Available PhD projects - agribusiness, agriculture, environment & science

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Chief Investigator

Project title

Project description

Preferred educational background

Professor Yu Chengzhong

c.yu@uq.edu.au

A Nano-platform for Affordable and Ultra-sensitive Bio-marker Detection

This project aims to develop a next-generation nano-platform and device for ultra-sensitive detection of biomarkers.

Students will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Materials science or Chemistry

Nano-Pesticides for Animal Healthcare

This project will use state of the art nanotechnology to develop a new generation nano-pesticide with improved safety and performance. The nano-pesticide is expected to have enhanced efficacy and effective duration in field conditions compared to conventional pesticides, significantly reducing the cost of pest control.

Students will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Materials science, Chemistry or Pharmacy

Dr Bin Luo

b.luo1@uq.edu.au

Designing solar rechargeable battery system for efficient solar energy storage

This project aims to develop a new prototype of solar rechargeable battery for the direct capture and storage of abundant but intermittent solar energy. These will provide advances in material science and solar energy storage technologies, thus addressing the global energy shortage and environmental pollution issues.

Students will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Electrochemistry, Material Science, or Nanoscience
New hierarchical electrode design for high-power lithium ion batteries

This project aims to develop new types of hierarchical electrodes for high-rate lithium ion batteries with long cycling life. The project outcomes will lead to innovative technologies in low carbon emission transportation and efficient energy storage systems.

Students will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Material Science, Electrochemistry
Design of New Two-dimensional Materials for Lithium Sulfur Batteries

Effective energy storage system plays an important role in the installation of renewable energies and electric vehicles. This project aims to develop new types of hierarchical cathode composites for high capacity lithium-sulfur battery with long cycling life. The outcomes will lead to innovative technologies in low carbon emission transportation and efficient energy storage systems.

Students will enrol through the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

Electrochemistry, Material Science

Professor Mike Bennett

m.bennett@uq.edu.au

Contemporary and retrospective genomic analyses of tiger and white sharks

The tiger shark and white shark are two highly charismatic apex oceanic predators, and are species with important social, biological and economic significance within Australia and around the globe. However, the spatial and temporal dimensions of their demographies are poorly known. By conducting detailed genomic analyses on both living and long-dead specimens we will gain valuable insight into the biology of both species and provide information for conservation and management purposes.

Students will enrol through the Faculty of Medicine.

Potential PhD student requires Bachelor degree in Marine Science (with honours) plus training and experience in bioinformatics.

Dr Lee Hickey

l.hickey@uq.edu.au

Accelerated genomic selection to speed up genetic gain in wheat

This project aims to design drought-resistant crops. Since the Green Revolution, rates of genetic gain for wheat yield have begun to plateau, while climate change threatens productivity and global food security. Numerous breeding technologies have emerged, including genomic selection, speed breeding, high-throughput phenotyping and crop modelling. This project will develop and validate crop improvement protocols by fusing these four technologies. More efficient breeding techniques could accelerate genetic gain in wheat beyond what is expected in ongoing breeding programs, and enable breeders to develop robust cereal varieties in the face of climate change.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI).

A background in either genetics or plant biology is required, and a good understanding of statistics is desirable.

Dr Tim O'Hare

t.ohare@uq.edu.au

Naturally Nutritious

This project explores the development of selected nutritionally-biofortified fruit, vegetable and nuts, identifying limitations and potential of increasing targeted phytonutrients.  Biofortification harnesses the plant’s potential (genetic or otherwise) to optimise synthesis and storage of phytonutrients necessary for human health. The project overlaps several fields including plant genetics, biochemistry, biology, human nutrition. Top-up scholarships are potentially available for up to four applicants.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI).

Plant biochemistry
Plant physiology
Plant molecular biology

Associate Professor Mary Fletcher

mary.fletcher@uq.edu.au

Improving beef production through management of plant toxins

Consumption of poisonous plants by livestock does not necessarily equal uptake of the toxin, and the approach of the proposed research is to devise strategies to enable toxin breakdown in the cattle rumen before absorption into the bloodstream.  This applied industry project is aimed at mitigating the effects of the Pimelea plant toxin simplexin and requires analytical chemistry skills to measure both the toxin and its degradation products. This investigation capitalises on natural rumen response by isolating microbes capable of degrading the simplexin (for use as preventative probiotics), and investigating toxin absorbents and/or biopolymers to foster toxin-degrading microbe populations.  Additional top-up scholarship ($8,000 p.a.) is available for suitable domestic student.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI).

Honours Degree or Masters in Chemistry or related field

Professor Geoff Goodhill

g.goodhill@uq.edu.au

Advanced statistical methods for analysing maps in the visual brain

This project will provide new and powerful statistical tools for analysing data from brain imaging experiments. This improved approach will yield important new information about normal brain structure, the development of brain structure, and how brain structure is affected by altered sensory experience.

Students can enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) or the School of Mathematics & Physics. Discuss with Professor Goodhill.

Maths/physics/engineering
How are axons guided to their targets in the developing nervous system?

For the brain to function correctly it must be wired correctly. Axon guidance occurs primarily via the sensing of molecular cues in the environment, and a critical mechanism by which such cues are believed to act is via concentration gradients. However we do not have a quantitative understanding of how axons actually respond to concentration gradients. To address this problem we will first use novel microfluidics technologies to create precisely controlled molecular gradients in vitro, measure axon trajectories over long periods of time as gradient parameters are systematically varied, and develop computational models to quantitatively explain the key properties of these trajectories. Second, we will computationally model the spatiotemporal distribution of guidance cues believed to steer axons in two paradigmatic model systems, the development of the corpus callosum and of thalamocortical connections.

Students can enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) or the School of Mathematics & Physics. Discuss with Professor Goodhill.

Maths/physics/engineering/neuroscience

Dr Fanny de Busserolles

f.debusserolles@uq.edu.au

Ontogenetic development of the visual system in fishes with contrasting habitats and lifestyles

The aim of this PhD will be to investigate the ontogenetic development (from larvae to adult) of the visual system of several species of reef and deep-sea fishes in order to better understand the evolution of the teleost visual system and assess the possible impact of a changing world (i.e. modified by anthropogenic activities) of the visual perception and ecology of these fishes.

Students will enrol through the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

Neuroscience, marine biology, molecular biology, neurobiology, sensory biology, fish behaviour

Associate Professor Robbie Wilson

r.wilson@uq.edu.au

Ecology of metal contamination in native Australian mammals & birds on a remote northern island

This study aims to evaluate the impacts of metal contamination on the health and performance of native Australian mammals and birds in a northern tropical ecosystem. The project will investigate how a species’ ecology contributes to their risk of contamination. The research also aims to provide local Indigenous Rangers with scientifically based strategies to improve wildlife conservation on Groote Eylandt.

Students will enrol through the School of Biological Sciences.

Bachelor of Science with Honours (or equivalent), with a background in mammal or bird ecology and behaviour or exotoxicology

Predicting the movement speeds of animal movement

Movement is fundamental to animal behavior, governing the way animals use habitats, interact with conspecifics, avoid predators, obtain food and even negotiate human-modified landscapes. The rapidly expanding field of movement ecology offers a unifying paradigm for the causes, consequences, underlying mechanisms and patterns of movement-related phenomena. The project will develop models to understand the movement behaviour and test these using wild animals.

Students will enrol through the School of Biological Sciences.

Bachelor of Science with Honours (or equivalent), with a background in behavioural ecology or ecology.

Associate Professor Mary Fletcher

mary.fletcher@uq.edu.au

Modelling the controlled release of toxins from biopolymer composites in a model rumen environment

The controlled release of bioactives from degradable polymer matrices is a well-established route for the delivery of functional compounds over a sustained period. It is a powerful tool for managing the health and wellbeing of our cattle. However, the release rates and degradation profiles of biopolymers in cattle rumen is poorly understood or modelled. This project will address those gaps, using both practical and theoretical modelling approaches.

The principal advisor for this project will be Dr Bronwyn Laycockb.laycock@uq.edu.au and students will enrol through the School of Chemical Engineering.

Preferred B Eng (four year, 1st class honours) or B.Sc. (Hons 1 or 2A) or equivalent.

Professor Gene Tyson

g.tyson@uq.edu.au

Uncovering new microbial players and processes in the global methane cycle

The overarching aim of this proposal is to utilise multiple analytical strategies (including metagenomics and metatranscriptomics) to substantially expand our understanding of the key microorganisms, metabolic strategies, and interspecies relationships involved in the formation and consumption of methane.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences.

Have completed at least four years of tertiary education studies at a high level of achievement and have an appropriate Honours 1 (or equivalent) undergraduate degree.

Dr Christian Rinke

c.rinke@uq.edu.au

Archaeal Dark Matter and the Origin of Eukaryotes

The overall aim of this project is to investigate the highly controversial origin of eukaryotes and thus all multicellular life within Archaea, a domain of single-celled microorganisms. The project aims to develop a novel high-throughput single-cell genomics approach to recover archaeal genomes from the deep sea.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences.

First class (I) honours or MSc, with a background in molecular biology or bioinformatics.

Dr. S.-C. Lo

s.lo@uq.edu.au
Synthesis of organic light-emitting materials

Positions are available for PhD candidates to work on a project supported by the Commonwealth in developing new classes of organic light-emitting materials for solid lighting. The research is interdisciplinary and the candidates will work closely with world-class researchers in physics and chemistry and gain a first class postgraduate education at the state-of-the-art research centre, (http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/cope/node/2).

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences.

1st class Honours (or equivalent) degree in Chemistry with excellent skills and experiences in organic synthesis and characterisation
Synthesis of organic photo-detector materials

Positions are available for PhD candidates to work on a project supported by the Commonwealth in developing new classes of organic light absorbers for photo-detectors. The research is interdisciplinary and the candidates will work closely with world-class researchers in physics and chemistry and gain a first class postgraduate education at the state-of-the-art research centre, (http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/cope/node/2).

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences.

1st class Honours (or equivalent) degree in Chemistry with excellent skills and experiences in organic synthesis and characterisation

Dr Elizabeth Krenske

e.krenske@uq.edu.au

Computational Chemistry

Positions are available for PhD students to work on the Commonwealth supported project in developing new classes of light-emitting and light-absorbing materials for use in lighting technology and photo-detectors. The research involves computational modelling of the properties of new materials, and the use of theoretical techniques to model chemical reactivity. The candidates will work closely with world-class researchers in chemistry and physics and gain a first class postgraduate education associated with the state-of-the-art research centre, (http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/cope/node/2).

Students will enrol through the School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences.

1st class Honours (or equivalent) degree in Chemistry with excellent skills and experiences in organic chemistry and/or computational chemistry

 

Dr Talitha Santini

t.santini@uq.edu.au

 

From tailings to soil: in situ remediation in mine site rehabilitation

PhD project 1: Tailings are geochemically dynamic materials at extremes of pH and salinity. Their unusual geochemistry and mineralogy pose major challenges for geochemical modelling and prediction of weathering behaviour. This project focusses on improving understanding of trace element geochemistry and zeolite mineralogy at alkaline pH, and characterising speciation and mobility of trace elements and zeolite mineral reactivity as pH decreases. This information will 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 during tailings remediation.

Students will enrol through the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences.

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.

PhD project 2: Tailings and mine wastes typically host low diversity, low biomass microbial communities without targeted remediation, posing a major barrier to development of a functional, healthy soil. Opportunities also exist to engineer microbial communities to play active roles in achieving remediation goals. This project will evaluate microbially-based strategies for tailings remediation in combination with traditional chemical and physical approaches, as well as primary succession and development of functional capacity in microbial communities in tailings. Microbiological techniques 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.

Students will enrol through the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences.

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

PhD project 3: 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 high sodicity and extreme pH of most tailings materials exacerbate these physical challenges to prevent development of stable structure. This project focusses on combining novel, microbially-driven approaches based on extracellular polysaccharide production with standard chemical and physical approaches for promoting formation of stable aggregates in tailings, and modelling and understanding the impacts of structure development on hydrology and aeration.

Students will enrol through the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences.

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.

Dr Jacqui Romero

m.romero@uq.edu.au

Knowledge, Ignorance, and Security in Higher-dimensional Quantum Systems

In quantum physics, the best possible knowledge of a whole does not include the best possible knowledge of the parts-- not knowing any of the letters of a word does not imply not knowing what the word is. In this project, we will exploit the high-dimensional transverse spatial modes of photon to experimentally show that the converse is also true: not knowing the word does not imply not knowing any of the letters. This counter-intuitive notion is unique to higher-dimensional systems, and impacts the security of quantum cryptography.

Students will enrol through the School of Mathematics & Physics.

Honours/Masters in Physics, preferably with experience in experimental optics

Dr Ebinazar Namdas

e.namdas@uq.edu.au

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs)

Positions are available for PhD students to work on the Commonwealth supported project in developing a new class of lighting technology based on organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). The research is interdisciplinary and the candidates will work closely with world-class researchers in physics and chemistry and gain a first class postgraduate education at the state-of-the-art research centre, (http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/cope/node/2).

Students will enrol through the School of Mathematics & Physics.

1st class Honours degree or equivalent degree in Physics or Engineering with skills and experiences in condense matter physics/semiconductors/optics
Organic photo-detectors (OPDs)

Positions are available for PhD students to work on the  Commonwealth supported project in developing a new class of photo-detectors based on organic semiconductors.  research is interdisciplinary and the candidates will work closely with world-class researchers in physics and chemistry and gain a first class postgraduate education at the state-of-the-art research centre, (http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/cope/node/2).

Students will enrol through the School of Mathematics & Physics.

1st class Honours degree or equivalent degree in Physics or Engineering with skills and experiences in condense matter physics/semiconductors/optics
Spectroscopy of light emitting semiconductor materials

Positions are available for PhD students to work spectroscopy of light emitting organic semiconducting materials. The candidate will work closely with world-class researchers in physics and chemistry and gain a first class postgraduate education at the state-of-the-art research centre, (http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/cope/node/2).

Students will enrol through the School of Mathematics & Physics.

1st class Honours degree or equivalent degree in Physics or Physical Chemistry with skills and experiences spectroscopy and optics

Dr Tiina Manne

t.manne@uq.edu.au

50,000 years of human subsistence behaviour in northern Australia

Characterisation of damage to animal bone through experimental research, followed by application of this data to several archaeological bone assemblages.

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

BSc Hon in archaeology and zoology/biology

Dr Magdalena Zych

m.zych@uq.edu.au

Quantum and gravitational causal structures – foundations and information-processing applications

Quantum information processing offers quantifiable advantages over information processing according to the rules of classical physics. It has recently been discovered that exploiting quantum rules for ordering the application of information-processing steps according offers additional advantages. These new protocols thus make use of quantum causal order to the benefit of quantum information processing. Surprisingly, connections have been found between such protocols and causal structures arising from the combination of quantum theory and general relativity. This PhD project will provide a comprehensive description of quantum and general-relativistic causal structures and identify which of them offer advantages in quantum information processing. It will then design and contribute to implementation of quantum optics experiments illustrating the power of these novel causal structures. The outcomes of this project will contribute to the research on the structure of space-time in the context of quantum gravity theories as well as to the research in quantum information, by providing novel quantum information processing protocols with a quantum-gravitational interpretation.

Students will enrol through the School of Mathematics and Physics.

Ideally, the candidate will have a  background in basic quantum mechanics, general relativity (and/or astrophysics, and will have some practical experience in experimental quantum optics.

Dr Jianhua Guo

j.guo@awmc.uq.edu.au

Application of bacteriophages to control antibiotic resistant bacteria in urban water systems

The spread of antibiotic resistance has posed major threats for public health. The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) has prompted the need for an efficient antibacterial control other than antibiotics. In this project, bacteriophages will be isolated from activated sludge and bacteriophage-based control will be assessed in vitro for its ability to inhibit or damage emerging ARB. The outcomes will offer a novel approach to controlling ARB in urban water systems.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemical Engineering.

First class (I) honours or MSc, with a background of Environmental Microbiology, Bioengineering, or Genetics
 

Professor Sara Dolnicar

s.dolnicar@uq.edu.au

Triggering pro-environmental behaviour in pleasure-seeking contexts

This project aims to reduce the environmental harm done by the 5th most polluting industry – tourism – by
triggering environmentally friendly behaviours in tourists rather than relying on government or industry action. Using field experiments, the effectiveness of newly developed theory-based measures to reduce plate waste at hotel buffets will be tested, resulting in: (1) a new theoretical understanding of pro-environmental behaviour in pleasure-seeking contexts which challenges current theories; (2) practical measures hotels can use to reduce plate waste. Given one billion tourists travel each year, such measures can substantially improve sustainability of tourism globally, regionally and locally.
 

Students will enrol through the UQ Business School.

(experimental) psychology

Dr Mark Blaskovich

m.blaskovich@uq.edu.au

Lipopeptide antibiotics for XDR Gram-negative infections

The polymyxins are a drug class considered to be a last-resort treatment option for multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extremely drug resistant (XDR) Gram-negative infections. Unfortunately resistance is rapidly developing against these antibiotics, leaving no effective therapies and resulting in patient death. This project aims to develop an antibiotic with superior spectra of action and improved safety profiles compared to the polymyxins, with activity against polymyxin-resistant bacteria. It is based on a related class called the octapeptins, for which we recently published the first synthesis (Cell Chemical Biology, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2018.01.005; Biorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2017, 27, 2407). This project will conduct additional structure-activity relationship studies with associated microbiological and ADMET testing.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Medicinal chemistry with strong synthetic chemistry background; peptide chemistry a benefit. This project is cross disciplinary, and a background or aptitude to also conduct biological testing (MIC assays, cytotoxicity, protein binding, plasma and microsomal stability, confocal microscopy) would be beneficial.

Professor Gene Tyson

g.tyson@uq.edu.au

Genome-level insight into the dynamics of a model coral microbiome

Microorganisms form an intimate symbiotic relationship with corals and are critical to their health. However, our basic understanding of how the microbiome composition and metabolic function changes within a coral species over seasonal cycles is limited. Here, we will reconstruct microbial genomes from the branching coral Acropora tenuis, to examine the structural and functional microbiome dynamics in response to natural temperature variation on the Great Barrier Reef. This will provide insight into the role the microbiome
plays in maintaining coral health.

Students will enrol through the School of Chemical and Molecular Biosciences.

Excellent academic performance to Honours/Masters level (First Class/Distinction), evidenced by a high Grade Point Average (GPA); and a general interest in microbial ecology. 


Desirable requirements for applicants: One or more peer-reviewed research publications. A background in bioinformatics (Linux/Unix, python, R) is preferred.

Dr Angela Dean

a.dean@uq.edu.au

Promoting stewardship: identifying pathways to greater participation

This project explores the role of stewardship to promote biodiversity. In particular, this project explores the environmental impact of different stewardship behaviours, and integrates environmental science with behavioural science to promote stronger uptake of stewardship behaviours. 

Students will enrol through the School of Biology.

Environmental science
Sustainability
Practical experience working with industry partners