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

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

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.

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.

Our timetable has been designed to maximise learning, create community and share the excitement of science and research. We are using a variety of communication and teaching modes, including time each day for students to chat in very small groups with their mentors. There are sessions focusing on both project-specific research techniques and general research skills, all designed using best practices in teaching and delivered by subject content experts in an interactive format taking advantage of new engagement technology.    

9:00 – 9:30: Start your research day by engaging with the SciX community via our online engagement platform, answering the Daily Question, posting submissions to our SciX meme competition and sharing awesome science. 

9:30 – 10:00: Cohort-wide quick training session on a key research skill, delivered by experienced researchers 

10:00 – 10:45: Research group interactive lecture by your SciX mentor, teaching you key knowledge or skills for your project 

10:45 – 11:30: Individual work on assigned task 

11:30 – 12:00: Chat check-in and engagement with your research group  

12:00 – 1:00: Lunch, with optional mini cohort-wide activities and engagement opportunities. 

1:00 – 2:00: Cohort-wide science enrichment activities include our popular Science Extension Exam tips session. 

2:00 – 3:00: Research group workshop with your SciX mentor and research group colleagues. 

3:00 – 4:30: Individual research time along with rotating mini-meetings where small groups of students meet with their mentors for about thirty minutes to support each student’s independent research project.

Before the summer school, you will engage with:  

  • Project-specific pre-work introducing the key scientific concepts and important relevant scientific papers 
  • Programming training in Python or the project-specific software  
  • For some projects, pre-installation of specialised software

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

The central technology used for SciX2021 will be Microsoft Teams, which will enable strong communication within the whole cohort, within each research group and between student and their method. Sharing memes, asking questions, discussion of preliminary results and sharing interesting papers will all be encouraged here. 

Video conferencing will take place within Microsoft Teams. 

Pre-summer-school content and resources may be delivered via the OpenLearning platform and Microsoft Teams organisation (depending on the research group), where students can ask questions, complete work and talk with their mentors.

You can also expect that most groups will be using an open source specialised scientific software of some kind and the Anaconda Python3 distribution. 

To participate in the summer school, you simply need a computer, an internet connection and a passion for science and learning. You will be asked to download specific software for each project, all of which is available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

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. 

The allocation of full and partial fee-waiver positions for the SciX programme are assessed using the following criteria that are based on the University Admissions Centre Educational Access Scheme Categories of disadvantage.  

  • Financial difficulties or hardship, including but not limited to: family or individual has received a Centrelink means-tested benefit, JobSeeker or JobKeeper allowance during COVID, student is required to work to support family or self 
  • Student identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander 
  • Student enrolled in a UNSW Gateway School, or a school that has a index of community socio-educational advantage (ICSEA) less than 1000 (as assessed on the MySchool website) 
  • Student lives in a non-metropolitian, regional or rural location 
  • Other difficult health, family, social or economic circumstances that could be verified by the school teacher or a qualified professional (e.g. psychologist, GP, social worker) 

Each application will be assessed individually; please note that meeting any one of the criteria does not guarantee a fee waiver placement will be provided. Preference will be given to students who are taking the Science Extension course.   

If you would like to discuss these eligibility criteria, your individual circumstances or would prefer us to verify your suitability through direct contact with their teacher or school, please email us at

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).

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.

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. 

Most projects within 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 and share information via the SciX Microsoft Teams organisation. Summer school sessions will take place via Microsoft Teams video conference or similar tools. 

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. 

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

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. 

For more information on the program, please email us.