Individual Predictions of Circadian Rhythms, Sleep and Alertness


The overarching goal of this project is to understand the different mechanism of individual variability in biological timing (both endogenous and environmental) and develop tools for personalized prediction of sleep, alertness, and circadian rhythms in the real-world.


Dr Svetlana Postnova

Research Location

School of Physics

Program Type



Circadian rhythms affect every aspect of our physiology and correct alignment between the body circadian clocks and the environmental time cues (e.g., light) are essential to healthy body functioning. However, misalignment of these rhythms is prevalent in the modern society with shiftwork and jetlag affecting millions of people every day and leading to accidents and disease. Behavioural interventions can be designed to minimize misalignment but are challenging to deploy in the real world due to lack of easy measures of individuals’ circadian phase. 

In this project a biophysical model of circadian neurobiology in conjunction with one of the world’s largest sleep deprivation datasets will be used to quantify individual circadian variability, identify model parameters and mechanisms responsible for it, and investigate feasibility of individual predictions in the real world (e.g., on a smartwatch). Future applications span chronotherapy, behavioural interventions, safety, productivity, and precision-based medicine.

Additional Information

This project is interdisciplinary, involving collaboration with chronobiologists from the University of Liege in Belgium. Candidates will require quantitative background, e.g., physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science and interest in biological systems.

HDR Inherent Requirements

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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Biophysical modelling, computational biology, brain dynamics, data analysis, dynamical systems, complex systems, body clocks, Sleep, Alertness, individual variability, precision-based medicine

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2732

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