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Scholarship details

2023 HDR Curtin round - Sample Return Mission Analysis

Status: Open

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

This project provides an unprecedented opportunity to study rare rock samples recovered from asteroids and the Moon 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 requested Ryugu particles from JAXA which may be available for this project. Upon arrival to Earth, the supervisors will have access to samples from Bennu 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 student will also have the opportunity to characterise meteorites recovered by the Desert Fireball Network. Analysis of freshly found meteorites has two key advantages: (1) meteorites preserve geochemical signatures when they are collected before they become altered on the Earth’s surface, and (2) findings can be linked to source positions in the solar system via orbital information provided by the fireball.

This project will utilise our unique suite of high-specification analytical instruments that allow us flexibility in designing ‘fit for purpose’ analytical protocols appropriate to available rocks and particles. The project will involve 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 that available at the John de Laeter Centre at Curtin University. 

An Internship opportunity may also be available with this project.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Science & Engineering
    • Science courses
    • Engineering courses
    • Western Australian School of Mines (WASM)
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • International Student
  • Merit Based

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.


Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at approx. $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. 


For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

  • 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.

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Associate Professor Nick Timms via the EOI form above.

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