for Survival from Molecules to Systems.

The symposium, organised each year by the PhD cohort at EMBL, will be held in Heidelberg, Germany from 21-23 November 2013.

We will support 20 Australian students to travel to Heidelberg for the conference, to meet with peers from across Europe and make new connections.

Stay tuned for more details later in the year.

What is EMBL Australia?

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is Europe’s flagship laboratory for basic research in molecular biology. EMBL Australia was created to maximise the benefits of Australia’s associate membership to EMBL – in science collaboration, training and access to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) life science data resources.

We have two nodes: at Monash University and at the University of Queensland. We’re launching a third node in South Australia in 2013, and two more nodes will be established in the next few years.

Since its launch in March 2010, EMBL Australia has initiated:

  • the EMBL Australia Partner Laboratory, which will grow from the present two groups led by Edwina McGlinn and Nicolas Plachta at Monash University’s Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute to a total of 18-20 research groups networked across four campuses;
  • a Faculty Development Program, which aims to support Australian researchers for five years at an EMBL Laboratory in Europe, followed by a further four years at an Australian institution;
  • an International PhD program which enables PhD students to undertake their research at an EMBL laboratory in Europe while being co-supervised by an Australian university
  • training programs for PhD students including grants for travel to EMBL for training and collaboration and a flagship PhD Course for first year PhD students which will launch in 2013; and
  • a suite of initiatives in bioinformatics including the Bioinformatics Resource Australia – EMBL (BRAEMBL) at the University of Queensland and the establishment of the Australian Bioinformatics Network.

We’re continuing to support young researchers in Australia with training and development opportunities. And we’re making it easier for Australian scientists to access EMBL’s facilities in Europe and to create our own shared research infrastructure at home.

EMBL Australia’s work is underpinned by its partnerships with Australian National University, CSIRO, Monash University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia, and the research infrastructure investments of the Australian government.