Centre for Materials Science - multiple projects available

Future student scholarship

Scholarship details

Study levels


Student type

Future students

Study area

Engineering, Information technology and Science and mathematics

Eligibility criteria

Academic performance

Application dates

Applications close
31 May 2020

What you'll receive

A scholarship, tax exempt and indexed annually $28,092 per annum for a period of 3 years will be provided to the successful applicant.

Paid leave is provided equivalent to QUTPRA scholarships. The scholarship does provide access to a student travel allowance but does not cover relocation expenses or paid extensions.

International students will also receive either:

  • an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset (International)
  • a QUT research degree (HDR) tuition fee scholarship.

As the scholarship recipient, you will have the opportunity to work with a team of leading researchers, to undertake your own innovative research in and across the fields of materials sciences, and to gain an internationally recognised postgraduate qualification.

The scholarship will be governed by QUTPRA rules.


To apply for this scholarship, you must meet the entry requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at QUT, including any English language requirements for international students.

Specific projects may have additional eligibility requirements, as detailed below under "How to Apply"

QUT and the Centre are committed to Equity and Diversity among our staff and students, to ensure that we mirror the diversity of the community in which QUT exists. In 2018, this was recognised by QUT receiving a Bronze Award in the inaugural SAGE Athena SWAN gender and diversity program.

Woman and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are encouraged to apply.

How to apply

The Centre for Materials Science have multiple projects available - please see below for project details and application requirements:

Project - A new frontier in observing and controlling macromolecular morphologies at the picometer level

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate with a strong interest in organic and macromolecular synthetic chemistry to join our multi-national and transcontinental research team based in the Soft Matter Materials Laboratory at QUT. (http://www.macroarc.org/).

To apply you must provide undergraduate academic transcripts with marks and ranking; two detailed letters of reference (including one from the supervisor of your research thesis); a letter of motivation; and a full CV and publication list (the later, if applicable).

About the Project

The project will enable spatio-temporal control of solid-state macromolecular morphologies at an unprecedented level of resolution. At stake this is the first real-time observation of quasi-atomistic transformations in macromolecules by light.

The project will break new ground in making nanostructured morphologies programmable by light in the solid state, while concomitantly observing the light-induced rearrangement of the constituting polymer chains at the single chain level. You will construct photo-responsive blockcopolymers to effect pre-determined changes in the blockcopolymers´ nanoscopic assemblies, for example, going from a lamellae to a gyroid structure. The nanoscopic assemblies and morphology changes will be analysed and characterized with advanced characterization techniques, i.e. a high-resolution transmission electron microscope.

Key Contact

Please send your completed application in a single PDF document to Prof. Christopher Barner-Kowollik (christopher.barnerkowollik@qut.edu.au).

Project - Single-layer 2D heterostructures on epitaxial graphene for future electronics

You must have a physics / material science background and some experience in surface science and/or growth and characterisation of graphene and two dimensional materials.

About the Project

In this project we aim at growing new two dimensional (2D) heterostructures based on graphene epitaxially grown on insulating SiC. The realisation of graphene-based 2D heterostructures on insulating substrates represents a major breakthrough in the field, paving the way to the development of industrial applications in nano-optics, nanoelectronics and nano-electromechanical systems. Graphene will be grown on SiC by high temperature annealing in a controlled atmosphere. After a thorough characterisation of the surface atomic structure, electronic band structure and electronic properties via state-of-the art surface science probes and synchrotron radiation spectroscopy, the stacking of 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs, e.g. MoS2, WS2) by chemical vapour deposition will then enable us to create graphene-based 2D heterostructures with novel optical and electronic properties. These properties will be tested in real electronic and optoelectronic devices.

Key Contact

Please contact Prof Nunzio Motta (n.motta@qut.edu.au)

Project - Hearing colour and seeing sound - switchable polymer molecular imaging agents for visualizing disease progression

The application must include a personal motivation letter as well as a CV, including two reference letters.

About the Project

Molecular imaging aims to use non-invasive techniques to probe and visualize molecules in the body, which can be used to measure biochemical processes and disease progression. While these can be endogenous molecules, it is common to use exogenous and synthetic agents. One particularly interesting class of exogenous agents are polymer imaging agents, as they have high chemical functionality and can be designed to optimize their biological properties.

In this project you will aim to synthesise and characterise polymeric molecular imaging agents, which are able to switch their signal output based on interactions with biochemical processes. This can include optical energy for fluorescence imaging, acoustic signal for photoacoustic imaging and electronic properties for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). While the imaging techniques are diverse, the fundamental principle are the same, the chemical nature of the polymer will govern its physical properties. By creating a system that harnesses dynamic chemistry, the physical properties can be modified, ultimately switching the signal detected by the imaging instrument. The project will be focused on the synthesis of polymeric materials, characterising the chemical and physical structure of these materials, and understanding how these changes affect the detectable signal.

This is an interdisciplinary project, with opportunities in small molecule synthesis and characterization, polymer synthesis and characterization, material science, biomedical science and pre-clinical science. The interdisciplinary nature of the project allows for the focus to be tailored by the candidate, to craft a unique PhD experience for themselves.

The project is supported by collaborations with experts in material science, pre-clinical science and medical imaging.

Key Contact

Please contact Dr Nathan Boase (nathan.boase@qut.edu.au)

Project - Mapping oxidation state and crystallisation dynamics in metal oxide thin films for catalysts and energy storage devices

You must be willing and able to travel to synchrotron radiation facilities both interstate and overseas.

About the Project

Understanding the heterogeneous chemical and structural changes that occur in thin metal oxide films when used as catalysts for water splitting to produce hydrogen is critical for the development of more efficient materials. This project will lead the field in developing novel experimental design and analytical methods to investigate these processes, using a combination of spatially resolved X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) and spatially resolved micro X-ray diffraction (uXRD). These experiments will be predominantly based at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne.

The preferred candidate will have a solid background in X-ray analytical methods such as X-ray Diffraction or X-ray Fluorescence.

Key Contact

Please contact Dr Michael Jones (mw.jones@qut.edu.au) or Prof Anthony O'Mullane (anthony.omullane@qut.edu.au)

Project - Single atom on ferroelectric layers for controlled photocatalytic CO2 reduction

You should have a background in chemistry, physics and/or material science. Candidates with the experience of materials simulation and who can use VASP, SIESTA, Material Studio are preferred.

About the Project

The research will focus on the use of atomistic simulations to calculate the optical adsorption, band alignment and reaction barriers/pathway, based on the density functional theory. In the meantime, laboratory work including materials synthesis and characterization, photocatalytic CO2 reduction, and device fabrication will be conducted.

Key Contact

Please contact Dr Liangzhi Kou (liangzhi.kou@qut.edu.au) or Dr Jingsan Xu (jingsan.xu@qut.edu.au)

Project - Programming and Real-Time Monitoring Light Degradability of Polymers

You should have a B.Sc.(hons) or M.Sc. degree in chemistry. A strong background in organic chemistry and mass spectrometry would be highly valuable. Other desirable skillsets would include experience in polymer synthesis, characterization techniques and monomer design, although these are no requirements, if the applicant is ambitious to learn. We are looking for applicants that are highly motivated, demonstrate initiative, and look forward to working in a highly collaborative, multicultural team.

About the Project

Synthetic polymers are arguably the class of man-made materials that have most shaped the last century. However, the majority of polymers results from radical polymerization techniques yielding all carbon backbones, which critically prevent their degradation and pose a vital threat to the future of our planet. The truly interdisciplinary project spans design and synthesis of an unprecedented class of light degradable polymers as well as the development of the analytical platform to monitor polymer degradation in real-time.

On the synthetic side, the project will develop macrocyclic monomers containing inherent degradation mechanisms. Upon polymerisation, the cleavable linkages of the macrocyclic monomer will be embedded into the resulting polymer’s backbone, which can be degraded on demand by irradiation with light. These polymers will then be interrogated using advanced mass spectrometry techniques, including ion mobility mass spectrometry and laser photoactivation. The successful PhD applicant will be directly involved in operating the mass spectrometers to make these measurements and take a leading role to develop and implement new mass spectrometry techniques to probe molecular photofolding.

Key Contact

Please contact Dr Berwyck Poad (berwyck.poad@qut.edu.au) or Dr Hendrik Frisch (h.frisch@qut.edu.au)

Project - Characterising sequence-controlled polymers in real space: polymer genome through submolecular imaging

We expect that the successful candidate will hold a degree in Physics, Engineering, Materials Science or Chemistry. Experience in scanning probe microscopy is required. Candidates with skills in visualisation of data (e.g., in MATLAB), vacuum systems, instrumentation development or programming (e.g, LabView) are preferred.


A PhD student is needed for a project focused on developing an approach to the characterisation of sequence-controlled polymers (SCPs) by direct spatial investigation using high resolution scanning probe microscopy. While copolymers are well known and understood in the field of polymer science, the distribution of their building blocks along the macromolecular assembly is often uncontrolled and varies from chain to chain. This represents a frontier challenge in polymer science as the greater the control of molecular structure (including sequence) the more tightly the functional properties of the materials can be controlled. Furthermore, the ability to encode information by control of the sequence is of fundamental interest, as is demonstrated through naturally occurring polymers such as DNA, which encodes all hereditary information by the precise sequencing of four building blocks.

This project will be based on using scanning probe microscopy to identify monomer units in successively more complex structures: individual monomers, single-constituent oligomers, and finally multi-constituent oligomers and polymers. Once the molecular recognition framework has been established, sequences produced from these building blocks by known wet-lab methods will be deposited onto the surface, either by direct in-vacuum evaporation, or by ex-situ preparation techniques. The results from these experiments can be supported by a wide range of less “local” techniques such as mass spectrometry, photoelectron spectroscopy, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry. The outcome of this project will be a new approach to visualization of polymers at the monomer level.


Please contact A/Prof Jennifer MacLeod (jennifer.macleod@qut.edu.au) if you would like more information. Use the email subject line “PhD Position: Imaging of Polymers”. If you are ready to apply, include a cover letter that outlines your interest in the project and your relevant experience and skills and a CV.

What happens next?

Please discuss your interest with the relevant key contact, who can advise of the application process

About the scholarship

Centre for Materials Science - Curiosity-driven research

The QUT Centre for Materials Science is the fundamental scientific engine room for materials innovation, providing materials-based solutions for QUT's application driven Centres and research strengths. The Centre fosters emerging research talent from the PhD to the Early Career Researcher (ECR) level, while providing research space and freedom to the leaders in their field.

The Centre fuses cross-disciplinary fundamental research expertise within QUT, enabling a coherent research space for materials discovery. The Centre takes an atomistic and molecular approach to materials design, as our ability to manipulate single atoms and molecules and to observe the changes they undergo is critical for the design of materials with precise and adaptable properties. Of particular focus is the interface of matter with its surroundings, which controls function.

The Centre has outstanding research strengths in:

  • soft matter materials
  • hard condensed matter materials
  • computation, prediction and modelling
  • analytical technique development.

The goal of the Centre is to innovate, accelerate and translate scientific material discoveries to transformative technologies that will assist in overcoming global and national challenges in chemical syntheses, construction industries, green energy demands, environmental change, and sustainable manufacturing. The Centre invents, designs and optimises diverse new materials, including nanomaterials, polymers and metals and find the smartest pathways of controlling and tuning their properties and functions toward reliable and predictable Real-World applications.

More information is available at https://www.qut.edu.au/research/centre-for-materials-science

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