Wattle seeds as nutritional foods - Uniquely Australian Foods


Enrolment status New students
Student type Domestic students, International students
Level of study Higher Degree by Research
Study area All study areas
HDR funding type Living stipend scholarship
Scholarship value $33,413 per annum tax-free (2019 rate), indexed annually
Scholarship duration Three years with the possibility of two 6-month extensions in approved circumstances

Scholarship description

The University of Queensland led Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) for Uniquely Australian Foods (IC180100045) aims to transform the native Food and Agribusiness Sector through development of selected crops, foods and ingredients using an Indigenous governance group to oversee the process of converting Traditional Knowledge into Branded Products.  

Native foods represent a major opportunity for premium Australian products in both domestic and export markets, capitalising on consumer interest in the provenance and traditional heritage characteristics of foods.  The outcomes of the Training Centre will include the testing of market opportunities, the development of appropriate social and business models, and the identification of future opportunities for Uniquely Australian Foods.  Economic and quality of life benefits through job creation and benefit sharing arrangements will be secured for Indigenous communities through sustainable business models which will help to Close the Gap, and the development of supply chain partnerships to reduce the risks involved in taking products to market.

This PhD project –focussed on wattle seeds as nutritional foods – will form part of the Training Centre as a collaboration between The University of Queensland and Karen Sheldon Catering.

The Role

There is an opportunity for a highly motivated PhD student to join the QAAFI team within the Training Centre aiming to develop the Australian native food industry.  They will work directly with indigenous and non-indigenous enterprises and be involved in the various activities of the centre.  The position will interact with the project collaborators in Australia and may visit collaborating scientists in Canada and Germany.

Research Area

Australian native plant foods have developed a reputation for their rich compositional diversity and phytonutrient contents.  There are a broad range of Australian native wattle seeds, with diverse sensory properties, which have been consumed by indigenous Australians for many thousands of years.  There is a growing market-demand for wattle seeds for culinary applications and an increased interest in the potential health value of the seeds.

Research into the nutritional properties of food traditionally involves compositional profiling, but more recently, digestive models of the human gut have been used to understand the bioaccessibility (release from the food matrix) of food components after consumption, as well as the rates of digestion of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins that contribute to (reducing the) risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, fermentation of undigested food using a model for the human large intestine can provide insights into effects of foods on the gut microbiome, now recognised as a key mediator of nutritional value and preventative health benefits from a healthy diet.

This PhD project will explore wattle seeds in terms of composition and properties of seeds related to potential nutritional value. This will include analysis of composition and bioaccessibility/digestion/fermentation of phytonutrient, starch and dietary fibre components.  Different cultivars of wattle seeds will be compared in terms of nutritional properties using gut models to identify product-specific market opportunities.  Knowledge from this project will be used to develop foods with enhanced nutritional value.

The PhD student will gain hands-on experience working with indigenous communities and developing commercial food products and will develop strong skills in food chemistry, sensory science, human digestion, microbiology, and statistical evaluation.  The project seeks to develop a strong and capable future leader for indigenous foods.


To be eligible to apply you must meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ, please visit the Graduate School's website.

Before you apply

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

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow the link below. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will be given the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Prior to applying, check your eligibility and prepare your documentation.

You should also contact Professor Mike Gidley (m.gidley@uq.edu.au) to discuss your suitability for this scholarship prior to submitting an application.

Please ensure that you

  1. select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'
  2. enter in the free-text field UAF05
  3. list the enrolling unit as Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)
  4. enter Professor Mike Gidley as your supervisor

Selection criteria

Applicants will have a First Class Honours degree or equivalent.  Basic expertise and experience is required in one or more of the following areas: chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, health science, chemical engineering, agronomy, food science, plant science or related discipline.  

A keen interest in the culinary arts, food product development and/or botany is highly desirable as well as hands-on operational experience.  The successful applicant will have an interest in working outdoors, be able to travel for short periods, and be willing to work with the industry partner in Alice Springs and Darwin (NT).

Strong academic performance demonstrated through publication output in peer reviewed international journals is highly desirable.


Dr Heather Smyth
+61 7 3443 2469

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.