Honours in immunology & Infectious Diseases

The Honours program provides the opportunity for full-time research on a project proposed and supervised by a staff member expert in the field. Experimental research, a thesis and a seminar on the project constitute the major part of the Honours program. Guidance in research techniques is given in training programs covering experimental design, data analysis, written and oral communication and critical appraisal of the literature. In addition, a supplementary seminar program keeps students informed and abreast of wider issues in Immunology.

Students apply for Honours enrolment during semester 2 of the year preceding Honours. Intending students should consult the Honours coordinator, Associate Professor Jamie Triccas, in the first instance. Outlines of the proposed research topics and projects are provided, and students select projects of interest, speak with prospective supervisors and apply for permission to enrol in the program, before the end of semester 2. Within the constraints of availability, an attempt is made to assign students to projects of their choice. Usually Honours candidates will have achieved at least a Credit in IMMU 3102 and IMMU 3202, will have taken Senior study in Biochemistry, Biology, Cell Pathology, Microbiology, Physiology or Virology, and for BSc candidates, gained a major in Immunobiology, Biochemistry, Biology, Microbiology or Physiology. Usually Honours candidates will have a SCIWAM of 65+.

The research program

Candidates will work almost exclusively on their chosen research topic, independently, but under the guidance of their supervisor. At the end of the year, the research is written up in the form of an Honours Thesis and is examined by the supervisor and two other scientists appointed by the Honours committee. Each thesis is assessed on its overall quality and not simply on the quantity of results. ‘Getting results’ is not the sole aim of the research program.

In mid-October, two to three weeks before the thesis is submitted, candidates are required to present a seminar on their project. This will be a 20-minute presentation, followed by constructive feedback in the form of questions from the audience of peers, supervisors, examiners and interested colleagues.

The research program is further structured to help develop scientific writing skills in the following way:

  1. Preparation of an approximately 2 page summary outlining the aims and experimental approach which the candidate understands to be their project and why the project has scientific merit in their opinion. (in other words, what they are going to do and why they are doing it). This is not formally assessed but will be discussed at interview with the supervisor.
  2. Preparation of a ‘literature review’ essay that is the basis of the Introduction to the final thesis, and prior preparation of the results and methods chapters. These sections are read by the supervisor, and some corrections, suggestions for improvements and other comments are made before submission of the thesis.

The supplementary program

The supplementary program has two main aims:

  1. To keep the candidate abreast of wider issues in Immunology and Infectious Diseases, while fostering their particular research interest, and
  2. To enable the candidate to develop strong skills in communication and critical appraisal of the literature.

To this end, in addition to research at the bench, students are required to attend

  1. A Research Seminar Series at Centenary Institute, Westmead Millennium Institute or their equivalent in other locations.
  2. Honours class meeting, where we create a ‘self-help’ program reviewing each other’s aims, results and relevant literature, solving technical problems and providing workshops in statistics and data analysis.
  3. Meetings of their own research group which will focus on the particular interests of the group, and where the student is expected to participate both in presenting results and reviewing literature.
  4. Journal Club in the Centenary Institute (or its equivalent), where each week a member of staff reviews one or two recent papers of more general interest.

Introductory course on animal experimentation

An introductory course on Animal Experimentation will be presented by the Animal Care & Ethics Committee of the University and attendance and successful completion by all Honours students whose projects involve animals is compulsory.

Final assessment

Assessment marks are considered at the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Honours Committee meeting, which then forwards their recommendation to the Faculty of Science. The Faculty makes the final decision as to the grade awarded. The Faculty recently revised its Honours policy. The requirement for a minimum SCIWAM of 68 to be eligible for the award of First Class Honours was eliminated. Instead all Honours students are eligible for First Class Honours if their Honours performance justifies a mark of 80 or greater. However departments are constrained in the average mark that can be awarded by the following: the rolling five year average mark difference (student Honours mark minus SCIWAM) should fall within the range 10 plus or minus 2. We do not anticipate any problem adhering to these guidelines. However if your WAM score was possibly affected by sickness or other reasons, you should make sure that this is known to the unit Honours Committee, Associate Professor Jamie Triccas, in the first instance.

Qualifications for Admission

To qualify for admission to Honours the Faculty of Science requires that a student is qualified for the award of a pass degree, has a SCIWAM score of at least 65 and a credit in their chosen Honours topic. Further a student must be considered by the Faculty and the Head of Department concerned to have the requisite knowledge for an Honours course. To qualify for Honours in Immunology or in Infectious Diseases a student must satisfy the minimal conditions. The student should have performed well in all aspects of the senior Immunology units IMMU3102 and IMMU3202 or Infectious Diseases course INFD3012 or Virology course VIRO3002 and achieved at least a credit. A SCIWAM score of 65 or above is also required. In special circumstances applicants who have studied subjects other than Immunology or Infectious Diseases may be considered.