Philanthropy enabling PhD students to tackle the big problems

15th January 2020

Support from generous donors, in partnership with QUT, is fostering the next generation of STEM researchers to seek solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Thanks to a range of scholarships, promising PhD students are provided the opportunity to undertake innovative research projects that are addressing globally significant problems.
Two of these scholarships have recently been awarded to talented PhD students from the Science and Engineering Faculty. 

Daniel Wellner is the recipient of the 2019 Water Process Engineering PhD Scholarship for producing healthier water for small remote communities. 

A philanthropic gift from QUT graduates, Russell Board and Narelle Ivers, in conjunction with the Faculty, this scholarship will enable Daniel to complete his PhD while developing new knowledge that could solve a major public health problem - the challenge of supplying clean drinking water to remote communities.

Daniel’s project perfectly aligns with the vision of the donors. His research is focused on treating contaminated water by developing a low-cost, solar-powered water treatment system for remote Australian communities. 

Together with his Supervisor, Professor Graeme Millar, the project aims to reduce the higher-than-average prevalence of Chronic Kidney Disease in remote Aboriginal communities that may be caused by contaminated drinking water.

While conventional technologies to treat contaminated water aren’t compatible with remote communities because they are energy intensive and complex to operate, this scholarship is maximising the potential to engineer this new system to be a viable and cost-effective solution in these areas. 

“Russell is very interested in the work we are doing and keeps abreast of our progress. The goals of this project are near and dear to his heart because of his past experience with remote Indigenous communities and the need for adequate safe water. His generosity is funding our research that aims to radically change water availability and the ability to recycle it,” Daniel commented.

Professor Millar said that the impact of the scholarship can’t be overestimated.
“This gift is a huge step in the right direction to help us find a way to use renewable energy to deliver clean water to the communities that need it most. Our initial focus is a remote community in Queensland, but this project has the potential to deliver benefits to communities around Australia and the world.“Without this scholarship, the project simply wouldn’t exist,” he said.

WH Byran PhD Scholarship in Earth Sciences

Talented PhD student, Robert Emo, is also making waves thanks to the generous WH Bryan PhD Scholarship in Queensland Earth Sciences.

Emeritus Professor WH Bryan was a geologist, educator and decorated World War I military veteran. 

This $150,000 scholarship, established by the Bryan Foundation, celebrates his legacy and is awarded to a candidate who is passionate about making a global impact through earth sciences research in Queensland. 

Robert was offered the philanthropic support based on the quality of his application and the potential of his chosen project, following a competitive process that was open to three Queensland universities with strengths in earth sciences research. 

As the inaugural recipient, Robert, under the supervision of Professor Balz Kamber, is trying to unlock the mysteries of the Earth’s lower crust by studying rare rocks brought to the Earth’s surface from as far as 30 kilometres deep by extinct Queensland volcanoes. 

“My research aims to link the evolution of Queensland’s lower crust to shallower processes expressed at the surface, such as the formation of the sedimentary basins that include Queensland’s coal beds,” Robert said. 

“Through the generous funding of The Bryan Foundation, I am very excited to be able to conduct cutting-edge research with the state-of-the-art equipment at QUT.” 

According to Professor Kamber, the timing of the WH Byan PhD Scholarship has coincided with a noticeable increase in public interest in the earth sciences. 

“At long last geology has become relevant to society – I had to wait 25 years for that. We all want electric cars, solar cells, fancy new gizmos – all of these require materials that are found by a geologist. 

“We also want to know more about climate. The only way we can predict the future climate is to know about the past,” said Professor Kamber.

Emeritus Professor Bryan’s grandson, Associate Professor Scott Bryan, who is a geologist at QUT, is pleased that his family’s gift is helping Robert advance our understanding of Queensland earth sciences.

"The Bryan Foundation was set up almost 10 years ago as a vehicle to give back to the community and to create a perpetual family legacy," he said. 

“We look forward to seeing the successes of Robert in the coming years as the inaugural WH Bryan Scholar.” 

To find out how you could support PhD candidates like Daniel and Robert to progress their research projects, please contact Kym Mansfield, Senior Development Officer (STEM), on +61 7 3138 7840 or at

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