PhD Scholarship in ‘Understanding COVID-19 and improving our immune response to the vaccines’

Using immunology and clinical trials to better understand the effects and long-term complications of COVID-19 and its vaccines on the immune system.

Work with immunologists, bioinformaticians and clinical trials to better understand the effects and long-term complications of COVID-19 on the immune system, or the response to COVID-19 vaccines in different populations, e.g. the pregnant or elderly.

The value of the Scholarship is equivalent to an RMIT full Scholarship.

This Scholarship will be available for 3.5 Years.

Applications are open now.

Position will remain open until filled.


Applicants need to have a background in immunology or bioinformatics. They must have completed a relevant Bachelor’s Degree and Honour’s or Master’s. 

Desirable criteria:

  • Practical experience and conceptual background in cellular immunology.
  • Interest in, and ability to, work in an interdisciplinary setting including immunologists, clinicians and, bioinformaticians and biologists.
  • Experience in tissue culture.

To apply, please submit the following documents to Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plenbanski via

  • A copy of electronic academic transcripts
  • A CV that includes any publications/awards and the contact details of two referees

The Cancer, Ageing and Vaccines Laboratory is currently working to better understand the effects and long-term complications of COVID-19 on the immune system. We are also investigating the immune response to COVID-19 vaccines in different populations, such as pregnant people and older individuals.

We currently have four PhD project topics available, all of which will utilise clinical samples and working with clinical collaborators across Australia.     Healthcare workers and Long COVID-19: This project compares the immune systems of healthcare workers that did, or did not, contract COVID-19, and how changes in their immunity may underlie long-term complications such as long COVID-19. Co-supervised by Prof. Katie Flanagan (Launceston General Hospital).

COVID-19 and the development of autoimmunity: This project compares acute and mild COVID-19 patients over a time course to understand how the virus may be breaking tolerance and causing new autoimmune pathologies. Co-supervised by Dr. Kirsty Wilson (T cells).

Improving vaccine immunity to COVID-19: This project investigates boosting immunity to COVID-19 with different vaccines to promote broad immune responses that recognize viral escape variants. It involves a multi-institutional large scale human trial to address these vital questions. Co-supervised by Prof. Katie Flanagan and Dr. Jennifer Boer (bioinformatics analysis).

The impact of PEG on vaccine efficacy and adverse reactivity: This project investigates reactivity to PEG in mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, as well as other medical products and the implications on vaccine efficacy and potential to induce allergic reactions. Co-supervised by Dr. David Yu (antibodies and PEG) and Dr. Jennifer Boer (bioinformatics analysis). 

For further inquiries please contact Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plebanski (

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.