UNSW Science Vacation Research Scholarship UGVC1056
2018/2019 Research Projects

The UNSW Science Summer Vacation Research Scholarship UGVC1056 exposes highly talented undergraduate students, enrolled in Science or a related discipline, to scientific research and other science-based experience, and to further their education and inspire them to consider research or related activities. The scholarship program will run for a six week period over the Summer Semester (November to February).

 

How to apply

To apply you will need to submit the following:

Supporting Documentation

Please submit the following with your Scholarship application:

  • An electronic copy of your CV
  • An electronic copy of your academic transcript

Applications are now open and will close Friday 14 September 2018.

Research Projects

Click on the School to view possible research projects:

Aviation

Project Title: Remotely Piloted Aircraft (“Drones”) and sustainable recreational management
Supervisor(s): Dr Tay Koo
Description: As part of a bigger research program on drones operational management, the student will be involved in developing protocols for the usage of drones for sustainable destination management.
Student will receive necessary training and induction on school equipment, and will undertake both field and desk-based research.
The former will involve data collection using drone equipment whereas the latter will involve finding and reviewing relevant research literature.
By the end of the summer vacation research program, the student will be expected to have produced a written report that can be used by an industry partner organisation, for example, a local council or remote tourism resort.


Project Title: Clickstream data and the application of artificial intelligence models in studying passenger purchase behaviour

Supervisor: A/Prof Cheng-Lung (Richard) Wu

Description: In general, there is abundant past transactional data for an airline, mainly from ticket purchases. However, these data only reveal those successful transactions that occurred in the past. The vast majority of un-successful transactions were hardly studied and perhaps hardly collected, although these un-finished transactions could contain potential customers for the airline business. Hence, this project is aimed at exploring the human behaviour science aspect of airline passengers’ decision making in the context of on-line air ticket booking via an airline website. In particular, this project plans to utilise web browser clickstream data and artificial intelligence models to explore hidden insights about passengers’ purchase behaviour.

 

Clickstream data is commonly collected by web servers via ‘cookies’ installed in web browsers of a consumer. This project plan to use the clickstream data of the Velocity Loyalty Programme of Virgin Australia (VA) to study the purchase behaviour and the decision-making behaviour of passengers on VA’s Velocity website. The wealth of customer profiling information from the Velocity Programme will be utilised to explore opportunities that may exist when profiling potential customers based on clickstream data. Objectives of this project include:

 

  • Profile passenger segments and behaviours by using clickstream data;
  • Explore the synergy of customer profiling between Velocity data and clickstream data;
  • Develop artificial intelligence algorithms to model passenger purchase behaviour and the accuracy of purchase forecast based on clickstream data;

 

This project will build upon existing projects between UNSW Aviation and VA but will use a separate dataset for the scope of this project. This scope is suitable for a summer research intern. With the support of this Summer Research Scholarship from Faculty, the research intern can gain research experience by working with a research team in Aviation and an industry partner airline, Virgin Australia. The summer project also contributes to the on-going research relationship between UNSW Aviation and Virgin Australia.

 

Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences

Project Title: Evolution Across Interfaces 

Supervisor(s): Dr Matthew Baker

Description: In this project we explore the directed evolution of the flagellar motor in the lab by evolving it to swim under different energy sources and selecting for motility. Recent work in antibiotic resistance by Michael Baym has shown that the resistance of antibiotics occurs in lockstep when progressing through 10-fold increases in antibiotics.

We aim to explore how motility can evolve across interfaces, when a bacterium faces a change in environment between, for example, H+ and Na+ environments, and how the bacteria adapts to dwindling nutrient across this interface.

This project has scope for designing and building custom tanks to optimise bacterial evolution using 3D printing and prototyping, as well as investigating microbiology and bacterial motility in multiple dimensions using layered swim devices.


 

Project Title: Investigating circular RNA expression in the human brain

Supervisor(s): Dr Irina Voineagu

Description: Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a novel class of non-cording RNAs formed by non-canonical back-splicing. Remarkably, circRNAs are enriched in the brain relative to all other tissues, and this property is conserved from mouse to humans. We recently carried out an extensive analysis of circRNA expression in the human brain, and identified hundreds of novel circRNAs, characterised inter-individual variability of circRNA expression in the human brain, and identified brain region-specific circRNAs. This project will involve (a) experimental validation of some of the novel circRNAs and (b) circRNA knock-down by genome editing, to assess their functional roles. The project will deepen your understanding of gene expression regulation, and will expose you to molecular cloning, cell culture, qRT-PCR and genome editing, as well as (optionally) bioinformatics.


 

Project Title: Deep omics!

Supervisor(s): Dr Fatemeh Vafaee

Description: Deep learning has revolutionized research in image processing and speech recognition and will soon transform research in molecular biomedicine. Deep learning models can capture multiple levels of representation and extract informative features directly from raw data. Omics data is one of the most prominent examples of feature‐rich and high‐dimensional heterogeneous data and thus multi-omics data analysis and integration have increasingly become a deep learning harvesting field in computational biology. We are developing deep learning models to leverage large omics data for finding hidden structures within them, for integrating heterogeneous data and for making accurate predictions in different biomedical applications. Students in this project will get involved in this fascinating and transforming research field and will assist with developing deep learning models for cutting-edge biomedical applications.


 

Project Title: Computational models of evolving pathogens

Supervisor(s): Prof Mark Tanaka

Description: Pathogenic bacteria and viruses are successful from an evolutionary point of view, in part because they are able to adapt rapidly to their hosts. With the growth of large amounts of genome sequencing data in recent years, it has become feasible to probe changes in pathogen genomes at a very fine genetic level. Useful computational tools are currently available to interpret genome variation. However, deeper, more detailed questions about adaptation in pathogens will require specific processes to be carefully considered. Here, we will develop computational models towards understanding and explaining the observed variation in microorganisms. These models will be used to examine the features of genomes and populations that enable microbial adaptation.


 

Project Title: acBio diploid genome phasing

Supervisor(s): Dr Richard Edwards

Description: Long read sequencing offers new opportunities for fully resolving both copies of diploid genomes during whole genome assembly. This project will be to help test and optimize approaches for phasing diploid genomes and/or resolving structural variation between the two parental versions of diploid chromosomes in yeast.


 

Project Title: Engineering novel protein-based biosensors

Supervisor(s): Dr Dominic Glover

Description: Living cells are filled with proteins and other molecules that can serve as “building blocks” for scientists to assemble functional devices, such as biosensors for the detection of toxic pollutants. Typical biosensors make use of complicated genetic circuits that allow cells to probe their environment for specific molecules and then compute the results. However, such circuits involve several rounds of transcription, translation and regulatory events that slow down the response time. In this project, students will produce and characterise protein components that will be used to replace synthetic gene circuits with synthetic protein circuits. Ultimately, protein circuits are expected to improve the sensitivity and response time of biosensors, as well as reducing the number of “parts” required to build a biodevice.


 

Project Title: Small RNA regulation of pathogenesis in enterohaemorrhagic E. coli

Supervisor(s): Dr Jai Tree

Description: Pathogenic bacteria must sense and respond to broad range of environments, including the host, to cause a productive infection. Virulence gene expression is controlled at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level allowing multiple environmental cues to be “layered” onto a gene regulatory circuit. In this project, we will be examining how RNA-based regulation of the MazEF toxin-antitoxin system controls pathogenesis in the foodborne pathogen, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.


 

Project Title: Dingo dietary studies

Supervisor(s): Prof Bill Ballard

Description: Captive experiments have shown that many species regulate their macronutrient (i.e. protein, lipid and carbohydrate) intake by selecting complementary food types. The goal of this study is to compare the ratio of foods selected by the dingo with that chosen by the German Shepherd dog. The microbiome of the dingo and the German Shepherd dog would then be assessed to see how they differ. 

Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

 

Project Title: Characteristics of Beach Users on Hazardous Unpatrolled Beaches

Supervisor(s): Associate Professor Rob Brander

 


 

 Project Title: How do large bushfires impact subsequent local climate? 

Supervisor(s):  Professor Jason Evans & J. Sharples

 


 

Project Title: How will future changes in East Coast lows affect coastal erosion? 

Supervisor(s): Professor Jason Evans, I. Turner & M. Harley

 


 

Project Title: Seed ecology of the rare species Actinotus forsythii

Supervisor(s): Dr Mark Ooi & Dr John Porter

 


  

Project Title: Fire and ecosystem processes: soil-plant feedbacks

Supervisor(s): Dr Mark Ooi & Dr Miriam Muñoz-Rojas

 


 

Project Title: Using remote sensing to characterise the spatial configuration of resources used by lizard species following cultural burning in semi-arid woodlands

Supervisor(s): Dr Eren Turak (NSW OEH), and Professor Graciela Metternicht 

 


 

Project Title: The physiology of coral bleaching

Supervisor(s): Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth

 


 

Project Title: Using remote sensing to track the condition Rufous Scrub-bird habitat in cool-temperate rainforests in the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area

Supervisor(s): Dr Eren Turak (NSW OEH), Dr Simon Ferrier (CSIRO) and Professor Graciela Metternicht

 


 

Project Title: Palaeontological discovery from space: remote sensing to discover fossil treasure under desert sands  

Supervisor(s): Professor Mike Archer, Professor Sue Hand, Associate Professor Shawn Laffan, Professor Graciela Metternicht


 

 

Climate Change Research Centre

 

Project Title: Tropical influence on Southern Hemisphere climate

Supervisor(s): Dr Martin Jucker

Description: The main tropical drivers of Southern Hemisphere climate variability are the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). Both phenomena involve localised heat sources which interact with the entire climate system in complex ways. This project will use one or more simplified climate model(s) to investigate the importance of the tropical stratosphere in modulating the effects of ENSO and the MJO on Southern Hemisphere climate. It can either involve the actual model setup and running, model output analysis, the review of current scientific knowledge and hypotheses, or a combination of these.


 

Project Title: Mixed teleconnection - complex pathways linking ENSO remote parts of the world

Supervisor(s): Dr Alex Sen Gupta, Dr Angela Maharaj, Dr Andrea Taschetto

Description: Despite the fact that processes giving rise to El Nino and La Nina events occur in the tropical Pacific, these event can have global impact, affecting rainfall, temperatures, tropical cyclones, sea ice and ocean circulation in different regions. This is achieved through atmospheric or oceanic ‘teleconnections’ . Previous studies have also suggested that some remote impacts may be mediated by a combination of atmospheric and oceanic teleconnections. This project will examine such ‘mixed teleconnections’ using coupled climate models. In particular, we will examine how El Nino and La Nina events can affect western boundary currents in the Pacific and Indian basin.

We are seeking an enthusiastic student with a background in physics, mathematics or climate science. This project will involve using large model and observational datasets and will require a background in either MATLAB or python. Some experience with linux is also desirable.


 

Project Title: Understanding the vertical mixing of water vapour

Supervisor(s): Vishal Dixit, Steven Sherwood, Abhnil Prasad

Description: A good process level understanding is required to decode observed past climate changes and increase confidence in projected future climate changes.  A lack of good knowledge about the vertical mixing of water vapour due to variety of processes has recently been identified as one of the stumbling blocks in our progress.  In this project, we seek to utilise the 40 years of observations of water vapour profiles from the global radiosonde network to improve our process level understanding of water vapour mixing.  The applicant is expected to know basics of atmospheric physics and statistics, and some knowledge of data processing tools will be an advantage."


 

Project Title: How well can the Australian climate model predict droughts?

Supervisor(s): Dr Anna Ukkola, Dr Martin De Kauwe

Description: Australia is the driest inhabited continent and parts of the country are currently in the grips of a severe drought. Yet we have very little idea how droughts will evolve in the future with a changing climate. This project will use satellite and flux tower observations to characterise the response of Australian ecosystems to water stress. These data will then be used to evaluate how well the Australian climate model predicts droughts. The successful candidate will obtain skills in programming and analysis of spatial datasets and model outputs.

Requirements: Prior knowledge of programming in R, Python or similar is advantageous.


 

Project Title: Convective cloud top vertical velocity estimations over Northern Australia.

Supervisor(s): Dr Abhnil Prasad, Prof Steven Sherwood

Description: Convective vertical velocity is crucial for understanding cloud-precipitation systems, yet direct observations of convective vertical velocity are currently limited. Geostationary satellite measurements with high spatiotemporal coverage can illustrate characteristics of cloud-precipitation by estimating vertical velocity at the cloud top from the temporal rate of change of brightness temperatures in the infrared window channel. In this project, you will estimate convective cloud top vertical velocity using Himawari-8/9 satellite data available at 2 km resolution every 10 minutes over Northern Australia since July 2015.

Requirements: The candidate should have a basic understanding of atmospheric processes and some knowledge of programming in MATLAB, Python, etc. is desirable.


 

Project Title: Enhancing student understandings of the climate through an online climate model.

Supervisor(s): Dr Angela Maharaj, Dr Alex Sen Gupta

Description: Climate models are the best tools we have for predicting the future climate. But these models are complicated to understand and impossible to use without months or years of training. Carbonator.org.au is a simplified climate model with an easy-to-use web interface,  that can reproduce many of the outputs generated by far more complex models and is freely available to be used by educators, students, researchers and the public.

We are seeking an enthusiastic student with a background in physics, climate science or environmental science who is also interested science education and outreach, to help further improve our online climate model. The project is flexible depending on the student’s background and can range from adding relevant climate impacts to the model output, reviewing and/or evaluating the range of online models available for learning and teaching, creation of worksheets, resources and evaluations for high school exercises.

Requirements: Familiarity with MATLAB or Python is desirable. Education students who intend to go into high school science teaching or students with website/app development experience are encouraged to apply.


 

Project Title: Assessing spatial variability in Sydney’s urban climate and air quality

Supervisor(s): Dr Melissa Hart, Dr Angela Maharaj, Giovanni Di Virgilio

Description: Synopsis: Sydney’s population is predicted to grow by 30% within twenty years, most of which is slated for the semi-rural fringes. The resulting urbanisation will adversely impact temperature and air quality in these areas of rapid population growth. Currently there are few meteorological and air quality observational sites to adequately monitor the effects of this increased urbanisation on local weather and air quality. The Schools Weather and Air Quality (SWAQ) network is placing instruments in Sydney schools to fill these gaps (www.swaq.org.au). This project will contribute to the development of the SWAQ network and assess the influences of spatial variability in  Sydney's urban climate and air quality.

Requirements: We are looking for a student with GIS knowledge, statistical skills, and interest in urban environmental monitoring. Some familiarity in R or Python (or a willingness to learn) would be an advantage. The student need not be familiar with Sydney and we encourage any student interested in urban climate and air quality to apply.


 

Project Title: Modelling the Southern Ocean’s biology during episodes of rapid climate change

Supervisor(s): Prof Katrin Meissner, Laurie Menviel

Description: The Southern Ocean is a key region for natural air-sea CO2 exchange and consequently exerts a significant influence on atmospheric CO2 levels both in modern times and in the past. Despite growing interest in abrupt climate change events of the past as analogues for the future, little is known about how the Southern Ocean responded. The student will simulate past events of rapid climate change with an Earth System Climate Model and compare the simulated changes in biological productivity with existing data from sediment cores.

Requirements: Outstanding analytical skills and good working knowledge of either Matlab or Python are necessary.


 

Project Title: Modelling the Southern Ocean’s biology during episodes of rapid climate change

Supervisor(s): Prof Katrin Meissner, Laurie Menviel

Description: The Southern Ocean is a key region for natural air-sea CO2 exchange and consequently exerts a significant influence on atmospheric CO2 levels both in modern times and in the past. Despite growing interest in abrupt climate change events of the past as analogues for the future, little is known about how the Southern Ocean responded. The student will simulate past events of rapid climate change with an Earth System Climate Model and compare the simulated changes in biological productivity with existing data from sediment cores.

Requirements: Outstanding analytical skills and good working knowledge of either Matlab or Python are necessary.


 

Project Title: Where all Heinrich Events similar?

Supervisor(s): Prof Katrin Meissner and Dr Laurie Menviel

Description: The climate during the last glacial was highly variable switching between very cold episodes (stadials) and slightly warmer episodes (interstadials). Some of the coldest stadials were associated with Heinrich Events – climate events during which iceberg discharges in the North Atlantic most likely led to a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. While being often referred as an entity, there are potentially significant differences within these “Heinrich events”, including the mechanisms that triggered these events, and their impact on the climate system. The student will gather published proxy data for a few of the most prominent events and compare these with existing climate model simulations. The aim of this project is to quantify the main differences between these events in terms of ocean circulation changes, and climate impacts.

Requirements: Outstanding analytical skills and familiarity with either Matlab or Python are necessary.


 

Project Title: How will the Indian Ocean circulation change in a warming world?

Supervisor(s): Dr Andrea Taschetto, Dr Alex Sen Gupta

Description: Limited research has been done looking at how the circulation of the Indian Ocean is likely to change in the future. This project will use output from a large ensemble of state-of-the-art climate models to examine changes to the Indian Ocean circulation and how it links to changes projected for the Pacific and Atlantic basins and surface winds.

Requirements: The ideal candidate will need to have strong analysis skills with experience in Matlab or python and basic concepts of physical oceanography.


 

Project Title: Investigating subtropical mode water in the South Atlantic

Supervisor(s): Dr Andrea Taschetto

Description: Subtropical mode water is a volume of water with homogenous temperature and salinity that generally forms during winter time. It impacts the distribution of nutrients in the ocean, influences the biological pump and plays a big role on the carbon dioxide uptake. Mode water has been identified in the Pacific, Indian and North Atlantic Oceans, while it has been less studied in the South Atlantic. This research aims to explore subtropical mode water in the South Atlantic and investigate the physical processes behind its formation and variability.

Requirements: The candidate would have knowledge of physical oceanography and experience in a data analysis tool (e.g. python, matlab, etc).


 

Project Title: Pushing the ocean to extremes

Supervisor(s): Dr Jan Zika, Dr Ryan Holmes

Description: What would happen if we suddenly warmed the ocean at the sea-surface? Would suddenly cooling it down cause an equal and opposite response? Using state-of-the-art ocean climate models we have carried out these and many more extreme experiments. We now seek a summer student to help understand the asymmetric and often surprising behaviour of the ocean in response. The student will work towards developing novel theories to describe the ocean’s response to extreme perturbations. These theories are needed to understand the ocean's role in transient climate change.


 

 

Project Title: Why does the ocean look like an octopus

Supervisor(s): Dr Jan Zika, Dr Ryan Holmes

Description: How the ocean stores and moves heat and carbon around the globe is critical to Earth’s climate. The ocean stores vast amounts of heat and carbon in distinct reservoirs. These reservoirs tend to reside in distinct geographical regions delineated by both solid barriers such as continents and dynamic barriers such as strong ocean currents. These distinct reservoirs appear clearly as an octopus like shape in phase diagrams describing sea water properties. Each tentacle of the octopus is a different reservoir. As the climate changes these reservoirs change shape -  the tentacles drifting in a coherent but as yet un-explained way. We seek a student to help develop a simple mathematical model to describe the ocean’s octopus like shape and what the movement of its tentacles tells us about climate change.

Chemistry

Project Title: Synthesis of shaped-controlled nanoparticles for energy-storage applications

Supervisor(s): Prof Richard Tilley

Description: Developing a global-scale renewable energy that can fulfil the demand of billions of people without damaging the ecosystem is very crucial for securing our future energy.  In general, water-splitting and fuel cell are the most promising technologies to convert the renewable energy source into chemical forms and then transfer it back to energy when it needs. Unfortunately, the large commercialisation of these technologies is still hindered by the high loading expensive noble metals. Therefore, the main goal is to develop active and stable catalyst in nano-scale to reduce noble metal loading.  Our strategy is to develop synthetic methods to control the size, shape and composition of nanocrystals, characterise them with advanced high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM) and then evaluate their electrocatalytic performance (such as ORR, OER and CO2 reduction). We are exploring a wide variety metals such as Pt, Pd, Ru, Au, Ni and Co as well as its combinations and then systematically study the relation between catalytic performance and crystallography surface. We focus on fundamental understanding to design active and stable nanocatalysts to promote large commercialisation for water-splitting and fuel cell applications.  


 

Project Title: Mechanistic and Physical Organic Chemistry

Supervisor(s): Assoc. Prof. Jason Harper

Description: Our research falls broadly into the category of physical organic chemistry. However, the areas covered also include biological, bioorganic, synthetic, analytical and environmental chemistry and this demonstrates the range of areas that physical organic chemistry is applicable to. The breadth of topics also illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of the research and the significant scope for collaboration with groups in the more traditional areas of organic chemistry and biochemistry.  We particularly focus on understanding organic processes in ionic liquids, determining reaction mechanisms and developing novel ways to follow reaction progress. For more details see area see http://www.chem.unsw.edu.au/staffprofiles/harper.html


 

Project Title: Spectroscopy, quantum mechanics and energy levels

Supervisor(s): Dr Laura McKemmish

Description: Want to do research on a computer not in a lab? Love spectroscopy, quantum mechanics and energy levels? Feel constantly pulled between physics and chemistry? Or perhaps you want to utilise and strengthen your maths, programming and/or data science skills by exploring exciting molecular science applications from interpreting NMR spectroscopy to helping find aliens on exoplanets?  I am looking for keen students to undertake summer projects with customisable amounts of chemistry, physics, mathematics, programming, data science and education/outreach. Potential projects include: quantitative investigation of high accuracy models of rovibronic energy levels for use in astronomy, environmental monitoring and industry; improving the accuracy of computational NMR spectroscopy predictions using novel basis sets; and searching for new physics using molecular spectroscopy. For more potential projects, please look at https://sites.google.com/view/laurakmckemmish/opportunities/.


 

Project Title: Computational chemistry and biomolecular simulations

Supervisor(s): Dr. Junming Ho

Description: In the Mechanisms and Modelling group (MMG), we develop and use quantum chemical calculations and molecular dynamics simulations as a computational microscope to glimpse into the mechanisms of important (bio)chemical processes. These insights can help guide experiments, and also lead to the design of more efficient catalysts and effective drug molecules. The MMG has a strong interest in catalysis, physical organic and medicinal chemistry.  If you like to find out more about what computational chemistry can do (or cannot do!), we invite you to join us this summer to work on several of our exciting ongoing projects:

• Computational design of novel organocatalysts 

• Using machine learning methods to accelerate the discovery of novel drug molecules and catalysts 

• Molecular dynamics simulations of drug interactions with lipid membranes

No background in computational chemistry is assumed as training will be provided. We welcome informal enquiries from prospective students. Please visit the group website (http://www.chemistry.unsw.edu.au/ho-group) for more details on our current research activities.


 

Project Title: Laser Chemistry and Spectroscopy

Supervisor(s): Prof Scott Kable

Description: In my group, we use lasers to initiate chemical reactions and laser-based spectroscopic methods to probe what happens.  In broad terms, we discover new molecules this way, and undercover new pathways that molecules use to evolve from reactant to product.

The project on offer this summer is part of a campaign to solve the problem that existing models of the atmosphere cannot predict the amount of H2 found in the atmosphere. The observed concentration exceeds the model values by 100%.  Literature suggests that there are unknown photolytic sources of H2.  This year, we observed for the first time the H2 is produced from some aldehydes when they are irradiated with ultraviolet light.  The yield is small, but there are a wide variety of aldehydes in the atmosphere.

In this project you will investigate H2 production from a new aldehyde.  The project can take up to two summer research students.  One student will work with a PhD student to measure H2 products after photolysis using laser spectroscopy and ion imaging. This will provide definitive proof that H2 is a photolytic product, but not how important it is (the quantum yield).  The other student will work a different PhD student detecting the co-fragment of H2 elimination and thereby determine the quantum yield using laser photolysis and FTIR detection.

The specifics of the project will be decided by discussion.  The projects would suit student who have completed CHEM2011 (Physical Chemistry), or an equivalent physics course in quantum mechanics. 

Materials Science & Engineering

Project Title: Reinventing physical metallurgy for metal additive manufacturing

Supervisor(s): Dr Sophie Primig

Mathematics and Statistics

Project Title: Statistical methodology

Supervisor(s): Gordana Popovic


 

Project Title: Estimating population attributable fractions in the presence of competing risks

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Jake Olivier 


 

Project Title: Distilling the ocean’s role in climate using phase diagrams

Supervisor(s):  Dr Jan Zika 


 

Project Title: Lagrangian pathways and the asymmetry of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation

Supervisor(s):  Dr Jan Zika 


 

Project Title: How important are two different options for calculating specific volume in the ocean?

Supervisor(s): Prof Trevor McDougall 


 

Project Title: Computational Mathematics

Supervisor(s): Dr Quoc Le Gia 


 

Project Title: Scientific computing

Supervisor(s): A/Prof William McLean 


 

Project Title: Computational Mathematics

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Thanh Tran 


 

Project Title: Applied topology: persistence homology and Mapper and their application in gene expression data

Supervisor(s): Dr Mircea Voineagu 


 

Project Title: Algebraic Topology: computations of equivariant and non-equivariant topological invariants

Supervisor(s): Dr Mircea Voineagu 


 

Project Title: Algebraic K-theory of schemes: Quillen constructions of K-theory and applications of K-theory of schemes

Supervisor(s): Dr Mircea Voineagu 


 

Project Title: The Distribution of Prime Numbers

Supervisor(s): Dr Liangyi (Lee) Zhao 


 

Project Title: Network centrality metrics to help determine the topology of a network

Supervisor(s): Dr Thomas Britz 


 

Project Title: Harmonic Analysis

Supervisor(s): Prof Michael Cowling


 

Project Title: Quantum groups and supergroups

Supervisor(s): Prof Jie Du 


 

Project Title: Kazhdan-Lusztig cells

Supervisor(s): Prof Jie Du 


 

Project Title: Learning and Teaching Mathematics in the Digital Age: What works best, and for whom?

Supervisor(s): Prof Chris Tisdell 


 

Project Title: Online Educational Resources in Mathematics: What is their impact on learning?

Supervisor(s): Prof Chris Tisdell 


 

Project Title: Ancient Babylonian Mathematics

Supervisor(s): Dr Daniel Mansfield

Optometry & Vision Science

Project Title: Development of clinical markers to prevent complications from diabetes

Supervisor(s): Dr Barbara Zangerl, Mr. Vincent Khou

Description: Diabetes, a group of conditions signified by elevated blood glucose, has become a major health problem in Australia. Complications from these disorders include kidney failure, amputation and vision impairment commonly termed diabetic retinopathy due to vascular and neurological changes. Recent advances in eye imaging enables visualisation of changes to the retina and cornea prior to other clinically visible symptoms. We are investigating these changes, especially in the retinal nerve fibre layer and the retinal vasculature, to develop methods to predict and consequently prevent the devastating consequences of diabetes.


 

Project Title: Shower CSI: How does having a shower in contact lenses lead to an eye infection?

Supervisor(s): Dr Nicole Carnt, Prof Fiona Stapleton, Dr Debarun Dutta

Description: Increasingly we are discovering that showering in contact lenses is a risk factor for eye infections. Is it water entering the eye from a dirty shower faucet, is it a build-up of biofilm from the taps or soap, or is the shower screen or shampoo bottle the culprit? Spend 6 weeks on a forensic hunt of the shower cubicles of contact lens wearers to find the clues to solve this problem and develop safer guidelines for contact lens wearers.


 

Project Title: What is the role of retinal remodelling in eye disease?

Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

Description: In diseases such as macular degeneration and Retinitis Pigmentosa, the light detecting photoreceptor cells die leading to permanent blindness. Treatments, such as bionic eye implants, then attempt to restore vision by replacing dead photoreceptors with electrode arrays. Interestingly, we now know other cells in the retina also undergo change in a process termed retinal remodelling. This is problematic for treatments as they are developed assuming the remaining retina remains static in disease. This project investigates retinal remodelling a mouse with mutations leading to blindness similar to human patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa using immunohistochemistry and microscopy to between understand the process and improve outcomes of vision restoration strategies.


 

Project Title: Can we use advanced eye imaging to better diagnose Macular Degeneration?

Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

Description: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness worldwide and results from death of light detecting photoreceptor cells and metabolically active retinal pigment epithelium in the outer retina. Animal models of AMD suggest significant changes may also occur in the inner retina however this has not been well explored in humans. Our research group recently showed AMD remodelling may be detected non-invasively in human patients using OCT (optical coherence tomography). This project uses OCT to test a large group of AMD patients visiting the Centre for Eye Health for remodelling changes and determine if these changes are linked to their disease severity. 


 

Project Title: Quantifying saccadic suppression in patients with ocular disease.

Supervisor(s): Dr Sieu Khuu, Mr Jack Phu

Description: The observer scans the visual environment by directing attention through ballistic eye movements known as saccades. A saccadic event automatically induces ‘saccadic suppression’ in which the visual image is largely suppressed when the eyes are in motion. This is necessary to reduce the visibility of motion induced blur/smear which would otherwise reduce image clarity. However, in patients with ocular disease (such as glaucoma), ocular motor function is known to be impaired, which might suggest that saccadic suppression is altered by disease processes. Indeed, we have recently confirmed in a pilot study with glaucoma patients that saccadic suppression is considerably greater than in normal observers. This finding implicates that the disease processes in the eye can induce change in perceptual processes that are responsible for the suppression of the visual image, and might account for common functional deficits (e.g., reading) in patients.  The proposed project is a case-control study that aims to investigate saccadic suppression in normal individuals and patients with ocular disease (glaucoma, AMD and RP). We will conduct a computer experiment in which the detectability (i.e., contrast) of a stimulus briefly presented at different intervals around the time of a saccade will be measured. An eye tracker will also be used to measure eye movements during the data collection process. From these data we will be able to determine the extent (i.e., duration) and depth of saccadic suppression in patients with ocular disease, and relate this to their ocular motor deficit.  If you are interested in this project please contact Sieu Khuu on s.khuu@unsw.edu.au


 

Project Title: Improving patient outcomes in open angle, narrow angle and closed angle glaucoma through clinical testing and education

Supervisor(s): Prof Michael Kalloniatis, Mr Jack Phu

Description: Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness and early detection is critical for prevention of vision loss. Our research group has recently developed a number of strategies to approach the problem of early stage glaucoma, including the use of improved visual field testing paradigms, imaging modalities, collaborative care pathways, and practitioner education tools. This project will expand upon these strategies in three broad arms: clinical testing, laboratory testing and education (patient, practitioner and trainee). There will be a focus on patients with narrow and closed angle glaucoma as part of a novel clinical pathway developed at Centre for Eye Health. The responsibilities of the summer scholar will include: data extraction from our patient management system, administering educational interventions on patients and clinicians, administering clinical and laboratory based psychophysical and ocular structural tests and the development of novel testing and educational platforms."


 

Project Title: Visualizing tear film lipids using quantum dots

Supervisor(s): Dr Maitreyee Roy, Prof Mark Willcox, Prof Fiona Stapleton

Description: Tear film evaporation is one of the key factors responsible for dry eyes that can lead to visual disturbances and contact lens intolerance. Tear film evaporation depends on the structure of lipid layer. Understanding the fundamental of tear dynamics has an importance for developing treatment modalities for ocular surface diseases. Quantum dots based on silicon (non-toxic) that remain dispersed in solution and emit discrete wavelengths of light which is very bright and very stable has potential to monitor the dynamics of the tear film layers in vivo. The thrust of this research project is to investigate a novel instrumentation and imaging technique to visualize tear film lipids using quantum dots as a contrast agent.


 

Project Title: Investigating feasibility of full field optical coherence tomography for corneal epithelial cell imaging

Supervisor(s): Dr Maitreyee Roy

Description: Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a well-established technique for biological imaging, mainly used in the field of ophthalmology for routine corneal and retinal clinical examinations. The conventional OCT system produces longitudinal images, by performing an axial scan at each x or y point on the object surface, and builds a two-dimensional xz or yz images.  A variant of OCT called full-field optical coherence tomography (FF-OCT) is an emerging non-invasive, label-free, interferometric technique that has the inherent ability of providing rapid en face (xy) images of the object by using a detector array (CCD or CMOS), thus avoiding the necessity for using the instrumentationally complex, lateral point scanning scheme. In most FF-OCT systems, en face OCT images are constructed by using a conventional phase-shifting technique that involves shifting of the reference beam phase with a piezoelectric translator. However, with the use of a broadband source in FF-OCT, the phase shifts of different spectral components are not the same, resulting in systematic errors for reconstruction of tomographic images.  We have built a computer-controlled full-field OCT system that incorporates a novel achromatic phase shifter operating on the principle of geometric phase by using ferroelectric liquid crystal technology (FLC). This system has a fast response time and can accurately map and produce 3D images of complex biological samples.  This proposed study is to investigate the use of a unique geometric phase shifter based on FLC technology for ex-vivo corneal epithelial cell imaging and compare image quality, resolution and field of view with confocal microscopy.


 

Project Title: Vision measurement using a hologram

Supervisor(s): Dr Nicholas Nguyen, Dr Maitreyee Roy

Description: Visual acuity measurement using subjective refraction is a simple but important test utilised by many health professionals to assess the visual function of the eye. Refraction is often carried out in the clinic using test charts at 4 or 6 meter distance. Often in small rooms, practitioners use mirrors to extend the distance at which the chart is presented. Room illumination, chart luminance, testing distance, and letter arrangements/layout all therefore vary between clinics and locations and hence can contribute to poor repeatability of the measurement.  An alternate way of measuring the visual acuity is the use of a holographic letter chart which has advantages of constant test distance, uniform chart luminance and portability. The primary goal of this research is to perform the feasibility study of a vision chart using a hologram for vision testing and comparing holographic refraction to conventional refraction. Successful applicants will be working with holograms and dealing directly with patients under supervision.


 

Project Title: Development of clinical markers to prevent complications from diabetes

Supervisor(s): Dr Barbara Zangerl, Mr. Vincent Khou

Description: Diabetes, a group of conditions signified by elevated blood glucose, has become a major health problem in Australia. Complications from these disorders include kidney failure, amputation and vision impairment commonly termed diabetic retinopathy due to vascular and neurological changes. Recent advances in eye imaging enables visualisation of changes to the retina and cornea prior to other clinically visible symptoms. We are investigating these changes, especially in the retinal nerve fibre layer and the retinal vasculature, to develop methods to predict and consequently prevent the devastating consequences of diabetes.


 

Project Title: Shower CSI: How does having a shower in contact lenses lead to an eye infection?

Supervisor(s): Dr Nicole Carnt, Prof Fiona Stapleton, Dr Debarun Dutta

Description: Increasingly we are discovering that showering in contact lenses is a risk factor for eye infections. Is it water entering the eye from a dirty shower faucet, is it a build-up of biofilm from the taps or soap, or is the shower screen or shampoo bottle the culprit? Spend 6 weeks on a forensic hunt of the shower cubicles of contact lens wearers to find the clues to solve this problem and develop safer guidelines for contact lens wearers.


 

Project Title: What is the role of retinal remodelling in eye disease?

Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

Description: In diseases such as macular degeneration and Retinitis Pigmentosa, the light detecting photoreceptor cells die leading to permanent blindness. Treatments, such as bionic eye implants, then attempt to restore vision by replacing dead photoreceptors with electrode arrays. Interestingly, we now know other cells in the retina also undergo change in a process termed retinal remodelling. This is problematic for treatments as they are developed assuming the remaining retina remains static in disease. This project investigates retinal remodelling a mouse with mutations leading to blindness similar to human patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa using immunohistochemistry and microscopy to between understand the process and improve outcomes of vision restoration strategies.


Project Title: Can we use advanced eye imaging to better diagnose Macular Degeneration?

Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

Description: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness worldwide and results from death of light detecting photoreceptor cells and metabolically active retinal pigment epithelium in the outer retina. Animal models of AMD suggest significant changes may also occur in the inner retina however this has not been well explored in humans. Our research group recently showed AMD remodelling may be detected non-invasively in human patients using OCT (optical coherence tomography). This project uses OCT to test a large group of AMD patients visiting the Centre for Eye Health for remodelling changes and determine if these changes are linked to their disease severity. 


 

Project Title: Quantifying saccadic suppression in patients with ocular disease.

Supervisor(s): Dr Sieu Khuu, Mr Jack Phu

Description: The observer scans the visual environment by directing attention through ballistic eye movements known as saccades. A saccadic event automatically induces ‘saccadic suppression’ in which the visual image is largely suppressed when the eyes are in motion. This is necessary to reduce the visibility of motion induced blur/smear which would otherwise reduce image clarity. However, in patients with ocular disease (such as glaucoma), ocular motor function is known to be impaired, which might suggest that saccadic suppression is altered by disease processes. Indeed, we have recently confirmed in a pilot study with glaucoma patients that saccadic suppression is considerably greater than in normal observers. This finding implicates that the disease processes in the eye can induce change in perceptual processes that are responsible for the suppression of the visual image, and might account for common functional deficits (e.g., reading) in patients.  The proposed project is a case-control study that aims to investigate saccadic suppression in normal individuals and patients with ocular disease (glaucoma, AMD and RP). We will conduct a computer experiment in which the detectability (i.e., contrast) of a stimulus briefly presented at different intervals around the time of a saccade will be measured. An eye tracker will also be used to measure eye movements during the data collection process. From these data we will be able to determine the extent (i.e., duration) and depth of saccadic suppression in patients with ocular disease, and relate this to their ocular motor deficit.  If you are interested in this project please contact Sieu Khuu on s.khuu@unsw.edu.au


 

Project Title: Improving patient outcomes in open angle, narrow angle and closed angle glaucoma through clinical testing and education

Supervisor(s): Prof Michael Kalloniatis, Mr Jack Phu

Description: Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness and early detection is critical for prevention of vision loss. Our research group has recently developed a number of strategies to approach the problem of early stage glaucoma, including the use of improved visual field testing paradigms, imaging modalities, collaborative care pathways, and practitioner education tools. This project will expand upon these strategies in three broad arms: clinical testing, laboratory testing and education (patient, practitioner and trainee). There will be a focus on patients with narrow and closed angle glaucoma as part of a novel clinical pathway developed at Centre for Eye Health. The responsibilities of the summer scholar will include: data extraction from our patient management system, administering educational interventions on patients and clinicians, administering clinical and laboratory based psychophysical and ocular structural tests and the development of novel testing and educational platforms.


 

Project Title: Blue light blocking lenses: effect on visual and non-visual systems

Supervisor(s): Dr Maitreyee Roy, Dr Sieu Khuu

Description: Visible light, in particular blue light, may damage retinae but it is also essential for sleep regulation. “Blue blocking” lenses are being marketed as protection against blue light without affecting sleep. While the need to provide eye protection against ultraviolet is well established, the need to provide protection against blue light is not proved for anything other than direct viewing of the sun and for some artificial sources such as welding arcs.  Control of the blue hazard could interact with the regulation of melatonin and sleep patterns.  This proposed project will help to build understanding of how light, and the manipulation of lens coatings, may impact on sleep, colour perception and other indicators of visual comfort and health.


 

Project Title: Visualizing tear film lipids using quantum dots

Supervisor(s): Dr Maitreyee Roy, Prof Mark Willcox, Prof Fiona Stapleton

Description: Tear film evaporation is one of the key factors responsible for dry eyes that can lead to visual disturbances and contact lens intolerance. Tear film evaporation depends on the structure of lipid layer. Understanding the fundamental of tear dynamics has an importance for developing treatment modalities for ocular surface diseases. Quantum dots based on silicon (non-toxic) that remain dispersed in solution and emit discrete wavelengths of light which is very bright and very stable has potential to monitor the dynamics of the tear film layers in vivo. The thrust of this research project is to investigate a novel instrumentation and imaging technique to visualize tear film lipids using quantum dots as a contrast agent.


 

Project Title: Investigating feasibility of full field optical coherence tomography for corneal epithelial cell imaging

Supervisor(s): Dr Maitreyee Roy

Description: Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a well-established technique for biological imaging, mainly used in the field of ophthalmology for routine corneal and retinal clinical examinations. The conventional OCT system produces longitudinal images, by performing an axial scan at each x or y point on the object surface, and builds a two-dimensional xz or yz images.  A variant of OCT called full-field optical coherence tomography (FF-OCT) is an emerging non-invasive, label-free, interferometric technique that has the inherent ability of providing rapid en face (xy) images of the object by using a detector array (CCD or CMOS), thus avoiding the necessity for using the instrumentationally complex, lateral point scanning scheme. In most FF-OCT systems, en face OCT images are constructed by using a conventional phase-shifting technique that involves shifting of the reference beam phase with a piezoelectric translator. However, with the use of a broadband source in FF-OCT, the phase shifts of different spectral components are not the same, resulting in systematic errors for reconstruction of tomographic images.  We have built a computer-controlled full-field OCT system that incorporates a novel achromatic phase shifter operating on the principle of geometric phase by using ferroelectric liquid crystal technology (FLC). This system has a fast response time and can accurately map and produce 3D images of complex biological samples.  This proposed study is to investigate the use of a unique geometric phase shifter based on FLC technology for ex-vivo corneal epithelial cell imaging and compare image quality, resolution and field of view with confocal microscopy.


 

Project Title: Vision measurement using a hologram

Supervisor(s): Dr Nicholas Nguyen, Dr Maitreyee Roy

Description: Visual acuity measurement using subjective refraction is a simple but important test utilised by many health professionals to assess the visual function of the eye. Refraction is often carried out in the clinic using test charts at 4 or 6 meter distance. Often in small rooms, practitioners use mirrors to extend the distance at which the chart is presented. Room illumination, chart luminance, testing distance, and letter arrangements/layout all therefore vary between clinics and locations and hence can contribute to poor repeatability of the measurement.  An alternate way of measuring the visual acuity is the use of a holographic letter chart which has advantages of constant test distance, uniform chart luminance and portability. The primary goal of this research is to perform the feasibility study of a vision chart using a hologram for vision testing and comparing holographic refraction to conventional refraction. Successful applicants will be working with holograms and dealing directly with patients under supervision.


 

Project Title: Machine learning approaches in ocular images analysis: Automated detection and diagnosis

Supervisor(s): Dr Maitreyee Roy, A/Professor Stuart Perry

Description: With the increasing prevalence of ocular diseases like retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), annual screening for ocular diseases by human expert grading of retinal images are challenging. Automated retinal image assessment systems (ARIAS) may provide clinically effective and cost-effective detection of retinopathy. We aim to determine whether ARIAS can be safely introduced by machine learning into appropriate retinal screening pathways to replace human experts. Recently, machine learning approaches have become increasingly successful in image-based diagnosis, disease prognosis, and risk assessment. This research project will highlight new research directions and examine the main challenges related to machine learning in ocular imaging, applying novel deep learning algorithms to automatic analysis of both digital fundus photographs and OCT images from both healthy control subjects and patients undergoing treatment for relevant ocular diseases.


 

Project Title: Freckles and naevi in the adult human iris

Supervisor: Associate Professor Michele Madigan

Description: Melanocytes are the pigmented cells of the uveal tract (iris, ciliary body and choroid), and accumulate to form freckles and naevi. Some may transform to iris and choroid melanoma. Information about the distribution of melanocytes and their relationship to freckles and naevi in normal adult human iris is limited. We will survey and digitally image post-mortem human iris tissue. This will involve iris colour grading using digital imaging techniques developed by SOVS students. An opportunity to apply laboratory techniques including immunolabelling and confocal microscopy will also be involved.

This is a hands-on cell biology experience in human eye gross anatomy (dissecting and macrophotography), and laboratory techniques including immunohistochemistry and light and confocal microscopy. This project will also provide an opportunity to participate in journal club discussions. An appreciation of human eye anatomy and function will also be developed from this project.


 

Project Title: Tension in eye melanomas: effects of environmental rigidity on human eye melanoma cell growth

Supervisor: Associate Professor Michele Madigan

Description: Primary human eye melanomas can develop in the uvea (iris, ciliary body or choroid) and conjunctiva. Tumour cell growth and invasiveness may be affected by the stiffness or rigidty of the tumour environment (for example, choroidal melanomas display variable extracellular matrix patterns). This project will explore using a new hydrogel system (VitroGel) to grow eye melanoma cells and assess responses to varying hydrogel stiffness.

This is a hands-on eye cell biology experience involving tissue culture, cell growth assays and techniques such as light and confocal microscopy. This project will also provide an opportunity to participate in journal club discussions. An enhanced appreciation of human eye cell biology will be possible during this project.

 

Physics

Project Title: Self-assembled nanostructures for quantum device and bioelectronics applications

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Adam Micolich

Description: The Nanoelectronics group works on the development of devices featuring self-assembled nanostructures, e.g., III-V nanowires & nanofins, and carbon nanotubes. Our work takes two directions. The first is dedicated to quantum devices and development of novel materials combinations and nanoscale architectures for studying excitonic superfluidity and topological insulator behaviour in the 1D limit. The second focusses on bioelectronics and includes projects on making complementary circuits for neural sensing by combining nanowires with soft ion-transporting materials, nanotube transistors for electrical detection of passing actin filaments in maze-based biological computation devices and nanowire sensors for simultaneous electrical/optical studies of protein motors at the single molecule level. More details of what we do can be found at http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/nanoelectronics/


 

Project Title: Understanding how the Milky Way galaxy evolves using the methods of data-intensive science (AKA “Big Data”)

Supervisor(s): Dr Maria Cunningham

Description: In this project you will compare observations of gas in the Milky Way Galaxy, collected by radio telescopes around the world, with theoretical models, to determine how the the births and deaths of stars drive the evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. The evolution of the Universe is driven by the evolution of galaxies. In turn, stars drive the evolution of of galaxies, by the processes surrounding their births and deaths. We now collect many more observations from radio telescopes than can be analysed manually, and so developing automated means of understanding the tsunami of data now being collected is essential. In this project, you will develop both an understanding of the astrophysics of the interstellar medium in galaxies, and how we can use data-intensive science to understand this complex medium. This project will give you an opportunity to develop your computational physics skills, particularly with Python.


 

Project Title: Optical Tweezing of Nanoparticles for Nanoscale Sensing

Supervisor(s): Dr Peter Reece

Description: In the Photonics and Optoelectronics Group we like to use high intensity lasers to trap different types of nanoparticles and interrogate their physical and optical properties. We then use adaptive optics techniques to manipulate these trapped nanoparticles to their interactions with the local environment.  Such nanoparticle can function as high precision nanoscale sensors for a range of possible applications. We offer several optical tweezers related projects focused on (i) developing instrumentation for trapping and spectroscopy, (ii) studying novel types of nanoparticles, and (iii) using existing nanoparticle sensors for studying interesting physical phenomena.


 

Project Title: Electrical control of spin-orbit qubits

Supervisor(s): Dr Dimi Culcer

Description: Electrical
control of quantum bits could pave the way for scalable quantum computation. The spin-orbit interaction provides a pathway towards this goal: an electric field changes the electron's momentum and, through the spin-orbit interaction, it rotates its spin as well. Our recent work has found that certain quantum bits based on spin-3/2 holes in semiconductors can be effectively controlled by electrical means using a gate electrode, which offers fast one- and two-qubit rotations. However, the spin-orbit interaction also brings with it sensitivity to random electric fields, such as those due to phonons and noise, and can result in a decrease in coherence. The aim of this project is to determine what the trade-off is between fast electrical control and decoherence: can we make electrical spin qubits fast enough that we do not need to worry about loss of quantum information?


 

Project Title: Quantum transport in topological materials

Supervisor(s): Dr Dimi Culcer

Description: Topological materials, such as topological insulators, Weyl semimetals, and strongly spin-orbit coupled semiconductors, have attracted considerable attention due to their potential in spin electronics and quantum computation. Recent work has revealed the presence of topological terms in their electrical response, which are generally associated with the Berry phase and lead to quantized values of e.g. certain components of the conductivity, which can be measured experimentally. However, the interplay of topological effects with unavoidable disorder and electron-electron interactions is not well understood and the subject of much controversy. Our group has recently developed a theory capturing these effects on the same footing. In this project we will study this interplay in a series of hotly researched materials such as Weyl semimetals and topological insulators.


 

Project Title: Galactic Archeology

Supervisor(s): Dr. Sarah Martell

Description: Galactic archaeology is the study of the Milky Way's structure and evolution, based on detailed information about the orbits and chemical compositions of the stars in it. There are many open questions in Galactic archaeology, which can be addressed with observational, computational or statistical methods. Within the Galactic research group, student projects all focus on some aspect of the Milky Way, typically using large survey data sets. Current surveys are collecting data on the orbits and elemental abundances of hundreds of thousands of stars in the Milky Way, which creates many opportunities for student projects.


 

 

Project Title: Measurements of artificial atoms made with spin-3/2 electrons

Supervisor(s): Prof Alex Hamilton

Description: This project will explore the properties of semiconductor holes in quantum dots. Holes come from the valence band, and so have l=1 and s=1/2, unlike electrons in the conduction band which have l=0 and s=1/2. This gives holes completely different spin properties than electrons. We are now able to make artificial atoms consisting of 1,2,3...9 holes, and study the shell filling and magnetic structure of these devices. The strong coupling between the spin s and angular momentum l means that, unlike electrons, holes possess very strong spin-orbit coupling (l.s). This is of great interest for spin-based electronics and computing applications, since it allows the spin of the hole to be manipulated solely with electrical fields. There are many fundamental questions that remain to be explored.


 

Project Title: Projects related to Future Low Energy Electronics Technologies

Supervisor(s): Prof Alex Hamilton

Description: These projects are related to the new ARC Centre of Excellence FLEET. One project is related to the characterisation and assessment of new oxide based heterostructure materials, in which students use custom made cryostats and magnet systems to perform  electrical characterisation of new materials and devices grown and fabricated at UNSW. A second project will investigate the use of anodic oxidation for device nanofabrication, using a combination of simple chemical processes, electrical measurements, and structural measurements using an atomic force microscope.


 

Project Title: Acoustics

Supervisor(s): Prof Joe Wolfe

Description: The acoustics lab at UNSW works in two areas: the basic physics of the voice and the acoustics of musical instruments. A project in voice science will involve working on a hardware model of the vocal system, so that we can test some of our measurement technology designed for human experiments on a system whose acoustical properties can be measured directly and independently. Here we shall excite 3D printed 'vocal tracts' using an electromechanical driver to modulate input airflow, and attempt to determine the AC and DC components of the flow at the 'larynx' using only non-invasive measurements at the 'lips'.  A project in music acoustics involves using controlled geometries to deliver a jet of air to 'play' a flute under controlled conditions, including varying the jet profile and the acoustics of the upstream supply duct, to investigate whether these can explain some timbre variations among human players.

Psychology

Project Title: Neurobiology of addiction

Supervisor(s): Dr Kelly Clemens

Description: Social isolation and anxiety are frequently associated with increased drug use. This project will examine the impact of social isolation in rats on subsequent acquisition and relapse to drug-seeking.


 

Project Title: Neurobiology of addiction

Supervisor(s): Dr Kelly Clemens

Description: Drugs of abuse lead to lasting epigenetic changes in gene expression: genes can be switched on or off by exposure to drugs. This project examines what impact this might have for the development of addiction and its relapse, as well as isolating the types of changes that occur.


Project Title: Emotions: approach-motivated negative emotions and positive high-approach emotions

Supervisor(s): Prof Eddie Harmon-Jones

Description: My lab studies emotions, particularly approach-motivated negative emotions such as anger and sadness, and positive high-approach emotions such as desire and determination. We also research other motivational processes such as cognitive dissonance. In general, we are interested in investigating the influence of emotional and motivational states on attentional, cognitive, social, and behavioural processes. We use non-invasive human neuroscience methods (e.g., electroencephalography, event-related potentials, startle eyeblink responses, transcranial direct current stimulation), self-report methods, and behavioural methods (e.g., reaction times).


Project Title: Development, assessment and treatment of severe antisocial behaviour in children

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Eva Kimonis

Description: Children who start showing behaviour problems such as aggression, chronic defiance/noncompliance and property destruction in childhood are at high risk of stable antisocial behaviours into adulthood. When these problems co-occur with callous-unemotional traits, a term used to describe children with low empathy levels and uncaring attitudes, they are associated with even more aggressive and pervasive problems and increase risk for psychopathy in later life. In my research lab, we have been studying the developmental mechanisms that explain this particularly severe pattern of antisocial behaviour and how we can improve treatments for childhood conduct disorders by targeting the unique risk factors for children on different developmental pathways. We are also working on refining our tools for measuring callous-unemotional traits and empathy in children. We are doing this work within the UNSW Parent-Child Research Clinic which provides an evidence-based intervention for childhood conduct problems that is called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT. In PCIT, parents are coached in vivo in the use of positive parenting and behaviour management skills by a therapist behind a one-way mirror using a bug-in-ear device.


Project Title: Influence of predictive stimuli on choice between actions

Supervisor(s): Dr Vincent Laurent

Description: Successful decision-making requires the ability to extract predictive information from the environment to guide future actions. This ability is commonly modelled in the laboratory through specific Pavlovian-Instrumental transfer. This phenomenon shows that a stimulus predicting a particular food outcome biases choice towards actions earning that same outcome. This bias is present in many species including humans, monkeys, horses, rats and mice but its psychological processes remain largely unknown. This project will explore the conditions under which Pavlovian-Instrumental transfer is expressed and will evaluate how it can be removed.


Project Title: Neuronal ensembles and memory formation

Supervisor(s): Dr Vincent Laurent

Description: A major goal in neuroscience is to understand how memories are formed and stored in the brain. Popular theory holds that these memories are established and retrieved in defined populations of neurons, or neuronal ensembles. Evidence for the existence of these ensembles is sparse, as neuroscientists have been lacking the appropriate tools. However, recent advances in genetics now enables us to directly test the hypothesis that neuronal ensembles encode, store and retrieve memories. The present project will therefore use modern genetic tools to explore how predictive relationships between important events are instantiated in the mammalian brain.


 

Project Title: Examining object and scene recognition across variations in illumination and sound source perception across variations in environment and source distance.

Supervisor(s): Dr Damien Mannion

Description: Perception has the task of identifying useful information about the world. This task is often challenging due to the presence of confounding factors in sensory signals. We research how humans approach this challenge in visual, auditory, and multisensory domains. Ongoing projects involve examining object and scene recognition across variations in illumination and sound source perception across variations in environment and source distance."


 

Project Title: Cell-type specific brain imaging during relapse to drug seeking

Supervisor(s): Prof Gavan McNally

Description: Relapse to drug-taking is the fundamental problem facing any treatment of drug addiction. 70-80% of drug- users seeking treatment will relapse to drug taking within 12 months of treatment. The brain mechanisms of this relapse are poorly understood but this knowledge is needed to generate new treatment platforms. To this end, in this project, students will gain hands on experience with state of the art techniques to image the activity of genetically defined neurons during relapse to drug seeking in awake freely moving animals. "


 

Project Title: Evaluating Experts

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Kristy Martire

Description: Every day experts offer us advice and opinions about a huge variety of decisions. But not all experts are equal. This project examines how people decide which expert to believe and which expert to ignore. I am looking for a student with an interest in decision-making and forensic psychology to assist with research that will help us to understand and improve the way experts are evaluated. The intern will be involved with stimuli development, computer programming, online distribution and monitoring of experiments, and data cleaning and documentation."


 

Project Title: Technology-based interventions and tools for mental health

Supervisor(s): Dr Jill Newby

Description: Online and virtual reality tools are being used to improve wellbeing in the general population and in people who experience anxiety disorders and depression. This project students will directly contribute to ongoing studies in the lab related to technology-based interventions and tools for mental health. The student will be involved with recruiting research participants, developing and testing new online or virtual reality tools, literature reviews, transcribing interviews, data coding, and data analysis.


 

Project Title: Understanding Refugee Trauma and Recovery

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Angela Nickerson

Description: The number of forcibly displaced individuals worldwide is unprecedented. The Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program (RTRP) in the School of Psychology UNSW Sydney is dedicated to understanding the psychological and neurobiological effects of refugee trauma and pathways to recovery. This summer vacation, we are seeking a student intern to assist across various research projects with trauma-exposed refugees. These experimental and online projects aim to identify and understand the factors that influence refugee mental health and psychological well-being during resettlement. Working closely with the RTRP team, the selected intern will assist with conducting experimental sessions and be actively involved in data management, participant retention and engagement.


 

Project Title: Hindbrain control of feeding behaviours

Supervisor(s): Dr Zhi Yi Ong

Description: It is clear that overeating is a key contributor to increased obesity rates. Obese individuals overeat because they are less sensitive to gut signals that are responsible for making one feel full and stop eating. It is therefore critical to understand the gut-brain mechanisms that control feeding behaviours to better guide the development of treatments that can promote long term body weight loss. This project will explore the role of hindbrain neurons that receive inputs from the gut, on the control of feeding behaviours. Using transgenic rodent models, students will have the opportunity to run feeding behavioural tasks and perform histological and microscopy analyses.  


 

Project Title: The scientific study of intuition

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Joel Pearson

Description: What is human intuition? How can it be measured and can it be improved? We have devised the first scientific technique to measure intuition. Using this method, we found evidence that people can use intuition to make faster, more accurate and more confident decisions. This groundbreaking discovery is the first to show scientific evidence that intuition actually exists and a new method to objectively measure it. We have ongoing projects using novel empirical paradigms, physiological measures and computational decision models to show that unconscious emotional information can boost accuracy in concurrent emotion-free decision tasks. New projects are available using these techniques to study intuition, its genetic and brain basis and its application

e.g. can we train the military, sports stars or entrepreneurs to be more intuitive or more productive with their intuition?


 

Project Title: Behavioral, pharmacological and molecular biology tools to identify the neural circuitry underlying drug addiction

Supervisor(s): Dr Asheeta Prasad

Description: Drug addiction is a chronically relapsing and complex disorder. This project applies a combination of behavioral, pharmacological and molecular biology tools to identify the neural circuitry underlying drug addiction.

More info: http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/brain-mechanisms-drug-addiction-%E2%80%93-new-brain-pathways-revealed   


 

Project Title: Better understanding and treatments for Parkinson’s disease

Supervisor(s): Dr Asheeta Prasad

Description: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects approximately 10 million people globally; with approximately 32 Australians being diagnosed daily. The symptoms of PD are motor (e.g. slowness, stiffness) and non-motor including cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression. Using optogenetics, this project aims to provide better understanding and treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

More info: http://www.psy.unsw.edu.au/Non-Motor-Symptoms-of-Parkinson%27s-Disease-Dr-Asheeta-Prasad  


 

Project Title: Impact of language background on spelling performance

Supervisor(s): Prof Marcus Taft

Description: From tests carried out on bilinguals who grew up in Australia, we have preliminary data to suggest that those whose first language (L1) was Chinese (as opposed to other L1's) have better memory for orthography (i.e., spelling) than monolingual English speakers, despite performing less well on certain other language measures. It might be argued that the logographic Chinese writing system lends itself to holistic and precise orthographic processing which transfers to the processing of alphabetic English. However, it appears that the advantage for the Chinese-English bilinguals even holds for those who do not know how to read or write Chinese. This seems to imply that the relevant factors for better spelling lie either in the home environment or in the genes.

The proposed project aims to examine this more thoroughly by looking at both orthographic and non- orthographic memory of bilinguals with different L1's, and at individuals from these cultural backgrounds who are not themselves bilingual (e.g., third generation migrants).

Relevant reading (that investigates bilingual language ability, but not spelling): Nguyen-Hoan M., Taft M. (2010). The impact of a subordinate L1 on L2 auditory processing in adult bilinguals. Bilingualism, 13(2), 217-230.  http://www2.psy.unsw.edu.au/Users/mtaft/Nguyen-%20Hoan%20&%20Taft%202010.pdf


 

Project Title: Facial Comparison

Supervisor(s): Dr Alice Towler

Description: Important identification procedures, such as identifying offenders from CCTV footage, require facial comparison staff to verify the identity of unfamiliar people by comparing faces. However, unfamiliar face identification is a very challenging and error-prone task. It’s therefore critical that we recruit people for these roles who are naturally skilled at identifying people. We plan to design face recognition tests that capture the types of face recognition decisions encountered by facial comparison staff, such as searching for a person of interest in a football stadium or train station surveillance footage. These tests could be used to recruit facial comparison staff, and increase our understanding of the skills necessary to accurately identify people in these applied scenarios.


 

Project Title: Attentional capture by reward

Supervisor(s): Dr Poppy Watson

Description: Cues in the environment that signal the availability of reward become motivational magnets in their own right, capturing attention and motivating reward-seeking behaviours. Sometimes, however, it is in our best interests to ignore these reward signals and it has been argued that the extent to which individuals can do this relates to vulnerability for the development of compulsive reward seeking - as is observed for example in addiction. In our lab we use a variety of techniques and tasks to investigate (involuntary) attentional capture by stimuli signalling reward. We are particularly interested in how attentional capture by reward is increased when participants are stressed or under the influence of alcohol or when rewards become more motivationally salient (through for example testing participants when they are hungry in a task where they can win food rewards).  There are a variety of possible projects along these themes, depending on what the student finds interesting.


 

Project Title: Face recognition

Supervisor(s): Dr David White

Description: Many forensic and security procedures use face photographs to verify the identity of unknown people. However, face matching is a surprisingly difficult and error-prone task – on average, people make an error 1 in every 4 or 5 decisions. Recently, researchers have discovered that a small portion of the population have extraordinary face recognition ability. These ‘super-recognisers’ demonstrate almost perfect accuracy, even in very challenging conditions. We recently recruited a large group of super-recognisers to participate in our research. We plan to investigate why they can identify faces so much better than other people, and whether they are also skilled at other tasks, such as recognising members of the same family.


 

Project Title: Psychology of blood donors

Supervisor(s): Dr Lisa A. Williams

Description: Blood donors literally give a part of themselves to others – engaging in arguably one of the most prosocial acts one can do. The process of donating blood can involve physical discomfort and often instils a sense of fear, especially amongst those who have never donated. Recent research on the psychology of blood donors led by Dr Williams and her colleagues has suggested that, despite these apparent negative aspects of donation, many donors in fact derive positive emotions from donating. In this project, students will contribute directly to ongoing studies in this research area – spanning the entire research process, from question and hypothesis development to research design, and data collection to data analysis.