Specialisations (or Majors) offered by the UNSW Faculty of Science are listed below.
List of UNSW Science Specialisations
Anatomy is the study of how the parts of our bodies are put together and interact to create our capacity to move, feel and think.
Archaeology and Palaeoenvironments focuses on the physical and cultural evolution of human cultures and the environments that they inhabited. This Major seeks to provide you with the tools and knowledge to combine various disciplines creatively to explore two unifying themes: evolution (physical and cultural) and the interaction between humans and their natural environment, and between human beings.
Aviation offers two streams of study with a common core, made up of basic science and aerospace technologies, plus management studies. A fourth honours year is also offered. We have our own aircraft operating from Bankstown Airport. Our management lecturers include some very senior and active members of the industry, whose expertise helps graduates find ready employment. Research topics include human factors, flight safety, operations, management methods and aviation meteorology.
Biology is the study of life and living organisms. Biological sciences at UNSW has an international reputation for quality teaching and research. The School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences offers expertise in the fields of botany, ecology, marine biology and zoology. Botany looks at all aspects of both green and non-green plants and their relation to the environment. An understanding of ecology is necessary for conservation. Marine biology is about life in the ocean, estuaries and other coastal environments. Zoology looks at the structure, behaviour, habits, genetics, distribution, evolution and classification of animals.
Biotechnology involves the practical application of biological processes based on living cells and biochemical molecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA for human benefit. Biotechnologies are used in the environmentally friendly extraction of precious metals; treatment of sewage and pollution; development of new biomaterials for medical applications such as tissue engineering; and innovative food products and processes. The School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences has a unique mammalian cell culture facility that uses genetically engineered cells to produce antibodies against cancer.
Chemistry is a central science dealing with the design, synthesis, analysis and properties of molecules. As a basic science, it is unique in providing opportunities for creativity. Chemistry develops enquiring, analytical and problem solving minds with good powers of observation and deduction. The School of Chemistry has teaching and research programs at both fundamental and applied levels that cover many aspects of chemistry. The School is equipped with world leading molecular characterisation instrumentation. It provides first-rate learning facilities for the undergraduate students and research training to both graduate and postgraduate students. Teaching and research in chemistry at UNSW looks to the future with an emphasis on molecular devices, therapeutics and green chemical technologies.
Climate Science studies the past, present and future climate systems and the impact on the physical, biological and human environments. An honours year is offered where students participate in research within the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) - the largest and most research active climate change group in Australia. The CCRC has a particular focus on the controls of global and regional climate and climate variability, the use of coupled climate models in combination with available meteorological observations and the genesis of Australian climate extremes. The program provides the foundation for employment, further study and research in all aspects of climate science ranging from physical oceanography, atmospheric science through carbon futures and the impact of climate change on the environment.
Earth Science is the science of planet Earth. The science and skills of geology are used in the search for, and development of, mineral and energy resources; identification of natural hazards and solutions to environmental problems; engineering site investigations; and groundwater studies.
Ecology is the science of the relationships between organisms and their environments. To conserve our natural environment we need to understand ecology: how animals and plants interact with one another as well as their environment, either on land or in the sea. As an ecology student, you will explore the very nature of life, including the interactions among organisms, their environmental relationships and the diversity, scarcity and management of species, communities and ecosystems.
Environmental science offers training in a very broad field of science that involves studying all aspects of the world around us, our impact on it and how to manage human activities to maintain a sustainable balance with nature. The main environmental fields are biology, chemistry, geography, earth science, marine science, oceanography and microbiology. Please see relevant entries on this page for further information and links relating to these fields.
Food Science involves the understanding of basic sciences and the application of this knowledge from paddock to plate. It involves the study of production, handling, processing, preservation, distribution and marketing, through to consumption and utilisation by consumers. Food Science is concerned with food processes, food commodities, food composition and food quality (including sensory properties, safety and nutritional value).
Genetics is the study of evolution and inheritance, how biological information is passed on between generations, and how it is used and stored. Genes exert control over all functions in all organisms. Molecular geneticists study how DNA encodes genes, how genes are expressed to make proteins and how those proteins are controlled and affect life, for example, via genetic defects that cause cystic fibrosis or diabetes.
Genetics is increasingly relevant to biological research, agriculture, industry, the monitoring of harvested and endangered species, and human health. The famed Human Genome Project is only one of many mapping the genomes of organisms, and the outcomes of this research have sparked much ethical controversy.
Geochemistry is a broad discipline that integrates the knowledge and skills derived from various areas of science to investigate the source, fate and geochemical behaviour of various materials and the processes involved in geochemical systems operating in natural and human-altered environments.
Geochemistry contributes to the discovery and use of resources, sustainable development and the control or remediation of environmental pollution.
Modern geography is a problem-based discipline that examines environmental systems and human societies as they impinge on the earth, resources and environmental management. It provides the skills required for formulating equitable and sustainable development both in Australia and overseas. Understanding modern geography is fundamental to the competent investigation of key problems with the natural and built environments. Some students conduct their senior undergraduate projects in locations as varied as the desert, Indonesia, Thailand and the Great Barrier Reef.
As the ocean covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, an understanding of the processes and hazards associated with the coastal and oceanic environment is essential. Biologists, geologists and oceanographers are interested to learn more about the seas so that we can both use and protect this valuable resource. Marine and Coastal studies offer a unique opportunity to study across these diverse areas of science by focusing on both physical and biological aspects of the marine environment.
Marine Science can be studied with an emphasis on biology, ecology, earth sciences, environmental chemistry, oceanography or physical oceanography. Marine scientists are often involved in multi-disciplinary research programs. Marine biologists look at life on the shore and in oceans and estuaries, and will work with geologists (studying the topography of the ocean floor, sediments and marine resources), with physical oceanographers (studying the waves, currents and tides; or chemists (studying the chemical composition of seawater). These collaborative research programs answer questions about the effect of pollution on marine ecosystems and the relationship between ocean currents and weather.
Materials science and engineering is the underlying science of high performance materials including metals, ceramics, plastics, composites and electronic, nano and biomaterials. Materials engineers develop these high performance materials, engineer new applications, customise innovative processing techniques and predict their performance.
Mathematics provides the language for the fundamental understanding of nature, technology and commerce. Data and factual information can be understood using the techniques and theory of statistics. Mathematics and statistics graduates are highly sought after and employed in a diverse range of jobs from finance and insurance, computing and environmental modelling.
Medicinal Chemistry is an exciting, rapidly expanding area within the broad discipline of chemistry that has seen enormous growth recently both within Australia, and globally. Medicinal chemistry is the development of new pharmaceutical agents, from concept to clinic. Many different stages are involved, from the design and synthesis of novel drug candidates, to their biochemical effects, testing regimes, regulatory and ethical considerations. The program is taught as a truly interdisciplinary joint initiative between the Schools of Chemistry, Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences, and the Pharmacology section of the School of Medical Sciences. Graduates from the medicinal chemistry program will be equipped with unique skills, ranging from fundamental chemistry enabling the synthesis and analysis of drug candidates, through to relevant pharmacology and molecular biology skills.
Microbiology studies the smallest organisms and their impact. Micro-organisms are the oldest known and most diverse forms of life found in every type of environment. Many are used beneficially in areas such as baking, brewing, the manufacture of dairy foods and pharmaceuticals, but some cause disease, food spoilage, water contamination and destruction of materials. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa and archaea are important in both the environmental and medical fields.
|Recent advances in Molecular Cellular Biology, especially the continuing development of recombinant DNA technology, have revolutionised our understanding of the structure, function and regulation of individual genes. These advances have opened up the exciting field of Molecular Biology, one of the most rapid growth areas in biology. This marriage of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Cell Biology provides an exciting new approach for the study of all living organisms, including the human. Molecular Biology therefore represents fundamental components of biological and medical science and they will have increasingly important roles to play in many aspects of modern medicine, genetics, evolutionary biology, bioinformatics, biotechnology and genomics.|
Nanotechnology is the science of understanding the structure and behaviour of materials at the atomic or molecular level. The power to control and exploit atomic structures provides the potential to dramatically transform the world around us, creating devices and machines with unique properties and applications. Some examples are:
- the development of atomic size computer devices on silicon chips;
- building molecules that can sense particular bacteria or viruses; and
- catalyst powders that can use the sunlight to control pollutants.
This degree program is designed to give you training across a wide range of science and technology disciplines with close links to innovative research programs undertaken at UNSW. It will also teach you the commercial aspects of nanotechnology. Significant emphasis will be given to economics, management and legal issues such as intellectual property and raising venture capital.
Neuroscience has two primary goals: one is to understand and explain behaviour and consciousness; the other is to understand and treat diseases of the nervous system such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. The level of explanation sought in neuroscience ranges from integrative aspects that are reflected at behavioural levels, through to anatomical structures, the function of individual brain cells, and ultimately the properties of the molecules that make up these cells. Some of the areas of study in neuroscience include:
- How do we sense and perceive the world around us?
- How do we generate our movements and action?
- How is the brain modified as we learn and remember?
- How do nerves send their signals?
- How do single changes in genes translate into changes in molecules that lead to altered brain function?
There are various career opportunities in this area of science including research positions in neuroscience based in universities, teaching hospitals and research institutes. Career opportunities in industry include positions that focus on neural network modelling and artificial intelligence.
Optometry is a health care profession dedicated to improving and preserving people’s eyesight. Optometrists use their understanding of the science of vision to solve people’s vision problems, detect and manage ocular disease, and contribute to the visual welfare of the community. Optometry offers a challenging and financially rewarding career for those interested in helping people see better. Employment prospects are excellent.
The School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW is the largest optometry school in Australia and strongly links its academic learning with clinical practice. The School has a modern fully equipped clinic that provides a full range of optometry services. The School also houses a number of outstanding research units including the Optics and Radiometry Laboratory. The Vision Cooperative Research Centre shares the same building. There are excellent opportunities for you to expand your studies to include both research and professional education.
Pathology is a scientific discipline which involves the study of diseases, such as infections and cancers, at the genetic, molecular, cellular, and organ levels. It is also a medical specialty that focuses on making diagnoses. Pathology examines how and why diseases develop; the disease process - what happens to our bodies when we are ill; and the effects of diseases, including their symptoms and complications.
Pharmacology is the study of the interaction between drugs and living systems, particularly molecular interactions of drugs at the organ, tissue and cellular level. Discovering new drugs and optimising their use is an important part of pharmacology, as understanding drug action is critical to improving the delivery of quality health care.
The study of physical oceanography is concerned primarily with the mathematical equations that describe fluid flow, and how these are used in understanding the ocean. The discipline is also concerned with the measurement (physical and remotely sensed), modelling and prediction of processes at various scales. This fundamental background can then be applied to a variety of disciplines, including climatology, the dynamics of marine populations and the dynamic structure of marine and coastal habitats.
Physical oceanography is an important part of research into the world’s climate system and is thus the science behind the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’ (or global warming). At UNSW physical oceanography is an important component of the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) which is the largest and most research active climate change group in Australia. Physical oceanography is also a research focus for the marine science group in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Courses in oceanography, marine science and meteorology are directly relevant to work in the Bureau of Meteorology, The Weather Company and the CSIRO. Similar techniques of modelling and prediction are also applicable much more widely, for example, in fisheries management and environmental prediction.
Physics involves understanding the fundamental nature of the world around us, the principles that govern everything from subatomic particles to the universe itself. The technologies that we now all take for granted - CD’s, mobile phones, the worldwide web - have grown out of yesterday’s fundamental physics research. You cannot even imagine where tomorrow’s physics research might take us.
Our Physics School specialises in experimental and theoretical physics in astrophysics, biophysics and quantum physics. Our research facilities include specialist observatories in Australia and Antarctica, a research centre investigating how to build a quantum computer, and an acoustics laboratory to analyse virtuoso musicians and instruments.
Physiology studies the working of the body and its components: organs, tissues and cells working as an integrated system. It describes the fundamental properties of living systems, and gives insights into abnormal states, disease processes and our responses to challenges like pregnancy, ageing, and exposure to extreme environments.
Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour, a diverse discipline that covers the relationship between the brain and behaviour; the processes of perceiving, learning and memory; the assessment of abilities and attitudes; the origins of personality and emotional states; the nature and effects of social interactions; and the causes of abnormal behaviour. Skills in psychology make a strong and positive contribution to a career.
Vision science is the science of how we see and the application of technology to help us see better. This program is designed to develop scientists who can work in ophthalmic industries to create better instruments and vision technologies. You will explore the sciences underpinning vision and light. You will select minors from a wide range of topics to help build innovative and marketable skills. The opportunities in this emerging area are growing strongly. Research and graduate study opportunities in vision science are very good. The School of Optometry and Vision Science houses a number of research units including the Optics and Radiometry Laboratory. The Vision Cooperative Research Centre, the largest vision research unit in Australia, shares the same building.