PhD Scholar

Updated: 5 months ago
Location: St Lucia, QUEENSLAND
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 30 Jun 2017

Apply now Job no:500640
Area:Faculty of Science
Salary (FTE):APA Scholarship NON-BANDED ($26,682.00 - $26,682.00)
Work type:Full Time - Fixed Term, Full Time - Scholarship
Location: St Lucia, Brisbane

We are seeking talented students with expertise in geochemistry, microbiology, soil science, bioinformatics, chemical engineering, modelling, and geotechnical engineering/soil mechanics. The project aims to accelerate the in situ transformation of mine wastes and tailings into productive soils using a combination of abiotic and biotic approaches, at both glasshouse and full field scale. The project will deliver fundamental advances in our understanding of soil formation processes, trace element geochemistry and zeolite mineralogy, and primary succession in microbial communities, whilst concurrently developing a low-cost, sustainable alternative to current waste and tailings management practices.

Three PhD or Masters positions are available within this project. The project aims to accelerate the in situ transformation of mine wastes and tailings into productive soils using a combination of abiotic and biotic approaches, at both glasshouse and full field scale. The project is hosted within the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) at the University of Queensland, in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, and Advanced Water Management Centre (both UQ), as well as Queensland University of Technology and the University of Toronto.

Position 1: Geomicrobiology and bioinformatics

Tailings and mine wastes typically host low diversity, low biomass microbial communities unless targeted remediation efforts are completed, posing a major barrier to development of a functional, healthy soil. Microbial communities have been assumed to behave only as passive responders to remediation; however, opportunities also exist to engineer microbial communities to play active roles in achieving remediation goals. This project will focus on microbial community composition and function during transformation of tailings into soil. In particular, it will evaluate the efficacy of microbially-based strategies for tailings remediation in combination with traditional chemical and physical approaches, as well as primary succession and the development of functional capacity in microbial communities in tailings materials. Microbiological techniques including DNA/RNA extraction and sequencing (16S/18S amplicons, metagenomics, and metatranscriptomics) will be coupled with geochemical and mineralogical analyses to build a comprehensive understanding of how microbial communities contribute to geochemical and physical transformations in tailings.

The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors or Masters degree in Microbiology or Environmental Science, with previous experience in mining environments.

Position 2: Trace element geochemistry, mineralogy, and geochemical modelling

Tailings are geochemically dynamic Earth materials hosting complex assemblages of minerals, at extremes of pH and salinity. The mineralogical complexity and unusual geochemistry of tailings poses major challenges for accurate geochemical modelling and prediction of weathering behaviour. This project focusses on improving our understanding of trace element geochemistry and zeolite mineralogy at alkaline pH, and characterising speciation and mobility of trace elements and zeolite mineral reactivity in response to changes in pH. This information will be used to expand current geochemical models and improve their accuracy in predicting weathering behaviour. Techniques including X-ray absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy, Rietveld refinement, and electron microscopy will be used to map the distribution and speciation of trace elements and minerals during tailings remediation and weathering in glasshouse and field scale trials.

The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors or Masters degree in Chemistry or Environmental Science, with previous experience in quantitative mineralogy or trace element geochemistry.

Position 3: Geotechnical and physical properties and modelling

As a result of the physical and chemical processes used during minerals extraction, tailings are usually fine-grained, structureless materials deposited into large scale field storage facilities at high water content. The physical challenges posed by their fine texture are exacerbated by the high sodicity and extreme pH of most tailings materials, causing dispersion and hardsetting, and preventing development of stable structure. This project focusses on evaluating the effects of standard chemical and physical approaches for promoting formation of stable aggregates in tailings in combination with novel, microbially-driven approaches based on extracellular polysaccharide production, at glasshouse and field scale, and modelling and understanding the impacts of structure development on hydrology and aeration in tailings. Geotechnical (shear strength, aggregate size and stability etc) and spatial imaging techniques (aerial photography, computerised tomography) will be used to analyse structure development and build three-dimensional, coupled hydrological-geochemical models.

The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors or Masters degree in Geotechnical, Civil, or Environmental Engineering, with previous experience in hydrological and/or geochemical modelling, or geotechnical characterisation.

The role

Successful candidates will be working on the projects as outlined above. Please ensure to specify which position (#1, 2, or 3) you are applying for in your cover letter.

The person

Applicants should possess a Bachelor or Masters degree in the relevant fields specified above for each position. Applicants should be team players with a strong professional work ethic, and capacity and interest in acquiring cross-disciplinary expertise. Applicants should have excellent oral and written English language communication skills.

Applicants must be eligible to enrol in a PhD with UQ. For a complete list of the UQ's minimum entry requirements please refer to: .
Prospective students will be provided with assistance to apply for a competitive UQ scholarship, or a domestic equivalent scholarship, for stipend and tuition support . Award of a scholarship will be conditional upon the applicant applying for and obtaining an unconditional offer for entry to the PhD program at UQ and being assessed in the next available UQ scholarship round. The duration of the candidacy is 3 years with 2 possible extensions each for up to 6 months (PPL 4.80.01 UQ Research Scholarships ).

To discuss these roles please contact Dr Talitha Santini (

To submit an application for these roles, use the Apply button below. All applicants must supply the following documents: Cover letter (indicating which project you are applying for), Resume (containing publications and grants (if any) history), plus contact details for three referees) and an Academic Transcript.

For information on completing the application process click here .

Advertised:23 May 2017
Applications close:30 Jun 2017 (11:55 PM) E. Australia Standard Time

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