Summer Research Scholarships

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The Biological Sciences Summer Research Scholarships are a great way to gain research experience and an insight into research process while working alongside leading scientific researchers from the School of Biological Sciences.

The School will offer up to 15 scholarships, with each scholarship worth up to $2928 (tax exempt). Also up to $1500 will be paid towards expenses for students who reside outside of Sydney.

Scholarships will be awarded primarily on academic performance.


The Biological Sciences Summer Research Scholarships are open to:

  1. University of Sydney students who have completed Intermediate Biology (BIOL, MBLG) and who intend to undertake Senior Biology units.
  2. Students from other universities in Australia and New Zealand who have completed at least two years of a full time program and who are interested in honours or higher degree research.

Project dates

Projects run for four – six weeks, generally commencing in late November and concluding in late February.

Students must be available for the full duration of the project although specific dates can be arranged with their supervisor. (Please note the University will close on the 18th of December 2015 and reopen on Monday 4th of January 2015.)

How to apply

  • Complete the application form.
  • Include a personal statement, no longer than two A4 pages.
  • Include a copy of your transcript (if not a University of Sydney student).
  • Submit by 4pm on Friday 28 August 2015.
  • Submission can be made via email at ,
  • Or in person to the School of Biological Sciences Office at Level 5, Carslaw Building F07.

Important dates

Applications open: Late June 2015
Applications close: 4pm, Friday 28 August 2015
Offers made: 30 September 2015
Deadline to accept offer: 14 October 2015



1.Photosynthetic studies @ 7.894784, 98.352140
The process of photosynthesis evolved over 3.5 billion years ago and many extant photosynthetic species have intriguing modes of survival. Some prokaryotic examples live in symbiotic associations with marine hosts; one such host is a Didenmid. We have found an interesting Didenmid and would like to isolate and culture the photosynthetic symbionts and characterise their photosynthetic machinery. We are also intrigued by an epiphytic resurrection plant that is able to resume photosynthesising within seconds of being re-wetted; we want to know how. The lab work for this project will be located at Prince of Songkla University (PSU), Phuket campus under the supervision of Rosanne Quinnell (USYD) and Raymond Ritchie (PSU) and is estimated to take 3 weeks (so start 29th Nov and finish 17th Dec to align with University Christmas closedown). The write up for this work will be conducted over 3 weeks on USyd campus (January 2016).
Rosanne Quinnell

2. Survival in the City: Traits of Urban Exploiters
Biodiversity in cities is typically dominated by species with a capacity to thrive in highly modified environments. A growing body of work has identified possible morphological and behavioural traits that may make it possible for species to exploit novel urban ecosystems. In this project we will examine the traits of urban exploiters to assess how they are expressed in different environments. We work on one of several model species (insect or spiders) that we have baseline data on. This will be confirmed after discussions with the student undertaking this project
Dieter Hochuli

3. a) Naiveté and wildlife reintroductions: Do responses of reintroduced native bush rats towards alien black rats develop with time? Or b) Do aliens ever become native? Responses of urban wildlife to dogs and cats in the backyards of Sydney and Hobart
Your choice of project, a or b. a) Naiveté is central to the exaggerated impacts of alien species and hampers the success of wildlife reintroductions, but it is unlikely to last forever. This project aims to understand changes in the behavioural responses towards alien black rats by native bush rats. b) After 4000 years of being in Australia, are dingoes and dogs really native? Cats have been here 200 years, is that long enough for native status? This project will use an online questionnaire to examine the activity of local urban wildlife in Sydney and in Hobart.
Peter Banks

4. Analysis of plant embryo development
Investigate the role of a ribosomal protein in embryo development in the plant Arabidopsis. Molecular biology techniques will be used to generate transgene constructs to test for rescue of a mutant phenotype. Microscopy techniques will be used to examine and compare embryo development in a ribosomal protein mutant with normal wild type development.
Mary Byrne

5. Physiology and behaviour of the shallow water marine crustacean Cirolana harfordi
The isopod Cirolana harfordi is an important part of shallow water marine food webs and amazingly has been recently found to display live birth and to be a social animal that will seek the company of others. A project investigating the behaviour and physiology of this animal in a changing ocean is available.
Murray Thomson

6. Seeking for red-shifted chlorophylls
Many marine cyanobacteria are uncharacterised but a pigment survey analysis has shown that some of them might contain red-shifted chlorophylls. During the summer, you will learn how to culture bacteria, classify using 16s rDNA PCR sequences, extract photopigments and determine the pigment’s photochemical properties. Finally, if the cyanobacterium is a new species, you may be able to name it!
Min Chen

7. The Impact of Climate Change Stressors on Marine Invertebrates
This project will investigate the impacts of ocean warming and ocean acidification in context with near future projections for the NSW coast on marine invertebrates with a focus on echinoderm and mollusc species. The research will entail rearing life history stages (eg. larvae, juveniles=, adults) in ocean change conditions using facilities on campus and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science at Chowder Bay. The goal of the research is to determine which species may be the comparative ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ in the ocean change stakes.
Maria Byrne

8. Learning, Information Use and Collective Decision Making
For animals as well as for ourselves, life presents a series of decisions. Animals have to decide when and where to move in order to forage effectively, or to avoid their predators. You will examine how social animals (in this case fish) gather information and learn how they are able to share and integrate their information with other group members in order to make effective collective decisions.
Ashley Ward

9. a. Behavioural ecology of sulphur-crested cockatoos in the urban landscape
The Cockatoo Wingtags program is investigating the ecology of a population of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in Sydney to determine population size, site loyalty and distances travelled. 100 cockatoos have an individually identifiable wing tag, which allows for individual behavioural observations. This project will undertake detailed behavioural observations, such as assessing handedness in cockatoos, foraging time budgets or social interaction amongst members of the flock. OR
b.Distribution of tree hollows in urban remnant vegetation
This project builds on studies of the availability of roosting and nesting resources for birds and other fauna in urban areas such as streets and remnant vegetation. It will investigate the presence of hollow-bearing trees in urban areas and involves assessing vegetation (understory, trees, and hollows) in urban remnants and forest, and researching the management and fire histories of each site.
Charlotte Taylor

Terms and conditions

The purpose of the Division of Natural Sciences Summer Research Scholarship Program is to provide students with an opportunity to gain access to and engage with academic staff and research projects over the summer holidays. The Summer Research Scholarships are offered for a maximum of 6 weeks and will be paid at the current Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) rate, which in 2015 is $497 per week. This will be paid to recipients in two parts one installment at the start of the project and the second in the third week of the project. The accommodation bursary is $250.00 per week and will be paid fortnightly.

The scholarships will be awarded using the following conditions:

  1. Applicants will be required to submit an application.
  2. Applicants must be enrolled on a full time basis and have completed Intermediate Biology (BIOL,MBLG) and intend to undertake Senior Biology units. Students from other universities in Australia and New Zealand must have completed at least two years of a full time program and be interested in honours or higher degree research.
  3. Applicants must be performing at credit level (AAM 65) or above to be considered for these scholarships.
  4. The scholarships shall be awarded on the basis of academic merit.
  5. Applicants can only receive one Summer Scholarship per year.
  6. The scholarships shall be awarded by the Dean of the relevant Faculty within the Division of Natural Sciences, on the recommendation of the appropriate Head of School.
  7. If a recipient lives outside the Sydney Metropolitan Area, they may also be offered additional funds of up to $250 per week to cover accommodation costs.