Be part of an elite PhD cohort working with CSIRO and UQCSIRO

Below you will find details of available projects including a project description, memebers of the advisory team, UQ enrolling unit and CSIRO Future Science Platform. The projects cover a range of research areas and the academic background of the ideal candidate is different for each project.

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Project 1: You are what you eat: Who will use personalised foods?

Project description

Imagine food that could be tailored to your genetic make-up and your individual needs. Imagine buying foods personalised to your body as well as your exercise or bodily goals. Personalisation of food to suit our unique genetic/environmental identity is now a possibility and has the potential to deliver tailored health, performance and well-being outcomes. Key users could include:

  • Professional athletics
  • Bodybuilders and weight trainers
  • People seeking to lose weight, or to add muscle bulk
  • People with chronic health conditions
  • Older people
  • Fussy eaters

There is a shift toward increasing our understanding of how nutritional aspects form part of a broader suite of decisions people make about their food choices and dietary patterns. From this, key questions in relation to the social context and factors that may influence the potential uptake of personalised foods may include:

  • Who is likely to buy personalised foods or supplements?
  • What are the perceived benefits of choosing an alternative to mass produced foods?
  • What drives a consumer to seek out personalised food?
  • Does social identity play a role in influencing these decisions? If so, how?

The study could examine the views and perceptions of the general population, or of specific populations. The research design will be co-developed with the successful candidate, however, a proposed approach is to conduct it in two stages:

  1. An exploratory stage that scopes the issue with a view to identifying the range of attitudes towards the prospect of personalised foods. In this stage qualitative interviews will be conducted. The results of the analysis of this data will inform stage 2.
  2. A quantitative stage that considers the spread of attitudes in a representative sample.

The project could also make use of innovative digital research methods involving social media.

Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate will have a background in social science with:

  • Honours degree or Masters degree in sociology, anthropology, psychology, human movement studies, dietetics or related fields.
  • Training in quantitative and/or qualitative methods.

The ideal candidate would also have:

  • Experience conducting semi-structured in-depth interviews.
  • Experience conducting survey research.
  • An interest in nutrition or the social science of food.
  • The willingness to travel as required for portions of the PhD candidature.
Advisory team


Dr Mair Underwood:, researcher profile


Dr Nicholas Archer & Dr Astrid Poelman

UQ enrolling unit School of Social Science
CSIRO Future Science Platform Active Integrated Matter

Project 2: Digital ethics in a big data age: the challenges of privacy and consent

Project description

Big data lies at the heart of new technologies, services and research. Fitbits, Strava, cloud-connected medical monitors, DNA genealogical kits, online health information and diagnosis services generate a new stream of personal, health data. The data collected, circulated and compiled to understand health profiles and develop health interventions, typically without individuals’ awareness.

Many ethical challenges arise with the development and deployment of new and emerging individualised digital tools. Informed consent has long sat at the centre of quality, patient-centred healthcare through communication between an individual and their health care provider. Informed consent also underpins medial research. Such consent is entangled with ethical principles of privacy, data protection and surveillance.

However, in an increasing digitised world, processes of consent, privacy and data protection are much more complex and poorly protected. Understanding digital health ethics in a big data age is essential for building trusted, ethical and socially accepted personalised health technologies.

This research project might tackle questions such as:

  • What are the new ethical challenges for obtaining informed user consent with new digital health technologies?
  • Does our established practice of point-in-time informed consent need to change to reflect a dynamic informed consent approach?
  • In what ways do consumers understand how their personal health data is used and the implications for their privacy and security when they give consent, for example when using a FitBit or a DNA genealogy kit?
  • Do our notions of privacy also need to change in the face of new technologies?
  • Are there new trade-offs being made between privacy and improved health outcomes and how do we navigate these benefits/disbenefits at individual and societal levels?

This research project will work towards building our understanding of the dynamics and concepts of consent, and associated security and privacy implications associated. The project may inform how researchers design security and privacy protocols to give users custody of their own data and in turn establish trust in the data and how it will be used for collective benefit.

Ideal candidate

The candidate should have a strong interest in ethical issues such as informed consent, trust, security and privacy. Academic training in philosophical ethics, health social science and/or related fields is required. A desire to gain broad knowledge on cyber security would be welcome.

Advisory team


Associate Professor Andrew Crowden:, researcher profile

Associate Professor Paul Henman:; research profile


Dr Seyit Camtepe & Dr Marthie Grobler
UQ enrolling unit School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
CSIRO Future Science Platform Precision Health

Project 3: How do we make decisions with probabilistic information?: Negotiating environmental impacts & resource development

Project description

Underpinning much decision making theory is the assumption of rational agents that carefully consider complete information and weigh up competing objectives. However, in the real world much information is not objective, but probabilistic: the chances of rain; the likelihood of developing cancer; predictions of future purchases.

Making decisions about environmental impact and for resource management are largely of this nature. For example, the probability that a gold deposit can be found, the chance that a gas field will continue to produce gas for the next ten years, or the likelihood that a mine development will have minimal environmental impact. These probabilities are primarily calculated through Bayesian inference of geological and geophysical knowledge and data. Decisions based on such data have significant environmental, economic and societal implications, yet we know little about how key decision-makers make use of probabilistic information.

Behavioural economics suggests that decision-makers may process information selectively, and that, relatedly, the nature of the decision problem (e.g. investment in exploration vs. environmental impacts) may skew how probabilistic information is used to make decisions. This has the potential to affect how market decisions are made but also the mechanisms that drive public choice. Using experimental economics methods, the PhD seeks to explore how probabilistic geoscience information is used in different sectors. This research will highlight how geoscience researchers can tailor the communication of probabilistic information to optimise its use by decision makers.

Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate will have undergraduate training in economics and be familiar with the use of advanced statistics and econometrics. Prior knowledge of and a strong interest in experimental and behavioural economics would be advantage. Prior knowledge of geoscience and/or software programming is desirable, but not essential.

Advisory team


Professor Daniel Zizzo:; research profile

Associate Professor Lana Friesen:; research profile


Dr Luk Peeters
UQ enrolling unit School of Economics
CSIRO Future Science Platform Discovery / Deep Earth Imaging

Project 4: Build it and they will come? Unpacking the economic, market and policy drivers of the Hydrogen

Project description

There has been significant progress in recent years in reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of technologies across the hydrogen value chain, from production to utilisation. An example of a key utilisation technology is hydrogen fuel cells, which can be used to power vehicles or to produce electricity and heat for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings without emitting greenhouse gas emissions. Given its ‘clean’ and ‘abundant’ qualities, there has been increased interest in the potential economic opportunities associated with hydrogen, especially in Australia. Alongside this, the National Hydrogen Roadmap provides a blueprint for the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia and it is designed to help inform the next series of investment amongst industry, government and research stakeholders. However, in assessing the opportunities for Australia that might arise from the development of a hydrogen industry, critical knowledge gaps need to be filled. For example, there is some uncertainty surrounding the extent of hydrogen demand (both domestic and foreign) as well as the infrastructure costs and value added to the Australian economy.

In the first instance, more clarity is required on the economic and commercial opportunities associated with different hydrogen carriers. Similarly, while there is interest in Japan and South Korea as export markets, there has been less analysis undertaken to assess the extent of other potential markets for hydrogen internationally, and to identify the drivers and conditions for those markets. There has also been limited research undertaken to date on how consumers feel about fuel cell electric vehicles and fuel cell home-based systems. Finally, as is often the case in the early stages of industry development, there is a need to build our understanding about the real or perceived barriers or limitations to realising a hydrogen market in Australia, and what the Australian and subnational governments might do to overcome those barriers.

Drawing on qualitative and quantitative research methods, this research will explore these questions so as to inform policy and investment decision-making on the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia in coming years. 

Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate will have undergraduate training in economics and be familiar with the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Prior knowledge of and a strong interest in energy, climate or energy economics/policy would be an advantage. Prior knowledge of economic modelling is desirable, but not essential.

Advisory team


Dr Ian Mackenzie,, researcher profile

Professor Karen Hussey,, researcher profile


Dr Jenny Hayward,
UQ enrolling unit School of Economics
CSIRO Future Science Platform Hydrogen Energy Systems, Future Science Platform

Eligibility for the PhD program

Eligibility requirements for the UQ PhD program must be met and these are in addition to the preferred academic background of the ideal candidate listed against each of the projects.

A PhD is one of the highest degrees that can be awarded. It is an advanced academic qualification seen as a requirement for the majority of academic and research positions in a wide range of fields and industries. The aim of the PhD is to foster the development of independent research skills. These skills include the capacity to formulate a significant problem, to develop mastery of appropriate conceptual and methodological skills, and to relate the research topic to a broader framework of knowledge in a relevant disciplinary area.

Duration 3-4 years (full time)

Students are required to produce a thesis of no more than 80,000 words, with the research representing a significant new contribution to the discipline.

Minimum level of academic achievement

To meet the Graduate School admissions requirements for a PhD, applicants must provide evidence of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree with at least honours class IIA or equivalent from approved universities, which includes a relevant research component; or
  • A research master’s degree; or
  • A coursework master’s degree and an overall GPA (grade point average) equivalent to 5.65 on the 7-point UQ scale, which includes a relevant research component; or
  • A postgraduate degree of at least one year full-time equivalent with an overall GPA (grade point average) equivalent to 5.0 on the 7-point UQ scale, together with demonstrated research experience equivalent to honours IIA will be considered for PhD entry on a case by case basis; or
  • A bachelor’s degree plus at least two years of documented relevant research experience, including research publications.

English language proficiency requirements apply.

Relevance of degree The completed degree must be in an area that is relevant to the intended PhD, including sufficient specialisation such that the applicant will have already developed an understanding and appreciation of a body of knowledge relevant to the intended PhD.
Currency of applicant's knowledge The applicant’s degree and/or professional experience must demonstrate that the applicant’s knowledge of the discipline in which they plan to undertake their PhD is current. It is therefore expected that an applicant will have completed their tertiary studies and/or any relevant professional experience in the ten years immediately prior to their intended entry to the PhD.
Commencement dates

Enrolment in the PhD program is in research quarters and commencement in a research quarter is fixed to a specific period. 

Terms and conditions

Read the UQ Research Scholarships terms and conditions.

  • The student will relinquish the Scholarship if their PhD project changes such that it is outside the scope of that project description.
  • The student will be required to participate in various cohort activities associated with the CSIRO-UQ Responsible Innovation PhD cohort.
  • Students will be required to sign a Student and Intellectual Property Deed Poll to accept their offer.   

How to apply

To apply for the CSIRO-UQ Responsible Innovation scholarships, follow the instructions below. 

Prior to applying, check your eligibility for the PhD program (above) and prepare your documentation.

You should also contact the UQ members of the advisory team for your preferred project to discuss your suitability prior to submitting an application.

The button below will take you to UQ's Online Application portal.

Please ensure that you

  1. select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'
  2. enter this text in the free-text field title of the scholarship: CSIRO-UQ-RI
  3. list the UQ enrolling unit as it appears in your preferred project
  4. enter the first listed UQ researcher as your supervisor
  5. submit a 1-2 page outline of a project you would undertake within the advertised area that draws on your area of interest and expertise. You will be able to upload this in the 'Evidence and Document Upload' section of the Online Application.

Apply now