Faculty of Science

Exploring the structure and function of biominerals

Biominerals are natures answer to a range of materials science problems, where superior strength, flexibility and hardness have given animals a selective edge. 

  1. Summary of the project
  2. Eligibility criteria
  3. Readings
  4. Contact the research team leader
  5. How to apply
  6. Scholarships

Summary of the project

Chitons are intertidal marine molluscs that possess the unique ability to biomineralise their teeth with magnetite, one of the hardest and most magnetic iron oxides known.

These teeth are stunning examples of organic matrix mediated biomineralisation, and have received considerable scientific attention owing to their superior mechanical properties, which have been demonstrated as being three times harder than human enamel or the calcium carbonate shells of molluscs.

This project aims to elucidate the three-dimensional structure of the organic matrix scaffold that governs the overall architecture of the teeth and examine the fate of this matrix as the teeth progress from the unmineralised to the mineralised state.
Through an analysis of the animals feeding mechanics it will also be possible to understand the functional basis for the design of the teeth from the nano- to the macro-scale.  

Prospective students would have the opportunity to explore a range of cutting-edge microscopic and microanalytical tools in their research, working with a collaborative and multidisciplinary group including microscopists, physicists and marine biologists.

Back to top

Eligibility criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

For this project students should have backgrounds in any of the following areas:

  • Animal Biology/Zoology
  • Marine Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Microscopy

Back to top


Back to top

Contact the research team

Once you have ensured that you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact the research team leader to identify a potential supervisor.
Dr Jeremy Shaw
I am an ARC DECRA Fellow focusing on the use of cutting-edge optical, electron and X-ray microscopy techniques to explore animal magnetoreception and iron biomineralisation. My research is now centred on the use of the honeybee Apis mellifera as a model system to search for magnetoreceptive cells and uses multimodal techniques for studying the fine structure of iron biominerals in a range of other animal systems.

Back to top

How to apply

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader you should be in a position to proceed to step two of the UWA application process: 'Lodge an application'.

Different procedures apply to domestic and international students.

Back to top


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students

Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.

Forrest Foundation scholarships

All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

Back to top