PhD Opportunities in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Make a difference in the world

UWA is furthering scientific understanding with groundbreaking research across a range of disciplines. Researchers in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences work collaboratively with other schools, universities and industry in Western Australia and worldwide. Our PhD students have the opportunity to conduct research with supervisors who are recognised experts in their field, have access to state-of-the-art facilities and are encouraged to grow and develop your critical and analytical skills.

Why Engineering and Mathematical Sciences?

The world is quickly evolving with rapid population growth, higher standards of living and environmental challenges, requiring smarter ways to use energy and resources. We empower researchers to change our world, developing innovative ideas for the future.

Ranked 4th in the world and 1st in Australia for Mining and Mineral Engineering (ARWU 2020)

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Ranked 30th in the world for Civil and Structural Engineering (QS World Uni Rankings 2020)

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Ranked 5th in the world and 1st in Australia for Marine / Ocean Engineering (ARWU 2020)

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UWA Department of Physics awarded 5 out of 5 in Excellence of Research in Australia (ERA) rankings in the area of Physical Sciences

Current PhD Opportunities

Research opportunities are available for prospective students interested in a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Master of Philosophy (MPhil). You can learn more by emailing the Pre-candidature team at the Graduate Research School.

Specific projects we are recruiting for are listed below:

Airborne geophysics PhD scholarship

Project description:

Airborne surveys can densely map mineral and water resources over large areas that cannot be covered with ground-based methods. This project aims to investigate an innovative new concept in airborne electromagnetic transmitter-receiver systems that can detect deeper minerals with better vertical resolution. 

The first PhD student will focus on the development of the new transmitter technology. This person will obtain broad experience in aviation electronics, high power electrical systems and radio frequency power amplifier design. The student will also get extensive training in control system design and programming.

The second PhD student will investigate the processing and interpretation of electromagnetic data, especially how the improved bandwidth translates to better resolution of geology. This person will develop key skills in computer programming and big datasets, and get extensive training in geophysical modelling and data processing.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants should have completed a Masters or Bachelor with honours in physics, geophysics or engineering. Some experience in designing mechanical systems, electrical circuits or programming is highly desirable.

Project Specific Scholarships:

A tax free stipend to the value of $30,000 (AUD) per annum for 3 years is available for the appointee.

Successful international applicants will be offered a tuition fee scholarship.

Project Specific Scholarships:

Physics

Project Lead Contact details:

Dr Andrew Sunderland

Interested applicants should complete the online Expression of Interest - including the name of this project as reference

Applying chaos and complexity: Detecting tipping points and predicting transitions in complex dynamical systems

Project description:

Chaotic dynamical systems are characterised by apparently random but deterministic behaviour. Often that behaviour can exist within stable basins of attraction (so-called strange attractors) and may feature irregular and less predictable transitions between distinct basins. This proposal aims to provide mathematical tools to identify such transitions from data.

Conversely, complex systems consist of many relatively simple components interacting in a complicated way. In complex systems it is that pattern of complex interaction (a complex network) that defines the nature of the behaviour of the system This proposal aims to catalogue the structural properties of such complex systems that will lead to transitions between behaviours.

In cancer immunotherapy we are developing tipping point and complex network based methods to identify gene targets and also treatment responders. In the maintenance industry we are working with resource companies on developing these methodologies to predict component (and system) failure at mine site. For communication, social and infrastructure networks (road networks, electrical grids, water distribution networks, disease and information propagation networks) we are interested in characterising favourable properties of these networks that make them robust to failure.

Goals:

The goals of this project (or project(s)) will be to address at least one of the following objectives:

  • Develop mathematical and algorithmic tools to identify tipping point transitions in dynamical systems observed through time series data
  • Characterise the behaviour of complex systems from the topology of network topology. Identify indicators of structural instability in the network which lead to onset of decoherence in the system behaviour
  • Apply these methods to real-world systems in collaboration with domain experts  (tipping point transition in cancer immunotherapy, failure prediction in mine-site equipment, robustness and structural maintainability of utility and transport networks, design of immunisation strategies for mitigating disease propagation in societal networks or information flow in social networks)

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

A good honours or masters degree in mathematics, physics or computing.

Project Specific Scholarships:

The ARC ITTC In Transforming Maintenance Through Data Science will offer scholarships (either top-up or full-fee) for projects relating to Maintenance conducted in collaboration with our industry partners (BHP, Alcoa and Roy Hill). 

Significant Project Funding:

  • The ARC ITTC In Transforming Maintenance Through Data Science will offer scholarships (either top-up or full-fee) for projects relating to Maintenance conducted in collaboration with our industry partners (BHP, Alcoa and Roy Hill).
  • Work related to cancer immunotherapy is conducted in collaboration with the Perkins Institute and Telethon Kids. This is funded (in-part) with grants from the Cancer Council and the ARC Discovery Program
  • Suicide and self-harm related projects (both as a manifestation of tipping points, but also social or institutional network structure) are supported by the Young Lives Matter foundation.

Project Lead Contact details:

Professor Michael Small

CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems

Email: michael.small@uwa.edu.au

Phone: +61 8 6488 3877

Developing targeted tillage weed control in row-cropping systems (Immediate start)

Project description:

The new targeted tillage project Developing targeted tillage weed control in row-cropping systems will represent a fundamental advance by introducing an in-crop non-chemical site-specific approach to weed control to compliment the teams recently developed Weed Chipper.

Due to the lack of non-chemical weed control options, their increasing herbicide resistance threatens the viability of conservation agriculture (CA) systems. You will help engineer a rapid response cultivation system to enable precision tillage-based weed control in row-crops of varying row widths. Weed control efficacy will be evaluated in plot trials and subsequently in commercial fields.

The development of the new in-crop mechanical weed control system, coupled with soon to be commercially available in-crop weed detection technologies, will help future proof CA based row-cropping systems through the introduction of non-chemical site-specific weed control.

2 full scholarships are available for the successful applicants.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

First class honours/Masters of Professional Engineering (electrical/mechanical/mechatronic) and/or demonstrated industry experience in mechanical/electrical/mechatronic engineering and/or autonomous vehicle technology.   

Start date:

ASAP

Project Lead Contact Details:

Dr Andrew Guzzomi

Study Area:

Agricultural Engineering

How to apply

Future Tails - a focus on preventing future catastrophic failures of tailings dams

Project description:

The Future Tails project is a collaboration between UWA, BHP and Rio Tinto. The focus of the project is the prevention of future catastrophic failures of mine tailings storage facilities. It will position Australia as a global leader in tailings management thinking, training, research, education and practice.

The Future Tails PhD candidate will work on a project agreed between the two industry sponsors and UWA, prioritising a topic that will assist in significant reductions in the risks associated with management of mine tailings, both here in Australia and internationally. A full scholarship is available for the successful candidate.

Study area:

Mining Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering

Eligibility:

  • Applicants should have a Masters or Bachelor Honours degree with outstanding results in a relevant field such as Civil Engineering.
  • Preferably demonstrated relevant experience in industry.
  • Applicants must meet the admission requirements as set out by the University, including meeting the English requirement.
  • The project manager reserves the right to make an appointment before the closing date if a suitable candidate is identified.

Project Lead Contact Details:

Professor Andy Fourie

andy.fourie@uwa.edu.au

Interested applicants should complete the online Expression of Interest - including the name of this project as reference

Geopolymer concrete for thin-walled structures in marine environment

Project description:

This project aims to develop ultra-high performance geopolymer concrete thin-walled structures for the critical infrastructure in the marine environment. It is expected that this project will develop novel design rules for ultra-high performance geopolymer concrete thin-walled structures based on experimental testing, numerical modelling, validation, and simulation.

This project will increase the durability of coastal infrastructures and significantly reduce the loss of their capacities due to corrosion-induced damage. The development of ultra-high performance geopolymer concrete thin-walled structures is a significant engineering discovery, which is in line with the Australian government 2030 vision for sustainable development.

This project is suitable for PhD students who are interested in structural engineering, mechanics of materials and offshore/coastal engineering.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

  • Experience in concrete laboratory would be an advantage
  • Suitable prior Masters/Honours study in engineering with a minimum achievement of the equivalent of an Australian Distinction
  • The project manager reserves the right to make an appointment before the closing date if a suitable candidate is identified
  • International applicants should ideally be residing within Australia

Study Area:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Offshore Engineering
  • Coastal Engineering

Project Lead Contact Details:

Mohamed Elchalakani

Email: mohamed.elchalakani@uwa.edu.au

Liquid Hydrogen Reactor Design

Project description:

Liquid Hydrogen is increasingly being considered as an option for both high density renewable energy storage and as a means of exporting green hydrogen. 

A critical step however in liquefying hydrogen is the highly exothermic ortho- to para-hydrogen spin isomer conversion that needs to be completed prior to liquefaction.   

The focus of the proposed PhD program will be to develop kinetic models of this unique conversion process and to subsequently use this to design cost effective large-scale hydrogen liquefaction processes. 

This is a collaboration with CSIRO and will involve a 6 month secondment to their Energy division.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

  • Suitable prior study in engineering or physical sciences.
  • The project manager reserves the right to make an appointment before the closing date if a suitable candidate is identified.

Study Area:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Physics

Project Lead Contact Details:

Prof Michael Johns

Email: michael.johns@uwa.edu.au

Logging whilst Drilling for the Mining Industry

Project description:

This project will consider the requirements of 'logging whilst drilling' in the mining industry. One of the sub-projects will look at various energy harvesting options from the air supply (that drives the drill bit) in order to meet the power requirements of a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) logging tool, that is used to inform on local rock porosity, water content and permeability. 

The other sub-project will consider the effect of motion on the quality of NMR logging data as produced by a 'logging whilst drilling' apparatus as has been developed for various mining operations.  The relevant motion arises from the vibrations of the drill bit which affects the various detection zones of the NMR tool.  In addition, the use of alternative detection nuclei to 1H will be explored allowing for potential novel Cu or Li detection.

The project is a collaboration between UWA and Rig Technologies/Wallis Drilling (both located in Perth) and will feature experimental work at both locations. 

Study Area:

Chemical Engineering

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants with a background in a relevant Engineering discipline (Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, Mechatronics), or those with a background in Physics 
Interested applicants should complete the online Expression of Interest - including the name of this project as reference.

Project Specific Scholarships:

A tax free stipend to the value of $30,000 (AUD) per annum for 3.5 years is available for the appointee.

Project Contact Details:

Mike Johns: michael.johns@uwa.edu.au

Einar Fridjonsson: einar.fridjonsson@uwa.edu.au 

Monitoring and modeling recharge across the heterogeneous environments of the Perth Groundwater Basin

Project description:

Sustainably using groundwater from the aquifers around Perth requires balancing the needs of groundwater dependent ecosystems and society for access to this water: a difficult challenge that is likely to worsen under a drier future climate. At present, Western Australian Government Agencies rely on models to help support these decisions. Recharge is a key flux that drives these models, but often remains uncertain. This PhD position is a component of a larger project that aims to develop new recharge models. A key component of the project is to design and implement recharge monitoring to enable comprehensive testing of these models.  

Your role in this project is to use the existing Perth Regional Aquifer Model (PRAMS) to identify whereabouts recharge observations would have the greatest benefit to informing management decisions.  You would also assist in the field deployment of the recharge monitoring equipment, and in data acquisition, processing and use.  You would work closely with experts in numerical modelling and the use of PRAMS (Dr. Adam Siade), in groundwater and ecohydrology (Dr. Sarah Bourke, Jim McCallum and Sally Thompson) and with a postdoctoral scholar working on the project. You will form part of a large research team including UWA, CSIRO and Western Australian State Government Agencies.

This position would suit a candidate who has achieved or will achieve First Class Honours or a high achieving Masters Student in Science/Engineering. Candidates experienced in groundwater hydrology, modeling and environmental field measurements will be highly regarded.

Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, we are only able to consider applicants who are currently in Australia.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

  • Bachelor Honours (First Class) or Master’s degree in Science or Engineering
  • Experience in modelling, preferably hydrological or hydrogeological modelling
  • Experience in field research
  • Excellent written and communication skills in English

How to Apply and Project Lead Contact details:

Applicants should email Dr Sally Thompson directly at sally.thompson@uwa.edu.au expressing your interest.

Please include a cover letter of no more than one page, your CV and a copy of your academic transcripts showing all subjects studied and grades achieved.

Monitoring transport of produced water in the ocean

Project description:

Produced formation water discharge to marine environments from offshore oil and gas operations is highly regulated, and environmental monitoring requirements can be onerous. The objective of the research is to evaluate the potential for application of novel and emerging techniques to hydrocarbon monitoring.

Successful application may reduce reliance on end of pipe wet chemistry data, and improve quantification of the composition, geometry and extent of the produced water plume with distance from the point of release, including at compliance boundaries. 

With advances in sensor technology, and improving economics for delivery, monitoring of broader scale spectral signatures within the marine environment is hypothesised to be a more robust approach to managing operational discharges.  

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

At least first class honours degree or equivalent, or Masters degree in oceanography, marine science, engineering, mathematics, physics or cognate subjects. 

Project Specific Scholarship:

A full scholarship is available for the successful applicant.

Project Lead Contact Details:

Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi

chari.pattiaratchi@uwa.edu.au

Study Area:

Oceanography

How to apply

On-chip Optomechanical Mass and Quantum Sensing in a Cryogenic Environment

Project description:

This project involves the investigation of nanomechanical cantilever technologies to create a platform technology that may provide (1) robust and accurate solid-state clocks as an alternative to atomic clocks that are difficult to manufacture and maintain, and (2) implementations of important quantum state transfer and quantum memory devices.

The techniques to be investigated involve the combination of photonic integrated circuits and nanomechanical resonators to create devices that will utilise dilution refrigeration technologies and cooling to milli-Kelvin temperatures in order to investigate and study a plethora of quantum phenomena, as well as classical studies of phase transitions in gases.

The successful PhD student should expect to develop skills in quantum physics, design and development of silicon photonics, design and fabrication of nanomechanical resonators, as well advanced measurement techniques.

This project will create many industry opportunities in the emerging quantum computing market, and may enable collaborations with organisations such as Microsoft and IBM who already have a strong quantum-computing footprint within Australia.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants are required to meet the standard admissions requirements as determined by the Graduate Research School.

Project Lead Contact details:

Assoc/Prof Gino Putrino 

Research Associate Professor

Email: gino.putrino@uwa.edu.au

Real-Time Optimisation in Operations of Transport, Mining and Energy

Project description:

Real-time optimisation and scheduling is a challenging task in developing intelligent automation technologies. Its implementation can be in the shape of routing vehicles, controlling storage, scheduling labour, organising maintenance, allocating resources and responding to unforeseen events.

The major Western Australian industries collaborate with The University of Western Australia in this area are in following sectors: transport, energy supply, servicing remote communities, mining and offshore extraction.

The focus of research in this area is to devise new state of the art strategies for work plans and models to be rapidly adapted as needed.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants are required to meet the standard admissions requirements as determined by the Graduate Research School.

Project Lead Contact details:

Dr Ghulam Mubashar Hassan

Lecturer

Email: ghulam.hassan@uwa.edu.au

Seedling navigation in rocky soils

Thigmomorphogenesis in pre-emergence seedling growth: How do seedlings navigate rocky soils?

Seedlings of wild plants often need to emerge from heterogeneous soil environments with many obstacles (compacted soils, rocky soils, etc.). Understanding how seedlings emerge in these conditions, including the limits of emergence, has broad applications spanning seed ecology, material science, robotics, ecological restoration, agriculture and even astrobotany. For example, in ecological restoration, if seed placement can account for the heterogeneity of the soil matrix, the proportion of successfully emerged seedlings, and potentially, the growth rate of emerged seedlings, could be enhanced. Higher emergence and seedling survival could result in major savings in seed costs and deliver better plant and ecosystem restoration.

Engineers at the UWA Centre for Engineering Innovation: Agriculture & Ecological Restoration, in collaboration with seed biologists at Kings Park Science and material scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces are seeking a suitable PhD candidate to understand how native seeds emerge from rocky substrates and in harsh environmental conditions. We seek to address questions such as:

•             What are the limits to seedling emergence depth, and how is emergence depth related to the energy stores of the seed?

•             How do soil properties such as rock content and compaction influence or limit seedling emergence?

•             Can seedlings navigate obstacles such as large rocks in the soil profile, and what are the limits to this navigation?

•             What mechanisms drive the navigation process, i.e. how do seedlings “sense” their surroundings?

•             Do tissue properties within the seedling change to compensate for increases in mechanical pressure or harsh environments?

Addressing such questions will require a multidisciplinary approach and a combination of theory and quantitative experimentation. For example, the extensive testing of seed germination and seedling emergence under a range of conditions, including in soil and soil simulated conditions (under elevated pressure to simulate soil compaction, for example). Various 2- and 3-dimensional imaging techniques (micro-CT, microtome sectioning, for example) could be employed to visualise seedling emergence and understand seedling tissue morphology before, during and after emergence. Mathematical modelling could be developed to analyse energy and mass use by the seedling during emergence and develop explanatory models.

Study area: Seed Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Soil Mechanics, Mathematical Modelling


PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria: The successful applicant should have B. SC (Hons), M.Sc., B.E (Hons) or M.Eng. The completion of a degree with a significant research component is highly desirable. Knowledge in one or more of the study areas or a keen interest in the study areas is critical.


Project Lead Contact details: Dr Monte Masarei, monte.masarei@uwa.edu.au


Department:  UWA Centre for Engineering Innovation: Agriculture & Ecological Restoration

Shark Bay: oceanographic influence on Prawn and Snapper fishery

Project description:

Shark Bay, or Gathaagudu (two-waters), is recognised on the World Heritage List as a place of exceptional natural features. It the largest coastal embayment in Australia with unique physical oceanographic characteristics and a number of unique habitats that support important recreational and commercial species.

Water circulation models of Shark Bay and the adjacent ocean have been developed and validated for the region. This project will use these hydrodynamic models together with particle tracking modules to examine the connectivity between different regions of Shark Bay (prawns) and the surrounding continental shelf region (pink snapper).

Examination of climate variables (e.g. year-to-year variation in winds, sea level, Leeuwin Current and El Nino Southern Oscillation) and how they relate to inter-annual changes in the dynamics of the water circulation and its relationship to fishery catch will also form part of the project.

In addition to this project, many fully funded projects are available to those who are interested in any aspects of coastal physical oceanography. This could include field measurements and numerical modelling in a variety of environments that include estuaries, nearshore and continental shelf regions.

Study area:

Oceanography

Eligibility:

Applications are invited from Australian domestic students including New Zealanders (or eligible international students) with an Honours or Masters degree (or equivalent) in oceanography, marine science, mathematics, engineering or related fields.The project manager reserves the right make an appointment before the closing date if a suitable candidate is identified.

Project Lead Contact Details:

Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi

chari.pattiaratchi@uwa.edu.au

Interested applicants should complete the online Expression of Interest - including the name of this project as reference

Smart Roadside Barriers With Enhanced Sustainability and Impact Energy Absorption

Project description:

According to Road Trauma Australia 2019 Statistical Summary, more than 1100 lives are lost and more than 10,000 serious injuries occur every year on Australian roads. Single vehicle run-offs are the most typical road accident scenario. They account for around 30% of road deaths.

Roadside barriers have been identified as an effective solution to reduce injury severity and risk of death in such accidents. Unfortunately the concrete roadside barriers currently used in Australia are extremely stiff (practically rigid). Upon impact with such barriers, most of the energy is absorbed by the vehicle.

This project will save lives and reduce severity of road injuries by developing a new generation of cost-effective, smart and sustainable concrete roadside barriers with high impact energy absorption. Full-scale Car Crash tests against our innovative barrier will be performed and then will be verified by finite element analysis.

Two PhD Scholarships are available.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

Must meet UWA's Higher Degree by Research Admission Policy; In addition experience in Finite Element Analysis (but not essential).

Study Area:

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Project Lead Contact Details:

Associate Professor Mohamed Elchalakani

Email: mohamed.elchalakani@uwa.edu.au

Terahertz Biomedical Engineering

Project description:

Terahertz imaging and optical coherence tomography can be combined to produce unique information about a sample. In this project you will develop this technology further for diagnosis and imaging of diseases of the skin and the eye, as well as other tissues.

A background or interest in engineering, optics, electronics, physics, programming and data analysis would be ideal. 

Applicants can apply for this scholarship via the online portal in iAthena in "Round 2 2021 for Domestic and International Students in Australia" (for commencement in 2021) or "2022 International Round" (for commencement in 2022).

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

  • Applicants are required to have a background in physics, biomedical engineering or electronic/electrical engineering. 

Study area:

  • Physics, Biomedical Engineering

Project Lead Contact Details:

Assoc/Prof Vincent Wallace

vincent.wallace@uwa.edu.au

Water Management in the Resources Industry

Project description:

Issues concerning access to clean water and discharge of sufficiently clean water are pervasive across the entire resources sector. Such issues are made much more acute when the required engineering is in remote locations, which are prevalent in Western Australia.

Within the Fluid Science and Resources research cluster we have PhD projects under this research umbrella which focus primarily on novel NMR technology for discharge water monitoring – with the ultimate goal being application on unmanned platforms/sites and eventually sub-sea.

We also focus on monitoring the performance of water purification membrane systems (e.g. desalination), particularly ‘smart methods’ for the early detection of fouling events in these opaque membrane modules such that appropriate remedial action can be automatically exercised.

A common goal across this project area is the need for remote, automated sensing.

We request applications from PhD students who want to engage in this exciting research area.

PhD Applicant Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants are required to meet the standard admissions requirements as determined by the Graduate Research School.

Project Lead Contact details:

A/Prof Einar Fridjonsson

Senior Lecturer

Email: einar.fridjonsson@uwa.edu.au

Prof Michael Johns

Professor, DENG Cantab

Email: michael.johns@uwa.edu.au

Advanced Measurement of Ortho-Para Conversion and Boil-Off Gas in Liquid Hydrogen

Project description:

Current hydrogen liquefaction technologies are limited by many interconnected and related challenges, including ortho-para (O-P) hydrogen conversion and boil-off gas handling. This research mimicked the conditions of hydrogen liquefaction and LH2 storage by constructing a laboratory facility and conducting experiments on ortho-para conversion and the effect of heat flux, volume and stratification on the BOG. The experimental data sets will enable verification and optimization of the thermodynamic and kinetic models. The project goals are: (1) Constructing experimental facility: This include ortho-para conversion reactor with packed-bed catalysts, hydrogen liquefier, LH2 BOG apparatus, instrumentation, safety measures and control, (2) Conduct experimental studies: This include catalytic O-P conversion measurements as a function of catalyst loading, particle size and reactor configuration and experimental studies examining the effect of variable parameters on the BOG rate such as stratification phenomena and pressure change during self-pressurization. Data analysis is key factor in this research, implementing accurate measurements, (3) Modelling approaches: Comparison of resultant data set with ortho-para conversion kinetic models. Additionally, experimental BOG data will be used to validate existing BOG models.

Study area:

Chemical and Process Engineering

Eligibility:

The successful applicant should have B. SC (Hons) M.Sc. or M.Eng in Chemical engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Physics. Some knowledge of experimental and/or theoretical work is desirable. Distinction for a Master degree with significant research component are highly desirable.

Project Lead Contact Details:

Dr Saif Al Ghafri

saif.alghafri@uwa.edu.au

Interested applicants should complete the online Expression of Interest - including the name of this project as reference

EMS Research Clusters

Contact HDR Pre-candidature Team

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