Joint University of Adelaide - University of Nottingham PhD programme

Applications are invited to the University of Adelaide - University of Nottingham Joint PhD programme in Mathematics. The programme provides fully funded 3-year PhD studentships. Students will be co-supervised by staff at both universities and will undertake a minimum period of research of 18 months at each institution. The Adelaide-Nottingham Doctoral Scholars will be primarily based on the North Terrace Campus in Adelaide and on the University Park campus in Nottingham. Both campuses are renowned for their world-leading research and their outstanding facilities for research and teaching.

PhD graduates will obtain a jointly awarded degree from the University of Adelaide and the University of Nottingham. The studentships will cover PhD tuition fees, plus a stipend corresponding to the standard research council rate in the UK or the APA rate in Australia. Subject to satisfactory progress, the duration of the stipend will be 3 years including time spent at the partner overseas campus.

Three projects are currently available:

- Calcium signalling and travelling wave response to oocyte fertilisation
Supervised by Associate Professor Yvonne Stokes (Adelaide), Dr Ruediger Thul and Professor Stephen Coombes (Nottingham) in collaboration with Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson, School of Medicine, University of Adelaide.

The successful fertilisation of oocytes (eggs) is a major event in the reproduction of many species including humans. There is now compelling evidence that so called cumulus cells, which surround the mature oocyte, play a crucial role in this process. Recent experimental work by Thompson and others in the Robinson Institute, The University of Adelaide, showed that upon fertilisation cumulus cells move away from the oocyte in a travelling wave-like fashion. These travelling waves have been observed in bovine and amphibian embryos and are known to be a result of cellular calcium signalling. Importantly, these calcium signals are triggered in the first instance by oocyte fertilisation and thus provide a causal link between fertilisation and the wave-like motion of cumulus cells.  In this project, we will investigate the connection between cell movement and cellular calcium signalling in the cumulus-oocyte complex (COC).


The new COC model that we will develop will amalgamate ordinary and partial differential equations with an agent-based framework. Using tools from applied nonlinear dynamical systems and scientific computation we will explore how this model integrates intra- and intercellular signals to create movement. A main question that we wish to investigate is how the information that the oocyte is fertilised is transmitted through the COC. Is the oocyte solely responsible for the calcium signal that then diffuses through the surrounding cells and into the medium surrounding the COC, or do the cumulus cells contribute to the signalling? By answering this question, we will gain a deeper understanding of the cellular calcium signalling cascades involved in fertilisation and the physical organisation of the cumulus cell network. Existing experimental data as well as new experiments will be used to determine model parameters and for model validation.

- Designing rubber-like metamaterials
Supervised by Dr Luke Bennetts (Adelaide) and Dr Kostas Soldatos (Nottingham)

Metamaterials is a catch-all term describing materials manufactured to have properties not found in nature. Rubber-like materials support longitudinal waves similar to fluids, which can be converted into lossy transverse waves by placing inclusions  in the rubber. Coating a body with a thin rubber-like metamaterial, using suitably arranged inclusions and subwavelength resonances, can prevent sound loss from the body polluting the outside environment and/or the body being "seen", for example, by sonar. This project will develop semi-analytic methods, based on first and second gradient elasticity as well as on special functions and asymptotic theories, to advance the design of these rubber-like metamaterials.

- Modelling growth and morphogenesis of colonic organoids
Supervised by Dr Edward Green (Adelaide) and Professor John King (Nottingham), in collaboration with Dr Daniel Worthley, Gastrointestinal Cancer Group, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)

Organoids are three-dimensional in vitro tissue cultures which mimic (to some degree) the distinctive in vivo structure of the organ from which they derive. In this project, we will focus on organoids grown from intestinal tissue, which are used for research into colorectal cancer, one of the most common cancer types. Although colonic organoids are being grown successfully by various research groups, at present their growth and development are not well understood. They can vary in morphology e.g. `budded' and `cystic' types are observed, but the reason for this, and its possible significance for the usefulness of the organoids in research is unknown. Furthermore, for potential applications in personalised medicine, there is a need to optimise the culture process to grow larger quantities of tissue more rapidly.


This project will develop new mathematical models for organoid growth and development, based on the principles of morphoelasticity. We will investigate the role of growth induced buckling in determining their form (cystic or budded), taking into account the potential roles of different cell populations, and chemical signals in this process. Our models will be validated against experiments being undertaken by Dr Daniel Worthley's group at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).


The projects are available to begin either immediately or in the 2017/2018 academic year.



Applicants should hold or be about to complete a degree in Mathematics or a closely related subject area. Those with UK qualifications should have, or expect to obtain, a first-class Honours degree and/or a distinction or high merit at MSc level. Under exceptional circumstances a good 2:1 or and MSc merit can be considered. Applicants with Australian qualifications should have an Honours degree (Class 1 or 2A) or a Masters degree with a significant research component. Equivalent international qualifications can be considered.


Applicants should have UK or EU status for PhD fees or, alternatively, should be Australian Permanent Residents/ Citizens. Full international applicants can be considered provided they have an alternative means to cover the difference in tuition fees.


The projects are available to begin either immediately or in the 2017/2018 academic year.




UK or EU applicants should apply online at:

Please include in your application, a covering letter to indicate your interests and why you are applying to the "Joint Nottingham-Adelaide PhD", and indicate the specific project(s) that you wish to apply for.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to the individual project supervisors or


Australian Permanent Residents/ Citizens should apply online at:

using the domestic or international application as appropriate; please upload a covering letter indicating the specific project that you wish to apply for, your interests and why you are applying together with your CV. Informal enquiries may be addressed to the individual project supervisors or the Postgraduate Coordinator, School of Mathematical Sciences:


These studentships are open until filled. Early application is strongly encouraged. 

Full project descriptions, and details of eligibility requirements, application procedure, etc. can be found at:

Job location: 
School of Mathematical Sciences
University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005
Contact and application information