First published 31 January 2020

We are pleased to announce that all 2020 STEM Research Internship Placements have now been filled. 

The program generated significant interest this year, with over 450 quality applicants. Congratulations to all who have been offered a place!


Ever wondered about a career in research? 

Join some of QUT's leading researchers at this year's High School STEM Research Internship Program. The internship program runs from Tuesday 7th to Friday 10th July 2020. 

Read on for more information about the exciting research placements in 2020.

Institute for Future Environments Placement: Solving Tomorrow’s Problems Today

Associate Professor Charlotte Allen, Dr Jawahar Nerkar, Dr Dmitry Bratanov, Elaine Mitchell

QUT’s Institute for Future Environments (IFE)

STEM Disciplines explored: Environment, Civil and Mechanical Engineering; Physics; Chemistry, Mathematics; Robotics

Assumed knowledge: Physics, Chemistry

At QUT’s Institute for Future Environments (IFE), we study how our natural, built and virtual environments interact, change and converge, to find ways to make them more sustainable, secure and resilient. We bring the brightest minds together with cutting edge facilities to take on the grand challenges that will shape our future.

In this placement, students will rotate through four of IFE’s areas of expertise working with leading researchers to explore the tools to solve the problems of the future:

  • Energy: How can we store and transmit energy to power a planet and move its people? Explore QUT’s battery fabrication facility and superconductors research reducing the size of conventional motors (with Dr Jawahar Nerkar).
  • Remote sensing: Robots and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) are changing the way we explore and interact with the world, but what kind of new opportunities are they opening up? Join our experts in the Research Engineering Facility to work on the engineering and operations of airborne robots (with Dr Dmitry Bratanov).
  • Chemical signatures: Identifying traces of elements in a range of gas, liquid and solid substances allows us to find important metal ores, measure atmospheric greenhouse gases, detect trace elements in food, and more. Our analytical laboratory houses an array of top-end instruments for chemically analysing samples down to parts per trillion. Students will work with researchers using these tools to answer questions about the future of our earth and environment (with A/Prof Charlotte Allen).
  • Improving Agriculture: Can dirt save the earth? Agriculture could pull carbon out of the air and into the soil, thereby helping to reduce carbon emissions. However, in order to achieve this, we need a whole new way of thinking about how we manage our agricultural land. Join a team currently working with industry to do just that (with Elaine Mitchell).


Cancer and Ageing Research Program Placement

Dr Joshua Burgess

QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at Translational Research Institute

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Biology, Biochemistry

Assumed knowledge: Biology

This research placement will take place at the Cancer and Ageing Research Program (CARP) based at the Translational Research Institute. The CARP research team seeks to understand the cellular mechanisms leading to ageing and ageing-related diseases such as cancer. Our aim is to develop new treatments that will slow the ageing process, treat different types of solid cancers or predict the sensibility of tumours to current treatments. The students joining the CARP lab for an internship will be in the lab working and interacting one-on-one with researchers. Students will gain practical experience in the laboratory and beyond the lab work, the students will have the opportunity to attend scientific seminars presented during the week as well as engage with the researchers and students from the CARP lab. This unique experience will let the students discover the different opportunities in the field of medical research and how QUT can help them for their future career in science.


Central Analytical Research Facility Placement: Mass Spectrometry Imaging

Dr David Marshall

QUT’s Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF), Institute for Future Environments (IFE)

STEM Disciplines explored: Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Science, Technology, Biology

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry, Physics

Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is a rapidly emerging technology for mapping molecular distributions within biological samples. MSI is already yielding game-changing advances in fundamental science, health, and medicine. This placement will give students access to state-of-the-art high resolution MSI instrumentation fused with unique analytical technologies developed at QUT. As the primary function of a mass spectrometer is to measure mass, it is perhaps not surprising that conventional MSI experiments group together all molecules with a common mass. However, this limitation masks the distributions of closely related molecules in complex tissue sections. Students will work with researchers in the CARF Mass Spectrometry Development Laboratory to develop methods that resolve the spatial distribution of molecules with the same mass but different chemical structures and biological functions (isomers). This additional dimension of resolution affords researchers a first glimpse of isomer-specific images that are used to visualise changes resulting from underlying chemical or metabolic processes currently invisible to contemporary imaging technologies. For example, our advances offer an unprecedented visualisation of: (1) specific enzyme activities relating to brain function; (2) age-related changes in the lens of the human eye. In this placement, students will learn how fundamental ion chemistry and physics underpin the development of new technologies for biomolecular analysis and imaging. Future translation of this technology into diagnostic medicine is anticipated through application of isomer-specific MSI as a unique tissue classifier for disease progression.


Design Robotics Placement: Exploring creative applications of robotic technologies

Dr Jared Donovan

QUT Design Lab

STEM Disciplines explored: Design, Robotics, Information Systems

Assumed knowledge: coding/programming knowledge, 3D modelling knowledge, strong interest in design and creativity

In this research placement, students will get to combine their STEM skills with their creative side. Interns will program a robotic arm to generate unique ‘light-painting’ images as three-dimensional data visualisations. The robotic arm is a special type, called a collaborative robot, which is safe for humans to interact with and can be easily reprogrammed. Part of the placement will involve coming up with concepts for ways that this arm could be programmed and used by non-expert users. The placement will also explore new possibilities for data visualisation using the light-painting approach.


Precision Photochemistry Placement

Dr James Blinco

QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty (SEF), Centre for Materials Science

STEM Disciplines explored: Chemistry, Photophysics, Materials Science

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry, Physics

Light is an abundant resource that surrounds us every day. In nature, the energy contained in light is used to trigger all of sorts of different chemical reactions, the most common example being photosynthesis to make plants grow. Our research group takes inspiration from nature and tries to develop new materials that can be created or morphed using light energy. These materials can be found in dental fillings, in 3D printing resins and in OLED devices, just to name a few.

In this placement, students will perform some precision photochemical reactions, and investigate the dependence of the reactions on the colour of light applied. They will use light to turn liquid solutions into solid structures and then measure and characterise the structures they produce. Students will gain experience in synthetic laboratory methods and high precision materials characterisation.

In an energy-conscious world, light reactions are an obvious path forward to develop environmentally friendly materials. During this placement, students will gain just a glimpse of what is possible when we harness the power of light.


Child & Reproductive Health Placement: Cannabidiol treatment of epilepsy in children

Professor Murray Mitchell, Dr Eman Masood, Dr Hassendrini Peiris and Dr Olivia Holland

QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at Centre for Children’s Health Research (CCHR)

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry, Physics

Students will be placed with the Child & Reproductive Health Research Group (CRHRG) where they will explore the actions of cannabidiol on neuronal cells. Cannabidiol is used as a treatment or adjunct to treatment for an increasing number of diseases yet we do not know its mechanism of action. Interns will work alongside researchers to investigate the actions of this cannabis constituent on cells in culture using methods that include ELISA, PCR and mass spectrometry. Interns will complete this placement understanding the approaches taken to understand how active substances affect cell function.


Feeding the future and converting agricultural waste into valuable and renewable materials

Dr Julia Bally, Dr Laleh Moghaddam

QUT’s Institute for Future Environments (IFE)

STEM Disciplines explored: Sustainable agriculture, biotechnology, Crop genomics, Microbial systems, Industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology, Bioprocessing technologies, Agrifood systems, Future leaders

Assumed knowledge: Biology, Chemistry

In this placement, interns will work alongside researchers from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty and the Centre for Agriculture and Bioeconomy (CAB).

CAB’s research makes a significant contribution to improving tropical agriculture and developing the biocommodity sector in Australia and supporting agricultural advancement globally through their work in developing countries such as Africa, India and South-East Asia.  As part of QUT’s Institute for Future Environments, CAB's researchers and staff collaborate with government and industry partners to bring research solutions and innovations to the real world.

From enabling farmers to grow more food using less water and chemicals, to improving crop nutrition and pest resistance, to discovering new ways to efficiently and profitably use agricultural waste products, CAB researchers are committed to finding innovations and knowledge that make our world more sustainable, secure and resilient.


Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre Queensland Placement: How cancer cells escape and survive therapy

Dr Jennifer Gunter

QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at Translational Research Institute

STEM Disciplines explored: Biomedical Science, Cell Biology, Biochemistry

Assumed knowledge: interest in Biology and Chemistry

In this placement, students will research how cancer cells make and use energy to escape and survive therapy – a phenomenon called therapy resistance. Students will be working with researchers who use cancer cell models to measure various ways that prostate cancers respond to current therapies to try and predict their typical escape strategies, focusing on the metabolic pathways they use to adapt. Once these new pathways are identified, inhibitors can be added to see whether the combination kills the cancer cells more effectively. Tissue culture, microscopy, and biochemistry techniques will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of new drug combinations to combat therapy resistance. Interns will test combinations of repurposed and novel compounds in different combinations and assess one of 3 aspects of the cellular metabolism: cell viability, mitochondrial respiration, mitochondrial morphometry to evaluate the impact of the treatments, and to discover the most 'effective' adjuvant therapy.


Natural Minerals in Environmental Remediation Placement

Associate Professor Yunfei Xi

QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty (SEF), Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Institute for Future Environments (IFE)

STEM Disciplines explored: Environmental Science, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Nanoscience

Assumed knowledge: Chemistry

Recent industrialisation and urbanisation have increased concentrations of a wide range of contaminants, which are toxic to human health and the environment. Therefore, environmental remediation solutions have turned into an important research area. In this placement, interns will research the applications of Australia’s natural minerals to provide practical and environmentally benign solutions to these environmental issues through environmental and materials sciences. Specifically, the research and development of mineral based adsorbent or catalytic materials to remediate contaminants from water or air.


Artificial Intelligence and Road Safety Placement

Dr Mahmoud Masoud, Dr Mohammed Elhenawy

QUT Faculty of Health (FOH)

STEM Disciplines explored: Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Heuristics, Engineering, Data Science, Technology

Assumed knowledge: coding/programming knowledge

In this placement students will be placed in QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q). CARRS-Q mission is to make an international impact on transport, occupational and community safety through research and education.

There are two major sections of the placement, students will be introduced to the fundamentals of machine learning, and optimization heuristics and its utilisation to improve road safety by Dr Mohammed Elhenawy and Dr Mahmoud Masoud.

Also, during this placement students will explore a number of research projects from within CARRS-Q including;

  • an insight into the future of the Automated Vehicle Technology with Prof. Sebastien Glaser,
  • a visit to the Advance CARRS-Q simulator with Mr Adrian Wilson, Dr Gregoire Larue and Dr Sebastien Demmel. (students with their drivers’ licence will be allowed to drive the simulator!), and
  • an introduction to Virtual Reality (VR) technology by Michael Gerber and Dr Ronald Schroeter.

Ultimately, students will assist researchers towards creating a safer world in which injury-related harm is uncommon and unacceptable.

STEM for Schools