Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Dr Judy Bunder

Main Campus
Mawson Lakes

Applications Close
25 Feb 2024

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
32,500 p.a. available to domestic applicants only

Harness mathematical modelling to tackle the negative impacts of biofilms 

If you are passionate about building a career in applied mathematics and keen to develop community-impacting innovations with biofilms, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within UniSA STEM. 

About the project 

Biofilms are communities of microorganisms that have huge impacts on human life. These impacts can be positive or negative. A positive impact is biofilm-enabled water purification. A negative impact is contamination of food processing equipment. Another negative – biofilms cause up to 80% of all hospital-acquired infections.  

We need to understand the mechanisms underpinning biofilm growth to harness the biotechnological potential of biofilms and mitigate biofilm-induced infection. Our project will use an innovative combination of mathematical modelling, numerical computation, and collaboration with experimentalists to understand these mechanisms.  

Not only will our project generate fundamental knowledge spanning mathematics and biology, but it has the potential to impact Australia’s food and beverage industry and health outcomes related to microbial infections. 

You will become part of the applied mathematics group within UniSA STEM. You will also collaborate with applied mathematicians and experimental biologists at The University of Adelaide, The University of Southampton, and The University of Kent. These collaborations will provide you with a dynamic, multidisciplinary international research network. 

What you’ll do 

In this project-based research degree, you will develop sophisticated mathematical models and computational techniques for biofilm growth. This will involve a combination of mathematical analysis and computer programming. There is also the opportunity to collaborate with experimental biologists to design new experiments and analyse experimental data.  

Upon completion, you will be equipped with new skills in mathematical modelling, including continuum mechanics, asymptotic analysis, and linear stability analysis. You will also develop computer programming skills in modern scientific computing languages (e.g., Julia, Python), and the ability to implement advanced numerical methods and image processing techniques.  

Throughout the project, we will support you in communicating research results through articles in high-impact journals, and presentations at relevant national and international conferences. You will also become adept at communicating complex mathematical ideas to non-specialists. 

Where you’ll be based 

You will be based in the UniSA STEM Unit. We link engineering, mathematics, science, defence, cybersecurity, construction management, environmental science, aviation, information management, information technology, and project management, harnessing the connections across disciplines to bring big ideas to fruition.  

Our researchers deliver technical expertise and advice to industry, government and community groups to make commercially viable and sustainable impacts. The Future Industries Institute, Innovation and Collaboration Centre and Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments all provide consultancy and access to advanced technology.  

We integrate research into our teaching, with students working alongside researchers in first-class facilities. What’s discovered one day is taught the next.   

In an information-rich world, our people think big, combatting problems, testing solutions and making data-driven decisions. Our graduates are entrepreneurs and trailblazers, who design and build the world they want to live in.

Supervisory team

Financial Support 

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, permanent residents of Australia. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included for this group.  For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information. International applicants will not be eligible to receive the scholarship.

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a PhD. Additionally applicants must meet the projects selection criteria: 

  • An Honours degree in applied mathematics or related discipline (pure mathematics, statistics/data science, science, engineering), or equivalent qualification from an overseas University
  • Interest and enthusiasm for applied mathematics research, including mathematical biology
  • Commitment to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion

Applicant who can also demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:

  • Experience using a scientific computing language (e.g. Matlab, Python, Julia) 
  • Good written and oral communication skills
All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our Mawson Lakes Campus  in the north of Adelaide. Note that international students on a student visa will need to study full-time.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Sunday 25 February.

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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