Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Professor Mizanur Rahman

Main Campus
Mawson Lakes

Applications Close
30 Jan 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:
All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$29,863 p.a. available to domestic and international applicants

About this project

Develop a new model to stabilise tailings material

If you’re keen to pursue a career in civil engineering/geotechnical engineering/geology and interested in developing innovations for the mining industry, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering an important project-based PhD with industry impact within the UniSA STEM Unit.

Millions of tonnes of tailings, a by-product of the mining process, are generated around the world and stored in tailing dams. As the height of these dams increases over time, so too does the risk of failure. 

The challenge in constructing tailing dams is the lack of geotechnical characterisation of these artificial materials produced by high-energy crushing and grinding. Therefore, there are significant uncertainties when assessing their engineering properties using geotechnical empirical correlations, because these correlations have been primarily derived from natural soils. 

Outcomes of our previous studies reveal that tailing dams need stabilisation as well as geotechnical characterisation. In this study, we will use an innovative and greener approach of biocementation, where urease enzymes will be extracted from an Australian weed, Paddy melon, to catalyse the combination of carbonate and calcium ions from natural calcium chloride solution, which precipitate calcium carbonate at inter-particle spaces in tailings to join and stabilise them. 

We aim to produce a new constitutive model which can be implemented in FLAC3D using FSIH code.

You will work with the Geotechnical Research Team within the UniSA STEM Unit. The team won the research excellence team award in 2022 STEM/FII Awards and is also known internationally for its high-quality research leadership. The group has made valuable contributions to the geotechnical community in both industry and academia and currently collaborates with more than 35 local, national and international organisations. 

As part of this team, you will have access to world-class geotechnical laboratory facilities and equipment and opportunities to learn how to use advanced testing devices for triaxial, simple shear, direct shear, etc.

The team currently hosts a diverse cohort of PhD students and maintains an inclusive and supportive environment in which students can prepare for their future careers. Many of our students have been recognised for their work through the Australian Geomechanics Society awards and STEM research awards. 

What you’ll do

In this research degree project, you will undertake both numerical and laboratory work. In the laboratory, you will carry out biocementation processes, advanced triaxial testing, large-scale soil column testing with regular monitoring, and related numerical modelling. 

You will need to perform a series of triaxial and simple shear tests and then calibrate the model parameters based on the experimental results. Then, you will need to propose a new constitutive model for a wide range of soils. This constitutive model will then be implemented in FLAC3D to facilitate stability analysis of tailing dams.

We will train you in how to use advanced testing devices for triaxial, simple shear, direct shear tests, etc. Hands-on experience in both numerical modelling and laboratory experimentation is rare, so you will graduate with a competitive edge in the employment market. 

Soft skills are equally important, and you will develop strong capabilities in teamwork, problem-solving, work ethics, and time management. We will support you to attend at least one international conference, which will help build your communication and networking skills. 

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the UniSA STEM Unit. We link engineering, mathematics, science, defence, cybersecurity, construction management, environmental science, aviation, information management, information technology, and project management, harnessing the connections across disciplines to bring big ideas to fruition. 

Our researchers deliver technical expertise and advice to industry, government and community groups to make commercially viable and sustainable impacts. The Future Industries Institute, the Innovation and Collaboration Centre and the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments all provide consultancy and access to advanced technology. 

We integrate research into our teaching, with students working alongside researchers in first-class facilities. What’s discovered one day is taught the next.  

In an information-rich world, our people think big, combatting problems, testing solutions and making data-driven decisions. Our graduates are entrepreneurs and trailblazers, who design and build the world they want to live in.  

Supervisory Team
Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $29,863 per annum is available to eligible applicants. 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 for domestic students or international students.

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our Mawson Lakes Campus in the north of Adelaide. Note that international students on a student visa will need to study full-time.

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 Monday, 30th January 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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