Fully-funded PhD Student Opportunity in Planetary Sciences,
Curtin University, Western Australia

Project Title: Sample Return Mission Analysis

Principal Supervisor: A/Prof Nick Timms (Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia),
Co-Supervisors: Prof Phil Bland (Curtin University), Dr Lucy Forman (Curtin University)

Application Deadline: 18th August 2022

Project Summary:

This project provides an unprecedented opportunity to study rare rock samples recovered from asteroids by recent space missions in order to make new discoveries about our solar system. We are in a renaissance of sample return missions from asteroids and other bodies, not seen since the Apollo era in the 1960s and 70s when NASA first returned samples from the Moon. Researchers at Curtin University have been active in analysing samples recovered recently from asteroids Itokawa, Ryugu, and the Moon (JAXA Hayabusa I and II, and China's Chang'e 5, respectively), and play a key role in NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission anticipated to return samples from asteroid Bennu to Earth in 2023.

Asteroids Ryugu and Bennu are most similar to carbonaceous chondrites - rare primitive meteorites found on Earth which preserve evidence for a wide variety of processes in the early solar system. Initial analyses of samples from Ryugu suggests that these materials are even more primitive, fresh, and volatile-enriched reservoir, distinct from anything observed in the meteorite record. The supervisor team have access to Ryugu particles from JAXA which may be available for this project. The supervisors will have access to samples from Bennu upon arrival to Earth, as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission science team. Aims of the research may include (but not limited to): refinement of our understanding of element and isotope partitioning in the early solar system; assessment of any mechanical and thermal effects of impacts and alteration processes on primitive asteroids; identification and analysis of the isotopic composition of presolar grains preserved in the samples. The successful applicant with join a diverse team of researchers in the Space Science and Technology Centre and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University. The student will also have the opportunity to characterise meteorites recovered by the Desert Fireball Network.

This project will utilise our unique suite of high-specification analytical instruments that available at the John de Laeter Centre at Curtin University, including various scanning electron microscopy (SEM) techniques, secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), laser ablation laser ablation inductively couple mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS), and atom probe tomography (APT), among others.

Find out more here or contact A/Prof Nick Timms via email n.timms@curtin.edu.au

Candidate Selection Criteria

  • We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with a keen interest in planetary science.
  • Must have a minimum Bachelor degree (BSc Honours 1st class or 2.A) and/or a Masters (by research) in geosciences or planetary sciences.
  • Must have a strong ability to communicate scientific knowledge, both orally and in written form. Good writing and speaking skills in English (find out more here), and proficiency in high school-level mathematics and physics are essential.
  • The candidate requires abilities to work independently, and collaboratively in a team.
  • A demonstrable ability in the dissemination of their scientific results is highly desirable.
  • Knowledge of and experience in geoscience analytical techniques, particularly electron microscopy and in situ isotope analysis techniques is desirable.
  • Evidence of research experience, academic awards/publications/presentations at conferences is desirable.

How to Apply

To express your interest in this project, please complete the online expression of interest form as soon as possible, certainly before the application deadline 18 August 2022, 17:00 Australian Western Standard Time (GMT+8). On the expression of interest form:

  • Select 'Faculty of Science and Engineering' and 'Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)'. Nominated supervisor is A/Prof Nick Timms and the advertised project is 'Sample Return Mission Analysis'.
  • Upload your Curriculum vitae (CV)/resume. Please include 1) your contact details and nationality 2) research interests 3) education background and academic qualifications 4) research and work experience that address the selection criteria (detailed above) 5) awards and prizes 6) relevant skills and experience, 7) publications and conferences, 8) professional memberships, 9) referees.
  • Upload evidence of qualifications. Please provide a copy of your degree certificate(s) (in original language and officially translated into English where relevant), and a transcript of your undergraduate degree results (in original language and officially translated into English where relevant). For non-native English-speaking applicants, please provide evidence of English proficiency (IELTS Academic/TOEFL iBT/PTE Academic/Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency scores).

Recommended applicants will be provided with further information on the PhD enrolment process at Curtin University.

Scholarship description

Successful applicants for admission to PhD will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at approx. AU$28,800 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022.

Find out more: www.study.curtin.edu.au/higher-degree-by-research/rtp-scholarship/

Studying a doctoral degree at Curtin University gives you the opportunity to undertake research at a global university ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide* to pursue your passion for research. Curtin University is home to one of Australia's leading institutions for geoscience and planetary science research and has an excellent international reputation for quality research and extensive research infrastructure.

*Curtin is ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide in the highly regarded Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) 2021.

posted: 12 July 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.