HDR Scholarship - Impact of textile waste on plant biology

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Impact of textile waste on plant biology'.

Project Supervisor


Geelong Technology Precinct (GTP), Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

Soil ecosystems are crucial for sustaining agricultural industries upon which food security and financial stability depend. The interactions between biological communities and physio-chemical variables contribute to the overall quality of the soil. Textile waste ending up in landfills has adverse effects on soil quality by causing changes to both biotic (soil organic matter and organisms) and abiotic variables (soil nutrients, metal pollutants, and soil structure). In Australia, 23 Kg out of the consumed 27 Kg of textile person ends in landfills. Innately, the material, finishing, and dyes that constitute these textile waste impacts the cycling of essential nutrients and plant growth and can act as or protect other organisms from pathogens. Hence, there is a potential to return this textile waste to fields to offer benefits to soil health that could be a scalable solution to this massive landfill problem.

Plants are complex biological systems whose functional drive (flux, nutrient transport) is often quantified by the appearance of a structure (leaf, flower). Morphological transformations in a plant indicate signalling, defence, and growth mechanism, which is highly influenced by soil characteristics and climate. Microorganism activity, nutrient solubility, and availability are some of the critical processes that inherently depend on soil characteristics. For instance, reactive oxygen species (ROS) present in the soil play a vital role in cellular homeostasis, which controls plant metabolism, growth and development, adaptation, and suicide events. Another critical variable is the pH of the soil; in acidic soil, most micronutrients are more available to plants than in neutral alkaline soil, which generally favours plant growth. Conversely, lower availability of micronutrients will adversely affect plant growth. Therefore, this project aims to address the need for a systematic investigation of the impacts of textile landfill on soil characteristics concerning plant growth.

Project aim

This project aims to investigate the impact of textile waste on plant growth. Considering the soil and climate in Australia, wheat will be chosen initially, and cotton post-consumer textile waste will be chosen as this will be a sequence to a PhD project in our group that investigates the degradation of dyed cotton fabrics. The layout of the project is as follows:

  1. Investigate the soil characteristics-physio-chemical (properties - like pH, carbon retention, and soil structure) and molecular analysis (DNA extraction and bacterial composition)
  2. Plant growth – Germination test, growth rate, and plant traits, including biomass, leaf length, and the relative chlorophyll content of plants.
  3. Understand the molecular interactions between the molecular species generated from textile landfills and plant growth regulators to elucidate how they stimulate or inhibit plant seedling growth

This project aims to develop and deliver a fit-for-purpose high-impact solution to challenges posed by textile waste ending in landfills. The project aligns well with IFM’s strategic direction of research catalyzing change. In the big picture, this multi-disciplinary research will initiate collaborations between stakeholders, including different schools at Deakin, agriculture-based industries, and government organizations like Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). ACIAR supports such research projects that have the potential to contribute to the improvement of productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems.

Important dates

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $33,500 per annum tax exempt (2023 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Tuition fees offset for the duration of 4 years. Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • experience in soil science or plant science with chemistry background.

Study with us

Work on immersive, innovative projects to address material challenges in the energy, mining, environment, health, transport, textiles and manufacturing sectors.


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Gayathri Devi Rajmohan

Dr Gayathri Devi Rajmohan
Email Dr Gayathri Devi Rajmohan
+61 3 524 79298