Investigating plants’ natural protection strategies in the model N. benthamiana (PhD scholarship): The project aims to generate new knowledge on natural plant protection strategies and to modulate them, using a combination of cutting-edge technologies and approaches, for application in targeted crop protection.

The project will focus on the natural protection offered by plant glandular trichomes. Glandular trichomes are specialised hairs that cover the surface of many crops and act as both physical and chemical barriers. They have the capacity to produce, store and secrete large amounts of secondary metabolites used by the plant as natural pesticides.

The present research will investigate and engineer plants’ natural production pathways enabling in planta modulation for enhanced insect protection characteristics. To achieve the project goals, we will use the model plant, Nicotiana benthamiana, and wild isolates of this plant, available in the Waterhouse laboratory.

The wild isolates are different from the N. benthamiana laboratory isolate (LAB) both at a genotypic and phenotypic level: they secrete different compounds (variation in terpenoid and alkaloid balance), have distinctive trichomes density and show different levels of protection against insect pests. Using this diversity, different strategies will be pursued in parallel such as changing the characteristics of the plants for increased potency for anti-insect compounds and increased hairiness.

What you’ll receive

You’ll receive a stipend scholarship of $30,000 per annum for a maximum duration of 3.5 years while undertaking a QUT PhD. The duration includes an extension of up to 6 months (PhD) or 3 months (MPhil) if approved for your candidature.

This is the full-time, tax-free rate which will index annually.

If you’re an international student, you will also receive a tuition fee sponsorship for your research degree, with domestic students receiving a full tuition fee offset.

As the scholarship recipient, you will have the opportunity to work with a team of leading researchers while undertaking your own innovative research.


You must:

  • meet QUT academic and English language entry requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (IF49).

Essential criteria:

  • experience in a laboratory setting
  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Bioscience Engineering, Biology, Biotechnology, Engineering or an equivalent field with strong study results.

Desirable criteria:

  • strong experience in plant molecular biology, genetics and agriculture biology
  • interest in entomology and biochemistry
  • a proven track record of being self-motivated, and able to plan and prioritise research activities to meet deadline
  • able to work in a multidisciplinary team environment.

Eligibility for admission to a research degree is determined by the Graduate Research Centre.

How to apply

You must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) for consideration prior to applying for this scholarship.

How to apply for a research degree.

The EOI must indicate that you are applying for this scholarship in the financial details section of the application form, and must have Dr Julia Bally nominated as your potential supervisor

What happens next?

Applicants will be contacted directly with the outcome of their application.

For questions about the research project, please contact Dr Julia Bally.

For contact about the application process, please contact

Deadline: 31 Oct 2022


The conditions for retaining the scholarship are set out in the rules of the QUT Postgraduate Research Award (Domestic) or QUT Postgraduate Research Award (International).

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