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New approaches to measuring single-molecule protein dynamics

Project summary

St Lucia
Research area
Biological sciences, Biomedical and clinical sciences

Project description

We recently discovered a new class of highly fluorescent zwitterionic fluorophores, derivatives of which display extreme environmental sensitivity. These exciting molecules have physical properties that make them attractive for utility in various technologies.

Of interest to us is the possibility that these molecules could be used to correlate conformational changes at G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), an important class of drug targets. GPCRs are often activated by several agonists, both endogenous and as medicines. 

The significance of this study is that differences in GPCR conformation are thought to be related to the ability of particular agonists to elicit cellular responses. This is because the cellular response is not simply a product of GPCR occupancy, as would be expected in an “on” – “off” switch or indeed to how tightly the agonist is bound.

The project will involve developing methods to incorporate novel-solvatochromic fluorophores into proteins. These will be subsequently used with GPCRs or their signal transducers, G-Proteins. Interaction of these fluorescent, environmentally sensitive GPCR or G-protein conjugates will then be investigated using single-molecule dynamics with an emphasis on the utility of FLIM-FRET (Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy – Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer) in addition to a suite of other techniques.

The successful candidate will have broad interests spanning synthetic chemistry, biology and photo-physics. The candidate will receive all the required training to conduct the project but must have a strong desire to assume ownership of the project and work independently.


This is an Earmarked scholarship project that aligns with a recently awarded Australian Government grant.

The scholarship includes:

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • your tuition fees covered
  • single overseas student health cover (OSHC).

Learn more about the Earmarked scholarship.


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis taking into account your:

  • academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

Working knowledge of G protein-coupled receptor signalling and unnatural amino-acid technology would be beneficial.

You'll demonstrate academic achievement in biochemistry and/or molecular pharmacology and the potential for scholastic success.

How to apply

This project requires candidates to commence no later than Research Quarter 3, 2024. To allow time for your application to be processed, we recommend applying no later than 31 March, 2024 31 December, 2023.

You can start in an earlier research quarter. See application dates.

Before you apply

  1. Check your eligibility for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
  2. Prepare your documentation.
  3. Contact Dr Sebastian Furness ( to discuss your interest and suitability.

When you apply

You apply for this scholarship when you submit an application for a PhD. You don’t need to submit a separate scholarship application.

In your application ensure that under the ‘Scholarships and collaborative study’ section you select:

  • My higher degree is not collaborative
  • I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship
  • UQ Earmarked Scholarship type.

Apply now