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Elite opportunity for early career Curtin researcher

Media release

A Curtin University of Technology biomedical sciences Phd student has been selected to present her work at a prestigious national research conference.

Twenty-five-year old Carla Zammit is one of only eight early career scientists from across Australia to present their research at the annual Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Association Conference to be held in Alice Springs this month.

Ms Zammit, of East Perth, said she was honoured to be chosen for this opportunity.

“I am really looking forward to sharing the outcomes of my research on bioleaching with the broader scientific community,” she said.

“This conference will be attended by some of Australia’s top researchers and it’s a coup to be just one of eight young scientists chosen to be a part of it.”

The eight early career research scientists presenting at the conference were chosen by a judging panel from the 49 CRCs in Australia.

In her research, Ms Zammit has identified a salt-tolerant micro-organism that can be used to extract metal from low-grade or difficult to process ores in a process termed biomining.

This method is advantageous over more traditional methods due to low start up and maintenance costs.

“Biomining can extract metals from waste ore and does not require large amounts of energy to do so,” Ms Zammit said.

“A salt tolerant organism is important for WA as water here is very saline and existing micro-organisms are salt intolerant which makes them unsuitable for bioleaching in Western Australia.”

Her research has the potential to save the mining industry significant amounts of money annually.

“I’ve been working on this project since 2006, and have just returned from Sweden where I was able to take my study to the next step at the University of Umea,” Ms Zammit said.

“Having identified this very unique micro-organism, I am now in the process of finding out what allows it to tolerate, and even thrive, in high salt conditions.

“The only other place in the world that this micro-organism has been found, besides Perth, is in a volcano in Italy.

“The process also does not produce harmful emissions traditionally associated with smelting.”

Ms Zammit belongs to the Environment Microbiology group at Curtin’s School of Biomedical Sciences and in addition to an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA), she also receives support from the Parker Cooperative Research Centre for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions.

Her research is being supervised by Dr Elizabeth Watkin and Dr Lesley Mutch from Curtin’s School of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr Helen Watling from CSIRO.

Ms Zammit expects to complete her PhD and graduate in September this year.

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