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Interdisciplinary projects

Gain real-world experience as you solve today's issues

As part of the new Sydney Undergraduate Experience, you will have more opportunity than ever before to gain career experience in industry, work collaboratively across disciplines and build your skills tackling some of the most complex challenges of our time.

We’ve partnered with over 10 leading business, government and community organisations to offer real-world projects, available for eligible students to apply for in Semester 1, 2018. The projects champion collaboration across discipline areas and provide students rare opportunities to work with major industry partners on real-world problems. The projects are open to all third-year students who meet the eligibility requirements, including all fourth-year students who have a spare elective.

Students will work in interdisciplinary groups throughout the semester, in collaboration with the industry partner and your project supervisor. Groups will present their projects to the industry partner at the end of the semester.

Enrolments for Semester 1 have now closed. Register your interest for Semester 2 and be the first to find out when enrolments for Semester 2 open.

Semester 1 2018 projects

Partner: AGL

Is it possible to completely disconnect from the electrical grid?  Why would you want to? What would be involved? When does it make sense to disconnect from the grid?

With increasing electricity prices and falling costs of technologies such as solar panels, battery storage and fuel cells, going off-grid may now be feasible.

In this project you will explore how to go off-grid, as well as ecological and economic impacts, and societal implications. Depending on the number of groups, we will explore a number of specific scenarios, including both urban and rural homes, and how local communities may take themselves off the grid. We will consider the underlying technologies, such as batteries and solar PV, strategies for reducing power use, the legal and regulatory implications, and the business case.

Students who study science (physics, chemistry, psychology), engineering (electrical, chemical, civil), arts and social sciences, law, architecture and design and business are encouraged to apply.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Maryanne Large, Associate Professor, Faculty of Science. 

Partner: The Art Gallery of NSW

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is counting on China as a source of visitors as well as art. In order to attract larger numbers of Chinese visitors and provide them with a satisfying experience, the Gallery must consider how it presents, communicates, and advertises for Chinese visitors as well as for the Chinese community in Sydney. But how to engage this demographic? What art are Chinese visitors willing to come see, and to what messages do they respond? How should the Gallery situate itself on visitors’ itineraries or reorient itself in local community perceptions?

You will consider the real-life question of how the Gallery might pursue to educate the public, plan and market exhibitions, and devise programs for these demographics. Throughout the semester, you will work towards devising a proposal that outlines the interests and needs of Chinese visitors and suggests strategies to better engage this group.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Wei Wang, Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Partner: Bain & Company

There has been growing recognition and focus on the importance of increasing diversity in Australian workplaces, yet there are complex structural and cultural factors which seem to limit progress. Opportunities continue to exist for workplaces to implement changed practices to address all forms of diversity. As Australian society continues to change in size and nature, how should businesses respond to prepare for and meet the needs of future generations of employees?

This project will involve a combination of research and strategic problem solving to develop specific and practical recommendations for Australian employers to incorporate into their business strategies in order to increase diversity in their workplaces.  Your project group will look at addressing a range of questions from ‘how diverse are workplaces in Australia?’ to ‘what can Australian employers learn from best practice?’ and ‘what strategic interventions could they employ in order to prepare for future generations of employees?’. This project will be of interest to students who have a broad interest in human resources as a possible career option. This includes business, psychology, arts and social sciences students.

Project supervisor:

Dr Vik Naidoo, Chief Operating Officer, United States Studies Centre.

Partner: City Recital Hall

Live music performance is a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia but it is under pressure.  Venues and cultural presenters need to consider what their role is in a society where so much cultural product is on-demand, free and global in scope.  There is a significant rate of change in how audiences consume cultural product and audiences have an increasing level of discernment and choice in cultural offerings.  What’s on stage has evolved, though the basic concert hall experience has changed little since the 19th century.  Similarly, there is a sense of potential impact from developments in Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) and how these will impact a concert-going experience.

Your project group will explore what the future of performance is, with an emphasis on music.  You will consider the impact of digital developments, online distribution, VR/AR concert experiences, live performance and venues, including the impact on the performer.

This project would be well suited to students studying music, theatre/performance studies, cultural studies, sociology, business, economics, public policy and architecture/design.

Please note: classes for this project will be held at the Conservatorium of Music.

Project supervisor:

Ian Whitney, Project Manager, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Partner: Data 61 | CSIRO

What is the future of milk? Australia is one of the few places left where consumers expect and receive fresh milk all year round. As a result, milk is a daily purchase for many households and a reason for many supermarket visits. Whilst the market price for milk is being kept low, production costs continue to rise. This drives dairy farmers to push productivity and improve efficiency to maintain incomes. At the same time, the dairy industry is coming under scrutiny for what has been described as its ‘social license to practice’. Many people are choosing milk substitutes such as soy and almond milk for health and ethical reasons. Animal advocates are questioning the ethics of the treatment of animals in the dairy industry. Some environmentalists are questioning the efficiency of using scarce resources to feed cows to produce milk when substitutes are available. It is conceivable that genetic and biotech advances may see synthetic milk produced in factories without the need for animals or crops. 

In a multi-disciplinary group, and after some stimulus activities, you will discuss the future of milk and choose a component on which to focus, define a problem or opportunity in consultation with project partners and supervisor, research your problem/opportunity and identify some data that will help resolve the problem/ realise the opportunity, and analyse the data and generate insights to support farm or industry decision-making.  Students interested in animal production, food sciences, data sciences, engineering, arts and social sciences, business, marketing, philosophy and ethics are encouraged to apply.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Peter Ampt, Lecturer, Faculty of Science.

Partner: DXC Technology

DXC is the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company, known for helping their clients harness the power of innovation to thrive on change. DXC is seeing that User Experience and the future of the human to robotic interactions is an area for further exploration with interdisciplinary focus. Your group will seek to define and understand the user immersive interfaces of the future. You will look at the key business challenges that are facing front line operations and how to frame and execute an innovation response. You will gain access to DXC subject matter experts and technologists in relevant competency domains and ecosystems partners.

The project will work as a sprint and each sprint will be measured to strive to solve a bounded scope. So if you have a level of adventure and ambition, this project will nurture that and seek to achieve an outcome, all whilst your team has access to experienced stakeholders or a Scrum Master.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Na Liu, Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies. 

Partner: Glebe Community Development

What kind of Sydney do you want to live in? Inner Sydney is under enormous pressure from increasing population density and access to green space is highly contested. For social housing residents, a lack of access to green space is another way in which they experience social exclusion. This project imagines options for socially just access and use of an existing undeveloped green space in Camperdown. Field visits to the site will be an essential part of the student experience. Projects will be shaped by physical, social, legal, historical, political and economic factors. Each team will produce a vision for the green space and how it might contribute to the life of our city that is vibrant and socially inclusive.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Margot Rawsthorne, Lecturer, Sydney School of Education and Social Work.

Partner: Glebe Community Development

The Have a Chat Café in Glebe has been running since 2015.  The Café operates without a business plan and primarily on the work of volunteers and donated food. The Café is a non-religious, non-government, not-for-profit establishment providing a safe, welcoming space for community members. It provides good quality food and coffee at affordable prices for the local community; encourages having a chat to reduce social isolation and improve the mental well-being of its patrons, and also provides free food drop-offs in collaboration with Baker’s Delight and OzHarvest for local tenants.

Your project group will work towards a business plan for the café, undertaking market research, considering ways to help the café run sustainably, and branding/promotion of the café to help with funding opportunities. To be able to continue running this service in the Glebe community, a business plan and management of the issues need to be addressed.  You will work in partnership with local residents and organisations to build community capacity and increase social cohesion in the Glebe and Camperdown communities.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Steven Hitchcock, Associate Lecturer, Sydney Business School. 

Partner: NSW Farmer’s Association

Can switching from a traditional market set up to a technology focused auction system deliver a higher price for producers?  Almost one-third of Australia's population consume the fresh produce sold through the Sydney Produce Market. It caters primarily to professional buyers from supermarkets, restaurants and green grocers but is also open to the public.

In this project, your group will produce a consultant’s report which will make a recommendation on the best system to deliver the highest price for the producer. Your group will also look at the perishability and value of goods being sold, the number of buyers and sellers, and their characteristics, the benefits and risk of the various systems and the cost of switching to an auction system.

This project could appeal to a number of different disciplines including everything from Agriculture to Economics to Psychology or from IT to Business Information Systems and others in between. We’ll explore what the market looks like now compared to what it may look like in the future. Do other markets such as the Sydney Fish Market have lessons for the Sydney Produce Market? Your presentation to NSW Farmers at the end of the project will reveal your findings and your recommendation.

Project supervisor: 

Geoff Harrison, Associate Lecturer, Sydney Business School.

Partner: NSW Police (Leichhardt Local Area Command)

Are you interested in the law and the elements that make up legal cases?  Maybe you have watched Suits, The Good Wife, Law & Order, or one of the many legal drama shows.  As ways to train some police officers and provide undergraduate interdisciplinary students with mock trial experience, we have partnered with NSW Police, Leichhardt Local Area Command, where an authentic legal case will be presented. Your project group will be presented with a case for you to gather evidence, cross examine real police, confer with expert witnesses and examine forensic issues, amongst many other fact finding requirements.  In the mock trial the roles across the project groups can range from being the defence, the expert witness (e.g., psychologist), or the prosecutor. 

This project would mostly suit students studying law, and those students with a major in psychology, neuroscience, pharmacology, health and medical sciences.  

Project supervisor: 

Dr Celine van Golde, Associate Lecturer, Founder and Project Director of Not Guilty; the Sydney Exoneration Project, Faculty of Science. 

Partner: Public Service Commission

We want the workforce of the public service to reflect the diversity of the Australian public itself – but how do we make that happen? What workplace processes, designs and practices make organisations are most likely to meaningfully include employees with a wide range of lived experiences? What practical steps can government agencies use to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, LGBTIQ people, older people, people with disabilities, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in their leadership teams?

Participants in this project will think creatively about how to address inequalities in the workforce, designing a tool which will help agencies in the NSW public service to diagnose strengths and weaknesses in their diversity strategies. This project would suit students with a background in gender studies, business, sociology, law, architecture, information technology, psychology or statistics (and anyone else with a burning desire to find solutions to social inequalities in professional settings).

Project supervisor: 

Dr Jessica Kean, Scholarly Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Social Science.

Partner: Westmead

As part of the Westmead Precinct, the Westmead Redevelopment is building a contemporary state of the art health facility where staff and students will integrate education, training and research with healthcare. In keeping with the future focus of the building design, it is critical to consider emerging and future impacts on healthcare workforce roles and development needs. There are a number of emerging technologies that may have an impact on how healthcare is delivered now and into the future. Emerging technological advances include automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), mobile sensors, the internet of things and 3D printing. It is foreseeable that these technologies will impact on future healthcare workforce roles and requirements, and these changes can happen at any level in the health workforce. Currently, there is a lack of an integrated body of knowledge on the potential effects of technology innovation on delivery of healthcare and the consequent impacts on the required roles and skills of the health workforce.

Your project group will review emerging technologies and identify their potential impacts on the future roles and skills within the healthcare workforce. Your group should also consider the resulting requirements for workforce and organisational development in the context of the Westmead Precinct, and seek to identify key partners to meet these requirements. This project would suit students with a background in any of the following areas: biomedical engineering, medical sciences, education, ethics, design, psychology, social work, economics, HR, management and health sciences.

Please note: classes for this project will be held at Westmead.

Project supervisor: 

Dr Christopher Ganora, Lecturer in General Practice, Westmead Clinical School, Sydney Medical School. 

Partner: Westpac Banking Corporation

The booming growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence is both exciting and intimidating. In shifting conventional computing paradigms, can innovations led by AI provide new and lucrative opportunities for businesses across all sectors? A number of clear potential applications for AI already exist for the banking sector: customer service interactions, providing financial advice, mitigating risk and decision making. In this project your group will provide a brief that prepares for or takes advantage of artificial intelligence on banking.

Project supervisor: 

Corina Raduescu, Lecturer, Sydney Business School.


How to enrol

The project unit of study is 6 credit points. To be eligible, you must have completed 96 credit points and be in your third year or above in 2018. You need a free elective or faculty elective slot available in your degree, your application will be assessed to ensure this is the case so that your chosen unit will count towards your degree. Only undergraduate students can enrol. 

You must sign and upload this deed poll (in Step 2) in order to be eligible.

Please note: a large component of the unit and assessment comprises of group work. A provisional timetable will be released for the project units in mid-January 2018. 

Enrolments for Semester 1 have now closed. Register your interest for Semester 2 and be the first to find out when enrolments for Semester 2 open.

Enrolments for Semester 2 will be announced in April 2018.  When enrolments for Semester 2 open you need to, log in to Sydney Student and submit a special permission application, dates for opening and closing of special permission will be announced in April 2018.

You will request special permission (session: Semester 2, 2018 – Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) day – Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney) for a shell unit within your faculty or school: 

  • Sydney School of Architecture - ARCH3108
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (including Sydney College of the Arts and Sydney School of Education and Social Work) - INDP3000
  • The University of Sydney Business School - BUSS3110
  • Sydney Conservatorium of Music - PERF3640
  • Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies - ENGG3800
  • Faculty of Health Sciences - HSEL3306
  • Sydney Law School - LAWS3508 (Bachelor of Laws), LAWS5208 (Juris Doctor)*
  • Faculty of Science (including Sydney School of Veterinary Science) - SCPU3001

You need a free elective or faculty elective slot available in your degree; your application will be assessed to ensure this is the case so that your chosen unit will count towards your degree.

Upload a signed copy of this deed poll with your application for special permission. Please consider the acknowledgments in the deed carefully before responding to the offer to undertake the project.

*Combined Law students in years 1, 2 and 3 must enrol in the faculty shell unit relevant to their non-law degree. Bachelor of Law and Juris Doctor students who are in their final or penultimate year and have completed a minimum of 48cp of core law units, are also eligible to apply.

Enrolments for Semester 2 will open in April 2018, and the dates for selecting your preferences will be announced. When it comes time to preference, you will receive an email with instructions on how to select your preferences.

You must select five projects in order of preference. The University can not guarantee that you will be allocated to your preferred projects. 

If you have enquiries about selecting your preferences, please contact us. If you have any questions about your degree progression, please contact the Student Centre.

Previous interdisciplinary projects

Inventing the Future