Gain access to UNSW Science's world-leading researchers and facilities.

The SciX program supports Science Extension students and other keen high school students to complete their research projects. We've designed a set of tools, resources and equipment to help you investigate your chosen research topic. The research projects are overseen by our academic research staff and are delivered primarily by our research PhD students. You'll be placed into a small group of students and focus on a particular research area and technique. Your group mentors will introduce you to research and tools at the frontier of scientific knowledge, supporting you in developing your individual hypothesis and carrying out an independent research project. 

In addition to the one-week summer school, SciX offers you:

  • online project-specific pre-work and readings
  • online research skills training 
  • online programming training
  • three Zoom Q&A opportunities in late November/early December, late February and early May

Program timeline

Applications for SciX2022 are now closed. If you're interested in the January 2023 program, please provide your details here to be notified when information becomes available. 

  • October 2022: SciX applications open (first-come, first-served basis for project selection)

  • November 2022: SciX teams organisation opens with skills training and project-specific pre-work

  • Late November/early December 2022: SciX introduction session via Zoom with a one-hour project Q&A opportunity

  • January 2023: SciX Summer School

  • Late February 2023: One hour post-summer-school Q&A opportunity with project mentors

  • Early May 2023: One hour post-summer-school Q&A opportunity with project mentors

  • During the SciX summer school week, you'll be involved in hands-on research lab and workshop sessions. You'll learn new science and techniques in data creation, collection and analysis. We'll support you in developing and investigating your own hypothesis and research question. Each research project will run with a small group of SciX students with one or more research mentors. The research mentors are usually UNSW Science PhD students who have spent several years working on this area of scientific research. Each research project is also overseen by one of our senior academics.

  • All research projects have been developed by UNSW scientific researchers in collaboration with high school science teachers to ensure that they are thought-provoking and aligned with the course syllabus. Senior scientists have reviewed each project to ensure they are interesting, suitable and technically feasible for Year 12 students.

  • Our research project mentors have been formally trained to deliver the program by UNSW staff and high school teachers. During the summer school week, mentors will carefully go through all the scientific and technical knowledge you'll need to complete your project. The student to mentor ratio is around six. 

  • Each group of students will be assigned to a research project. Your group can support each other as you work through your individual lines of enquiry. Students will participate in group forums, facilitated by their project mentor, to encourage discussions and problem-solving. We also have regular activities to connect students from across the program to network and learn from each other.

  • Our budget model incorporates significant availability of fee-waived positions, based primarily on financial need. We're committed to hiring diverse research mentors and encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to participate in SciX. Our research mentors are paid at a fair rate to support the quality and values of the program.

SciX mentors

The SciX mentors are practicing researchers from the Faculty of Science at UNSW, chosen specifically for their enthusiasm for sharing their love of science with others. Previous SciX students have expressed that research time with their mentor was the most valued component of their SciX experience. 

During ten research lab sessions during the summer school, your SciX mentor(s) will: 

  • provide you with access to and training in a specific research technique to use for your scientific research project 
  • suggest potential research areas you could explore within your project’s specific research context and technique, and provide preliminary readings
  • support you in accessing, understanding and citing relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature
  • support you in developing your research question and hypothesis that can be explored based on the project’s research technique
  • answer your questions about the research methodology and the rationale for this approach
  • support you in developing your research plan
  • provide suggestions and some training in how to analyse, present and discuss the data you obtain with your research technique
  • support you in considering future improvements in your methodology
  • support you in understanding the sources of systematic and random errors in your experiment, and understanding the reliability, accuracy, validity and limitations of your methodology

You may also ask your mentor for guidance and advice on: 

  • general research skills such as conducting a good literature review and producing high quality figures
  • publicly available data sources relevant to your project
  • preparing your Science Research Portfolio
  • preparing your Science Research Report
  • project-specific details related to Science Extension syllabus points

SciX projects

Project availability subject to COVID restrictions and minimum numbers. Delivery mode will be determined in late November with opportunities to change projects or late withdrawal with refunds in the event of online delivery.

  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Medical 
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
All life starts from one single cell. That cell then divides into two, four, eight...but sometimes, things go wrong. One cell gets mutated and becomes a cancer cell. How can we catch this difference early? How can we use this knowledge to battle cancer? In this project, students will use advanced microscopy to see how cancer cells are different from healthy cells and investigate how we can use the differences to battle cancer cells.

What will students do?
Students will use microscopy to examine the difference between healthy and normal cells, analysing the data using computer programs. For additional data for analysis and comparison, students will have access to a secondary dataset of cell sizes. 

Areas of student interest

  • cell biology
  • biochemistry
  • cancer biology

Mentor: Dr Cong Vu - Research Associate, School of Chemistry
Dr Cong Vu is a postdoctoral research associate in nanomedicine. His research focuses on designing nanoparticle technology to target cancer cells over healthy cells. He is also founding a start-up company called “Nanosoils”, which is incubated with the Department of Primary Industries. His team hopes to maximise the benefit of agrochemicals for farmers and minimise the residues for environments using nanotechnology.

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  • Project type(s)
    Engineering, Physics 
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
Many industries globally are dependent on our understanding of aerodynamics, such as travel, freight, motorsports and power generation. Accurate design and analysis of airfoils and wings allow us to increase the performance of aircraft, wind turbines, F1 cars etc. increasing the output (speed, power generation) and minimising costs.

What will students do?
During this project, students will design, manufacture and experimentally test an airfoil or wing section. Students will learn how to use the XFoil open-source software to design and theoretically test a wing or airfoil section. They will then test a 3D printed model of their wing section using our wind tunnels to compare the real and theoretical flight performance characteristics. Please note - students will need to have their hypothesis agreed on with their mentor by December.

Prerequisites

  • physics
  • calculus-based mathematics 

Areas of student interest

  • pilots
  • aerospace engineers

Lead academic: Professor Con Doolan - Professor, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Professor Con Doolan is based in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.  He has research interests and expertise in the following areas:

  • aeroacoustics and flow induced noise: understanding and controlling noise generated by fluid flow (aircraft, wind turbines, submarines, fans, ventilation ducts, automobiles, trains, valves, etc.) 
  • fluid mechanics: understanding the physics of fluid flow and applying this knowledge to practical problems in industry  
  • acoustics and noise control: general acoustics, acoustic beamforming, time reversal 
  • wind tunnel testing: aerodynamic

Mentor: Roman Kisler - PhD student
Roman is currently a PhD student in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at UNSW, with a focus on aerospace engineering. He has a master’s degree in engineering physics and a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Berlin Institute of Technology, Germany. His research focuses on the investigation of noise generation phenomena of airfoils and wings which are immersed in complex turbulent flows. This research aims to assist with reduction of flow noise generated by wing-like structures in machinery, e.g., aircraft jet engines, wind turbines and drone propellers.

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  • Project type(s)
    Physics 
  • Project focus
    Computational

Project overview
Astronomy is a rich and diverse scientific research area, covering a range of topics from star formation to galaxy evolution. Fortunately for SciX students, telescopes worldwide are continually producing huge amounts of data that is often freely available and can be analysed in new and unique ways to explore student-driven hypotheses and discover new scientific knowledge.

What will students do?
Students will be introduced to cutting-edge astronomical understanding of stars and galaxies by the researchers discovering the knowledge of the future right now. Students will be taught how to access and process astronomical data using Python, and supported in designing then investigating their own individual hypothesis with this data. Research questions to be explored might include determination of star formation rates or the relationship between galaxy colour and shape. 

Prerequisites

  • physics
  • mathematics 

Areas of student interest

  • astronomy
  • astrophysics
  • space
  • origins of life
  • coding 

Lead academic: Maria Cunningham - Senior Lecturer, School of Physics

  • One of Maria's main areas of research is the use of molecular line radiation to investigate the physical conditions and chemistry of molecular clouds, both in the Milky Way and in other galaxies.
  • Bioastronomy and astrobiology are among the most exciting areas of research in science today, bringing together scientists from the disciplines of physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry and biology. Maria's interests lie in investigating pre-biotic molecules in the interstellar medium. She is involved in collaborative research with groups in the USA, Chile and Germany. 
  • Maria is interested in using astronomical observations of the interstellar medium to constrain the turbulent properties and to determine the effect that turbulence and energy transfer through the interstellar medium have on star formation. 
  • Maria is interested in using data intensive astronomy together with computational astrophysics to understand the relationship between star formation and the surrounding interstellar medium.

Mentor: Shannon Melrose - PhD student
Shannon Melrose is currently a PhD student in the School of Physics at UNSW. He has bachelor's degrees in advanced science (physics, honours) and arts (French, Spanish) from UNSW. Shannon is heavily involved in first-year physics instruction and astronomy outreach activities, with research interests in computational astronomy and black-hole detection. His current research incorporates molecular astrophysics and statistical analysis techniques to characterise the massive star-formation properties of the interstellar medium. 

Mentor: Aman Khalid - PhD student
Aman Khalid is a PhD student at the School of Physics at UNSW. During undergraduate research projects, he developed a keen interest in the field of galaxy formation and evolution. His PhD research focuses on the analysis of tidal features in galaxies from modern cosmological simulations. These tidal features tell us about how a galaxy has interacted with other nearby galaxies in its history.

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  • Project type(s)
    Engineering, Physics 
  • Project focus
    Laboratory

Project overview
Biomimicking materials and 3D printing are two rapidly growing and popular fields with applications in a range of areas like medicine, diagnostics, energy storage and production etc. Learn how we can combine these two exciting fields together to create functional devices for medical and environmental monitoring. Inspired by the vibrant colours displayed by some of the most beautiful creatures and objects in nature like butterflies, beetles and opals, materials scientists have, for a long-time, been trying to mimic these into artificial materials. Using innovative materials fabrication techniques, we have developed sponge-like porous materials that mimic the principles of light modulation in nature. 3D printing is an emerging manufacturing technology that is pushing the boundaries beyond the conventional manufacturing methods that are restrictive and wasteful. In the last decade, 3D printing has become a household name with benchtop 3D printers becoming extremely affordable enabling rapid development and prototyping. Combining biomimicking materials with advanced 3D printing can open doors for the development of devices and tools that could not even be imagined previously. There are endless possibilities of creating devices that can be personalised or purpose-built.

What will students do?
Students will use their creativity to create new patterns for biomimicking porous photonic crystals to use as colour changing sensors. Students will then learn 3D CAD designing and 3D printing to create patterns and utilise their 3D printed patterns to carry out device prototyping and experimental validation of the sensors.

Areas of student interest

  • inventors
  • materials science
  • fundamental sciences
  • nanomaterials
  • 3D designing and printing

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • chemistry
  • physics

Lead academic: Dr Tushar Kumeria – Senior Lecturer, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Tushar's research focuses on a range of sponge-like porous materials for applications in drug delivery, sensing and tissue engineering. Current projects are aimed at developing materials for the delivery of sensitive drug payloads for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases and sensing of receptor-ligand interaction at cell membrane.

Mentor: Ayad Saed - PhD Student
Ayad is working on developing new types of biomimicking porous materials to use in optical sensors. He has a strong background and interest in nanomaterials and sensing. Ayad is using simple electrochemical fabrication and combining his creativity to generate new multi-layered porous photonic crystals that can be used in designing sensors for medical and environmental applications. Besides research, he likes to watch and play football, and cook.

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  • Project type(s)
    Biology
  • Project focus
    Computational 

Project overview
As a discipline, cognitive science explores how the brain takes in information about the world, how it represents information about the world and how it uses it. Through elegant experiments, cognitive scientists have learned a lot about how perception, attention and memory work.

What will students do?
In this project, students will learn about classic experiments in this field and will have the opportunity to analyse previously collected data using well-established tasks. All data was collected using an online tool called Mechanical-Turk, which collects responses from participants across the world. All experiments were approved by the School of Psychology's in-house ethics panel. Working with their mentor, students will create unique hypotheses (related to the available data) that they are interested in exploring and testing.

Additionally, students will be shown how to analyse this de-identified data for trends that support the drawing of a conclusion related to their hypotheses. Students will also have the opportunity to learn some basics in R, which is a programming language, to help understand, analyse, and visualise their data.

Areas of student interest

  • psychology
  • cognitive science
  • data analysis
  • decision-making and risk analysis 

Lead academic: Dr Steven Most - Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology
Steven's research is grounded in cognitive psychology, with strong links to social psychology, clinical psychology and neuroscience. His lab specialises in relationships between motivation, emotion and attentional control. Topics include mechanisms of emotion-driven attentional bias, how attention and emotion shape our awareness of the world, impacts of physical and emotional stress on cognition, and emotion regulation. The lab also specialises in understanding the implications of these processes for real-world safety, including on the roadways. Steven is also passionate about fostering understanding of psychology outside the university.

Mentor: Tehilla Mechera-Ostrovsky - PhD student
Tehilla is a PhD student studying cognitive science at UNSW. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in science from the University of Basel, Switzerland. Her research focuses on the interaction between risky decision-making and information-seeking behaviour; read more here. Tehilla is a committee member of the UNSW R-codeRs and is a member of the Women in Maths & Science Champions Program. Away from work, Tehilla practices kickboxing, takes long morning walks and is looking forward to traveling again.

Mentor: Caspar Muenstermann - PhD student
Caspar is a PhD student from Germany studying behavioral neuroscience at UNSW. He came to Australia to finish his bachelor’s degree in psychology and on the way fell in love with science. He continued on with his PhD research into the molecular mechanisms involved in relapse to nicotine addiction. In his free time, Caspar goes bouldering, bakes amazing tarts and plays Dungeons & Dragons with his friends.

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  • Project type(s)
    Engineering 
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
Design then make a new material to tackle challenging environments and test its performance using sophisticated experimental techniques. With the development of new technologies and changing environments, we need new materials to cope with stress, high temperatures and environmental attacks. It is the job of a materials scientist to create new materials for future applications and understand how the materials get their properties. The new materials that are developed by materials scientists have applications everywhere you could imagine: spacecraft, fighter jets, buildings, scientific instruments, even medical devices and biological implants. Finding new materials is a creative process involving predictions and testing properties using a variety of sophisticated instruments. As you can imagine, there are millions of different potential compositions. Some of these are not particularly useful, others have exceptional properties like high strength, temperature tolerance or resistance to corrosion.

What will students do?
Students will dream up and create a new metal alloy made up of many metallic elements in similar proportions. You will then learn to predict and test its properties using a variety of sophisticated computational and experimental techniques.

Areas of student interest

  • inventors 
  • materials science 
  • fundamental sciences

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • chemistry  
  • physics

Lead academic: Dr Caitlin Healy - Lecturer, School of Materials Science and Engineering 
Caitlin Healy is a lecturer in the School of Materials Science and Engineering. Her doctoral thesis was on the development of more than 20 new alloys using precious metals in the area of high entropy alloys. Spending time in Germany as a researcher in variable resistors, Caitlin developed expertise in the field of lead-free ceramics. Her research focuses on the design, development and characterisation of new metallic alloys in the fields of high-entropy alloys/compositionally complex alloys and bulk metallic glasses. Caitlin is also a former member of the UNSW Postgraduate Council and Vice-President of the Materials Science Postgraduate Society.

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  • Project type(s)
    Biology, Medical

Project overview
Your DNA encodes over 20,000 genes. How do we figure out what all of those genes do? Thanks to CRISPR gene editing - a type of 'molecular scissors' - we can 'cut' genes out of cells grown in culture and see what happens. Curing 'incurable' genetic diseases, making 'super-crops' that can survive climate change and wiping out disease-causing parasites - what was once a sci-fi fantasy is now reality, thanks to a revolutionary technology called CRISPR. In molecular biology labs we use CRISPR as a tool to figure out what genes do inside living cells.

What will students do?
In this project, students will learn how to design and use CRISPR technology to 'knock-out' a gene of their choice inside a red blood cell line. Students will use software to design a personalised CRISPR strategy and will learn how to assemble and introduce the CRISPR components inside living cells. Students will get hands-on wet-lab experience in common molecular and cell biology techniques, including mammalian cell culture, DNA extraction techniques, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and agarose gel electrophoresis.

Areas of student interest

  • molecular biology

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • biology
  • chemistry

Lead academic: Kate Quinlan - Scientia Associate Professor, School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences
Kate is a Scientia Associate Professor in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences (BABS). She joined UNSW in 2014 and currently runs a research group interested in gene regulation using molecular biology, cell biology and genetics approaches to understand human biology and diseases. She was awarded a UNSW Scientia Fellowship and became an independent group leader in 2018. Kate mentors a number of PhD and Honours students.

Mentor: Annalise Psaila - PhD student
Born and raised in Sydney, Annalise fell in love with science in high school, where she completed chemistry and biology in the HSC. Her interest in human health and genetic diseases led her to complete a Bachelor of Advanced Science majoring in genetics at UNSW. Annalise is currently completing her PhD studying genes important to healthy metabolism. As well as all things science, Annalise loves learning piano, ocean swims, and playing with her two little dogs, Bobby and Gigi.

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  • Project type(s)
    Biology, Medical
  • Project focus
    Computational

Project overview
Bioinformatics is the use of large datasets and computer algorithms to answer complex biological questions. With the recent explosion in freely available RNA sequencing data and computer programs, researchers are able to investigate the role of genetics in health and disease. In our research, we focus on diseases of the brain with the aim of contributing to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to treat brain diseases.

What will students do?
Students will perform a bioinformatic analysis on RNA sequencing data from healthy and diseased brain tissues to quantify transcriptomic expression. Students will follow an established pipeline to assess and improve data quality, map sequencing reads to the human genome and then quantify gene and transcript abundances. With this information students will be able to determine the small changes between healthy and diseased individuals. In this study we will provide sequencing data from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple System Atrophy datasets. Like all research, this project will have no 'correct' answers - it is up to the student to ask interesting questions of the data and draw useful conclusions, using the peer-reviewed literature for guidance.

Prerequisites

  • biology

Areas of student interest

  • exploration of human genome to understand complex diseases
  • investigating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • how gene expression impacts human disease
  • application of computer science in genomic research

Lead academic: Sara Ballouz - Senior Research Officer, Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics
Sara obtained her PhD from the University of New South Wales and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in 2013, working with Drs Merridee Wouters and Bruno Gaeta. Sara then moved to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for postdoctoral training with Dr Jesse Gillis. In 2020, she started her own group at the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Sara’s central scientific interest has been to understand the genetic architecture of disease. With data from the genome, transcriptome, epigenome and proteome increasing exponentially, robust tools and practices need to be established to analyse this deluge, in particular if to be applied to personalised medicine.

Mentor: Lachlan Gray - PhD student
Lachlan is a first year PhD candidate at the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. His research is focused on the role of the X chromosome in autoimmunity and is particularly interested in understanding why females are disproportionately affected by these diseases. Lachlan is enthusiastic about applying cutting-edge technologies to diagnose and treat complex diseases in the age of personalised medicine.

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  • Project type(s)
    Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
How did life form on Earth? Leading research into answering this question suggests hot springs (geothermal pools) might have played a role. But how do these pools, full of rock particles, affect the formation of primitive cells? In this project you'll explore how primitive cells could have formed in hot spring environments, helping us understand how life formed on Earth and potentially on other planets. Understanding the origin of life on Earth is one of the key tools we have in figuring out if we are alone in the universe. However, how life formed on Earth is still relatively unknown. Scientists have suggested different hypotheses (including life forming in deep sea vents or in bubbling hot spring pools), yet these are rarely tested in “real world” conditions. In this project you will explore one of the leading hypotheses, that life formed in a hot spring pool, by testing if rock particles (which are found in all hot springs) help or hinder the formation of the basic building blocks of life - the primitive cell membrane.

What will students do?
Students will create model “protocells”. These fatty-acid compartments are considered by many to be one of the first steps towards the formation of living cells. Once these protocells are made, students will expose them to a series of different hot spring conditions such as mineral grains, salts, high temperatures and acidic environments. Using a microscope, students will image the protocells in these "real world” conditions and analyse the data to understand if their protocells can withstand these hot spring environments.

Prerequisites

  • basic (Year 10) understanding of chemistry and biology, and a passion for exploring the universe

Areas of student interest

  • astrobiology
  • origins of life
  • chemistry
  • geology

Lead academic: Dr Anna Wang - Scientia Lecturer, School of Chemistry
Anna Wang is a Scientia Senior Lecturer, researching and teaching chemistry. She has been working on questions pertaining to the origins of life since her NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship in Astrobiology in 2017. 

Mentor: Luke Steller - PhD student
Luke Steller is a science communicator and PhD student at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, UNSW. His research focuses on understanding how life formed on Earth, through studying ancient and modern hot springs. Outside of his research Luke explores all things creative (to limited results), including dancing and basket weaving. He is currently attempting to write a (very bad) stand-up comedy show about science.

Mentor: Lauren Lowe - PhD student
Lauren Lowe is a PhD student in the School of Chemistry at UNSW Sydney. Her research involves regulating the nutrient flow of model primitive and synthetic cells to better understand how cellular life emerged on Earth. Lauren developed a general love for science while at school and really enjoys the multidisciplinary nature of her research. In her spare time, she enjoys playing softball and spending time reading what some might consider to be too many fantasy novels.

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  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Engineering
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
This project will look at how battery materials are developed, how research-scale batteries are made and most importantly how the battery performance parameters are measured. Particular emphasis will be placed on looking at electrode materials in different battery chemistries and looking at the sources of variation in the examination and subsequent analysis. Batteries are all around us. Different battery chemistries are used for different applications depending on aspects such as energy storage density, cost and power. For example, lead acid batteries are used for starter motors in conventional petroleum vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries were commercialised in 1991 and the scientists/engineers working on this were awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2019. Lithium-ion batteries power mobile phones, laptops and electronic devices and are being widely used in electric vehicles and grid scale energy storage, e.g., the Hornsdale plant in South Australia. There still remain challenges in lithium-ion batteries, ranging from energy storage density to safety to cost. In order to develop the next generation of battery materials and entirely new battery chemistries, we need research and development. This project will give students a taste of this.

What will students do?
Students will be shown how research-scale lithium-ion batteries are made. From the electrode active materials, to electrode preparation and finally to coin cell assembly. This will either be via a session in the laboratory or via online videos/walk-through. Following this students will be given electrochemical performance data also known as charge-discharge curves. They will be able to compare the performance of each cycle and after a number of cycles. They can compare between batteries of the same electrodes/composition, between electrodes of different compositions and between entirely different battery systems, e.g., next generation sodium-ion and lithium-sulfur batteries.

Areas of student interest

  • energy & batteries
  • electrochemistry
  • designing new materials
  • solid-state chemistry
  • structure-property relations

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • physics
  • chemistry

Lead academic: A/Prof Neeraj Sharma - Associate Professor, School of Chemistry
Neeraj’s research interests are based on solid state chemistry, designing new materials and investigating their structure-property relationships. He aims to design then fully characterise useful new materials, placing them into real-world devices such as batteries and solid oxide fuel cells, and then characterise how they work in these devices. He loves to undertake in situ or operando experiments of materials inside full devices, especially batteries, in order to elucidate the structural subtleties that lead to superior performance parameters. Neeraj’s projects are typically highly collaborative working with colleagues from all over the world with a range of skillsets.

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  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Medical

Project overview
Medicinal chemistry is the science of developing new drugs to treat diseases. Medicinal chemistry has saved countless human lives, and has alleviated untold suffering during the 20th – 21st centuries. And it continues to be a vitally important endeavour today: for example, at this very moment, medicinal chemists are working feverishly around the globe to discover a cure for COVID-19. When developing a new medicine, it's important to ensure that the molecule can travel to the correct location within the body. As part of this, a careful balance must be struck between the molecule’s solubility in water (which enables the drug to be swallowed as a tablet, and dissolve in the gut) and its solubility in fat (which enables the drug to cross the lining of the gut and get into the bloodstream).

What will students do?
Medicinal chemists can alter the structure of a drug molecule in order to fine-tune its properties such as water/fat solubility and thereby identify the optimal drug. In this SciX experiment, students will do just that: they will systematically modify the structure of a drug candidate and they'll measure the properties of their “analogues” to identify which chemical structure gives the best drug-like properties. This experiment will give students an insight into the grand challenge that is medicine development in the 21st century.

Prerequisites

  • chemistry

Areas of student interest

  • medicinal chemistry
  • organic chemistry
  • synthesis
  • experimental lab-based chemistry
  • medicines

Lead academic: Dr Siobhan Wills - Lecturer, School of Chemistry
Siobhan is an organic chemist by training, but also studied languages at university. She used her “international science” degree to study and work in Europe, focusing on making small molecules for solutions in medicinal chemistry and crop science. When she returned to Australia, she decided she loved being surrounded by all kinds of scientific research, but preferred to teach people about the amazing discoveries rather than being in the lab all the time. She took on a role as an education-focused lecturer. Now, Siobhan concentrates on teaching and researching how best to teach and communicate chemistry. She thinks it’s the best of both worlds, but admits she might be biased.

Lead academic: A/Prof Luke Hunter - Associate Professor, School of Chemistry
Luke is an organic chemist whose research program aims to discover new molecules that can treat diseases. Luke's lab specialises in making fluorinated molecules, where the fluorine atom is designed to cause the molecule to “fold up” into a shape that is pre-organised for binding to the biological target. Something like molecular origami. As is typical for a medicinal chemist, Luke interacts a lot with collaborators in other disciplines such as biology, pharmacology and medicine. Outside work, Luke loves reading, music and trying to keep up with his kids on a skateboard.

Mentor: Patrick (Paddy) Ryan - PhD student
Paddy is a 2nd year PhD student working in medicinal chemistry. Specifically, he tries to make medicines that are more efficient and safer by changing little bits of a molecule at a time or swapping out groups of atoms for fluorine atoms. Paddy loves science and research because discovery is fun. It's an awesome feeling when you find out something interesting, sometimes agonisingly frustrating when things don't go to plan, but rewarding when you realise you have finally made something truly new. Outside of chemistry, Paddy enjoys sport, surfing and cooking to name just a few. He also has a dog, Billie, who is the best. 

Mentor: Jason Holland - PhD student
Jason is a current 3rd year PhD student researching nanomedicine. Jason researches the synthesis and application of coordination polymers called Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), which are highly tunable, ultraporous materials. His current research aims to use MOFs to make ‘theranostic’ drug delivery vehicles for chemotherapy. Jason has interests in both scientific research and industry translation, completing an industry mentorship program in the MedTech Pharma sector in 2020. Prior to undertaking his PhD, Jason was employed as a forensic chemist, undertaking forensic casework for the Illicit Drugs Analysis Unit, Forensic Analytical Science Service. Jason has interests in many fields including advanced materials science, forensic science, drug discovery and clinical translation.

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  • Project type(s)
    Biology, Earth and Environmental Science
  • Project focus
    Fieldwork

Project overview
Our rocky shores are a place of incredible biodiversity - home to juvenile fish, colourful seaweeds and cryptic octopuses. This project will teach you about where different rocky shore species live and why. Understanding the distribution of species within a habitat is important and can be used to monitor the impacts of climate change. Species distributions are important for understanding how whole ecosystems function. The rocky shore is a great place to see this concept in action because there is a huge variety in environmental factors (temperature, water retention, habitat type) over a very small area. Marine ecologists use these same foundational skills across a wide variety of ecological fields, such as monitoring the effects of climate change and sea level rise and how these are impacting species distributions and interactions.

What will students do?
Students will have the opportunity to carry out an experiment in the field, learning how to take random samples to ensure that the data is representative of the whole area. You will also learn how to ID some of the most common species on the rocky shore and some basic statistical analysis. With a range of possible organisms and factors to investigate, this project can be tailored to individual interests of the students. If accessibility is an issue, we still encourage students to join and alternate arrangements regarding data collection will be made.

Areas of student interest

  • marine biology
  • field-based science
  • ecological statistics

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • biology
  • earth & environmental science

Lead academic: Dr Mariana Mayer Pinto - Scientia Fellow, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science 
Mariana's research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underpinning biodiversity and the functioning of marine ecosystems. In particular, she is interested in how anthropogenic stressors, such as contamination and urbanisation, affect the marine environment with the ultimate goal of developing evidence-based solutions for not only mitigating their impacts, but also restoring and rehabilitating marine ecosystems.

Mentor: Orla McKibbin - PhD student
Originally from Queensland, Orla completed both her Bachelor of Science and honours year at UNSW. She is particularly interested in applied marine ecology and tangible solutions to global marine issues. She is currently waiting for summer to arrive and trying to learn to knit (as well as completing her PhD). Her research is investigating how coastal marine ecosystems are impacted by habitat modifications and what we can do to increase seawall community functioning.

Mentor: Maddy Langley - PhD student
Maddy completed her Bachelor of Science at UNSW in 2018, after an exciting honours year involving marine SCUBA-diving fieldwork to study the relationship between seaweeds, bacteria and herbivorous fish. Following this, Maddy worked as a research assistant with projects Operation Crayweed and Operation Posidonia. This sparked a love of seagrasses and seaweeds, and a passion for conserving these vital habitats. Maddy is now a PhD student at UNSW, researching seagrass habitat ecology and restoration. Some of her research areas include environmentally-friendly boat moorings and marine habitat conservation policy.

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  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Medical
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
Nanomaterials are becoming increasingly prominent in medicine, with the ability to selectively target a specific tissue for drug and gene delivery. Learn how to synthesise, modify and characterise nanoparticles using research laboratory equipment and techniques. The field of nanomaterials has made great advances in recent years, being widely explored for their use in medicine. So-called “nanomedicine” involves the use of nano-scale particles—think 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair—to deliver a payload (e.g., drug, genetic material, mRNA) selectively, minimising collateral damage and undesirable side effects. Gold nanoparticles have attracted attention for their unique optical, electronic and physicochemical characteristics. Using chemistry we can easily adjust size, shape and aspect ratio, and they can also be readily surface modified. The most widely used surface modification involves the use of polymers—a large molecule with many repeating units. Grafting polymers to gold nanoparticle surfaces makes them amenable to diverse medical applications including diagnostics, drug and gene delivery, radiation therapies and X-ray imaging.

What will students do?
Students will work in a research lab to synthesise gold nanoparticles and change the properties by tethering polymers to their surface. They will then characterise the nanoparticle using UV-Vis spectroscopy and compare the unique spectral properties caused by a change in shell thickness compared to the unmodified gold nanoparticles. How a polymer can change the size and physical properties of gold nanoparticles will be discussed in the context of frontier biomedical applications. 

Areas of student interest

  • chemical synthesis
  • nanomaterials
  • analytical chemistry
  • medicine and cancer therapeutics
  • material science & engineering

Lead academic: A/Prof Kristopher Kilian - School of Chemistry & School of Materials Science and Engineering
Kris is interested in how the chemistry of materials influences the behaviour of mammalian cells. Inspired by biological materials, he and his research group integrate nano- and micro-fabrication techniques with “hard” and “soft” materials to mimic the physical and chemical properties of the cell and tissue microenvironment. The broader aim of his work is to develop biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Mentor: Yiling Liu - PhD student
Yiling's research focuses on nanoparticle localisation within melanoma microtumours. She has a strong interest in nanoparticle synthesis and cancer biology. Yiling has always had an interest in taking simple compounds and using chemistry to transform them into limitless possibilities. In her free time, she likes to play video games and take instant photos.

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  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Physics 
  • Project focus
    Computational

Project overview
Infrared spectroscopy can help find aliens on remote worlds, model the global warming potential of new compounds and much more. Aliens are out there (probably). But how will we find them? Probably by finding unexpected molecules produced by life – called biosignatures – in their planet’s atmosphere using infrared astronomical spectroscopy. Ozone-destroying chemicals are being replaced by new gases, but will these cause global warming? How can we determine if a country is violating international agreements and burning too many fossil fuels? Are cars producing harmful pollutants? Infrared spectroscopy (Module 8, HSC Chemistry) is an essential tool to answer these and many other questions regarding our planet and universe.

What will students do?
Students will use research-level computer programs to solve quantum mechanical equations that model how molecules absorb infrared radiation. The resulting infrared spectra will be used by students to explore hypotheses both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial. Student hypotheses are driven by their interests, focusing on identification of gaseous small molecules remotely in astrophysical, industrial or environmental contexts. For example, one hot research topic is determining how biosignature gases such as phosphine (maybe on Venus) could be distinguished from other common atmospheric gases. You could explore how to find technosignatures (gases only produced by intelligent life) or help follow through on a recent UNSW discovery that new refrigerant gases called hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) could have extremely dangerous global warming potential. Whether it's industrial processes, pollution or bushfire modelling, pick something that interests you and follow a scientific journey to find out something new.

Areas of student interest

  • biosignatures, scientific search for aliens
  • exoplanets, astrophysics
  • spectroscopy
  • quantum chemistry & physics
  • computational chemistry

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • chemistry
  • physics

Lead academic: Dr Laura McKemmish - Senior Lecturer, School of Chemistry 
Laura considers herself to be a quantum chemist and molecular physicist. Her expertise is in theoretical and computational modelling of molecules, particularly their spectroscopy. She loves interdisciplinary work and combining interesting methods with interesting applications. One characteristic of her scientific research is to look at new ways of investigating and solving particular problems that are inspired by a unusual perspective, such as from the lens of a different field. Away from work, Laura loves hobbies and crafts of all descriptions, such as soap-making, paint by numbeers, diamond art and jigsaw puzzles.

Mentor: Juan Camilo Zapata Trujilo - PhD student
Juan is a second-year PhD student in the School of Chemistry at UNSW, Sydney. He uses computational molecular spectroscopy to help astronomers identify molecules that may indicate the presence of alien life in outer space. Originally from Colombia, Juan enjoys listening to some salsa music and is always happy to give approximate translations from Aussie slang to Colombian slang. For example, mate would be parce in Colombia. The one thing that Juan loves the most about Australia is TimTams - literally, the best chocolate biscuits ever made in human history, so he says. 

Mentor: Anna Syme - PhD student
Anna Syme is a final-year PhD student in the School of Chemistry at UNSW who loves data visualisation. Anna is investigating the variation of the proton to electron mass ratio across cosmological time. Using computational molecular spectroscopy Anna aims to find the best molecular transition to constrain this mass ratio, to help distinguish between Beyond Standard Model theories. Anna is a huge fan of travelling and while she acknowledges her lack of language skills, she tries to learn 'thank you' in the language of every country she visits. Originally from Brisbane, Anna is a proud Maroons supporter.

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  • Project type(s)
    Physics 
  • Project focus
    Computational 

Project overview
Quantum computing is the latest tech innovation promising to change the way we do science. When we make components of computers small enough, they start to follow the rules of quantum physics, which produces some very strange results. In the last few decades, we’ve realised that we can use this to our advantage. The properties of quantum mechanics can be used to solve extremely large problems, from modelling the weather or the economy to cracking codes. The very first quantum computers are being built right now all over the world.

What will students do?
In this project, students will get to use a real quantum computer, located in IBM’s quantum computing laboratory. Using the online IBM Q Experience program, they will run a variety of quantum algorithms on both a simulator and a quantum computer and compare the results to determine the accuracy of the quantum computer. 

Prerequisites

  • advanced maths (minimum 2 unit maths)
  • physics

Areas of student interest

  • quantum or atomic physics
  • computing
  • mathematics

Lead academic: Michelle Simmons - Scientia Professor at UNSW, Director of CQC2T, Director of SQC, 2018 Australian of the Year, AO
Professor Michelle Simmons is an ARC Laureate Fellow and has been the Director of the Centre of Quantum Computation and Communication Technology since 2010.  She is also the Founding Director of Silicon Quantum Computing Pty. Ltd. - Australia’s first quantum computing company. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of npj Quantum Information - Nature’s premier journal in the emerging field of quantum information science. Michelle has pioneered unique technologies globally to build electronic devices at the atomic scale. Her team is the only group worldwide that can create atomically precise devices in silicon – developing the first precision single atom transistor, narrowest conducting wires in silicon and most recently the demonstration of the first 2 qubit gate using phosphorus atoms in silicon. 

Mentor: Samuel Wait - PhD student
Sam W has a Bachelor of Science (Physics) and a Bachelor of Education from UNSW. He has been a co-mentor of the SciX quantum computing project for the past two years. Sam has conducted research with UNSW's Physics Education Research for Evidence Centred Teaching (PERfECT) group, primarily focusing on student understanding of astronomical objects and scale. He has collaborated with researchers in Australia and internationally, including in the U.S., U.K. and Scandinavia. Sam's focus in the classroom environment is on meeting the unique academic and welfare needs of all his students, and guiding them to success.  

Mentor: Sam Sutherland - PhD student
Sam S is researching near-term algorithms specifically for NISQ (Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum) devices such as the silicon devices being created at UNSW. Sam loves physics and computer science, and quantum computing is the nexus between the two. He wants to be at the forefront of this exciting new technology as it emerges. Outside of work, Sam enjoys climbing, gymnastics and playing the trombone.

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  • Project type(s)
    Biology, Medical
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
When a viral outbreak occurs, it's all hands on deck to trace the origin and quickly control the spread. But how is this done? Learn how we detect, diagnose and trace viral outbreaks. Viruses are the cause of many diseases worldwide including the flu, measles, gastroenteritis and COVID-19. When an outbreak occurs, there is limited time to find the cause and quickly implement control measures including quarantine, rapid testing and lockdowns. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of many research institutes and industries coming together with different approaches to help manage the outbreak. Sydney has an extensive wastewater surveillance system to identify coronavirus fragments in suburbs. This is combined with genomic sequencing to identify the strain and epidemiologists undertaking contact tracing. By combining these techniques, it's easier to trace and control viral outbreaks. Our research lab at UNSW undertakes testing of both clinical samples and wastewater to help track viral outbreaks including norovirus and SARS-CoV-2. This project will introduce students to virology and epidemiology concepts and methods in a state-of-the-art molecular biology laboratory. 

What will students do?
In this project, students will get a chance to think like an epidemiologist and virologist to find patient zero of a viral outbreak. Students will learn how to diagnose viral infections and use techniques including phylogenetics and gene analysis to trace viral evolution. Students will be able to explore their hypothesis using a combination of computer (dry-lab) and wet-lab methods.

Areas of student interest

  • microbiology
  • disease
  • immunology
  • virology
  • biology

Lead academic: Peter White - Professor, School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences
Peter White is a Professor in Microbiology at the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW. His research interests are currently viral gastroenteritis, viral discovery and evolution and the development of antiviral agents.

Mentor: Emma Harding - PhD student
Emma Harding is a virology PhD student studying the evolution of viruses by finding viral fossils inside the DNA of animals and discovering new viruses in wildlife. She has always liked science growing up and honed in on the field of microbiology during her bachelor's degree. Aside from research, Emma also loves science communication, board games and making things.

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  • Project type(s)
    Earth and Environmental Science, Engineering
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
Are you keen to save turtles from waste fishing nets? Have you seen massive amounts of waste coffee in your local coffee shops and thought is there any use for this waste? In this project, we bring these two waste challenges together and create an opportunity. In this project, we will use ghost net (discarded fishing net in the oceans) and coffee waste (coffee ground) as the resources for producing new products that can be used in the built environment. This project will enable us to look at waste differently and see how we can use the inherent properties of materials as part of the process for manufacturing high-quality products. This project is a demonstration of how we can turn waste into resources if we change our perspective.

What will students do?
Using cutting-edge technology, students will characterise different waste materials, especially polymers, and use this information to strategise the best way to turn their waste material to usable products. Using our laboratories, students turn these creative ideas into reality and test how well their plans worked compared to industry standards.

Prerequisites

  • curiosity and love for the environment

Areas of student interest

  • innovative engineering
  • materials science
  • product design and testing
  • recycling and upcycling
  • waste characterisation and processing
  • environmental science

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • earth & environmental science
  • chemistry
  • physics

Lead academic: Dr Farshid Pahlevani, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Farshid is an international expert on innovative solutions for waste challenges. He has considerable experience working closely with industry to improve existing processes to achieve better environmental outcomes and greater cost efficiencies. His solutions enable manufacturing industries to save millions of dollars and turn their waste into resources.

Mentor: Smitirupa Biswal - PhD student, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Smitirupa's research interests include extractive metallurgy, recycling of carbon-based and oxide materials, solid-state phase transformation, alloy design and high temperature processes. Her PhD research focuses on the application of spent coffee grounds for iron recovery, which is vital for making steel. Apart from research, she likes cooking, exploring places and playing board games.

Mentor: Md. Shahruk Nur-a-Tomal - PhD student, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Born and raised in a town in Bangladesh, Tomal’s love for science was ignited at a young age. His research involves developing microrecycling solutions for conversion of waste plastics into high-quality products using available machinery in novel combination. In addition to doing research, he likes to travel and watch documentaries.

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SciX FAQs

  • Yes!

    SciX@UNSW is designed with the requirements of the Science Extension curriculum in mind, but is suitable for all Year 12 science students and advanced incoming-Year 11 students.

    Students should expect about ten hours of pre-work (depending on the project) that can be completed anytime from November to mid-January. This is primarily gaining familiarity with the project context (often through readings and YouTube videos), and potentially some basic programming (depends on the project and low-pressure).

    After the summer school, non-Science Extension students will not have any further work that would impact their studies. Students may choose to come to the two post-summer-school virtual one-hr catchups if they had questions or just wanted to say hi to their mentors and cohort, but there wouldn't be any preparation required. 

  • The allocation of full and partial fee-waiver positions for the SciX programme are assessed using the following criteria that are based on the University Admissions Centre Educational Access Scheme Categories of disadvantage.  

    • Financial difficulties or hardship, including but not limited to: family or individual has received a Centrelink means-tested benefit, support allowance during COVID, student is required to work to support family or self 
    • Student identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander 
    • Student enrolled in a UNSW Gateway School, or a school that has a index of community socio-educational advantage (ICSEA) less than 1000 (as assessed on the MySchool website)  
    • Student lives in a non-metropolitian, regional or rural location 
    • Other difficult health, family, social or economic circumstances that could be verified by the school teacher or a qualified professional (e.g. psychologist, GP, social worker) 

    Each application will be assessed individually; please note that meeting any one of the criteria does not guarantee a fee waiver placement will be provided. Preference will be given to students who are taking the Science Extension course.   

    If you would like to discuss these eligibility criteria, your individual circumstances or would prefer us to verify your suitability through direct contact with their teacher or school, please email us at scix@unsw.edu.au

  • Tickets will be made available via EventBrite with applications opening Monday 11th October. Students will be allocated to projects on a first-come, first-serve basis, with second preferences and waiting lists implemented.

    • The standard SciX@UNSW program fee is $415+ GST per student that is used to pay the PhD mentors who oversee student projects. The fee is to be paid via Eventbrite as part of the application process, with refunds available for two weeks.
    • Fee-waived positions are available based on financial need and for regional, rural and Indigenous students with full conditions specified above. Students can apply for these positions through EventBrite.
    • Large school groups (10+ students) can be invoiced separately with a discounted price of $400 + GST per student. Registration and project selections are made through EventBrite.

    All students are required to have the permission of a parent/guardian prior to completing an application. Science Extension students should ensure they consult with their school/teachers about their participation in the program.

    Entry to the SciX program is on a first-come, first-dressed basis; merit is not a criteria for selection. The application form does not require any teacher or school statements, resumes or academic transcripts. We do caution that some projects have prerequisites that should be met to ensure success. 

  • SciX@UNSW supports Science Extension students to complete their research projects by providing them with access to UNSW Science’s world-leading researchers and research tools in an accessible online environment. Students are placed in small groups focused on a particular research area and tool. Each group’s UNSW Science mentor, a current PhD student and practicing researcher, will introduce students to university and research-level scientific knowledge and research tools, supporting students in developing their individual hypothesis and carrying out their independent research project. 

    The centrepiece of the SciX experience is a one-week intensive summer school.

    The most important part of this intensive experience is the regular workshop research group lab sessions, delivered where students will learn new science and new techniques in data creation, collection and analysis to discover answers to unanswered questions about our universe. 

    These research group sessions will be complemented by a variety of skill development sessions and research enrichment experiences, such as lab tours, scientific research talks, interviews and panels.

    Self-paced pre-work and recorded sessions will be available prior to the summer school that will give students some essential knowledge and skills in preparation for their projects. In particular, many projects will require students to become proficient in reading and performing minor modifications to pre-written Python Jupyter notebooks.  

    SciX@UNSW was developed in response to the new Science Extension Syllabus which encourages passionate Year 12 students to extend their understanding of modern scientific enquiry through the development of a scientific research project. UNSW Science has designed SciX@UNSW in collaboration with NSW science high school teachers to ensure that it is meaningful and thought-provoking to students.

  • The fee for a student to participate is $415 + GST. This covers the cost of PhD mentors who oversee student projects, lab materials and attendance at the one-week SciX Intensive Summer School.

    Fee-waivers are available based on financial need.

  • Before the summer school, you will engage with:  

    • Project-specific pre-work introducing the key scientific concepts and important relevant scientific papers 
    • For some projects, programming training in Python, R or the project-specific software  
    • For some projects, pre-installation of specialised software.
  • While we are hopeful for a return to a fully on-campus delivery of the SciX2022 program in January, in the interests of community health and safety we will be following the latest COVID-19 advice from NSW Health. If attending on-campus activities, attendees will be required to adhere to all relevant COVID-19 health and safety protocols.  

    Contingency plans will be in place including a fully-online delivery which follows on from the success of SciX2021, hybrid delivery and reduced on-campus attendance for lab-based experiments only. A decision on the delivery mode will be made in late November, accommodating student shifts from on-campus to online-delivered projects where feasible.

    The safety of students, staff and the community is paramount. In the event of unforeseen COVID-19 developments and changes to restrictions in December/January, SciX2022 may move to online delivery at short notice. In this situation, a small number of projects may choose to deliver research lab sessions throughout Term 1 at mutually convenient times to allow additional preparation time.

  • Our COVID back-up plans incorporate partial or full online delivery. SciX was successfully delivered fully online in January 2021 with high student satisfaction.  

    Our SciX2021 timetable was designed to maximise learning, create community and share the excitement of science and research within the constraints of an online space.

    We used a variety of communication and teaching modes, including time each day for students to chat in very small groups with their mentors. There are sessions focusing on both project-specific research techniques and general research skills, all designed using best practices in teaching and delivered by subject content experts in an interactive format taking advantage of new engagement technology.    

    9:00 – 9:30: Start your research day by engaging with the SciX community via our online engagement platform, answering the Daily Question, posting submissions to our SciX meme competition and sharing awesome science. 

    9:30 – 10:00: Cohort-wide quick training session on a key research skill, delivered by experienced researchers 

    10:00 – 10:45: Research group interactive lecture by your SciX mentor, teaching you key knowledge or skills for your project 

    10:45 – 11:30: Individual work on assigned task 

    11:30 – 12:00: Chat check-in and engagement with your research group  

    12:00 – 1:00: Lunch, with optional mini cohort-wide activities and engagement opportunities. 

    1:00 – 2:00: Cohort-wide science enrichment activities include our popular Science Extension Exam tips session. 

    2:00 – 3:00: Research group workshop with your SciX mentor and research group colleagues. 

    3:00 – 4:30: Individual research time along with rotating mini-meetings where small groups of students meet with their mentors for about thirty minutes to support each student’s independent research project.

  • The central technology used for SciX is Microsoft Teams, which will enable strong communication within the whole cohort, within each research group and between student and their method. Sharing memes, asking questions, discussion of preliminary results and sharing interesting papers will all be encouraged here. 

    Pre-summer-school content and resources will be delivered via Microsoft Teams. Pre and post-summer-school Q&A sessions will be delivered via Teams video conferencing. 

    You can also expect that many groups will be using an open source specialised scientific software of some kind, the Anaconda Python3 distribution or R. 

  • Students will be asked to select their top two preferred research project in their SciX@UNSW Application Form, and allocated to groups on a first-come, first-served basis. 

  • For SciX2022, group sizes will typically be 6-18 students with a ratio of approximately 1 PhD mentor for every 6 students. These numbers have been chosen to create a strong and vibrant student cohort in each group, with sufficient one-on-one support time to allow every student to flourish in their projects (based on our previous experience, and student feedback from our 2020 on-campus course).

  • Students from the 2020 and 2021 program reported their participation in the summer school increased their skills in: 

    • Computational skills - programming/ coding, Excel, general computer skills
    • Data collection, analysis and presentation
    • Finding and reading scientific papers
    • Technical skills - laboratory techniques, mathematical modelling and statistics
    • Transferable skills - research, organisation, planning, thinking scientifically
    • Collaboration skills and teamwork
  • 2020 and 2021 students both overwhelmingly reported their research lab time with their mentors as the most valuable part of the summer school experience, discussing the value of the mentor knowledge, research activities, learning and their peer group. 

  • To decide whether a project is suitable for you, we encourage you to search the subject keywords on Google and YouTube, as well as the research websites of the lead academic. 

    For more information on the program or specific project questions, please email us.

  • No!

    Some projects will use largely pre-written Python or R notebooks for data analysis and visualisation that you can use for your own data, modify and expand as desired. Based on previous cohorts, these notebooks are extremely accessible to all students, and allow more sophisticated research results than would otherwise be possible.  

    We will teach you the necessary skills during the pre-summer-school period through self-directed learning and question & answer opportunities. Confidence in basic programming is actually one of the important employability skills you can learn during SciX - regardless of whether you chose a project needing programming or not!

  • Many projects are suitable for students with only a Year 10 background knowledge; if there are no prerequisites listed on the particular project page, you can assume that you will be able to learn the necessary knowledge as part of pre-work.

    If there are prerequisites listed but you are very keen on the project and have significant knowledge of the subject from outside school, you should email us with your current knowledge and desired project, and we will be able to provide you with specialised advice.