4 year(s) full-time


Program Code

2022: AUD$ 35,900 per annum (per 1.0 EFTSL)
2023: AUD$ 37,700 per annum (per 1.0 EFTSL)

English Language Requirements
Equivalent English qualifications (PDF)

International Admission by Country
See full entry requirements

Program level
Doctorate by research

Degree overview

  • Join a community of passionate researchers and explore research topics across pharmacy, nursing, midwifery, laboratory medicine, biomedical sciences, nutrition and food sciences.

  • Be at the forefront of clinical discovery through our research into prevention, causes, diagnosis, management and cures of disease.

  • Investigate the best ways to help improve patient outcomes and create positive change in the health industry.

  • Partner with industry, community and government institutions worldwide.

  • Learn to independently design and execute original research that generates new knowledge.

  • Study at a university with well above world-class research in nursing, nutrition and dietetics, biochemistry and cell biology, pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences, and medical physiology.1

  • Learn from experienced and highly qualified research supervisors and renowned academics who will support, mentor and guide you through your studies.

  • UniSA is an unstoppable university for unstoppable people. As one of the World’s Top Young Universities2, we’ll ensure you get the experience your future profession demands so it’ll feel like you’re studying one minute and in a career the next.

12018 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). 2UNSTOPPABLE® is a Kellogg Company trade mark used under licence. Ranked #46, 2022 THE Young University Rankings, Ranked #29, 2021 QS Top 50 Universities Aged Under 50.

What is a research degree?

A research degree is an advanced program of study allowing you to investigate a topic relevant to your field. Under the supervision of world-class researchers, higher degree research candidates learn and apply advanced research methodologies to produce new knowledge and find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. Completing a research degree means becoming an expert in your field. It’s your opportunity to take a topic which interests you; explore it in depth; tackle intellectual, creative and practical challenges; and communicate your findings.

You can study a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Philosophy (by Portfolio of Publications) or Masters by Research.

Research degrees offered at UniSA

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Produces graduates with the capacity to conduct research independently at a high level of originality and quality. By the end of the degree, UniSA’s PhD students are capable of independently designing and executing original research which generates new knowledge (three to four years full-time equivalent).

Doctor of Philosophy (by Portfolio of Publications)

Allows formal recognition of established researchers and/or scholars who do not already hold a PhD qualification, and who have produced a significant body of research of international standing in their field, with an ongoing record of academic publication (work).

Masters by research

Students analyse their thesis topic at an advanced level, applying research methodology and techniques to contribute further knowledge to their field, under appropriate supervision (two years full-time equivalent).

Please note, a Masters degree by coursework (such as an MBA) involves enrolling in selected courses and participating in lectures and tutorials (online or on campus). It is different to a Masters by Research.

Find out more about what you can study.

Why do a research degree?

UniSA research is inspired by the challenges and opportunities of today. In the 2018 Australian Research Council Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluation of Australian universities, all of our assessed 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. 

Learn more about our research.

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?

Research students can complete exciting and innovative research topics that span areas such as:

  • Cancer biology
  • Clinical laboratory medicine
  • Precision health/ nutritional and genetic epidemiology
  • Drug and vaccines development
  • Health service delivery
  • Nutrition and food science
  • Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
  • Nursing and midwifery 
  • Pharmaceutical innovation
  • Physiological sciences
  • Quality use of medicines and pharmacy

Our research is also facilitated by research concentrations and groups, including:

Australian Centre for Precision Health: Population health research to improve the future of health.

Centre for Cancer Biology: An alliance between SA Pathology and UniSA, carrying out vital cancer research.

Drug Discovery and Development: Providing clinical access to new drugs for a range of therapeutic applications, particularly cancer.

Experimental Therapeutics: Developing novel prophylactic vaccines and immunotherapeutics to improve chronic and acute health outcomes with a focus on allergy and cancer.

Health and Biomedical Innovation: Leads research into the workings of the body and its interaction with its surrounding environment.

Mechanisms in Cell Biology and Disease: Focused on medical research relating to diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research and Education Group: Leading initiatives aimed at improving the lives of people in mental distress and at risk of suicide.

Nanostructure and Drug Delivery: Pharmaceutical science and nanomedicine approaches to provide drug delivery solutions to challenging therapeutic molecules, and to advance new medicines.

Pharmaceutical Innovation and Development: Research is focused on designing and developing conventional and novel patient-centric pharmaceutical products.

Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre: Consumer-driven, data-informed research, effective in improving use of medicines and improving patient lives.

Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre: Strengthening the role of the nursing & midwifery profession across the health system through the development of a research-driven, evidence-based platform of healthcare.

Find a research area

To find a research area, you'll need to match your qualifications and interests to the research projects offered at UniSA. These have been developed by teams of academics who will supervise you during your research degree.

Scholarships and projects

A scholarship allows you to focus on your research without needing to do paid work. At UniSA, you can explore high achiever scholarships, vacation research scholarships, as well as Vice Chancellor and President’s scholarships.

We also offer thematically-based scholarships. These scholarships will not only address local, national and international grand challenges, they will also ensure you work across 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.

Why Doctor of Philosophy

Lih Yin Tan, PhD.jpg At UniSA, our research degree students solve real world problems, partner with end-users of research, and develop skills for research excellence with career relevance. 

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. Our focus is always on finding practical solutions and creating new knowledge with a focus on addressing globally significant issues. In fact, 100% of our assessed research is rated at or above world-class.1

We offer a research environment with highly experienced and engaged supervisors, extensive connections to industry, government and communities. We encourage you to connect with our researchers and find out the possibilities.

UniSA is also ranked No.1 in Australia for industry research income.2 Our commitment to research with an industry focus is unprecedented. Read more about our strengths in research and discover some of our achievements.

12018 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), 4-digit Fields of Research. 22021 THE World University Rankings.

Career outcomes

Your career

A doctoral qualification will advance your career possibilities and give you a competitive edge in the workplace.

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

How to apply

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

Please check the research degrees calendar for all key dates.


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 scholarships page for more.

More scholarships

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

Doctor of Philosophy
Head Coach of the Australian Women's Track Cycling Endurance Team

Jason Bartram

Jason Bartram

Doctor of Philosophy
Head Coach of the Australian Women's Track Cycling Endurance Team

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 caused by overtraining. 

Dr Max Nelson

Doctor of Philosophy

Max Nelson

Dr Max Nelson

Doctor of Philosophy

I was a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, and investigated the relationship between running and sports injury. I worked with athletes and researchers from the University of Massachusetts to explore a new biomechanical assessment technique I developed at UniSA. In 2016, I was also the winner of the UniSA Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and more recently, was awarded the South Australian Science Award. I hope to translate my findings to practice and provide athletes with improved injury prevention strategies.

Joel Fuller

Doctor of Philosophy

UniSA-114 - Copy.jpg

Joel Fuller

Doctor of Philosophy

I’m working with families who have experienced multiple stillbirths, and by examining their DNA sequences I have been able to uncover the ‘faulty’ gene. This then allows couples to undergo a process where embryos are screened before implantation and only those that don’t carry the disease causing gene mutation are selected. I was awarded the Maurice de Rohan scholarship, where I will undertake research at the Center for Mendelian Genomics (CMG) at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Alicia Byrne

Doctor of Philosophy

Alicia Bryne, PhD

Alicia Byrne

Doctor of Philosophy

In 2016 I won People’s Choice Award in the UniSA Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, where I presented on the idea of harnessing immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer. I believe that my PhD project, which explores the function of the body’s cardiovascular system in relation to melanoma tumours, could lead to the discovery of better treatments for melanoma and even prevent this serious form of skin cancer.

Lih Yin Tan

Doctor of Philosophy

Lih Yin Tan, PhD.jpg

Lih Yin Tan

Doctor of Philosophy

I’m constantly motivated by the rewarding outcomes of my research. Through 3D chemistry modelling and statistical data analysis, I’m able to link adverse effects to medications and then see how this impacts the body, which will hopefully allow patients to be better informed about medication options and risks.

Jack Janetzki

Doctor of Philosophy

Jack Janetzki

Jack Janetzki

Doctor of Philosophy

Your campus

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

Location This degree is delivered at the following campus.

Your study spaces

City East.jpg

We offer unparalleled learning facilities, and are committed to continually investing in and upgrading our 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 our specialised laboratories and facilities include the:

  • Bradley Building (UniSA’s flagship research, teaching and public engagement facility)
  • Clinical Trial Facility (modern, purpose-built, dedicated clinical research spaces)
  • Adelaide Biofilm Test Facility (South Australia’s first test facility for antimicrobial agents, pharmaceutical preparations, dressings, materials and coatings)
  • Biophysical Characterisation Facility (houses state of the art equipment for studying bio-molecular interactions)
  • Fully equipped laboratories with advanced synthetic and medicinal chemistry, analytical, genomic, tissue culture and biomedical imaging suites used to support cutting-edge research
  • Laboratory and pilot scale pharmaceutical development, analysis and characterisation equipment for various dosage forms

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