PhD Projects

UNSW Scientia PhD projects available on:

  • Peptides, Membranes, Ancient Geology and the Origins of Darwinian Evolution!

The aim of this project is to investigate what role peptide stabilisation of protocells (liposomes) could realistically provide a selection force capable of explaining the emergence of Darwinian evolution in realistic pre-biotic systems. This project builds on cutting-edge development in self-assembly and peptide chemistry with information gained from geological studies on one of the oldest rock formations on the planet (Pilbara, Australia). The project will study how amino acids and peptides polymerize inside liposomes upon repeated dehydration/rehydration cycles incorporating Precambrian-relevant minerals and clays as catalysts, with the ultimate target being the detection of chemically-evolved 'fit' peptides that stabilize liposomal structures.

See also below for further details

Supervisory team
Key Features of these scholarships:
The UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme is part of our dedication to harnessing our cutting-edge research to solve complex problems and improve the lives of people in local and global communities. Scientia scholars will have a strong commitment to making a difference in the world with demonstrated potential for contributing to the social engagement and/or global impact pillars of the UNSW 2025 Strategy. The Scientia Scheme is targeted in that applicants will apply to a specific research area with an identified supervisory team and application is by nomination.
  • Work on high quality research projects with the best supervisory teams in world class environments
  • $40K a year stipend for four years
  • Tuition fees covered for the full 4 year period
  • Coaching and mentoring will form a critical part of your highly personalised leadership development plan
  • Up to $10k each year to build your career and support your international research collaborations
  • At least 5 of these scholarships will be reserved for Indigenous research candidates. 
How to apply / how it works:
  1. Put in an expression of interest application here BEFORE 20th July 2018.
  2. Shortlisted candidates will be notified before the end of July 2018 and asked to put in an application for PhD at the end of July or early August and a FULL application (only if invited) by or before 1st September 2018. Offers will be made from early November 2018.
Please note that we will only be able to shortlist TWO applicants. Upon submitting your expression of interest we may ask you further information.
Your first step is though to apply here before 21st July 2018.
More information about the project:
The project is a collaboration between a chemist, biophysists and a geochemist.
The project can essentially be summarised by the this article (published in August 2017 - summary here - contact us for a copy) in the Scientific American involving one of us (Kranendonk, Daemer, Djokic) titled: The origin of life in geothermal hot springs: Darwin’s warm little pond revisited.
In this Scientia project we will explore various aspects of this evolving hypothesis, particularly how chemical reactions could have gained the abiliyt for evolution - in other words how Darwinian evolutionary pressures can manifest themselves in terms of selection pressure in chemical systems.
This project is highly suited for anyone with a solid grounding in the relevant fields (chemistry, geochemistry and biophysics) and with a strong desire for fundamental science.


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