Women in STEM profile - PhD student Regina de Medeiros, University of Melbourne

Regina de Medeiros wins Three-Minute Thesis competition describing her PhD Project about Capturing Tiny, Precious, Copper Minerals

University of Melbourne / COEMinerals PhD student Regina de Medeiros has won the Australasian Colloid and Interface Society (ACIS) 3 Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®) in 2023. In her three-minute presentation, entitled Little Minerals for a Sustainable Future,” Regina spoke about how capturing small metals could contribute to a more sustainable future. 

The ACIS 3MT® Competition recognises innovative research by PhD students. 

Regina is in the second year of her PhD research project with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals (COEMinerals), which has a University of Melbourne node. The Centre helps facilitate Regina’s scientific collaborations with researchers from other Australian universities, who represent diverse scientific disciplines. Further to her ACIS win, Regina was also awarded People’s Choice’ winner during the Centre’s PhD student 3MT® competition. 

One of the main ideas of my research project is finding ways to stop wasting valuable minerals – thus reducing overall waste as well as saving energy and resources during the process,” Regina said. 

Originally from Brazil, her interest in polymers led her to pursue her PhD in Australia, with an undergraduate degree in materials engineering laying the foundation for her current research. 

I became fascinated by the potential applications of polymers, such as treating water and removing impurities, during my degree,” she said.

Once the tiny copper minerals are bonded using polymer, the collected copper minerals can be used to produce copper metals, which are commonly used in electronics and renewable energy equipment. 

In the longer term, I hope to scale up testing levels and collaborate with industry and make this a reality; changing how minerals are processed. The technology and know-how already exists in the lab, and it’s my personal aim is to help get it implemented in industry within a decade.” 

Regina is keen to inspire others to study polymer science, particularly girls, who are under-represented in polymer chemistry. At a recent Year 10 Work Experience Program, she conducted experiments to show how polymers could be used to clean water containing large amounts of tiny particles. 

I couldn’t be happier to see so many girls interested in STEM, and I hope we inspired some of them to continue,” Regina said.