Grace Scullett-Dean and Golam Taki, PhD students, are on a mission to take waste products from mining and turn them into something useful – soil.
Originally from Toowoomba, Queensland, Grace followed her supervisor, Dr Talitha Santini, over to the west coast to complete her PhD in Environmental Science at UWA.
“Talitha has been a great mentor to me, especially as a female researcher in this field. It’s very inspiring to see someone like that working in this area, and it definitely inspired me to keep studying Environmental Science.”
Together, along with fellow PhD student Golam Taki, they are working to transform bauxite ore residue – a by-product of aluminium production – into a ‘soil’ to host vegetation.
“We’re in the middle of a soil crisis. We are depleting soils globally far quicker than we produce them naturally. Western Australia is a major global producer of bauxite and alumina, so this research is of direct relevance to the WA economy.”Dr Talitha Santini
The project is funded by South 32, a Perth mining and metals company originally part of BHP Billiton, in collaboration with Alcoa Australia. “We’re not just in a lab…Working with them [means] we can see our research in the field put into action, to solve real world problems,” she said of the industry partnership.
Grace also received a prestigious Western Australian Government Science Industry PhD Fellowship for her project. The fellowship aims to support science and industry collaboration and help PhD students studying STEM make an impact in economic high growth areas.
And Grace isn’t just making connections with industry. As a newcomer to Perth, Grace was welcomed with open arms into a community of other PhD students. She says she’ll stay in contact with the people she’s met at UWA for life.
“Studying here at UWA, being surrounded by highly motivated people who are researching exciting new things definitely gives me a lot of hope for the future.”Grace Scullett-Dean