Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Dr Laura Morrissey

Main Campus
Mawson Lakes

Applications Close
04 Jun 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic Only)

About this project 

Discover new methods for exploring for rare earth elements

If you are seeking to advance your career in geology and are interested in developing skills relevant to the emerging critical minerals sector, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within the Mineral Exploration Cooperative Research Centre (MinEX CRC). The MinEX CRC is the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration bringing together researchers from industry, government, and multiple universities.

Rare earth elements (REE) are considered critical minerals because they are used extensively in many modern devices (e.g., smartphones) and clean energy technology (e.g., wind turbines). We need to increase our capacity to discover and produce REEs. Clay-hosted REE deposits are gaining increasing interest from the Australian exploration community because of their potentially low environmental impact and cost recovery. However, there are very few models of the formation of these deposits that can be used to guide regional-scale targeting.

Our project will investigate several South Australian clay-hosted REE deposits and prospects to improve our understanding of the key requirements for their formation. The project will examine samples of the basement (fresh rock) and the clay-rich weathering profiles that host the elevated REE zones to develop an exploration model for these deposits. The results of this work could be directly used by mineral explorers searching for these types of deposits. You will be based within the Future Industries Institute, working directly with geology and soil science researchers, using a range of world-class analytical facilities and laboratories for the project, including a new laser ablation microanalysis facility. You will also work in partnership with the Geological Survey of South Australia. As part of the MinEX CRC, you will be able to take advantage of regular development activities and workshops.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will use state-of-the-art technology to undertake sample preparation, acid leaching experiments, and high-resolution imaging of samples using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and laser ablation inductively coupled time of flight mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-TOFMS). You will also have the opportunity to undertake fieldwork with mineral exploration companies and the Geological Survey of South Australia, providing you with a unique opportunity to engage with end users and build your networking experience. 

On completion, you will possess skills in petrology, analytical chemistry, and interpreting geological datasets. You will also possess an in-depth understanding of the processes operating during weathering and the formation of soil profiles. We will support and encourage you to attend an international conference and several national conferences. This will provide you with connections within academia and the opportunity to hone your communication skills. The critical minerals research space is rapidly expanding both within Australia and internationally. The in-demand skills, knowledge, and expertise you gain will position you well for an exciting career in academia, government, or industry.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the Future Industries Institute (FII) which was established with a new research culture in mind – one deeply engaged with industry, with the end goal of building economic growth through relevant innovation and industry partnership. The Institute reflects the University’s strategic ambition to be Australia’s University of Enterprise which engages fully with the professions and industry globally, whose research is informed, leading edge, and relevant. FII continues to forge national and international research partnerships in new industries and technologies that address real-world issues. Our goal is to support a creative and engaged culture and to help develop a sustainable ecosystem in which innovative, complex, growth-focused industries thrive. FII's research supports state and national research priorities and comprises top research teams able to collaborate across disciplines and work with industry partners to deliver innovative solutions. With a vibrant research environment, a strong industry orientation, and active international and national links, both academic and industry-based, the Institute is among the very best in Australia and attracts and retains leading researchers.

Supervisory team

Geological Survey of South Australia
Financial Support

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses.  Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time. 

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to application from domestic applicants only. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD degree. Applicants who can also demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:  

  • Have completed Undergraduate degree and Honours or Masters degree in geology/earth science
  • Have some experience with lab work (chemistry or earth science related)

Have some experience with analytical instrumentation (e.g. SEM, ICP­MS, electron microprobe)

A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate. The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and be based at our Mawson Lakes Campus in the north of Adelaide.

Essential Dates

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer. Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on, Sunday 4 June 2023.

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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