Project description: Photosynthesis is the process by which plants, algae and some bacteria convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates using energy from sunlight. A plant’s efficiency at turning CO2, water and light into biomass is extremely low, typically around 4-5% at best. Where do these limitations come from, and can they be overcome to produce crops with higher yields?

Some plants (known as C4) have partially solved this problem by developing mechanisms to concentrate CO2 in leaves. Sorghum exhibits C4 photosynthesis and is grown globally for food, feed, fibre and fuel. Through this PhD project we seek to identify genetic variation in traits affecting stomatal conductance (gsw) and hence photosynthesis in C4 plants, using sorghum as a model. Key components of gsw, including stomatal density, size, shape and openness, will be assessed under lysimetry and field conditions.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) will be undertaken to identify QTLs associated with these stomatal traits. Associations between leaf anatomical traits (e.g. leaf width and leaf vein density) and stomatal traits will be assessed. The extent to which root angle affects gsw will also be examined. Canopy temperature will be evaluated as a surrogate for gsw in the field.

Research environment:

The University of Queensland is one of the highest ranked internationally in the field of Agriculture. With campuses at St Lucia (Brisbane) and Gatton as well as at Hermitage Research Station (Warwick), there are over 250 HDR students researching solutions for agricultural problems. The successful applicants will be part of the International Research Training Group (IRTG) with The University of Queensland, Justus Liebig University (Giessen), Julius Kuhn Institute (Quedlinburg) and Geisenhem University in Germany.

The IRTG for Accelerating Crop Genetic Gain will commence in July 2023 and is led by Prof Rod Snowdon (JLU Giessen) and Prof Ian Godwin (UQ). Leading scientists from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability will be involved in supervising students in the IRTG.

All IRTG students will be supervised at UQ with associate advisors in Germany, with the opportunity to participate in research and research training workshops in both Australia and Germany. We are currently recruiting four PhD students to join a a cohort that will be around 24 PhD students by the end of 2024.


This project is supported by the Research project scholarship.This scholarship includes:

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

Principal supervisor

Professor Andrew Borrell, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

You must contact the principal supervisor for this project to discuss your interest. You should only complete the online application after you have reached agreement on supervision.

Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.We take into account your:

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

A working knowledge of crop physiology, photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, drought adaptation, and GWAS would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

How to apply

To be considered for this scholarship, please email the following documents to Professor Andrew Borrell (

  • Cover letter
  • CV
  • Academic transcript/s
  • Evidence for meeting UQ’s English language proficiency requirements eg TOEFL, IELTS

Please note the following: Submitting the above documents does not constitute a full application for admission into The University of Queensland’s PhD program. If you are selected as the preferred applicant, you will then be invited to submit a full application for admission.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: