Novel microbes in fermentations

Developing methods for identifying taxonomic and functional diversity of microbes useful in food industry fermentations, including from waste streams

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Fermentation is the process by which microbes grow on organic substrates and produce metabolites. However, this basic definition does not capture the scope of transformative opportunity afforded by fermentation: from creating novel flavour profiles to entirely novel foods, and from addressing key industry demands to reduce food waste to treating and valorising waste streams. The Australian food industry is currently poorly serviced by research providers for when it comes to even the most basic of microbiological/biotechnological profiling services that support their efforts in innovative fermentation. Seeking innovation and differentiation, many industry participants employ so-called ‘wild’ (undefined) strains in their novel processes. However, there are a number of problems associated with the use of wild cultures, which by their nature are incompletely understood in their functional capacity. The use of wild cultures can increase business risks, including inefficient production and a lack of quality and consistency, as well as lost opportunity to fully-capitalise on unique wild culture functionality. As a step to achieving that potential this project will develop methodologies for taxonomic and functional profiling of microbes in food industry fermentations, including waste streams. The methodologies developed will include both molecular and large-scale culture-based phenotypic screening. The methodologies developed will be able to be applied for the characterisation of industrial fermentations to demonstrate their ability to optimise efficiency and unlock biotechnological potential. A key focus for the project will be lactic acid producing bacteria, including Lactobacillus and Bacillus spp., and other organic acid-producing bacterial species.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Tom Ross


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements .

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Honours Degree in Microbiology
  • Previous experience in the culture and phenotypic characterisation of microbes from fermentations, food industry waste stream and/or spoiled food products

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Honours Degree in Food Microbiology
  • Previous experience in molecular biology
  • Previous experience in the culture and maintenance of Lactobacillus and Bacillus spp.
  • Previous experience in industrial food microbiology and/or ecology

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Tom Ross, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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