Professor Phil Hodgkin

Professor Phil Hodgkin



Professor Phil Hodgkin



BSc (Hons) UWA PhD ANU

Joint Division Head


My research group aims to understand how cells process signals and work cooperatively to achieve a collective task. At present our focus is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanics of immunity, a powerful system that protects the body from infections and cancers. By combining experiment and theory we are building computer models of the immune system. These are being used to develop new treatments for a broad range of diseases.

Research interest

In science developing a theory provides the most efficient route to new treatments and technologies. Over a long period our lab has been testing and developing a new theoretical perspective on complex cellular behavior. Our target is the immune system, but our theories apply equally to blood cell development and cancer biology.

Our theory begins by noting striking differences in behavior among similar, even cloned, cells. Traditionally viewed as ‘biological variation’ we are now confident cells take advantage of randomising systems as a means of coding for, and allocating, cells to different tasks. We use this idea to create quantitative probabilistic models of the cell and from that starting point extrapolate to complete complex dynamic systems. We inform the developing framework by experiments such as video microscopy to catch single T and B cells in the act of making decisions and modifying their behavior.

Our models are now mature and accurate enough to serve as the framework for investigations into:

  • Human variation leading to immunodeficiency and autoimmunity
  • Calculating the effect of drugs and inhibitors on cellular behavior and predicting effective synergistic combinations for immune and cancer chemotherapy
  • Measuring cytokine and costimulatory regulators of T and B cell responses on single cell changes.
  • Applying our cellular mechanical principles to examine the evolution of cancer cells. 
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Student research opportunity

Eureka prize winning researchers, standing

Meet our Eureka Prize winning B cell researchers

Researchers looking at mathematical equations

Our researchers have defined for the first time how the size of the immune response is controlled during infection, or in response to vaccination.