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

To receive an email reminding you of applications opening dates, please provide your details here to be notified when information becomes available. 

  • 19th October 2022: SciX applications open (first-come, first-served basis for project selection)
  • November 2022: SciXonline platform (via Microsoft Teams) opens with skills training and project-specific pre-work
  • Monday 5th December 2022, 4-5 pm: SciX introduction session via Zoom with a one-hour project Q&A opportunity
  • 16-20th January 2023: SciX Summer School
  • Monday 27th February and 29th May 2023, 4-5 pm: Post-summer-school Q&A opportunities 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 area
    Climate Science, Public Health, Data Science
  • Project type
    Computational

Project overview
Good air quality in Sydney was something that many of us took for granted until the Black Summer Bushfires in 2019-2020. From serious health effects to general inconvenience, it was suddenly hard to ignore just how important the air we breathe truly is. However, fires aren’t the only phenomenon that can impact our air quality: urbanisation, pollution and weather events can all influence our health and wellbeing. To understand these different factors, we need data and analysts just like you!

What will students do?
The Schools Weather and Air Quality dataset was collected by students at schools around Sydney and is an awesome way for students to explore weather and air quality around them. By statistically analysing various pollutants and weather measurements around Sydney, students will be able to explore the impacts of location, urbanisation and the bushfires upon air quality in their local environment, and test their own theories of what influences air quality and local weather.

Areas of student interest

  • curious about their local environment
  • interest in climate and/or public health
  • interested in bushfire response and management

Academic lead: A/Prof Donna Green
Donna is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist with a particular interest in applied research around the disproportionate health impacts of climate change, energy policy and air pollution. She founded Clean Air Schools, Australia’s first indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring research project, with sister program, Energy Transformers, as the STEM component to integrate this research into the school curriculum. Her previous research on climate impacts on Indigenous Australians has been used to effectively argue for significant funding for adaptation activities in the Torres Strait and her recent science communication pieces in the conversation about the use of HEPA filters in schools has been used in government and NGOs to argue for better indoor air quality in schools across the nation.

Mentor: Isabelle
After studying maths and French because they couldn’t choose between them, Isabelle couldn’t shake the feeling that they needed to do something in the face of the climate crisis and so started researching climate science. Isabelle’s research focusses on extreme hail events which, despite their potential to cause huge damage, we still don’t know much about! Isabelle hopes that by using different sources of hail data we can understand hailfall better and adapt to current and future risks. When they’re not at researching, Isabelle can probably be found reading a book, arguing with someone about social justice, or going for a long walk by the beach.

Mentor: Rachael 
First aspiring to build a career flying airplanes into hurricanes, Rachael earned a Bachelor of Science in Applied Meteorology at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. While pursuing her B.S., she realized her true passion lies in the impacts of climate change on societal systems. After completing her B.S., Rachael completed a Master of Science in Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin researching long-term climate changes in tropical rainforests. In addition to her formal education, Rachael has broad Earth Science expertise from completing three internships at NASA and four years of varied research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Rachael is now completing her PhD at UNSW where she studies rainfall across Australia with hopes to build a lifelong career in developing strategic climate adaptation plans. When she’s not busy with her research, Rachael enjoys a variety of outdoor and water sports and long walks wandering aimlessly.

Sign up for updates
  • 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.

Sign up for updates
  • Project area
    Physics 
  • Project type
    Computational

Project overview
Have you ever wondered how astronomers use observations of thousands of objects to better understand the Universe? How do we interpret data from telescopes to test physical models? Modern astronomy combines simulations and observations to solve outstanding theoretical problems such as how stars affect the formation and evolution of their planets, how galaxies change over time and how stars end their lives.

What will students do?
Students will be taught how to access and process astronomical data using Python. They’ll be supported in designing and investigating their own individual hypotheses with these data. Research questions to be explored might include determining the relationship between stellar chemical abundances and the occurrence of giant planets, the connection between the properties of galaxies and their dynamics, and the properties of stars at different stages of their lives.

Prerequisites

  • physics
  • mathematics 

Areas of student interest

  • astronomy
  • astrophysics
  • simulations
  • programming

Lead academic: Benjamin Montet - Scientia Senior Lecturer, School of Physics

My team and I develop methods to better understand exoplanets - worlds orbiting stars other than our Sun. Using data from the NASA Kepler and TESS missions, we build tools to discover planets previously missed in the data and to better measure their physical parameters. We also use the same data to observe signatures of stellar magnetic activity, such as starspots and flares. We use these observations to parameterise how stellar magnetism changes across time and with stellar properties in order to understand what factors might drive planetary habitability, both for planets around other stars and in our own Solar System.

Mentor: Brendan McKee
Brendan is a first-year PhD student in the School of Physics at UNSW. A long-held interest in space drove him into learning more about exoplanets. His research involves exploring the dynamics of exoplanetary systems to learn about the planets they contain. Determining the size and mass of a planet allows us to know what it is made of and whether it could be suitable for life. Outside of research, he likes to play video games and read novels.

Mentor: Aman Khalid 
Aman 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 characterisation of tidal features in modern cosmological simulations. A galaxy’s tidal features tell us more about the kinds of galaxy-galaxy interactions it has undergone recently.

Mentor: Claudia Reyes
Claudia Reyes is currently a PhD student in the School of Physics at UNSW. She has a master's degree in observational astrophysics as well as a degree in engineering. Her research area is asteroseismology, where she studies stellar oscillations that can arise from star-quakes. These quakes, just like earthquakes, involve pressure waves that travel through the stellar cavity and carry valuable information about the star's internal structure. In her research, Claudia incorporates stellar evolution software to model the observed oscillations.

Sign up for updates
  • 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.

Sign up for updates
  • Project area
    Earth and Environmental Science, Engineering
  • Project type
    Materials, Chemistry
  • Project focus
    Laboratory 

Project overview
Water is vital for life on earth, and it is one of the prominent global challenges to have clean water in the current scenario. Water pollutants threaten the entire biosphere due to human-caused activities, population growth, unplanned urbanization and rapid industrialization. So, are you interested in taking a step in this direction and design a green material for wastewater treatment? Have you seen massive amounts of waste coffee grounds in your local cafes and timber waste from furniture units and thought are there any use for these wastes? In this project, we bring two types of waste challenges together and create an opportunity. We will be using waste coffee grounds or timber waste as the resources to produce a green material that can be used for purification of wastewater. This project will enable us to look at wastes differently and how we can turn waste into resources and synthesize value-added materials if we change our perspective.

What will students do?
The first step of the project is to produce the activated carbon from the waste coffee grounds and timber. The students will be using their scientific thinking to determine the temperature and time for producing the activated carbon from the waste of their choice. The students will make use of the synthesized activated carbon for treatment of dye contaminated water through suitable techniques and then determine the purification efficiency. Students will also be learning various cutting-edge analytical methods for determining various properties of the  materials.

Prerequisites

  • curiosity and love for the environment

Areas of student interest

  • materials chemistry
  • wastewater treatment
  • innovative engineering
  • waste recycling and processing
  • environmental science

Relevant subjects (not essential)

  • chemistry
  • earth and environmental science
  • physics

Lead academic: Dr Farshid Pahlevani, Associate Professor, 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: Dr Smitirupa Biswal, Research Assistant, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Smitirupa is an innovative, results-driven researcher with extensive experience in the field of  materials engineering and wastes valorisation. Her Ph.D. research was focused on the application of spent coffee grounds for sustainable iron production. Her research interests include extractive metallurgy, recycling of carbon-based and oxide waste materials, solid-state phase transformations, alloy design and high temperature processes.

Mentor: Sepideh Hemati, PhD student, School of Materials Science and Engineering
Sepideh is an excellent communicator and passionate, detail-oriented Material Scientist & Engineer with international experience, knowledge, and a strong understanding of the waste issue and approach toward different kinds of waste in Europe and Australia. Her works involved characterising complex waste materials and creating innovative sustainable solutions.

Sign up for updates
  • 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 processes like perception, attention, memory, and decision making. This has allowed researchers to better understand how these processes influence our well-being.

What will students do?
In this project, students will learn about classic studies in this field and will have the opportunity to work with data from well-established tasks, collected online from participants across the world. Working with their mentor, students will create unique hypotheses based on the tasks used in their study.

Students will then learn how to analyse data so that they can draw a conclusion related to their hypotheses. To do this they will use modern tools that help scientists understand, analyse and visualise information.

Areas of student interest

  • cognitive science
  • psychology
  • data analysis
  • well-being

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: Kip Elder
Kip is a psychology PhD student at UNSW, presently studying how storytelling and curiosity shape how we perceive and remember the world around us. He has a background in health psychology, having studied placebo and nocebo effects (placebo's dark side). He is also an experienced screenwriter, cycle tourer, rock climber, an amateur statistician, and once wrote a sea shanty of which he was quite proud.

Mentor: Jamie Dracup
Jamie is an associate lecturer at UNSW, who enjoys teaching. He has a PhD in behavioural neuroscience, where he investigated brain cells involved in how we respond to threats. He currently carries out online research which investigates mental health and well-being. When he isn't working, he is often planning his next trip to the movies or seeing if any of his favourite bands are on tour. 

Sign up for updates
  • Project area
    Genetics
  • 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

Prerequisites
None. However, students studying biology or chemistry are encouraged.

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: Sonia Goozee – PhD student
Sonia is currently completing her PhD in genetics at UNSW. She is fascinated by the magic of gene expression and passionate about human health. Sonia has combined both of these loves in her current research, which focuses on red blood cells and how they turn their genes “on”. She hopes her work will aid in eventually finding new treatments for genetic blood diseases. When she’s not in the lab, you’ll find Sonia off hiking in the bush and getting thoroughly lost, messing around with some watercolours or killing/looking after her houseplants. She can’t wait to geek-out over some experiments with the bright, new generation of future scientists.

Sign up for updates
  • Project area(s)
    Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science
  • Project type
    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: Lauren Lowe - PhD student
Lauren Lowe is a PhD student at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. 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 too many fantasy and sci-fi novels.

Mentor: Megan Amos – PhD student
Megan Amos is a PhD student at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology with a deep curiosity for understanding the origins of life. Her project involves investigating the potential for ancient microbial life on Mars and is interdisciplinary in nature, lying at the intersection of chemistry, geology and microbiology. Aside from science, Megan has an equal passion for music and spends all her free time performing and practicing flute and piano.

Sign up for updates
  • Project type
    Physics 
  • Project focus
    Experimental, Computational 

Project overview
LASERs and LASER related optics are one of the most important tools in our scientific arsenal, used in biological sciences, manufacturing and cutting-edge physics research. One of the more interesting LASER-optical phenomena is that of Fourier-space manipulation, where an image can be physically manipulated, corrected and distorted in ways usually only possible on the computer. This is the source of – for example – the distinctive hexagon-spikes of the latest JWST images.

What will students do?
Students will be introduced to the concept of Fourier optics and tasked with designing and manufacturing their own filters to perform image manipulation using only analogue devices. Students will be taught how to perform image processing in python as they prototype their design and will learn to align LASER systems and 3D print their own optical devices to achieve a computer-free photoshop effect.

Prerequisites

  • physics
  • mathematics

Areas of student interest

  • optics and telescopes
  • LASERs
  • coding 

Lead academic: Thomas Dixon, Associate Lecturer, School of Physics
Tom completed his PhD in Physics in 2021, where he used high-powered lasers to manipulate small-scale objects. Tom now runs the first-year teaching lab in the School of Physics and runs many high school outreach events, including teaching HSC Physics. Tom is interested in the principles and practices of experimental physics alongside space science, satellites and lasers.

Mentor: Sam Sutherland
Sam has a master’s degree in physics from the University of Oxford and is currently working towards a PhD in quantum computing with Professor Michelle Simmons. Sam’s research focuses on near-term algorithms 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.

Mentor: Ian Thorvaldsen
Ian is a PhD student studying at UNSW, working on the simulation of experimental quantum devices to assist the experiments currently being done by Prof. Michelle Simmons’ group. He did a combined bachelor’s degree in computer science and physics at UNSW, culminating in a research honours year working with Prof. Simmons’ group. During his undergraduate degree, he also worked with some other research groups at UNSW, namely Prof. Alex Hamilton and Prof. Oleg Sushkov. Through these experiences, Ian was inspired to pursue a research career in quantum computing, allowing him to combine both physical and computational research. He is excited to see the real-world applications of quantum computing be realised in the near future. 

Sign up for updates
  • Project area(s)
    Electrochemistry, Solid-state Synthesis
  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Engineering

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

Preequisites (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.

Mentor: Lisa Djuandhi – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Lisa is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Chemistry at UNSW. She is working on the optimisation of lithium-sulfur batteries using disordered and amorphous organic materials. Working with new compounds often means dealing with systems that exhibit unusual behaviours that are not easily characterised using routine techniques. Developing targeted strategies for characterisation relies on a strong fundamental understanding of the intra- and intermolecular interactions involved in a particular material. This work has equipped Lisa with a practical understanding of multiple battery chemistries and experience in a diverse range of characterisation techniques including solid-state NMR, X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES), X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) and Raman spectroscopy. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys knitting, painting and Muay Thai kickboxing.

Mentor: Jian Peng – PhD student
Jian is currently a second-year PhD student in the School of Chemistry at UNSW. Jian is working on the thermal stability of widely used Li-ion cathode materials, such as lithium cobalt oxide (LCO) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides (NMC). By applying electrochemically activated syntheses, Jian investigates the phase evolution of cathodes at different charge states. Jian has also collaborated with a battery-waste recycling company, focusing on the electrochemical properties of recycled electrode materials. Outside of work, Jian has a great passion for photography (using both digital and film cameras) and sports. 

Sign up for updates
  • 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.

Sign up for updates
  • 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: Josee Hart - PhD student
Josee moved to Sydney from Port Macquarie to complete her Bachelor of Science and Honours at UNSW. She is interested in how we can improve restoration and management in our estuaries by knowing more about the ecology of key species, such as oysters and seagrasses.  Josee is now a PhD student at UNSW, looking at how seagrasses can affect the sediments they grow in and loves getting out in the field.

Mentor: Hannah Wesley - PhD student
Hannah completed her Bachelor of Science and honours in marine science at USYD last year. Her research focuses on how habitat restoration can improve functioning across multiple systems. Hannah is now a PhD student at UNSW researching how salt marsh restoration influences infaunal diversity and sediment functioning.

Sign up for updates
  • Project area(s)
    Chemistry, Medical
  • Project type
    Laboratory 

Project overview
The field of nanomaterials has made great advances in recent years and is being widely explored 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, or mRNA) selectively, minimising collateral damage and undesirable side effects. Gold nanoparticles are an attractive nanomaterial due to their unique optical, electronic and physicochemical characteristics which can be tuned by adjusting particle size, shape and aspect ratio, or by modifying their surface chemistry. The most widely used surface modification involves the use of polymers — large molecules 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. Understanding the effects of nanoparticle modification on their physicochemical properties is critical in nanomedicine design, so students will synthesise nanoparticles, modify them chemically, and explore the effects of their modifications.

What will students do?
Students will work in a research lab to synthesise gold nanoparticles and change the properties by tethering stimuli-responsive polymers to their surface. They will then characterise the nanoparticles using UV-Vis spectroscopy in a range of conditions, and compare changes in the spectral properties of the unmodified gold nanoparticles with those of the polymer-coated 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
  • materials 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: Henry Foster – PhD student
Henry’s research focuses on the design of very small nanoparticles made from a single polymer chain that is modified with sugars and small peptides to make materials that mimic anti-cancer proteins. Henry is interested in how small materials organise into large, complex structures, and how these processes can be directed on the nanoscale. In his free time, he is attempting to watch 1000 episodes of a certain pirate anime, writes computer programs that generate art or music, and bakes lots of pies.

Sign up for updates
  • Project area
    Chemistry
  • Project type
    Computational

Project overview
Climate-change driven extreme weather conditions, population growth, and increasing levels of pollution are making clean water scarcity a compelling challenge of our age. In this scenario, developing cost-effective technologies for water purification is a top scientific priority. Computational chemistry offers an unprecedented opportunity to efficiently develop new materials that can target specific contaminants in polluted water.

What will students do?
In this project, students will use computational chemistry to predict the performance of various materials for removing toxic contaminants from polluted water. The final result of the project will be to help develop design principles for the next generation of materials to be employed in water purification technologies.

Prerequisites

  • confidence with computers (Installing and learning how to use new software)

Areas of student interest

  • computational chemistry
  • environmental chemistry and sustainability
  • inorganic chemistry  
  • materials science

Lead academic: Dr Martina Lessio, School of Chemistry
Martina is originally from Torino (Italy), where she completed both her bachelor's and master's degrees in Chemistry. She then moved to Princeton University (United States) where she earned a PhD in Chemistry in 2017 under the mentorship of Professor Emily Carter. During her time at Princeton, Martina used computational chemistry to investigate catalysts for CO2 conversion. After the completion of her PhD, Martina joined Columbia University (United States) as a Columbia Science Fellow. In this role, Martina was part of a team of scientists teaching the first-year undergraduate course "Frontiers of Science" and conducted research on novel functional materials in the group of Professor David Reichman. Following this experience, Martina moved to Australia to continue her research and teaching career at the University of Sydney, where she was awarded a University of Sydney Fellowship to work on computational modelling of metal-organic frameworks. In 2020, Martina joined the School of Chemistry at UNSW as a Scientia Lecturer. In this role, she uses computational methods to investigate molecules and materials for sustainability applications.

Mentor: Claude Cox, School of Chemistry
Claude is a final year PhD student under Martina Lessio. After completing their Bachelor of Advanced Science (Chemistry and Physics double major), they started their PhD working on functionalized advanced materials for water purification in 2020. They have hopes of using their computational skills for socially relevant research after graduating and are passionate about teaching interesting science to the next generation of students. Outside of research, they enjoy exercise, spending time with friends and loved ones and naps in the sun.

Mentor: Fabio Colasuonno, School of Chemistry
Fabio is a second year PhD student in Lessio’s group. He is originally from Torino (Italy) where he completed both a bachelor's and master’s degree in chemistry. During his master’s degree, he learned how to code and applied such knowledge to developing parts of a computational chemistry program. After some research experiences across Europe, he decided to move abroad for his PhD, thus landing at UNSW. His main research interests are sustainability and catalysis simulation, which both reflect on his PhD project being about the simulation of catalysts for plastic waste conversion into fuel. Since he is keen on developing teaching skills, he joined the Teaching Fellowship program at UNSW. Outside of research, he likes to play badminton, cook new recipes, juggle and dance on swing music.

Sign up for updates
  • Project type(s)
    Palaeontology, Biology, Zoology, Earth Science 
  • Project focus
    Computational and Laboratory

Project overview
What does the skeleton tell us about the evolution of an animal? How did a frog develop the skeletal adaptations to be able to jump, swim, burrow or climb? These are questions Palaeontologists (like me!) and other evolutionary biologists are researching and finding the answers for. In this project, you will lead your own research into the evolution of your chosen fossil group by examining 25-million-year-old fossils. This work will help us understand the morphological features that are in common with living animals today.

By understanding the different components of the skeleton and comparing these features across a given dataset, you will answer one of these key questions which will make up your hypothesis:

  • What is your fossil most closely related to that are still alive?
  • Does your fossil move in the same way as living relatives?
  • Does your fossil live up in a tree or maybe underground?

What will students do?
Students will use 3D visualization and data analysis of living and one extinct animal of their choice to answer questions on the ancestral relationships, locomotion or habitat preferences between living and 25-million-year-old fossil animals. Students will have access to 3D models of their chosen fossil, as well as their living relatives to explore anatomical differences. Using geometric morphometrics, the fossils will be tested using 3D points placed by the students. These 3D points will be placed on your fossil and living relative bones for comparison using statistical analyses.

Areas of student interest

  • palaeontology
  • zoology
  • biology
  • earth science
  • anatomy
  • functional morphology

Prerequisites 
An enthusiasm for science and being one of the first people to examine these 25-million-year-old animals.

Lead academic: Professor Mike Archer – School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science
Mike Archer’s research focuses on the deep past such as the World Heritage fossil deposits at Riversleigh, the fragile present such as conservation through sustainable use of native resources including having native animals as pets, securing the future based on the wisdom of the fossil record, and trying to bring extinct species (e.g., the Gastric-brooding Frog and the Thylacine) back into the world of the living.

Mentor: Roy Farman – PhD student
Roy Farman is a PhD student at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science, UNSW. His research focuses on understanding the evolutionary history of Australian frogs from 55 million years ago to present. He also works on fossil footprints in the field of ichnology, which uses the traces of organisms from the past to tell us more about how those organisms use to live. Outside of research, Roy spends his time playing football (soccer), buying books that he has no time to read and running around with his speedy little dog companion Evie.

Sign up for updates
  • Project type(s)
    Chemistry, Physics 
  • Project focus
    Computational

Project overview
At the forefront of technology, computational quantum chemistry has become a crucial tool in our understanding of chemistry allowing us to study the properties and processes that govern deep down at the molecular and atomistic levels. A very important application of computational quantum chemistry is that we can simulate how bonds in molecules vibrate and see how it leads to spectra in the infrared (Module 8, HSC Chemistry). Knowing the infrared spectra of molecules is essential in research as it can help us find unexpected molecules produced by life (biosignatures) in remote worlds; model the global warming potential of new compounds released into the atmosphere; and even trace down countries that are violating international agreements by burning too many fossil fuels. This project introduces the key concepts used in computational quantum chemistry, exploring its applications in multiple research fields.

What will students do?
Students will delve into the area of computational quantum chemistry, familiarising and employing research-level computer programs. Throughout the summer school, students will pursue a research project of their choice with the help of experienced PhD-student mentors, developing and improving upon high-valuable skills such as programming, data handling and storage, hypothesis formulation, and figures generation.

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 Trujillo
Juan is a PhD student in the School of Chemistry at UNSW. He uses computational molecular spectroscopy to help astronomers identify molecules related to signs of alien life in outer space. Originally from Colombia, Juan enjoys cooking authentic Colombian food and is always happy to give approximate translations from Aussie to Colombian slang. 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: Maria Pettyjohn
Maria is a PhD student in the School of Chemistry at UNSW. She uses computational molecular spectroscopy to identify molecules that can tell us about the process of star and planet formation. She credits Star Trek partly for her love of astronomy and molecules—maybe there is coffee in some star-forming cloud? Being from Canada and a 12-hour drive from the closest ocean, she plans on utilising Sydney’s proximity to the ocean to take up snorkelling.

Sign up for updates
  • Project type(s)
    Biology, Medical
  • Project focus
    Computational

Project overview
Bioinformatics is the use of computer algorithms and statistics to analyse large biological datasets, such as DNA, RNA and proteins. With the increasing availability of RNA sequencing data, researchers can now freely investigate the complex role of genetics in health and disease. In this project, we investigate the influence of the RNA transcriptome in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease to understand markers of these conditions.

What will students do?
Students will perform a bioinformatic analysis on pre-processed RNA sequencing data from healthy and diseased brain tissues. With a documented R notebook, students will perform a computational analysis of the data to identify potential markers of disease, drug targets or any questions you design.

This project suits students with interests in medicine, genetics, and human biology. Though programming experience is not necessary, this project is suited for students wanting to develop their skills.

Prerequisites

  • biology

Areas of student interest

  • genetic and non-genetic disease
  • neuroscience
  • precision medicine
  • bioinformatics/computational biology

Lead academic: Sara Ballouz - Senior Research Officer, Garvan Institute
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 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, if to be applied to personalised medicine.

Mentor: Lachlan Gray - PhD student
Lachlan is a PhD candidate at UNSW and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. By analysing single cell RNA sequencing data, Lachlan is exploring the role of the X chromosome and sex bias in autoimmune diseases. He is interested in understanding the role of RNA in diseases affecting the immune system and the brain.

Mentor: Laurene Leclerc – PhD student
Laurene is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. Her research uses RNA sequencing data to study Australian ticks and their bacterial community. With RNA sequencing data she characterises the tick microbiome, identifies pathogens, discovers novel microorganisms and infers their role within the tick. She hopes to use this information to identify the cause of tick-borne diseases in Australia.

Sign up for updates
  • 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: Banjo Webster - Honours student 
Banjo is a current virology honours student who is majoring in biotechnology and minoring in chemistry. He is currently working on two projects. The first involves investigating the molecular epidemiology of adenovirus causing acute gastroenteritis in NSW. He is also monitoring its ties to hepatitis in children. In addition, he is studying the evolution of retroviruses through the discovery of new viruses embedded in the genome of amphibians. When he is not in the lab Banjo can be found either in the ocean, swimming, and scuba diving or on the basketball court.

Mentor: Lewis Mercer - PhD student 
Lewis Mercer is a virology PhD student who is discovering new potentially deadly viruses in valuable Australian food fish such as tunas, barramundi, salmon, and trout to help protect fish farms from future viral outbreaks. He is also monitoring the circulating strains of norovirus, a virus that causes massive gastroenteritis outbreaks primarily in children and the elderly, in NSW using clinical samples and wastewater. In his spare time, he likes to paint digitally, play video games, and practice the near-obsolete art of stenography.

Sign up for updates

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 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) 

    Students living in a regional location such as Central Coast, Wollongong or Newcastle are eligible for partial fee-waiver positions.

    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 $420+ 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 $410 + 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 $420 + 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.
  • 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 SciX2023, 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 previous programs 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
  • Previous SciX 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.