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4 year(s) full-time


Program Code

Study as
Full-time or part-time

Program level
Doctorate by research

Fees for research students that have exceeded their RTP entitlement are calculated at the course level. Refer to the Research Training Program

Key features

  • Develop the ability to independently design and execute original research that generates new knowledge.
  • Sansom Institute researchers are involved in a diverse range of research activities, with a particular emphasis on research relating to cancer, population health, healthy lifestyles, pharmaceuticals, neuroscience and mental health, and Aboriginal health. The options are many and varied and can be tailored to suit your research interests.
  • Achieve outcomes-based research aimed at improving health.
  • Work alongside professional researchers and acclaimed academics at the internationally recognised Sansom Institute for Health Research and Centre for Cancer Biology.
  • Be supervised by some of Australia’s leading researchers in first-class facilities. 
  • Work in a dynamic research environment and make the most of opportunities to travel as part of your study.

What is a research degree?

Our research is carried out at the Sansom Institute for Health Research and Centre for Cancer Biology, an alliance between UniSA and SA Pathology. 

From the molecular to the global, our researchers are involved in a diverse range of research activities across a broad spectrum of health and medical sciences, with a particular emphasis on six broad themes and areas of strength:

  • cancer
  • population health
  • healthy lifestyles
  • pharmaceuticals
  • neuroscience and mental health
  • Aboriginal health

Working within and across these themes are around 30 different concentrations producing innovative research linked to: 

  • musculoskeletal health and bone growth
  • cell biology
  • the early origins of adult health
  • epilepsy
  • medicines and vaccines development
  • anthropometry and sports science
  • health and use of time
  • health economics
  • microbiology and infectious disease
  • evolutionary physiology of the lung
  • mosquito-borne disease
  • nursing and midwifery
  • mental health and substance use
  • nutrition
  • neuroscience
  • public health
  • medicines policy
  • epidemiology
  • therapeutics
  • pharmaceutical science

Why do a research degree?

UniSA research is inspired by the challenges and opportunities of today. In the 2015 Australian Research Council Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluation of Australian universities, 97 per cent of our research was rated at world class or above. We are vibrant, outward-facing and responsive. We partner with industry, government and communities to seek answers to questions that arise in the real world. Our research themes are:

  • An age friendly world
  • Transforming industries
  • Scarce resources
  • Cancer
  • Healthy futures
  • Transforming societies

Learn more about our research themes.

The transformed PhD

UniSA intends to deliver industry and end-user informed research that supports employer-relevant curriculum. To achieve this, and to produce entrepreneurial and business-aware graduates, we have developed the transformed PhD.

We have added a structured component to research degrees including enhanced skill development, supervisory panels and a technology-enabled oral defence of the thesis. Through these activities you will develop a set of professional, transferable skills relevant to our knowledge-based enterprise economy.

The aim of the transformed PhD is to increase your employment prospects in any career path. You will possess the knowledge, expertise and confidence to meet the emerging needs of academia, industry, government and the community.

Four good reasons to do a research degree

  1. Challenge yourself. You will need to work hard, be dedicated and think analytically at a high level. You will tackle completely new research and different research methods, or extend research already undertaken.
  2. Increase your career opportunities. A research degree provides evidence of independent thought and the ability to manage a research project in a given timeframe. Your research could allow you to develop a new specialisation, academic field or career. A research degree at UniSA will also allow you to develop a skillset which sets you apart, putting you at the centre of your professional development.
  3. Make your ideas public. Your research findings may be published, presented at conferences, provide a commercial return and have a positive impact on society.
  4. Contribute to society. Discover new methods, understandings and techniques, and solve a real-world problem.

What can I research?

Find a supervisor and research area

To find a research area, you'll need to match your qualifications and interests to the research programs and degrees offered at the University of South Australia. Browse our research degrees. Once you’ve done that, you will need to find a supervisor. A supervisor is an academic staff member who will work with you throughout your research degree. In your online application we will ask you to provide the name of your proposed UniSA supervisor. Learn more and find a research supervisor.

Scholarships and projects

A scholarship can allow you to focus on your research without needing to do paid work. Scholarships are offered for Australian and international students looking to undertake a research degree. There are also high achiever scholarships, vacation research scholarships and Vice Chancellor and President’s scholarships.

As of 2017, we are also excited to offer thematically-based scholarships. These scholarships will not only address local, national and international grand challenges, they will also ensure students work across traditional boundaries in the University, with industry, and with community partners.

Learn more about available scholarships.

Graduate outcomes

There are seven identified graduate qualities and outcomes that result from doing a research degree at UniSA. Importantly, these competencies are transferable to the workplace, whether academic or professional. In brief, a research degree graduate of the University of South Australia:

  • understands, can contribute to and critique current research-based knowledge in their field
  • is prepared for lifelong learning in pursuit of ongoing personal development and excellence
  • is an effective problem solver and researcher
  • can work both autonomously and collaboratively as a researcher
  • is committed to ethical action and social responsibility
  • communicates research knowledge effectively
  • demonstrates international perspectives in research

Read about our research degree graduate qualities in more detail.

Academic regulations and Code of Good Practice

What can you expect of UniSA and what do we expect of you? Please familiarise yourself with the requirements governing research degrees by reading about our academic regulations and good practice code.


Every year, over 2,500 UniSA students are supported in their studies through scholarships and grants worth millions of dollars. Check out the scholarships below. One of them may be perfect for you. Visit our scholarship search page for more.

Why Doctor of Philosophy

Why this Degree

UniSA provides a dynamic, multidisciplinary environment where you are encouraged to explore your own ideas under the supervision of some of Australia’s leading researchers. 

Working alongside renowned experts at the Sansom Institute for Health Research and Centre for Cancer Biology, you will have the opportunity to really make a difference. Research areas include:

  • cancer
  • population health
  • healthy lifestyles
  • pharmaceuticals
  • neuroscience and mental health
  • Aboriginal health

Led by renowned oncologist, cancer researcher and bioethicist Professor Ian Olver, the Sansom Institute brings together leading researchers with the key aims of intervening early to prevent illness, improving health systems and services, creating more effective therapies, and advancing health equality.

The Sansom Institute also offers unparalleled learning facilities, and is committed to continually investing in and upgrading its laboratories and technical capabilities to ensure researchers have access to the very best resources and equipment needed to carry out world-class research. Some of the specialised laboratories and facilities include the Clinical Trial Facility, which is a purpose-built, dedicated clinical research space, and the Adelaide Biofilm Test Facility, which is South Australia’s first test facility for antimicrobial agents, pharmaceutical preparations, dressings, materials and coatings.

In addition, we will ensure you graduate with transferable career skills that complement your research experience and enhance your global capability when you complete the Engaged PhD program, which is offered to all PhD students within the Division of Health Sciences. As part of this program, you will complete skill development workshops and masterclasses aligned to your interests. 

Your campus

We have six campuses in metropolitan and regional areas, each with advanced facilities including modern lecture theatres, libraries, laboratories, and areas that simulate real work environments.

Adelaide - City East campus

City East boasts impressive facilities such as purpose-built facilities, health clinics and a fitness centre, open to students and the public. It’s right in the heart of the CBD and adjacent to bustling Rundle Street, with some of Adelaide’s best dining and shopping experiences. Explore City East >

Your study spaces

Depending on your area of expertise, research features available include:  

  • purpose-built laboratories 
  • international standard nutrition and food science learning area  
  • commercial preparation kitchen and sensory laboratory
  • fully-equipped health and fitness centre

Your study spaces

What others are saying

My research focuses on improving the oral absorption of antipsychotic medications for schizophrenic patients. Through this research I was awarded an Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to conduct world-class research at Janssen, a global pharmaceutical company in Belgium. Without the support from my supervisors here at UniSA, I would never have been awarded this scholarship.

Tahnee Dening

Doctor of Philosophy

Tahnee Dening

Tahnee Dening

Doctor of Philosophy

My PhD with the Australian Track Cycling Team is focused on using the Critical Power model. This model describes the maximal work capacity of elite athletes through aerobic and anaerobic contributions to exercise. As part of my research I worked directly alongside the head coach of the Australian Team, providing sport science support in areas of physiology, biomechanics and performance analysis.

Jason Bartram, Head Coach of the Australian Women's Track Cycling Endurance Team

Doctor of Philosophy

Jason Bartram

Jason Bartram, Head Coach of the Australian Women's Track Cycling Endurance Team

Doctor of Philosophy

My research focuses on Parkinson’s disease, specifically developing a pre-clinical model of Parkinson’s disease so that novel treatment options can be explored. As part of my research, I received a UniSA international travel grant, which allowed me to study new laboratory techniques for four weeks at the Hannover Medical School in Germany and attend an international conference in London. Both experiences broadened my knowledge of neuroscience.

Michaela Johnson

Doctor of Philosophy

Michaela Johnson

Michaela Johnson

Doctor of Philosophy

I am investigating drug resistance in multiple myeloma, currently an incurable blood cancer. During my studies I received a Vice Chancellor and President Scholarship, which will allow me to attend one of the largest conferences in the world for people working in blood cancer, held by the American Society of Haematology.

Melissa Bennett

Doctor of Philosophy

Melissa Bennett_17 copy.jpg

Melissa Bennett

Doctor of Philosophy

I enjoy the hands-on experiences undertaking a research pathway presents. I hope my research will help the defence force better monitor training loads and avoid injury and illness that may be cause by overtraining. 

Dr Max Nelson

Doctor of Philosophy

Max Nelson

Dr Max Nelson

Doctor of Philosophy

How to apply

Before applying, you will need to do some investigation. Our six-step guide will take you through the process of preparing your application to maximise your chances of success.

Research degree applications are made through our Apply Online facility, a secure step-by-step online service. Please check the research degrees calendar for all key dates.

Your career

A doctorate qualification will advance your career possibilities and give you a competitive edge in the work place.

You may choose to further your career in industry, academia, or in research with a research institution or university locally or internationally.

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