Risk and Ethics in the use of Synthetic Biology to Address the Climate and Ecological Crisis

Institute for Culture and Society

Lead Researchers: Dr Josh Wodak

About the project

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology (CoESB)(opens in a new window) is a new, cross-disciplinary, and national research centre, which aims to create the knowledge and strategies necessary for Australia to develop a vibrant bioeconomy building on the nation’s strengths in agriculture. The Centre will combine engineering with molecular biology to design and construct novel biological systems that can convert biomass from agriculture or waste streams to biofuel, bioplastics and other high-value chemicals.

The Centre brings together leading researchers in the humanities, social and technological sciences in an international industry, research and civil society network. Funded by the Australian Research Council from 2020 to 2026, CoESB is hosted at Macquarie University in Sydney (Australia) with nodes in seven other Australian universities. Research in the CoESB is focused upon Centre’s three capabilities: Systems Bioengineering, Industrial Translation, and Social Dimensions.

The PhD Candidate is aligned to the ‘Technoscientific Interventions in The Ecological and Climate and Crisis’ Project within the Social Dimensions capability in the CoESB. The candidate will undertake qualitative research on the ethical, social and/or cultural dimensions of technoscientific responses to the ecological crisis and the climate crisis, with a particular focus on synthetic biology for biodiversity conservation, and/or climate change mitigation.

The HDR Candidate will contribute to a number of projects within the Centre, concerning ethical issues and values, and cultural shifts with respect to synthetic biology in terms of the three interconnected streams of the Social Dimensions research program: Promises, Practices, and Policies.

The candidate will be based at the Western Sydney University node of the CoESB at the Institute for Culture & Society (ICS). The candidate will collaborate actively with researchers at ICS and the CoESB’s national and international network of participants. The HDR Candidate will also have access to the CoESB’s research training and professional development opportunities, international visiting fellowships and exchanges (travel arrangements permitting), and the Centre’s network of industry partners.

The PhD project is expected to commence in August 2021.

What does the scholarship provide?

  • Domestic candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs, supported by the Research Training Program (RTP) Fee Offset.
  • International candidates will receive a tax-free stipend of $30,000(AUD) per annum for up to 3 years to support living costs. Those with a strong track record will be eligible for a tuition fee waiver and Overseas Student Health Cover(opens in a new window) (Single Policy).
  • Support for conference attendance, fieldwork and additional costs as approved by ICS.

Eligibility criteria

We welcome applicants with a disciplinary background in ethics, environmental humanities, science and technology studies, history and philosophy of science, environmental sociology, or other relevant fields. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with strong interests in the ethical, social and/or cultural dimensions of the application of synthetic biology for biodiversity conservation, and/or climate change mitigation.

The successful applicant should:

  • hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) a Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
  • demonstrate strong academic performance in subjects relevant to the project.
  • have an understanding of the discourse of technoscientific responses to the climate crisis and the ecological crisis.
  • be willing to learn the scientific and technical concepts and methods of synthetic biology.
  • be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.

International applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency.(opens in a new window)

How to apply

Follow the step-by-step instructions on the how to apply for a project scholarship(opens in a new window) page.

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

For questions and advice about the research project, please contact the Lead Researcher;
Doctor Josh Wodak: j.wodak@westernsydney.edu.au

For questions and advice about the application process, please contact the Graduate Research School: grs.scholarships@westernsydney.edu.au.

Applications close 31 May 2021

*Applications close at 11.59pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

Scholarship reference code: 2021_053_ICS