In January, we saw the first in-person SciX program since our pilot in January 2020. We welcomed over 160 high school students back to campus to participate in projects across 15 different research topics guided by more than 25 PhD researchers.

“SciX is an outreach program where we bring hundreds of students into campus, and we provide them with an authentic research experience,” says Dr Laura McKemmish, who leads the program.

The SciX program supports Science Extension students and other keen high school students to complete their research projects, by providing them with access to UNSW Science’s world-leading researchers and cutting-edge research tools.

The exciting projects chosen by each student are overseen by academic research staff and are delivered primarily by research PhD students.

“There are always lots of different projects for students to choose, from marine biodiversity to quantum computer projects,” says Dr McKemmish.

The culmination of the SciX program is a jam packed, one-week intensive summer school. The event took place between the 16-20 January this year.


SciX was first developed back in 2019 by Troy Garrett, Dr Laura McKemmish, Dr Shannan Maisey and Prof Elizabeth Angstmann in response to the new Science Extension Syllabus that encourages passionate Year 12 students to extend their understanding of modern scientific enquiry through the development of a scientific research project.

“Academics I’ve spoken to often say they would have loved this opportunity as a high school student, and I know I would have too!” says Dr McKemmish.  

After an online program in 2022 with 130 students, SciX is now in its fourth year back in-person and bigger than ever.

An unforgettable experience for students and mentors


Together, the students and mentors tackled real science questions. Highlights from 2023 projects include editing genes in red blood cells, testing algorithms on a real quantum computer and investigating marine biodiversity and air quality within the Sydney area. Other teams took on projects simulating how molecules absorbing light contributes to global warming, testing performance of novel battery materials and even experimentally exploring how life might have arisen with hot springs on early Earth.

“The most valuable element of the SciX summer school was definitely being able to conduct an experiment using equipment I don't have access to at school under the supervision of an incredibly supportive and patient mentor,” says a SciX 2023 student.

While always a success with the high schoolers, the SciX program is designed to be an experience that also benefits mentors.

“I learnt the importance of providing a place that students feel safe and accepted, they learnt and engaged more as they became more comfortable in the room. I learnt how to be creative in using different teaching methods to get information across and support independent thinking,” says a SciX mentor.

Planning for SciX 2024 is already underway and Dr McKemmish is looking forward to another great year. Whether you’re a parent, student or potential mentor, find out more about the fantastic outreach program.