Curtin Malaysia Research Institute PhD Studentships

Three 3-year fully funded PhD studentships are available in a competitive process which is now open for receiving expressions of interest. The PhD studies will be centred in the Baram region of the state of Sarawak in Malaysia and are extensions of the Curtin Baram Project which was originally described here. The studies will be collaboratively project managed by the Curtin Malaysia Research Institute and units at Curtin University, Perth (see project descriptions) with contributions from external partners where relevant.

 

Enrolment
At Curtin University Malaysia which is the largest international campus of Curtin University located in Perth, Western Australia.

 

Study Mode

Fulltime located at Curtin Malaysia with up to 6 months location at Curtin University, Perth each year for 3 years (each such period is subject to application to and approval by the Curtin University Graduate School).

 

Support

Monthly stipend for three years; full tuition fee waiver; funding for research costs as budgeted.

Re-locations costs to take up the Studentship are not covered. Accommodation is not arranged by the University.

 

Entry requirements

These can be found here.

In general, entry into a Curtin PhD program requires at least a Second Class Upper Honours result in a four-year undergraduate program. What needs to be confirmed is demonstrated mastery of being able to review literature and make a critical assessment of it; ability to define a research gap; frame research questions for a program of study, and ability to develop a research plan and a set of research objectives for it. Since an Honours has a dissertation at the end of it, applicants should be able to demonstrate an ability to write a substantial piece of work in an academic style and format. English requirement is IELTS with an overall band score of 6.5.


Mulu National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, the only one in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. “The geological Melinau Formation contains a remarkable concentration of caves, revealing a geological history of over more than 1.5 million years” (UNESCO, 2017). It is a key tourist asset of Sarawak. The caves are also a vital resource for various lines of research. While a variety of research by teams from around the world have been active in the area for some decades, much remains to be discovered. For example, the microbial diversity in the caves has yet to be explored. Caves are generally considered as extreme environments for life because they are devoid of light and lack the most common source of energy supplied through photosynthesis. Microbial communities as the major life forms deeper inside caves are consequently dependent upon alternative sources of energy derived from the surrounding atmosphere, minerals and rocks.

Using a suite of advanced molecular microbial tools and high throughput sequencing of taxonomic and functional marker genes, metagenomes, and metatranscriptomes the successful candidate will study the biodiversity of cave microorganisms and their potential role in the deposition or dissolution of cave mineral structures, as well as their ability to produce novel antibiotics or antitumor agents in these underexplored extreme environments. Functionalised microbial metabolites will also be analyzed by advanced GCxGC TOFMS from organic extracts. The location inside the caves that contain a unique biodiversity of bioactive bacteria and/or fungi will then be resampled to obtain isolates using selective media, and cultures will be tested for their broad spectrum antibacterial activity using bioprocess technology.

Excellent knowledge of microbiology and ecology and practical experience in environmental microbial molecular ecology is required. Preference would be given to candidates who also have a background in cultivation of microorganisms and in analytical or inorganic chemistry and geology. Suitable candidates should have excellent written and communication skills and the ability to work in a multidisciplinary research environment and within a team.

The project includes sampling expeditions to the Mulu caves located in the unique rainforest of Borneo.

The key molecular biology and clean lab facilities as well as organic geochemical facilities necessary to complete this project are available at WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC). Facilities for the initial extraction, purification, and quantification of nucleic acids and for microbial cultivation and bioprocessing are available at Curtin University Malaysia.

 

Prospective applicants should write a brief outlining why they should be considered as a serious applicant for the vacancy to:

Associate Professor of Geomicrobiology Marco Coolen (marco.coolen@curtin.edu.au),

With copies to

Professor of Organic Geochemistry Kliti Grice (K.Grice@curtin.edu.au)

Professor Clem Kuek, Director CMRI (clem.kuek@curtin.edu.my)

A CV and an academic transcript which verifies attainment of at least a 2nd Class Upper Honours result in a 4-year undergraduate program should be attached (or otherwise, a cogent argument why equivalent experience is possessed).

 

Closing date

Expressions of interest in taking up the vacancies will be received until the end of 2018 or when a suitable candidate is found, whichever is earliest.

A collaborative project between the Curtin Malaysia Research Institute, the West Australian Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC), and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation

Mulu National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, the only one in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. “The geological Melinau Formation contains a remarkable concentration of caves, revealing a geological history of over more than 1.5 million years” (UNESCO, 2017). It is a key tourist asset of Sarawak. The caves are also a vital resource for various lines of research. While a variety of research by teams from around the world have been active in the area for some decades, much remains to be discovered. In particular, the ability to reconstruct ecosystem-climate interactions using stalagmite fossil records has yet to be explored. The molecular paleobiodiversity proxies to be developed through this project will inform about Holocene changes in precipitation regimes and how this affected the vegetation in this tropical biodiversity hotspot. Records of fire history (natural and from anthropogenic sources) are lacking in this region and thus the project will involve method development and analyses of compounds indicative of burning in drip water, stalagmites and in soil material. The historical record of vegetation changes due to climate fluctuations will also be established using both lipid biomarkers and preserved ancient plant-specific barcoding genes. Furthermore, this project will also explore to what extent cave microbial biofilms are trapped inside speleothems during their development and if the fossil microbial biodiversity can provide detailed information about past changes in precipitation regimes. The proposed research is of economic and societal relevance since the amount of precipitation Borneo receives, is regulated by the location and strength of deep convection in the West Pacific Warm Pool, which in itself is strongly controlled by the strength of one of the World’s largest climate phenomenon, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Due to global change, the frequency and strength of El Niño phenomena are thought to be increasing and long-term geobiological records from speleothems spanning key past dry vs. wet climate intervals are urgently needed to understand the impact of this anticipated future climate change on terrestrial ecosystems.

The ideal PhD candidate will have expertise/excellent knowledge in either chemistry/ analytical chemistry/ organic geochemistry/ microbiology/ geology/ environmental science with excellent written and communication skills and ability to work in a multidisciplinary research environment and within a team.

The project includes sampling expeditions to the Mulu caves located in the unique rainforest of Borneo.

The key organic geochemical facilities necessary to complete this project are available at WA-Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC).

Underpinning the project will be the innovative application of frontier instrumentation that have largely been acquired by ARC funding successes. Examples of instrumentation include, GC×GC TOFMS to resolve many of the components of complex samples e.g. land plant biomarkers that co-elute on 1 dimensional GC-MS), HY-PY to selectively cleave biomarkers bound in kerogen and isolate charcoal of samples  and GC-MS systems to analyse VOCs in drip water.  Three compound specific isotope facilities for C, H and N of individual biomarkers/organic molecules are available in WA-OIGC. LC-MS Orbitrap is available for analyzing intact and bound lipids. WA-OIGC hosts dedicated core logging and storage facilities, along with wet sedimentology preparation space and a contemporary wet chemistry laboratory. In addition, the applicant will also carry out paleogenomic research.

 

Prospective applicants should write a brief outlining why they should be considered as a serious applicant for the vacancy to:

Professor of Organic Geochemistry Kliti Grice (K.Grice@curtin.edu.au)

With copies to

Associate Professor of Geomicrobiology Marco Coolen (marco.coolen@curtin.edu.au),

Professor Clem Kuek, Director CMRI (clem.kuek@curtin.edu.my)

A CV and an academic transcript which verifies attainment of at least a 2nd Class Upper Honours result in a 4-year undergraduate program should be attached (or otherwise, a cogent argument why equivalent experience is possessed).

 

Closing date

Expressions of interest in taking up the vacancies will be received until the end of 2018 or when a suitable candidate is found, whichever is earliest.

Deer Cave at Gunung Mulu National Park

A collaborative project between the Curtin Malaysia Research Institute, the School of Molecular and Life Sciences, Curtin University

 

The aim of the project is to quantify past and present rates of coral reef development and accretion using the carbonate budget approach for reefs in Northern Borneo.  These reefs are situated within the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park (MSCRNP) that was established in 2002 and is the second largest marine protected area in Borneo. To date limited research has been conducted on these reefs despite high levels of ecological and social value.  Preliminary investigations by researchers at Curtin have observed highly diverse fish, invertebrate and coral communities despite low rugosity reef profiles and limited reef habitat availability.  These reefs are also unusual as unlike reefs in north-eastern Borneo, these reefs have yet to reach sea-level.  This may be due to rates of biological erosion and reef framework removal, which given initial observations appear to be high.  Assessing how these unique reefs have grown and developed over time to support these diverse yet low profile reef ecosystems not yet at sea-level will be the focus of this study.  These data will also provide a comprehensive assessment of reef health in the past and present day that can be used to assess impacts from future local changes in terrestrial land management, as well as global environmental changes.  Current Curtin Malaysia Research Institute funded research at MSCRNP can be found here.

This is a multidisciplinary project that will involve the assessment of contemporary reef ecology, habitat and bathymetric mapping, sedimentology, hydrodynamics, and palaeoecology.  The project will involve a large field and laboratory component.

 

Project supervisors

The project will be jointly supervised by Dr. Nicola Browne (Curtin University), Assoc. Prof. Jennifer McIlwain (Curtin University), Dr. Mick O’Leary (Curtin University), and Assoc. Prof. Nagarajan Ramasamy (Curtin University Malaysia).

 

Requirements

The applicant must have completed an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Biology or Marine Biology with a First Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in Marine Biology or Ecology.  The successful applicant must also have field experience and SCUBA qualifications.  Experience in experimental design and analysis is desirable.

 

Prospective applicants should write a brief outlining why they should be considered as a serious applicant for the vacancy to:

Dr Nicola Browne (Nicola.browne@curtin.edu.au)

With a copy to

Professor Clem Kuek, Director CMRI (clem.kuek@curtin.edu.my)

A CV and an academic transcript which verifies attainment of at least a 2nd Class Upper Honours result in a 4-year undergraduate program should be attached (or otherwise, a cogent argument why equivalent experience is possessed).

 

Closing date

Expressions of interest in taking up the vacancies will be received until the end of January 2019 or when a suitable candidate is found, whichever is earliest.

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