Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

PhD projects available:

1997 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Nicola Harris was born in New Zealand where she completed her undergraduate studies and PhD thesis. In 2002 she moved to Switzerland as a postdoctoral fellow where she worked with Hans Hengartner and the Nobel Laureate Rolf Zinkernagel at the Institute for Experimental Immunology, University of Zurich. In July 2005 she joined the ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor and in August 2009 she gained a position as an Assistant Professor at the Swiss Vaccine Research Institute (SVRI) housed at the Global Health Institute, Department of Life Sciences, EPFL. In 2012 she was awarded a prestigious ERC starting grant, en route to being a tenured Professor at the EPFL. In 2018 she came to the Department of Immunology at Monash, became an NHMRC senior research fellow and co-leads the Mucosal Immunology Research Group. Her team particularly focuses on understanding the immunological, microbiological and physiological mechanisms underpinning health and disease of the airways and gastrointestinal tract.  



Research interests

Mechanisitic Mucosal Immunology:

Host-microbe interactions underpin health and the development of disease; our goal is to discover novel pathways through which these interactions could be targeted to improve health. Central to this are our barrier tissues, such as the gut, lungs and skin that are rich in immune cells that interact directly with our environment and where finely tuned neuro-immune crosstalk modulates both the local tissue and feeds information back to the central nervous system. Diet, the microbiome and metabolites are key players that we aim to harness in order to modulate mucosal immunity and promote a healthy homeostasis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease:

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic, progressive inflammatory disease afflicting the intestine and driven by dysregulated host-microbe interactions. Exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN) involves the provision of nutritionally complete liquid formula in place of all other food for 6-8 weeks and induces clinical remission in up to 80% of CD patients. Although it is safer than cortocosteriods its potential as a therapy is limited as adherence, particularly in adults, is poor due to the challenges of maintaining a diet that is solely liquid in nature. We are utilising preclinical models of IBD to investigate the moleuclar mechanisms underlying this process, yielding insights that will underpin the design of novel treatments for IBD. Use of these models also allows us to assess the potential addition or removal of specific dietary components iwth the ain of informing improved science-driven nutrional advice for IBD patients.

Lung Fibrosis

Lung fibrosis underpins a number of clinical conditions, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Despite the recent introduction of anti-fibrotic therapies, many of these lung conditions continue to demonstrate progressive fibrosis. Performing studies on human lung tissue and in experimental animal models, we aim to better understand both the initial and on-going drivers of lung fibrosis.

Supervision interests

We are currently seeking motivated and talented honors and PhD students

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research area keywords

  • mucosal Immunology
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • Microbiome
  • Lung Fibrosis
  • enteric nervous system
  • Lung inflammation

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or