Developing the Framework for a National Wastewater Surveillance Program for Antimicrobial Resistance

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. Antimicrobial resistance, and particularly resistant bacterial disease outbreaks, are both a global and national threat. In fact, by 2050, it is estimated that 10 million excess deaths globally will have occurred at a cumulative cost of US$100 trillion.

Currently there is no robust way to detect and monitor the emergence of dangerous drug resistant bacteria in the general community. Instead, surveillance is usually based on cases of infections in a region, which may be too late to control outbreaks. Our research has pioneered how chemical (e.g. pharmaceutical) usage is measured in the general population through the analysis of communal wastewater. Additionally, our research has shown that diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 can also be monitored using wastewater analysis. Therefore, the vision of this project is to now use wastewater analysis to provide a surveillance strategy for monitoring antimicrobial resistance in the general population. The overall goal is to develop a national wastewater antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use surveillance method.

Opportunities exist for an outstanding PhD candidate to work on one or more innovative aspects of this project. The primary aims of this project are:

  1. Develop chemical analysis methods for antimicrobial biomarkers in wastewater influent
  2. Adapt metagenomic analysis techniques to increase sensitivity for antimicrobial resistance in wastewater influent
  3. Conduct a nationwide screening of antimicrobial compounds and antimicrobial resistance genes using wastewater-based epidemiology with spatial and temporal comparisons
  4. Identify any social, demographic, and economic drivers of antimicrobial use and influence on antimicrobial resistance gene levels

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Jake O'Brien

Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of environmental science, analytical chemistry, public health, forensic chemistry, data science or epidemiology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of antimicrobial resistance is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2025. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process