IMB - moving from overseas

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Location of IMB within the University of Queensland in Brisbane

Every year, dozens of PhD students and postdocs visit the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) from overseas.... staying anywhere between a few days to a few years. I have written this page as a brief guide which outlines the steps these people must go through in their first few weeks to help get settled into Brisbane and go through induction at the IMB.

I have been asked a few times now to help out new visitors to my group (all from overseas), and so I know just how tricky it can be!

NOTE: The lovely Bronwyn Adams noticed this page and implemented a very similar page (except more official!) on the IMB site here. :-)

Preparing to Move

By this stage I will assume you have a group leader who has offered to (a) host your visit, (b) supervise your project or (c) provide you employment in their lab. Be sure to read about them (here) and e-mail them regularly. Group leaders are incredibly busy people, and so it's critical to e-mail them a few weeks before you move to remind them you are coming and delegate someone in their group to be your "helper" - someone to take care of you for your first few days or weeks. TIP: Get your helper's contact details (phone, e-mail & address) and CC them any correspondence to your group leader.

You should allow at least six weeks before leaving to prepare all your paperwork. To get into Australia (and into the IMB) you'll need your:

  • Passport - make sure it's current and always have it with you! As a foreigner this is your ONLY authoritative form of ID which will get you into the country, into universities, into banks and premises licensed to serve alcohol (for 18+ age identification).
  • Electronic Australian Visa - there are several different kinds of visa, and you should go through the wizard.
    • If you only want to visit for less than 3 months without working (for a conference etc) you probably want the Tourist ("676") visa (should take <1 day to process)
    • If you are commencing a postdoc you probably want a Business - Long Stay ("457") visa (should take ~3 weeks). Four years is maximum length visa; after then you can sit citizenship test if you want to stay.
    • NOTE: Most of these visas are electronic - meaning they will be electronically connected to your passport. Upon arrival, immigration will see this on their computers, and stamp your passport - but you should always print a copy of the receipt just in case.
  • Offer of appointment at IMB - If you are moving to Australia to work you should keep this form with your passport. If you are just visiting print out copies of correspondence with your group-leader and/or official receipts for conferences you might be attending.
  • Contact information - on arrival immigration needs to know a contact phone number and address of the hotel or house you are staying at for the first few weeks of your stay. So make sure you book somewhere in advance, or ask your contact at the IMB to attempt to arrange accommodation - temporary or permanent - for you on arrival.


For official directions to the IMB (from the airport) go here.

UQ suburb map.gif
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As you can see in this map, the University of Queensland (UQ) (postcode: 4072) is nestled besides the Brisbane river and adjacent to the suburb of St Lucia (postcode: 4067), a few kilometers south of Brisbane CBD (about 20-60 minutes drive from the airport depending on traffic). The IMB itself is part of the Queensland Bioscience Precinct (QBP) building and sits out the front of UQ, just opposite the main UQ bus terminal.

There is a map of the St Lucia campus on the University of Queensland web site.

Some Suburbs You Should Know

Below is a very brief description of the suburbs around UQ and the city you may visit during your stay, or may even consider living in (clockwise from left):

  • St Lucia - the suburb adjacent to (but not technically containing) UQ - and thus the closest option. Numerous student "share houses" and 10 residential colleges (on-campus student accommodation) surrounded UQ: most of which are filled during university semester, but largely empty during university holidays Dec to Feb. There is a very nice little complex of cheap to mid range restaurants, bottle shops, supermarket and other assorted shopping called "Hawken Village" just 5 minutes walk along Hawken drive from the IMB. Buses and City-cats are readily available but there are are no trains running directly to St Lucia, connections are usually made at Toowong. The only bars in the area are the Staff Club and the 2nd Degree (formerly Red Room) on campus.
  • Indooroopilly - the next suburb east of St Lucia, and features Indooroopilly Shopping Centre - a huge shopping center with almost everything a student might need. Near these shops is the main train line, running up through Taringa and Toowong towards the city.
  • Taringa - a small suburb tucked above Indooroopilly, large amounts of well priced accommodation, includes a few nice little restaurants and close proximity to shopping along Moggill Road, flowing through to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
  • Toowong - contains a large shopping center, the two local student bars and easy access to CityCat.
  • Milton - features Suncorp Stadium (5 mins walk from Milton train station), the XXXX Brewery, and a large selection of mid-range to upmarket restaurants along Park Road; Milton is a modest walk to the city.
  • Brisbane - the CBD has a handful of worthwhile restaurants, a number of pubs, clubs and other businesses, including the Myer Centre and Borders. The Queen Street Mall encompasses the main shopping areas.
  • Fortitute Valley - the main entertainment district in the CBD, historically the red light district but now largely home to a wide range of bars, restaurants, cafes and nighclubs. During the day it's a great place for shopping of all descriptions. The Chinatown mall is located in Fortitude Valley, but the true Chinese heart of Brisbane is in Sunnybank, about 15 mins south of the city.
  • South Bank - great place for tourists to visits (very lively). South Bank features: the Queensland Museum, Cultural Center, Gallery of Modern Art an artificial beach/swimming pool, southbank markets (sat-sun) and more. Best accessed by CityCat.
  • West End - historic suburb with a large hippie and student population, a significant entertainment precent, and a variety of shopping, most notably interesting foodstuffs from the local Mediterranean immigrants. Easily accessible via CityCat.
  • Dutton Park - some people choose to live around here and bike ride or take public transport across the Green Bridge. Is slightly cheaper to live than most suburbs with easy access to the university.
  • Chelmer / Graceville / Sherwood - across the river and south of UQ is nice and quiet suburbia; although means traveling significantly longer to get to the IMB (generally train + bus).

Getting Around


Brisbane has two taxi companies Yellow Cabs (131924) and Black & White Cabs (131008) - both have "fare calculators" on their site, but almost identical prices. A trip from the airport to UQ will cost $45-60, depending on traffic.

Public Transport

Public transport in Brisbane includes: bus, train and the CityCat ferries .

zone map

Using public transport in Brisbane can be very confusing, so before leaving on any trip I highly recommend visiting Brisbane's official public transport website:

  • "Trans Link" (131230) - use the "journey planner" on the right and it will show you your best options to get from A to B.

Ticketing information is here. The cost of tickets depends on which "zones" you are travelling between. St Lucia and its surrounding suburbs are in zone 2, so when you board the bus you will want to ask for a "single adult zone 2 " ticket (~$2.40) when you board the bus or ferry. However, if you're staying in Brisbane for several months I'd recommend buying a "go card" from a train station and topping up the account online as you go. Student ("concession") fares are 50% less than adult fares, but you can only get these if you can show a UQ (Queensland) student card. All three public transport systems are now integrated so the one ticket is valid no matter how you arrive at your destination.


Brisbane has numerous bus routes, but be warned that buses running to UQ during the start of the university semester term are often late or too full to stop when you put your hand out to hail them.


The trains (operated by "queensland rail"), are *usually* on time. There is a line for the ticket machine, so it's wise to be at least 5 minutes early: the fine for being caught on a train without a ticket is $200.

WARNING: The train between the airport and the city - the "air-train" is privately operated and surprisingly expensive ($14 for an adult one-way). You can use your Go Card on the airtrain, but it will cost more than a normal zone trip. If you are traveling with more than one person, a cab is almost certain to be similar in price to end-to-end public transport.

Ferries (CityCat)

The "CityCat" ferry service runs along the stretch of Brisbane river as far north as Brett's Wharf and down to UQ, stopping at several stations along the way (including SouthBank and the CBD). It takes about 30 minutes to travel from UQ to the city (North Quay) or South Bank, and makes for a slow but pleasantly scenic journey.


In addition to a small open bike-rack out the front, the IMB has a lockable bike shed with showers around the back which you can only access with an IMB swipe card after asking the front desk to enable your card for the bike lockers. Be warned that most of the roads in Brisbane, and St Lucia in particular, are quite hilly, and will make you sweat! The IMB has a surprising number of mountain-bike enthusiasts, and instead of buying a bike, you may consider e-mailing informal announcement to see if someone might lend you one for free. In Australia it is illegal to ride without a helmet and you must have front and rear lights at the night.

TIP: Use the BOM Brisbane Radar loop to help you avoid rain.


For people who really want to explore Brisbane and beyond you might seriously consider hiring a car. I recommend Alpha car hire - a small car will cost you about $29 a day. If you want to buy a second-hand car try, but be careful, as a bad car can cost thousands of dollars on repairs (on top of registration and insurance) before it becomes roadworthy. Carsales lists cars from both private sellers and dealers. Furthermore, it's very difficult to get a park near the University without paying for it! Although not well signed, almost all the roads in St Lucia near the IMB have a 2 hour parking limit, and the fine for being caught is $50. Information about parking within the uni is here.

I suggest you stick it out with public transport as long as possible! It's much cheaper.

Finding Accommodation

Finding accommodation for a visit or stay in Brisbane (or any foreign city for that matter) can be very tricky.

Requesting Accommodation using "Informal Announcements"

A month before leaving I recommend you e-mail your group-leader a month before leaving asking him to forward an accommodation request to "informal announcements" - an internal mailing list which is subscribed to by most people in the IMB and regularly used to request things, advertise vacant rooms and sell furniture (when people move). To make it really easy I've written a little template below.

Subject: Accommodation request
I am a 25 year old male PhD student from England, about to move to the IMB to work with the Betty Ford group and I am urgently seeking short term/long term accommodation near UQ. I arrive in Brisbane on the 20 Jan and leave on the 18 Feb. If you know of any vacancies please e-mail me at:}.
Pete Doherty

If you are lucky, someone in your group (or one of their close friends) will have a vacant room which you can move into, or even stay for free for a few weeks while you search for something more long term.

Short Term Accommodation

Recommended Hotels:

Below are a few hotels which come recommended by previous visitors:

  • Park Regis - Brisbane CBD - ultra clean & modern - ~$150 a night (single room).
  • St Lucia Gardens - St Lucia - good location but pokey rooms - ~$110 a night (single room).

Recommended Backpackers:

For visiting students who want the full "backpacker" experience - a chance to really explore the city and meet fellow travelers:

  • YHA - Milton - cleanest backpacker in the area - requires 2-5 days advanced booking - ~$29-33 a night (shared room).
  • Chill backpackers - Milton - clean, secure and fairly new - ~$30-35 a night (shared room).

Long Term Accommodation

If you are staying for a long period, you probably want to find yourself an affordable rental property or share-house. Below I have listed some useful websites to visit:

  • UQ Accommodation Services - contains good advice for international students, and offer a property search here.
  • QUT Accommodation Services - similar to above - but tends to have extra vacancy listings near the city.
  • - Australia's largest site for renting/buying/selling and sharing houses (photos included). Click here to get a good idea of the price in the area around UQ.

However, as it says on the UQ accommodation website:

"We strongly recommend that general rental accommodation only be arranged once you have arrived in Queensland. There is usually a wide range of rental properties, prices and locations advertised at any one time, and it is extremely difficult to make an informed decision about public transport, value for money, safety etc without being on location."

So while it makes sense to explore your options, it's wise not to lock yourself into anything permanent! Your best bet is to arrange temporary accommodation or book a cheapish hotel for your date of arrival and give yourself at least two weeks to "house hunt".

Induction into the IMB

The IMB is very safety conscious meaning:

  • (a) you must sit though several inductions, two online test and complete many forms before you become official (even if you are only visiting for a few weeks), and
  • (b) until you get an "access card" - either a UQ student card, UQ staff card or a white temporary visitor card - you must rely on others to swipe you into any level of the building.

Visitor Pass

Upon arrival at the IMB, you need to walk up the big reception desk. There they will get you to fill in a "visitor pass" (which clips onto your shirt and you return at the end of the day) and then they will call up your lab phone number for someone to come out and fetch you (since you won't have an access card). And you will have to repeat this process of (signing in) every day until you get an access card.

Completing Induction

The person designed to help you (by your new group leader) should first introduce you to your new lab, and then take you up to the "admin section" on level 4. Make sure you take your offer of appointment with you! If you are a student, they will hopefully start by introducing you to our wonderful Postgraduate Admin Officer, Amanda Carozzi, (62122) for a talk.

Most importantly, however, you must go to the main Human Resources (HR) Officer, Caraine Gomez, (62120) who will give you all the paperwork you need, and explain what you need done. If you are to become a UQ student or staff member Caraine will also take $20 from you and send you off to the "Duhig Tower" library to get your photo taken, so you can get an ID card as soon as possible. NOTE: You will need your helper and/or a map of the campus (available on level 4) to find it

After doing this it's a good idea to meet your floor manager, to organize a time for them to take you on the floor induction.

Required Inductions

The induction you will need to do include:

  • Floor induction - typically run weekly by your floor manager --> ~1 hr
  • IMB induction - run every Wednesday in a small auditorium --> ~1 hr
  • PC2 training - run about every 6 months in the main auditorium, and must be renewed every 2 years --> 2 hrs

You will also have to sit at least two of the four online Occupation Health & Safety (OHS) tests:

  • Workplace Induction - here
  • Annual Fire Safety - here (we now have to redo this EVERY year!)

The good news is you can fail these tests as many times as you need - once passed it will ask for your full name, staff number (if you don't have one enter "n/a") e-mail and building (0080 Queensland Bioscience Precinct), then print it out (by clicking submit) and take your two printed certificates it up to the Office Manager, Lucinda Essery, (62102) on level 4.

Computer Network and Internet

After your inductions are complete the IMB will give you an IMB username and password (plus an IMB e-mail address), which will allow you to log into the computer your supervisor allocated to you! Until then you will more-or-less have to rely on other group members to log you in - or you can call ITS (ext: 62233) and ask if they can give you a temporary account. The IMB has its own ITS (IT support), tucked away on level 3, but they are quite good. Unfortunately, the building has very tight security policies, and so you won't be able to gain access to the Internet from your own laptop (since you haven't logged in with an IMB account). Furthermore: very few people in this building are allowed admin rights on their computer, and thus you may need to call ITS to install any special software you need (or if you are using a Mac, install in your user > Applications directory).

Hopefully your helper will show you how to set up printing (making sure your default settings is black, double-sided printing to save money and paper), e-mail, access the "HSM" and "Apollo" servers, and everything else you will need during your stay at the IMB.

Some important websites:

Getting Paid

If you have moved to the IMB to work, you will need the following before you get paid:

  • An Australian Tax File Number - to receive an income you'll need a Australian Tax File Number (TFN). Depending on your exact income (see: tax calculator) ~30% (for non-residents) or ~20% (for residents) of your earnings is given directly the government; although at the end of each financial year (July) you can submit a "tax return" and get a little of this back.
  • A UniSuper account - the Australian government automatically takes a small percentage of your earning and puts it into a "superannuation" scheme, which you can access when you turn 65 (see: "preservation age") or leave the country. As far as superannuation schemes go, UniSuper is quite a good one - but it's not like you have a choice.
  • An Australian Bank Account.

Caraine on level 4 will give you the forms to set up a TFN and UniSuper, but you will need to set up a bank account yourself.

Setting up an Australian Bank Account

My recommendation is to get your helper to help you set up a Commonwealth bank account. The Commonwealth bank is your best bet becase: (a) they have a branch on campus (in the "UQUnion" area), (b) they are Australia's biggest and most secure bank, (c) you can quickly set up an account and (d) they have many ATMs including two near the main UQ bus terminal (opposite the IMB).

My advice is to get your helper to walk you across to the Commonwealth Bank - making sure you bring with you your passport, Offer of appointment at IMB and your full contact details. A bank assistant will take you both into a small room and ask you questions to determine what type of account(s) you might need. Your best option is to set up a:

  • Streamline Account and with a Debit Card (aka KeyCard) and "NetBank" (electronic) access. The fees for this include:
    • ~$4 a month account keeping; although if the uni transfer in >$2000 a month (which is likely) this fee is waved.
    • ~$29 each time you transfer to an offshore account (regardless of how much).
    • ~$2 if you use a non-Commonwealth Bank ATM - but free from Commonwealth ATMs and shops.

The advantage of this Streamline account is low cost, and easy withdraw of money using you debit card. The only disadvantage is that it obtains almost NO interest! And so if you plan on staying in Australia long term you should also set up a AwardSaver account - featuring a fairly competitive interest rate. You can check your balance and transfer money freely between these accounts using NetBank.

In setting up your account, the bank assistant will need you to provide a mobile phone number to send you a temporary password for NetBank. If you don't have a working mobile yet, I suggest giving them the mobile number of a trustworthy lab member. If possible you should also set a "phone banking password". And finally, you will need to provide an address... and since you are likely to move, I recommend you give them your IMB mailing address:

Joe Blogs
Institute for Molecular Bioscience
University of Queensland
QLD 4072 (Australia)

Mail to this address will arrive in the pigeon hole on your level. The assistant will give you a piece of paper with your bank account number, which you will want to photocopy and take to Caraine on level 4. The Bank will then take a couple of days to process your request, but you will soon receive your debit card, and you can call the bank on 13 2221 to activate your account.

NOTE: When completing a Tax File number will find you are forced to enter the address slightly differently: "Joe Blogs, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, QLD 4067 (Australia)" - but fear not, it will still get to you.

Collecting Refunds for Your Expenses

If you need to be re-reimbursed for travel expenses (or any other purchases) you must visit the Office Manager on level 4. Lucinda will require: (1) all your receipts (including any credit card statement with your name), (2) your (Australian) bank account (to transfer money to) and (3) an e-mail to her from your supervisor including the account number to use before she can process your request. If you ever go on any conference trips outside of Brisbane you will also be asked to fill in a "travel log" form detailing what you did on each day of your trip. TIP: In some cases your supervisor will pay for food, so remember to ask for all restaurant bills and grocery receipts (as well as taxi receipts etc)!

Other Practical Advices

Facilities Around Campus

UQ imb map.jpg

As you explore UQ you should notice take notice of the following facilities:

  • Post Office - located near the front of the uni - the friendly staff can help you send packages back home.
  • Campus Travel - there are two travel agents on campus, but all official IMB travel must be done through "Campus Travel".
  • Pharmacy - located in the UQUnion complex.
  • International Student Office - don't know much about this ?
  • Sports Centre - includes quite a large gym, frequented by many IMBers.
  • Aquatic Centre - where many people go to swim during the hot summer.

And there are also two newsagents on campus, several libraries and many places to eat. Hopefully your helper will show you around and point most of these out! If not it can be fun to just explore by yourself.

Mobile Phone

Even if your mobile phone carrier overseas doesn't have any decent "international" option for Australia, it can help to bring your mobile phone to Australia. You can go to the university post-office or newsagent and purchase a "pre-paid" mobile SIM card for (~$20-30) (Telstra is a good one]). These are charged per call, but it's good to use in emergencies. You can also ask about "International Call Cards" - as these can provide a vastlycheaper way to call your home country.

Phone Calls from the IMB

You can make local phone calls from within the IMB by dialing "0" before the number.

To call overseas, the cheapest option is to use Skype (internet phone). Skype comes installed on IMB computers - although you'll want to buy a $20 headset and be careful not to disturb others around you. Especially if your supervisor is nearby. :-)

Internal calls within the IMB are five digits (62xxx), but to call this number from outside the IMB you must add "334" to the front. For example the number for IMB general inquires is:

  • 62015 - from inside the building
  • 334 62015 - from outside the building (still in Queensland)
  • (07) 33462015 - from inter-state (still in Australia)
  • +61 7 33462015 - from outside Australia

Emergency numbers:

  • 53333 - central university security (from any UQ phone)
  • 000 - national emergency services dispatch (from anywhere)


  • +61 7 3346 2100 - IMB general enquiries
  • 62233 - IMB IT support (internal)


  • +61 7 3346 2101 - NOTE: the IMB has a SINGLE fax machine on level 4 to service the whole building. It's free to use for everyone, but it's a little complex dialing out, so you may have to ask the receptionist (level 4 west) for help when you send a fax. If you receive a fax, the same receptionist will usually e-mail you so you can pick it up - assuming, of course, it has your name on it!


In this document I have tried to provide some practical advice on how to seek accommodation and make an easy transition to the IMB. As you have noticed, the IMB requires you to sit through numerous inductions before you can claim you are completely official! Although these can be painful and tricky, they can also be a useful introduction to the building and and I encourage hope you to get them out of the way quickly so you can actually reach a stage where you can become productive and learn about your new lab!

Some of the best advice however, will be provided by the members of your new group! If you offer to buy them lunch, these people will hopefully show you around campus and provide tips on where to eat, and help you out with everything you possible need to know about the IMB.

I hope this document has been useful!