Read our SciX FAQs below to help answers any queries you may have on the Science School Extension program at UNSW Science.

What is SciX@UNSW?

SciX2021 Online@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, delivered online for 2021 on 18th – 22nd January 2021.

The most important part of this intensive experience is the regular lecture and workshop research group lab sessions, delivered for 2021 via video conferencing, 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 the virtual 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 2018 in response to the 2017 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.

How has Covid-19 affected the program?

Due to Covid-19 we are planning to have all engagement activities with students for the 2020/21 SciX program to be virtual.

I am not taking Science Extension in 2021.  Can I still participate in SciX?

SciX@UNSW is designed with the requirments of the Science Extension curriculum in mind.  However, we invite other Year 11 and Year 12 equivalent students across Australia or worldwide to participate in the program, either as part of their graded coursework (e.g. International Baccalaureate, Depth Study) or for interest.

Why SciX@UNSW?

Intensive Summer School to fast-track your project

Over five days, students will undertake research skill training and participate in interactive workshops. They will have access to our lab equipment, resources and researchers to hit the ground running on their project.

Authentic syllabus-aligned projects developed by our experts

All research projects have been developed by UNSW scientific researchers in collaboration with high school science teachers to ensure that they are thought-provoking to students 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.

Regular support from trained mentors

Our research project mentors have been formally trained to deliver the program by UNSW staff and high school teachers. Mentors will provide structured support at each key research stage from hypothesis development to research report writing.

Be a part of a student community

Each group of students will be assigned to a research project, enabling a strong peer group so students can support each other as they work through their 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.

We are committed to an inclusive and well-resourced experience  

Our 2021 budget model incorporates 25% fee-waived positions, based primarily on financial need. We are committed to hiring diverse research mentors and encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to participate in SciX@UNSW. Our research mentors are paid at a fair rate to support the quality and values of the program.

How does the program work?

The primary component of the program will run from late November 2020 to January 2021, with some self-paced pre-work and skills training modules in November to early January before a one-week intensive online summer school from 18th – 22nd January 2021. 

During this summer school, students will be taught cutting-edge research tools and knowledge and supported in developing and investigating their own hypothesis and research question.   

Each research project will run with a small group of Extension Science students and one research mentor. The researcher 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.

How will the online research sessions work?

The lab sessions will be highly interactive with lots of question and answer time, with follow-up small group video sessions and chat-based interactions allow more personalised support. 

What technologies will be used in the SciX summer school?

Pre-summer-school content and resources will predominantly be delivered via the OpenLearning platform; students can also ask questions, complete work and talk with their mentors via the Platform.

Given the importance of strong communication during the online summer school, we are also going to run a SciX Slack Channel; this is similar to WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams, with various channels for different groups. Sharing memes, asking questions, discussion of preliminary results and sharing interesting papers will all be encouraged here. 

The video sessions will take place via a video conferencing platform like Zoom or BBCollaborate – this will be confirmed closer to the date.  

Individual groups may choose to share documents or sample program input files via other platforms, such as the Google suite. You can also expect that most groups will be using an open source specialised scientific software of some kind and the Anaconda Python3 distribution. 

How do we ensure child safety?

All video communication will be with at least two students and one adult and recorded, with all written communication between adults and students being accessible to parents and teachers. All mentors will have a current and valid Working With Children Check (WWCC).

How can SciX2021 work online?

In the interests of student safety and certainty, we have made an early decision to move SciX2021 to a fully online delivery. Though we would of course love to run an in-person programme, we are confident that we can provide a very high quality programme via an online environment for SciX2021 which focuses on strong research group communities, scientific enrichment and independent curiosity and excellence. 

In a very quick timeframe in March 2020, UNSW educators converted to digital learning which will continue in most respects until at least the end of 2020, while our research groups are now communicating and researching almost entirely through online platforms such as Microsoft Teams and email. We have learnt a lot, our students are responding positively and our research is progressing well; we are thus confident in our ability to communicate difficult content, organise logistics, build community and teach via online platforms. All mentors will be thoroughly trained in best practice for online mentoring and education by our experienced science education-specialist SciX Executive team members, who will also support mentors during the week.

SciX2021 is carefully designed to provide the optimal environment for student-centred project learning and development, based on our extensive experience with online teaching and our experience running the 65-student SciX2020 summer school and other similar programmes.

How are students placed into research groups?

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. 

When is the SciX Summer School?

The Summer School will be an Online Event  from Monday, 18 January to Friday, 22 January 2021. Attendance will be critical to participating in the program. 

How will I communicate with my mentor?

The SciX@UNSW uses the OpenLearning digital platform to provide students with access to relevant scientific literature, research resources and discussion forums with research project mentors. Groups will also communicate informally via a Slack channel. Summer school sessions will take place via Zoom video conference or similar tools. 

How much does it cost?

There is a non-refundable fee of $400 excluding GST per student that is payable by credit card upon acceptance into the program. This fee covers the cost of the time and contributions of our highly trained PhD student mentors for their time and contribution to the project, enabling the sustainability and excellence of the SciX@UNSW program. We will also offer a significant number of fee-waived positions to students based primarily on financial need. 

How do I apply?

Applications will open on Monday 19th October (Week 2, Term 4 2020) and will consist of submitting a simple online application form, located on the SciX@UNSW home webpage, and an email from your teacher. Please sign up for our mail list to be notified when applications open. 

What skills will I gain from SciX?

Students from the 2020 program 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

What is the most valuable component of the SciX experience?

2020 students 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. 

Where do I find more information? 

For more information on the program, please email us.