Management of marine plastics PhD scholarship


Enrolment status New students, Currently enrolled students
Student type Domestic students, International students
Level of study Higher Degree by Research
Study area Engineering and Computing
HDR funding type Top-up Scholarship
Scholarship value $5,000 per annum.
Scholarship duration Three years with the possibility of two 6-month extensions in approved circumstances.
Opening date 12 July 2019
Closing date 31 December 2019

Scholarship description

Plastics pollution in our oceans is a wicked problem. Our current plastics economy continues to deliver large and increasing volumes of plastics waste into our environment, and all countries globally are affected. An opportunity exists for an outstanding PhD candidate to work on an innovative project that explores strategies for addressing this issue. This project will form part of a family of projects that seek to build a systematic framework for addressing the challenges of the new plastics economy, particularly plastic materials design, use and end-of-life management. The successful student would be part of a vibrant research group focussing on sustainability challenges.

The current exponential growth in global plastics production and consumption has been matched by a corresponding exponential increase in leakage of these plastics into our environment, with plastic pollution now being ubiquitous worldwide. While efforts are now underway to develop efficient and effective recycling systems to recapture and reuse the bulk of our petroleum derived plastics, ultimately we need to understand the drivers for our existing systems and identify the key intervention points where we can make a substantial difference to the system leakage into our marine environment most cost-effectively.

This project will begin to address that challenge by undertaking a systems approach to framing of the challenge, before identifying key issues to be addressed, whether that be through novel materials design, strategies for waste conversion and/or repurposing, undertaking lifetime and/or impact assessment, partnering with local communities to evaluate strategic local solutions, or other approaches identified through the early analysis.

The scholarship

We are offering an opportunity for an excellent PhD candidate to work with Professor Paul Lant, Associate Professor Steven Pratt and Associate Professor Bronwyn Laycock on this innovative project that will explore strategies for tackling marine plastics pollution.

Why work with us?

As a team, we bring together a unique combination of skills in advanced polymer chemistry and materials design, polymer lifetime and impact assessment, environmental risk assessment, systems thinking and sustainability planning – skills that would enable you to deliver a unique take on this complex issue. We have a strong history of working very effectively together, as supervisors and researchers, and have won several awards for supervision and undertaken significant PhD student development activities. We would provide a challenging but impactful PhD experience. For example, depending on their interests and project targets, our students have undertaken industry placements in advanced materials design, sat on expert panels advising Government on policy, run Australia-wide surveys on attitudes to plastic, and developed fundamental models of plastics degradation and environmental impact – if it makes sense for the project, we can usually make it happen.


To be eligible, you must meet the entry requirements for a higher degree by research.

Before you apply

If this scholarship has rules, download and read them before applying.

How to apply

To be considered for this scholarship, please email the following documents to Associate Professor Bronwyn Laycock (

  • Cover letter
  • CV
  • Academic transcript/s

Please note the following: Submitting the above documents does not constitute a full application for admission into The University of Queensland's PhD program. If you are selected as the preferred applicant, you will then be invited to submit a full application for admission. You can familiarise yourself with the documents required for this process on the Graduate School's website.

Selection criteria

Expressions of Interest are invited from outstanding and enthusiastic Australian and international graduates with a First-Class Honours, or equivalent qualifications through a relevant Masters degree. Candidates will have a background in chemical engineering or chemistry with a preference for some background in polymer science. Experience in modelling is not necessary but strong mathematical capabilities are desirable.

Candidates must bring a passion for global sustainability. In addition, we seek candidates who are comfortable with ambiguity, at least in the early stages as they work through the complexities of this challenging, wicked issue.

Applicants must also fulfil the PhD admission criteria for the University of Queensland, including English language requirements, and demonstrate excellent capacity and potential for research. Demonstration of research ability through publication output in peer reviewed international journals is desirable.


Associate Professor Bronwyn Laycock
+61 7 3346 8882

Terms and conditions

Read the policy on UQ Research Scholarships.

A domestic part-time student with carer’s responsibilities, a medical condition or a disability, which prevents them from studying full time may be eligible for scholarship consideration, on a case by case basis.