The Physics of Circadian Desynchrony


This project will investigate brain mechanisms and health consequences of circadian misalignment.


Dr Svetlana Postnova

Research Location

School of Physics

Program Type



Every cell and every organ in our body has circadian (~24 hour) oscillators that control timing of all biological processes. The oscillators in the different organs and cells are coupled to each other and their phases are continuously adjusted by environmental time cues, such as light, meals and exercise. In healthy state these clocks and the environment are synchronized. Their desynchrony, in the short-term leads to disturbances of sleep, alertness, metabolic and immune functions, while in the long-term it is linked to disease development, including obesity, diabetes, mental disorders, and cancer. Modern lifestyles put pressure on our circadian oscillators with artificial lighting, daylight saving time, around the clock work hours, and transmeridian travel all causing different degrees of circadian desynchrony.

This set of projects will investigate mechanisms underpinning circadian desynchrony and aims to develop strategies for quick re-synchronization of the oscillators and the environment that can be deployed in the real-world. The approaches that will be used include neural mass modelling of brain dynamics, data analysis, and may include software development.

Additional Information

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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Chronophysics, neurophysics, oscillators, synchronization, mathematical modelling, circadian biology, brain dynamics, data science, dynamical systems, complex systems, jetlag, Shiftwork, Sleep, Alertness, health, wellbeing.

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2863

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