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Computational approaches to elucidate Multiple Sclerosis and Contact Dermatitis pathogenesis, and its treatment through ultraviolet light exposure


Allergies and autoimmunity are complex immune system aberrations. Both involve multiple immune cell populations coordinating across several organs of the body. The growing prevalence of these debilitating conditions across the population demands urgent solutions to improve quality of life. However, the requisite knowledge needed to develop and optimise treatments and preventative measures remain elusive. Ultraviolet light exposure treatments have shown promise in alleviating symptoms in both these diseases. Yet, the manner in which these treatments holistically impact the immune system and its myriad feedback and regulatory pathways are unknown, holding back wide-scale clinical deployment.

Whilst powerful high-throughput techniques proffer unprecedented characterisations of immune cells and their interactions, this data alone does not yield understanding and insight. Novel computational approaches, founded in machine learning, to integrate and extract patterns from high throughput data are needed. Embedding the resulting insights into integrative computational modelling provides a powerful platform in which to explore novel treatment strategies and optimise them for a specific patient. Computational models offer an unparalleled scope for nuanced experimental manipulation, and any aspect of the system can be quantified. This project will explore the dynamics of individual cell populations and how they interact with one another to map out their roles in these diseases. The resultant tools constitute an invaluable complement to conventional wet-lab work.

This highly interdisciplinary project will closely align with clinicians and immunologists studying both multiple sclerosis and contact dermatitis. The candidate will be based at the University of Sydney's flagship interdisciplinary research centre, the Charles Perkins Centre, where they will be embedded with biologists and modellers alike. The project will develop the aforementioned computational capacity to investigate the onset, persistence and possible treatment strategies for these diseases. If successful, the work can be rolled out to studying other diseases. The work spans bioinformatics, machine learning and computational agent-based modelling, with potential to gain wet-lab or immunological experience if the candidate so desires. 


Dr Mark Read.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



The immune system, and its role in disease, epitomises complexity. Novel computational, mathematical and statistical techniques are needed to complement high-throughput technologies and generate integrative understanding. This project develops such methodologies to study the pathogenesis and possible treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and Contact Dermatitis. This is the forefront of interdisciplinary research. You will work closely with biologists, clinicians, mathematicians and computer scientists, all of whom are located in the same offices and interact on a daily basis.

Additional information

Additional supervisors  Scott Byrne, Felix Marsh-Wakefield 
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2478

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