PhD position available: Criticality assessment and quantitative simulations of Australia’s minerals sector

PhD positions available: 
Modelling sustainable and just transitions in Australia’s minerals sector


Two PhD positions are currently available in the Sustainability Assessment Program under the lead of Prof. Thomas Wiedmann at UNSW Sydney. 


Project background and aims

Profound changes in the global economy are emerging. Global commitments to climate protection, sustainability, security and trade are reorienting development pathways, while little time remains to avoid catastrophic climate change with severe disruptions of vital systems of provisioning. Urgent research is needed to map out possible pathways for countries to achieve long-term sustainable development that is economically secure, environmentally safe and socially just for all countries. In Australia, there is a need for evaluating both risks (e.g. diminishing trade in fossil fuels) and opportunities (e.g. increased demand for critical minerals, circular economy) from global changes. 

The project’s long-term research ambition is to provide the knowledge and tools to guide transitions for critical economic sectors towards long-term environmental sustainability and just societal outcomes. It develops advanced modelling and forecasting capability and aims to:

1)  Project quantitative simulations of global changes and their consequences for the criticality of production and use of Australian mineral resources.

2)  Improve methods of criticality and sustainability assessment by linking two advanced research tools, the IELab and the iSDG Australia tool.

3)  Quantitatively evaluate sustainability transition scenarios in terms of supply chain resilience, just employment outcomes and long-term environmental sustainability of Australian minerals and manufacturing sectors.

4)  Deliver evidence-based recommendations in the form of policy, investment and governance settings needed to manage transitions in resource production and materials manufacturing.


PhD position 1: Criticality assessment and quantitative simulations of Australia’s minerals sector

The PhD student will be working with multi-region input-output (MRIO) analysis using the IELab infrastructure ( and will implement and employ disaster scenario analysis to quantify the supply and demand constraints (trade disruptions) of global flows of minerals. The candidate will learn the architecture, data requirements and workflow structure of IELab and will be coding new routines for data management and reconciliation and MRIO table balancing. S/he will collate region-specific data on employment by region, skill level, income level, type of job, gender and industry (all sectors) from labour force statistics and integrate them with Australian IELab sectors and regions.

The PhD candidate will have a solid and relevant background in sciences or engineering with strong experience in computation, data management and sustainability assessment methods. This background will be necessary to realise the essential parts of the hybridisation of methods and models, including the disaggregation of sectors and regions in all model components, the disaster input-output analysis and the scenario capability. These tasks require strong programming and data handling skills, but also allow for pioneering publications as a completely novel modelling framework will be created. The PhD student will participate in evaluating scenario outcomes quantitatively, including reconfiguration of model parameters and routines according to stakeholder feedback, as well as writing scientific publications and reports.



Candidates need to be successful in securing their own primary scholarship via a Research Training Program (RTP) – Domestic or University International Postgraduate Award (UIPA) or any equivalent scholarship from Australia or overseas. A secondary Top-Up scholarship ($5,000) may be available to exceptional applicants.

Successful candidates will join the Sustainability Assessment Program (SAP) at UNSW, which is embedded in the Water Research Centre in the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering. This provides a focal point for multidisciplinary research in sustainability, industrial ecology and ecological economics. SAP aims to support governments and industry in improving their decision making with an integrated assessment framework that combines economic, environmental and social dimensions. We take an economy-wide systems perspective that accounts for both synergies and trade-offs.

Candidates should have backgrounds in natural, environmental, sustainability or engineering sciences, and have the ability to conduct independent research with limited supervision, with excellent written and communication skills, and will be expected to interact regularly with other researchers, government and industry stakeholders. Knowledge of sustainability assessment methods (e.g. input-output analysis, system dynamics modelling, life cycle assessment and material flow analysis,) will be beneficial for the positions. 

Candidates will be supervised by Prof Thomas Wiedmann from UNSW Sydney, who is an internationally recognised leader in sustainability, input-output, footprint and climate mitigation research with an award-winning track record of publications and a well-established professional and collaboration network. Applications should be submitted to him (email: with the subject heading “SAP PhD position” and indicating your specific project of interest (PhD position 1 or 2), along with a cover letter, academic transcript, and CV.

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