Undergraduate Scholarships

UNSW Science Vacation Research Scholarships (SVRS) 2020 - 2021

Are you a science student who would like the opportunity to experience the real world of scientific research first-hand?

Students in the penultimate (second last) year of their undergraduate program in Science or a related discipline are invited to apply for an SVRS to join a BABS research team and participate in research over the coming summer.

Each SVRS scholarship is valued at $3,800 and students will participate in a 6-week research project. 

The School facilitates collaborative research efforts across discipline boundaries for fundamental discoveries, generation of commercial opportunities and clinical research. BABS has key strengths in environmental microbiology, genetics and cellular biology, molecular medicine, and associated technology development in the areas of functional genomics and many facets of biotechnology. The School has a unique strength in combining fundamental biological and biomolecular sciences with strong applied biotechnology and medical focus. 

How to apply

The first step of the application process is to contact the supervisor of your chosen project to discuss the project's requirements. When you have decided on your project preferences please submit an application form by the closing date - 30/09/2020.

Full details (including how to apply) are provided on the Scholarships website and all enquiries can be directed to science.adrt@unsw.edu.au.

UNSW Science Vacation Research Scholarships (SVRS) Projects 2020 - 2021

Supervisor: Professor John Mattick

Email: j.mattick@unsw.edu.au 


There are thousands of ultraconserved elements (UCEs) in the human genome, which are almost identical with those in other mammals. UCEs evolved rapidly in vertebrate evolution and then froze in birds and mammals. UCEs do nor encode proteins and are far more conserved than protein-coding sequences. Some appear to act as developmental enhancers. Paradoxically, deletion of UCEs has little or no obvious phenotypic consequence, and there is no evolutionary, functional or molecular explanation for their existence and fierce conservation.  

This project will examine the distribution of UCEs in mammals and birds (now that we have many genome sequences) and formalise their definition.  It will develop a means of rapid synteny mapping of genomes and understanding their ancestry. Most importantly, it will look for correlations with functional indices (such as protein-binding sites) by intersection with ENCODE and other genome biology datasets to gain clues as to their function.

This project would suit a student with computational / bioinformatic experience.


Bejerano G, Pheasant M, Makunin IV, Stephen S, Kent WJ, Mattick JS and Haussler D (2004). Ultraconserved elements in the human genome. Science 304: 1321-1325 (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/304/5675/1321.full.pdf).

Stephen S, Pheasant M, Makunin IV and Mattick JS (2008). Large-scale appearance of ultraconserved elements in tetrapod genomes and slowdown of the molecular clock. Molecular Biology and Evolution 25: 402-408 (https://academic.oup.com/mbe/article/25/2/402/1136890).

Ahituv, N. et al. Deletion of ultraconserved elements yields viable mice. PLoS Biol 5, e234 (2007).

Visel A. et al. Ultraconservation identifies a small subset of extremely constrained developmental enhancers. Nat Genet 40, 158-160 (2008).

Calin, GA et al. Ultraconserved regions encoding ncRNAs are altered in human leukemias and carcinomas. Cancer cell 12, 215-229 (2007).

Dickel, D. E. et al. Ultraconserved enhancers are required for normal development. Cell 172, 491-499.

Supervisor: Dr Emily Oates

Email: e.oates@unsw.edu.au 


Our research is focused on the discovery of new human disease genes, establishing the biological pathways that are impacted by mutations in these genes, and using this information to identify targets for future therapies. In this summer project students will have the opportunity of analysing massively parallel genetic sequencing data from patients with rare genetic disorders who do not currently have a genetic diagnosis. In most cases patient data will be analysed in parallel with data from both unaffected parents to increase the chance of identifying the causative mutation(s) (“trio” analysis). If potentially pathogenic variants in possible new disease genes are identified, students will draw on existing literature and database-accessible information to determine the biological plausibility of the gene as a disease gene (e.g. Is the gene expressed in the clinically affected tissues?, Does the gene encode a protein involved in a pathway altered in other similar diseases?). The student will also determine the likely pathogenicity of their variants of interest using in silico-based analytical techniques, and by finding additional patients with mutations within the same gene via our well-established collaborator network and clinical ‘matchmaking’ programs.

This project would suit third year students with a background in genetics and an interest in human genetics. Bioinformatics/programming skills would be useful but not essential.

NOTE: If you identify a BABS staff member whose work you are interested in but they do not have a project listed on our website, you are encouraged to approach them to inquire whether they would be interested in offering a SVRS project.


Roy and Lois Tirrell Award (UGCA1213)

Amount: $5,000

The purpose of the Scholarship is to support UNSW students studying an undergraduate degree program within the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science.


The recipient must be currently enrolled in any full-time undergraduate degree program within the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science including, but not limited to, the following programs*:

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Science (International)
  • Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours)
  • Bachelor of Advanced Science

*Enrolment in a dual degree is also permissible.


Applicants will be considered based on their UAC Equity Scholarship or UAC Educational Access Scheme application, or another appropriate UNSW admissions pathway program.

How to Apply