3D deformation of a heterogeneous Earth

Three-dimensional deformation of a heterogeneous Earth using finite element modelling

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

This project focuses on generating fundamental new insights into the viscoelastic properties of the solid Earth. The solid Earth beneath our feet is constantly changing shape, such as due to plate tectonics, earthquakes, glaciers melting, or the tides. Even far from these events, small deformations (millimetre or even sub-millimetre) can now be measured due to the advent of precise GPS positioning. The theory of what is causing these deformations has lagged behind the observations, however, and new models of the deformations are required.

In particular, it is now clear that we need to represent the full three-dimensional complexity of Earth's structure and viscoelastic properties. This project will further develop finite element models of the whole Earth, and examine its deformation associated with one or more of these major forcings: 1) earthquakes, such as the great Sumatran earthquakes and its effect on Australia; 2) glacier melt from Antarctica, Patagonia, Alaska, or Svalbard; 3) tides – either direct gravitational forcing or due to the changing mass of the ocean tides – in New Zealand, Alaska or Antarctica; or 4) heating and cooling of the Earth over days and seasons and years. Models will be compared with precise GPS or GNSS coordinate time series. The three-dimensional variations in Earth structure will be informed by recent breakthroughs in seismic tomography.

Candidates will gain advanced skills in numerical modelling and geodetic data analysis and generic skills in communication, data analysis, problem solving, and critical thinking. There is substantial employment demand for both these specific and generic skills, within academia, industry, and government. The outputs of this project will eventually benefit all users of GPS and similar systems.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Matt King


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 $31,500 per annum (2023 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.


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:

  • Strong background in physics, mathematics, and/or civil engineering or quantitative Earth sciences (including geodesy)

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in numerical modelling (including finite element modelling), programming would be helpful

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Matt King to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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