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8th July 2024

COEMinerals PhD researcher Daniel Dodoo featured in an article and on social media by University of Melbourne

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Life as a graduate researcher: Daniel Dodoo

Worldwide demand for copper is growing – while its supplies are getting lower in quality. Chemical engineering PhD candidate Daniel Dodoo works to understand and predict the behaviour of impurities in copper ores. And in his free time, he helps connect fellow African students to mental health services – and each other.

Daniel Dodoo, a black man, wears high-vis clothing while at a visit at an industrial-scale mine
Through COEMinerals, Daniel Dodoo works closely with industry partners. He has visited the Fosterville Gold Mine in Victoria.

Daniel Dodoo says that doing a PhD is like cooking a new recipe. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time.

Sometimes you don’t get what you want. You fail, but you keep trying and trying until you get the right recipe. Sometimes you ask people for their advice – you ask a cooking expert,” he says.

Daniel is a chemical engineering PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne. His research project is part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals (COEMinerals) work to improve mineral processing. COEMinerals gives him access to advice and insights from its nine member universities.

Daniel works closely with his PhD supervisors at the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and the Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). He spends part of his week at the University of Melbourne, and part at CSIRO.

Daniel receives a Research Training Program scholarship for international graduate researchers through the University. He also receives additional funding through COEMinerals.

The funding from the University of Melbourne was the highest compared to the other options that I had,” Daniel says.

Having that financial support gives him the stability to focus on research.

Understanding ore impurities will improve the sustainability of copper recovery

The demand for copper is growing worldwide. From jewellery to technology, most industries need at least a little copper.

Modernisation means you need more electricity. More electricity means you need more cables. More cables mean you need more copper,” Daniel says.

Yet accessible high-grade sources of copper ore are running out. We must rely on lower-grade copper with more impurities.

The mining industry often uses flotation to separate copper from ores. Daniel’s research aims to better understand the flotability of talc, a common impurity in copper ore. Better understanding the properties of talc will help improve the efficiency of copper processing – perhaps through the creation of new technologies or better flotation reagents.

Through COEMinerals, Daniel works closely with industry partners. He has visited Rio Tinto’s Bundoora research labs and the Fosterville Gold Mine, operated by Agnico Eagle Mines Limited.

The partnerships are helping him better understand the challenges of low-grade ores for mining industries in Australia and around the world.

Being a part of the COEMinerals team at the University of Melbourne is an incredible privilege. I have also learnt a lot from people in the mineral industry and from scientists at other universities.Daniel Dodoo

Learn more about our graduate research options

Daniel Dodoo, a black man, stands with a white man in front of a high-tech piece of research equipment, lit with a sharp blue light
Daniel Dodoo spends part of his week at CSIRO Mineral Resources in Clayton, Victoria, where he is supervised by Dr Nathan Webster.

How a PhD can solve industrial problems

Daniel Dodoo, a black man in a bright blue lab coat and protective clothing, performs an experiment at a lab bench
Daniel conducts his experiments at the University of Melbourne’s chemical engineering laboratory to understand the flotability of talc, a common impurity in copper ores.

The industry focus of his project is what convinced Daniel to apply for a PhD.

I honestly didn’t want to do a PhD at first,” he says.

My chances of finding an industrial job in Ghana after completing my PhD may be limited by the high value placed on industrial experience compared to academic experience.”

But the COEMinerals project was a great opportunity. Working closely with industry to solve a specific problem the minerals industry is facing today was much more appealing to Daniel.

With both academic and industrial experience, you have more options,” Daniel says.

Melbourne attracted Daniel as a safe city with a diverse population, compared to some of his options in other countries.

The University of Melbourne’s reputation was also important to him.

I checked the employability rankings. The University of Melbourne was eighth in the world. And the University of Melbourne was ranked number one in Australia overall,” Daniel says.

When I’m talking with my friends overseas, I mention my university and they know it. It makes me feel proud that I’m in the University of Melbourne.”

How the University of Melbourne is helping support African students

Having studied at universities in France, Italy, Poland and Spain, Daniel has a lot of experience as an international student. He completed his masters through the European Union’s Erasmus Mundus program.

Through Erasmus Mundus, I learned a lot and had amazing new experiences at different universities in Europe with support for international students,” he says.

Daniel says the University of Melbourne also has great support for international students.

And he is passionate about helping build that support. Daniel has recently received a Health Promotion Grant from the University to help improve the mental health of African students and graduate researchers on campus.

When I first moved here, a few of the African people I met were struggling. They were away from home, had family issues or conflicts in their country and they didn’t know where or how to get advice and help,” he says.

Settling in a new country can be emotionally challenging.

I struggled when I came to Australia. It was difficult to move here without a family. That’s why this initiative at the University of Melbourne to support African international students is quite important for me.Daniel Dodoo
Daniel Dodoo, a black man, stands in front of a banner advertising an African student outreach group with two black women
Daniel Dodoo is helping relaunch an African outreach group at the University of Melbourne.

The counselling and psychological services team at the University of Melbourne does their best to help. But cultural barriers can make it difficult for some Africans to accept help, Daniel says.

I thought, why don’t we involve the community in helping African students to break the barriers of stigmatisation and cultural taboos so they can seek mental health services on campus?’” he says.

University of Melbourne staff are helping Daniel get the program started.

To further support African students, Daniel is also helping relaunch an outreach group at the University through a Student Services and Amenities Fee grant.

The outreach group, with the help of the University, will help prospective African students find their feet in Australia once they arrive. It will also help them find accommodation and all the resources they will need.

The group will also connect new arrivals to the local African community through social activities.

Daniel never wanted to do research for its own sake. He is happy to have found a PhD program that helps him solve an important problem – and also allows him to connect with a supportive, diverse and inclusive community of people.

The system at the University of Melbourne is very flexible in terms of your work-life balance.”