Higher Degree by Research

Each of the Research Centres of the Sustainable Minerals Institute offers Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in their specialisations.

Postgraduate research projects have a strong link with industry; students gain excellent exposure and become familiar with the challenges of conducting research in an industrial environment, and in the challenges of transferring research outcomes to industry.

Doing a Higher Degree by Research at the Sustainable Minerals Institute will help you to develop the professional and personal skills for a successful career in the mineral industry. 

Undertaking further study is an accomplishment, and an achievement to be proud of. By working on independent research projects under advisors who are world leaders in their field, SMI can give you a training ground for developing your skills as a world-class mineral processing professional. 

At SMI we recognise the important contributions research students make to our successes. To enable that sucess we:

Provide students with a comprehensive research skill set

Offer students the ability to undertake relevant, applied research and gain valuable industrial experience

Provide an intellectually supportive and stimulating environment 

Give students access to state-of-the-art equipment

Encourage students to publish journal papers at all stages

Provide the opportunity to be named on patents

Offer mentoring with knowledgeable supervisors with an industry focus

Offer programs to challenge students to become good communicators and leaders

StudentsCommunity and lifestyle at SMI

SMI is based on UQ St Lucia campus located right on the Brisbane River. The St Lucia campus is easy to access via public transport, with heritage buildings, lakes, sporting facilities, galleries and museums, and more.

Studying at SMI gives you access to UQ's wide range of over 150 Clubs and Societies to help you make friends and meet fellow students.

UQ also provides students with a range of additional support in areas such as:

  • Accommodation
  • Career counselling
  • Illness, injury and disability support
  • Multi-faith services
  • Help with student equity issues

Learn more about the support available from UQ

Every year, SMI hosts a one-day conference where current HDR students, working on topics related to sustainability in the resources sector, have the opportunity to showcase their research, hone their presentation skills and interact with industry professionals, academics and colleagues from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and disciplines. The HDR Conference includes interactive presentations, panel discussions and a closure networking session that will enable graduate students to develop the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce of the resources sector.​

The HDR Conference organizing committee for 2019 is pleased to invite all students, academics, and professionals to participate in this year’s conference, which will be held on the 24th of July, 2019 at UQ St. Lucia, one of the most scenery university campuses in Australia. This year’s conference invites the participation of international HDR students from The University of British Columbia, the University of Exeter and the University of Cape Town, offering an exciting and diverse selection of presentations from some of the leading global institutions involved in the minerals industry.


Dr Wally Xu (President – Global Development, Joyque Group, Nanjing, P.R. China)

I had wonderful 8 years studying and working in JK, which is also the most important chapter of my life. Not only I finished my doctorate study which still looks quite incredible achievement even today, but I also gained invaluable working experience and attitude towards professionalism, as well as the great experience of social life and events participation. Even I'm one of very few graduates who are not working in mineral or related industry, my career foundation was solidly built in JK. I'm deeply proud of being a JK alumni.

Dr David Seaman (Principal Metallurgist, Newcrest Mining Limited)

The research projects carried out by postgraduate students at the JK provide an excellent opportunity to create professional and social relationships with numerous industry leading professionals. The multi-cultural diversity of the Centre ensures an exciting and fulfilling social experience as well as access to some of the leading researchers in the world. I am truly proud to be a JK alumni and my experience gained at the Centre proved to be an excellent foundation for an exciting career in the minerals processing industry, where I often encounter fellow alumni within various organisations across the industry.

Dr Dewetia Latti (Manager – Technology & Innovation, Rio Tinto)

I did my PhD part-time whilst working in the industry and the support of supervisors and colleagues throughout my time at the JK was exceptional.  A PhD presents academic challenge, but the JK provides much more - a learning environment that includes fundamental and practical application and a wealth of opportunities to interact with experts in minerals processing.  It was a privilege to have studied at the JK.

Dr Iain Scott (Chief Operating Officer, Altona Mining Limited)

I can’t think of a better way to undertake relevant, applied research and gain valuable industrial experience at the same time. The JKMRC formula provided exactly that for me and stood me in good stead in a career that spanned both technical development and production management.

Dr Zeljka Pokrajcic (Principal Process Engineer, Worley Parsons)

Being a student at the JK provided a supportive and stimulating environment for research towards a post graduate degree.  Knowledgeable supervisors with an industry focus together with supportive student culture provided a sound platform for an exciting and rewarding career in the mineral industry.

Dr Barun Gorain (Senior Manager, Mineral Processing, Strategic Technology Solutions Barrick Gold Corporation)

The JK Centre is truly a training ground for developing world-class mineral processing professionals rooted in fundamentals yet cognizant of the realities of how the industry works. The opportunities provided by the JK Centre have enriched my life with a fulfilling career and has allowed me to make key technical contributions and build wonderful friendships within the mining community worldwide.

Dr Walter Valery (Global Senior Vice-President, Technology and Innovation Metso Minerals)

I am very proud and honoured to have studied at the JKMRC. Much more than an academic achievement, the PhD at the JK helped me to develop the professional and personal skills for a successful career in the Mining Industry.  This wouldn’t be possible without the knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and never ending support from my supervisor and colleagues at the Centre.  It has also been a great pleasure to actively participate in the social life of the JK, where students and staff always provided a friendly and culturally rich environment to learn and work.

Dr Elizabeth Williams (Former Research Fellow at CMLR)

Elizabeth was formerly a Research Fellow at the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR). She completed her PhD through the Centre in 2011 and has since worked on a number of projects addressing environmental challenges facing the mining industry.

Where has your career taken you since completing your studies at CMLR? 
As a Research Fellow as CMLR I get to work on a variety of projects that examine the impact of mining on the local fauna.
I have always loved animals and feel it is a great privilege to be able to work in such an interesting and important role. I especially enjoy the field work, to be able to go onto sites to conduct research.

Currently, I am working on a project that is monitoring the fauna (bats, frogs and birds) surrounding an underground coal mine that is near a conservation area in the Blue Mountains. 

What did your PhD thesis explore?
The title of my thesis was Ant community response to management practices on rehabilitated mine sites. Essentially it explored the impact of rehabilitation practices on the local ant population at two mines. 

Mines in Australia are obliged to rehabilitate the land affected by the mine once it shuts. This process can take a long time, so landscapes are monitored along the way to make sure rehabilitation occurs.

Management practices are often conducted to improve individual aspects of the rehabilitated ecosystem. These practices typically target vegetation parameters (such as increasing biodiversity) and can cause secondary disturbances to the system. Generally, minimal attention is paid to the impact of such secondary disturbances on other biota—which is what my research covered. The findings from my research include recommendations for ant sampling methodology and procedures.

Why did you choose to study at CMLR?
All my tertiary study has been at The University of Queensland. I studied a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Zoology in 2002 and then completed my Honours in Entomology in 2006. From there, the logical path was to undertake my PhD in Restoration Ecology which I was awarded in 2011.
The Centre has an excellent reputation within the field I work. It is known for its breadth of expertise—it is a huge advantage to have access to such a diverse range of specialists in the one place. The fact that there is a heavy focus on applied research means you get to work on solving real problems and have the potential to change how the mine and mineral industries interact with the environment.

What are your current ties to other parts of the University?
Because of the nature of my work, I get to collaborate with other Centres and parts of the University. The next collaboration will be with researchers from the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry (CWiMI) and the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management to write a paper on coal seam gas and fauna biodiversity.

Dr Aaron Power (Group Leader for Process Engineering at Sedgman Limited)

After completing an undergraduate degree at The University of Queensland, Aaron studied his MPhil (Mining) at the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC), finishing in 2008. He has been able to apply his knowledge to his current role in a company specialising in construction of coal handling plants.

Describe your current role 
I am a Group Leader for Process Engineering at Sedgman Limited—a Brisbane-based mining services company with international offices in China, Mongolia, Africa and South America. In my area, we specialise in designing, constructing and operating coal handling and preparation plants. The company also provides similar services in the metals/ minerals processing industry.

As Group Leader I manage six engineers with varying levels of experience as well as performing a lead process engineering role for development of new Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP) projects from initial concept study through to detailed engineering, construction and commissioning.

How has your SMI research experience helped you?
My thesis was titled Investigation of k-SB Flotation Model in Fine Coal Flotation and examined whether the k-SB relationship found in base metal flotation was also evident in coal flotation, including non-conventional flotation technologies.

During the test work phase of my thesis I was able to get good hands on experience at mine sites which I was able to build on after I left.
While I was at the Centre I had the opportunity to work with other students on the AMIRA P9M project which researched flotation methods in mines and included field trips to base metal plants in Tasmania and Broken Hill. This provided the research background and techniques to help me carry out the testwork for my project, performed at coal operations in Queensland and New South Wales. Again, this exposure to real mine sites, together with the technical aspects of the testing gave me a good foundation for the types of projects I’ve worked on since.

I was also lucky enough to meet my wife during my time at JKMRC. She was a postgrad student there and we got married in 2007.

What have been your career highlights so far?
I’ve worked at Sedgman for over 10 years now which has given me the opportunity to be involved with some interesting projects in Australia and overseas.

This includes the commissioning of the Dawson CHPP project in 2007 (which at the time was the largest CHPP facility in the southern hemisphere) and the construction support and commissioning of Hail Creek I CHPP in 2003. This is where I gained the basis of my experience for most of my future work.

In 2008 I presented a paper at the 12th Australian Coal Preparation Conference, which I consider a career highlight because it was good to speak in front of my peers about my experience around coal preparation.

I have recently worked on a project in South Africa which was an eye opener in terms of working in another country (work methods, security and culture). It was also great to do some sightseeing during my time there (game parks, Cape Town and a very interesting tour of Soweto).

What are your ties with SMI and the Centre now?
My role is more focused on design and construction now, rather than detailed technical aspects, so I don’t have too much contact with the Centre. However, I think it would be good to have a SMI Alumni Program to make it easier to keep in touch with people who I studied with.

UQEX PhD Scholarship Now Open!

In collaboration with UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the University of Exeter, SMI has been able to secure a UQEX PhD scholarship which is now open for applications and listed on the QUEX partnership website here: https://global-engagement.uq.edu.au/node/1616/4#4.

UQ Scholarships

UQ ScholarshipsThe UQ Graduate School manages a limited number of merit-based scholarships for commencing or currently enrolled UQ students on a competitive basis. These scholarships provide financial support for living allowances, tuition fees and overseas health cover (OSHC) (international students only), and international travel awards. To find out more about UQ's scholarships and deadlines for upcoming rounds, please visit the UQ Graduate School Scholarships and Fees website.

Other Scholarships

Please visit the website of the UQ Scholarships Office to review other opportunities for which you may be eligible. If you are applying for an external scholarship which requires you to give evidence of your admission to a Master of Philosophy or Doctor of Philosophy, you must submit your application for admission to UQ six weeks before your scholarship application deadline. This will allow UQ and SMI the time required to process your application and issue you with a provisional offer of admission. 

Please send all email enquiries to smipostgrad@uq.edu.au


HDR Team

HDR Co-ordinator
Dr Elaine Wightman
(+61) 7 3346 5917

Postgraduate Student Administration


How to Apply

We recommend you always first visit the UQ Graduate School Future Students website for the most current information on applying for admission and scholarships. Here you will find information on how to proceed with your application for admission.

The best place to start is by learning about why research higher degree students choose UQ, our research degrees and entry requirementsscholarships, and the UQ Career Development Framework. Future students can submit an application at any time. However, strict deadlines apply to those applicants who seek to be nominated for a UQ Scholarship, and consideration of UQ and SMI processing times must be given by students who are applying for external scholarships. See the section on 'Scholarships' below.

Applying is a three-step process

Search for a Supervisor (Principal Advisor)

At SMI, your potential advisor will contact us at the SMI Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Office if he or she is interested in supervising your research. We can then assist you with instructions on how to proceed  and address any specific questions or concerns you might have.

Meet our researchers

Complete the Online Application Form

Please carefully review the information provided before commencing the online application so that all required documents are prepared and ready to upload. In addition to the required application documentation, SMI requires that you also upload your proposed research project to the online application for our review and reference.

View the online application form View the required documentation

Wait for a Response to your Application

After you submit your online application, the UQ Graduate School will redirect the submission to us at the SMI HDR Office for our review and assessment of your application in consultation with your proposed principal advisor. SMI will make a decision on whether or not we are able to recommend your admission to the Dean of the Graduate School and keep you informed at all stages of the process.

General enquiries

For general enquiries contact:


+61 7 3346 4003

Student enquiries

If you would like to enquire about studying at SMI please contact our HDR Team

Contact HDR Team


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