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Scholarship details

2023 HDR Curtin round - Meteorite Search and Recovery with Machine Learning

Status: Open

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

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

The Desert Fireball Network (DFN), operated by Curtin consists of a large array of astronomical cameras in the outback to recover fresh meteorites with orbits, by observing incoming meteors, and then searching for the fallen rock. Searching for meteorite falls in the remote outback is a costly activity, traditionally done with teams of people camped on site, searching the area on foot. Recently SSTC has successfully developed a drone-based approach, using machine learning to identify meteorites in aerial imagery, and recovered the first fresh meteorite found with a UAV. This project will focus on continuing this development, using the drone in the field, enhancing it's capability and the system's machine learning abilities to support new terrains and new detection techniques, and as needed to recover fresh meteorites from the DFN. There will also be the opportunity for the applicant to investigate applied uses of this aerial anomaly-detection technology, such as search and rescue or environmental monitoring.

The Space Science & Technology Centre (SSTC) is the largest planetary science group in the southern hemisphere comprising ~40 researchers with expertise across the planetary sciences, including planetary geology, fireball physics, impact crater analysis and statistics, and Solar System formation. SSTC also has an active cubesat building program, Binar, which recently launched its first satellite. The candidate will be exposed to a wide range of support from all personnel at levels, including academic and professional support, and will enjoy collegiate support from their PhD peers. This project will make use of the Desert Fireball Network, the largest single dataset of incoming asteroidal material in the world. This unique facility is managed here at Curtin with the support of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. 

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.  

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

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

A strong applicant with a background in STEM or a demonstrated interest in Machine Learning. Earth Sciences familiarity is preferred but not essential. 

The applicant will be working within the Desert Fireball Network team, and there will be some fieldwork involved, primarily in the Australian outback, to visit meteorite fall areas and carry out searching, and to support the existing camera network. 

Drone flight training or qualifications are not required, as training for this will form part of the learning activities. 

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, Dr Martin Towner via the EOI form above.

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