Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Western Sydney University, Graduate Research School
App. deadline 06/05/2018
  • Scholarship available
Project ID 2018-099
Eligibility Open to international applicants

On-site analysis for intelligence gathering at pollution incidents

NSW Environmental Trust PhD Scholarship

Forensic Science research in the School of Science and Health is strongly focussed towards the development of field-based methods for the preliminary testing of samples at crime scenes and environmental incidents. The aim is to bridge the gap between the scene and laboratory analysis.

We seek a talented and dedicated PhD candidate to undertake research into the development of an investigative framework that incorporates a range of person-portable equipment for on-site analysis, to ensure a targeted, rapid and comprehensive investigation of pollution incidents. This PhD scholarship is funded by a three-year NSW Environmental Trust grant.

Pollution incidents require fast, strategic investigations from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to best protect the environment and human health. To achieve this, the EPA establishes an incident management team, aimed specifically at tackling emergency pollution incidents. On-site analysis tools, capable of providing presumptive identification of pollutants, are critical to inform the incident management team on immediate site risk assessment and management. Such advanced tools are currently not employed by the EPA/OEH. The project addresses this by evaluating person-portable equipment that can rapidly identify pollutants on-site, providing the incident management team with critical intelligence to ensure a targeted and efficient investigation.

The project is in collaboration with the EPA, OEH, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and the US National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC). The PhD is based at the Western Sydney University Hawkesbury campus with frequent day travel to locations in and around the larger Sydney metropolitan area.

 The objectives of the research are to:

  • Identify and evaluate the operational benefits associated with the use of person-portable equipment in the investigation of pollution incidents, based on real-world data collected at incident sites
  • Develop an investigative framework that incorporates person-portable equipment that can be employed by the EPA and OEH for targeted, rapid and comprehensive investigation of pollution incidents, including the assessment of environmental harm.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic students will receive a tax-free stipend of $32,000 per annum to support living costs for up to 3 years. Tuition fees will be supported by the Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset.
  • International students will receive a tax-free stipend of $32,000 per annum to support living costs for up to 3 years. Those with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver.
  • All international students are required by law to hold an Overseas Student Health Care (OSHC) Policy which covers the full duration of their study in Australia. The cover must be purchased prior to enrolment. Single or family cover is available. OSHC is not covered by the scholarship. The cost of a policy varies between $3,420 for a single person, and $17,100 for a family including children. Please contact the Graduate Research School for advice about OSHC:
  • Support for conference attendance, fieldwork and additional costs as approved by School/Institute.

 Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to key issues related to field sampling and analysis in environmental forensic investigations. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with strong interests in forensic investigations, forensic chemistry and/or analytical chemistry.

The successful applicant should have:

  • Qualifications and experience equivalent to one of the following: (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications. Qualifications in the area of Forensic Science, Analytical Chemistry and/or Environmental Chemistry are preferred.
  • Demonstrated excellent academic performance, in particular in subjects relevant to analytical chemistry, forensic chemistry and/or environmental chemistry.
  • Experience with and a thorough understanding of relevant analytical methods, preferably GC-MS as well as XRF, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy.
  • Knowledge of and experience with person-portable equipment (highly desirable).
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, including interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively in a team.
  • Excellent time management skills to reach research deadlines.
  • An ability to translate research results into published research outcomes.
  • An ability to work under minimum supervision.
  • Experience working with industry and/or government agencies (highly desirable).A current driver's licence (if an international license is held, the license should be recognised in Australia and the applicant must be able to obtain an Australian license if required).An enthusiastic and motivated approach to undertaking further study at an advanced level.
  • International applicants must also meet English language proficiency requirements.

How to apply

  1. Contact Dr Val Spikmans ( to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply.
  2. Complete the scholarship application form (PDF, 222.11 KB).
  3. Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.
  4. Compile your supporting documents, including evidence of citizenship, qualifications and research experience. Ensure all documentation is certified according to the Western Sydney University requirements.
  5. All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
  • Use the email subject line: <GRS TO UPDATE>
  • Submit to
  • All attached documents must be submitted as PDF.
  • In the body of your email, include your full name, your student ID (if you are a current or previous Western Sydney University student) and the full title of the scholarship.

Incomplete applications or applications that do not conform to the above requirements will not be considered.

Please contact the Graduate Research School via email at for more information.

Applications close 6 May 2018

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