Mathematical models of cellular communication networks

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Robyn Araujo
Senior Lecturer
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Inside each living cell are vast networks of interacting proteins.  These protein networks allow the cell to monitor and interpret its environment, and turn this information into a set of instructions that tell the cell what to do – when to divide, when to move/migrate, when to make new proteins, when to switch to an alternative energy source, etc.

Although the human genome has now been sequenced, giving us the full set of instructions (genes) contained within the DNA molecule, we are only just beginning to understand the complex activities of the proteins which do all the work of the cell. The ability to understand the structure and functions of these protein networks is critically important for developing improved treatment strategies for cellular diseases such as cancer.

Research activities

We are now learning that the chemical reactions that take place within cellular protein networks perform remarkable computational functions. This project will focus on the role of specialized molecules called protein scaffolds and their ability to modulate the computational capabilities of biochemical reactions.  As an Honours project, the student will have the opportunity to learn new mathematical ideas and techniques from algebraic geometry, and use these to gain an understanding of how molecular interactions can be studied as polynomial dynamical systems. An MPhil project would also develop further mathematical models of protein interactions involving scaffolds, and would consider implications for therapeutic strategies. Although these simple networks of interactions will involve just a small number of proteins, they will provide an important starting point for understanding the potentially rich and varied responses that may be generated by such networks. 

Both project formats (Honours or MPhil) would be suited to further continuation as a PhD project if the student is interested.


This project has the potential to make an important contribution to our understanding of the deeply mathematical mechanisms that govern life’s blueprint.  The could be started at any level - Honours/MPhil or PhD.

Skills and experience

Suggested prerequisites:

  • XB201 (or equivalent)
  • MXB221 (or equivalent)
  • MXB322 (or equivalent)


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.