UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme

The UNSW Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme is part of our dedication to harnessing our cutting-edge research to solve complex problems and improve the lives of people in local and global communities. Scientia candidates will have a strong commitment to making a difference in the world with demonstrated potential for contributing to the social engagement and/or global impact pillars of the UNSW 2025 Strategy.

Applicants are required to express their interest in a specific research area with an identified supervisory team. There are over 190 research projects to choose from.

  • Work on high quality research projects with the best supervisory teams in world class environments
  • Stipend $41,209 per year for four years (2019 rate, indexed)
  • Tuition fees covered for the full 4 year candidature
  • Personal Development coaching and mentoring will form a critical part of your highly personalised leadership development plan
  • Career Development up to $10k each year to build your career and support your international research collaborations
  • Indigenous Research at least 5 scholarships will be reserved for Indigenous candidates 

Expression of Interest now open. Closes Friday 12 July 2019


Clothes, fibres and filters that reduce microplastic pollution

Clothing fibres are the most abundant form of plastic found in the ecosystem. This global pollution has increased by 450% in 60-years. While the use of natural fibres, in place of plastic, and filters are marketed as eco-friendly products that mitigate fibre pollution, scientific evidence is lacking. This Ph.D. will determine how natural and plastic fibres of clothing, clothing brands and filters alter fibre emissions and ecotoxicological impacts to aquatic wildlife via sewage. This cutting-edge research will underpin global efforts by the public, government and companies to reduce fibre pollution.

The candidate will have a strong commitment to making a difference in the world with demonstrated excellence in ecotoxicology, environmental science and engineering relative to career-stage. Technical skills and experience of designing environmental surveys and experiments, life-cycle assessment, multifactorial statistics, vibrational spectroscopy and social engagement would be beneficial.

Supervisory Team: Mark Anthony Browne, Richard Stuetz (Engineering) and Emma Johnston

Sexual conflict and the “paradox of sex”: insights from stick-insects

This project addresses a central question in biology: why is sexual reproduction so prevalent in animals? It will test an exciting new hypothesis based on sexual conflict that could revolutionize our understanding of the evolution of animal reproduction. The sexual conflict hypothesis will be tested for the first time through a combination of genetic, behavioural, life-history, and microbiome analyses conducted in natural populations of stick-insects in North Queensland and in the laboratory, under the mentorship of experts in evolutionary, population-genetic, and microbiome analysis. It will also contribute to monitoring of natural insect populations.

We are looking for a keen, motivated student interested in undertaking cutting-edge evolutionary research and acquiring the wide range of skills needed to succeed in an academic research career. The ideal candidate will have a strong background in evolutionary ecology and genetics, preferably including familiarity with sexual coevolution theory, and will be willing to carry out field-work in the tropical rainforest of north Queensland, Australia, as well as laboratory experiments and assays at UNSW in Sydney. Experience working with insects, and conducting field-work, will be an asset. Strong conceptual skills, quantitative/statistical skills, and proficiency in scientific writing, will be very valuable as well. Students with backgrounds in other areas of biology are encouraged to apply if they have a keen interest in the project, and demonstrated capacity for research (publications, experience, etc.). The student will have an opportunity to learn specialized skills and techniques required for this project.

Supervisory Team: Russell BondurianskyLee Ann Rollins and Suhelen Egan

Phenotypic plasticity and aging in a changing world

Human-induced changes such as clmate change threaten many populations. Evidence suggests that for many organisms, an increase in temperature expedites aging. Importantly, aging is often associated with the loss of phenotypic plasticity, key for population viability in a changing world. Surprisingly, we know very little about how plasticity changes as organisms age. This project will fill this knowledge gap on age-dependent plasticity using both theoretical and empirical approaches. Our project will reveal not only how phenotypic plasticity can dampen the effect of climate change, but also how, in turn, climate change itself can affect phenotypic plasticity.

We are looking for a candidate with a background in ecology and evolution, so they are familiar with the theory and literature, although a candidate with a background in mathematics, statistics and computer sciences is also suitable. Ideally, a candidate should have some experience in empirical work (e.g. having conducted a field or lab experiment of their own) and good quantitative and computational skills (e.g. basic knowledge of linear algebra, competence in R). Also, we seek a demonstrated ability in academic communication in the form of journal publications and conference presentations.

Supervisory Team: Shinichi Nakagawa, Szymon Drobniak and Tracey Rogers

Ecological restoration strategies in urban ecosystems

Regeneration of native vegetation is a key tool for conserving the biodiversity of Australia’s cities. Despite the investment of substantial amounts of council funds and thousands of volunteer hours in urban bush regeneration projects, we have almost no information on the efficacy of different regeneration strategies. In this project, we will combine past records from regenerators and councils with new surveys of vegetation condition to assess the success of different regeneration techniques. This research will transform Australian bush regeneration from guesswork to a rigorous scientifically-backed endeavour, improving our ability to return degraded urban habitats to functioning ecosystems.

The successful candidate will have an undergraduate degree and research experience (e.g. Honours or MSc research) in Ecology. They will have strong statistical analysis skills and effective written and oral communication skills (preferably including past experience in manuscript preparation). They will need to coordinate with a large (existing) network of Sydney council land managers and bush regenerators, so will need the capacity to work with a diverse range of people. In addition, the successful candidate should be capable of leading field research, and be willing to acquire plant identification skills for the flora of the Sydney region. A driver’s license is essential. The successful candidate will be part of a vibrant, collaborative and supportive research group, so good interpersonal skills and a passion for ecology are essential.

Supervisory Team: Stephen BonserDavid Eldridge and Angela Moles

Could economic inequality be slowing trends toward gender equity?

As wealthy Western countries have progressed toward gender equity, differences between women and men in psychological traits, and conditions like anxiety and depression have, paradoxically, increased. One intriguing possibility is that rising income inequality among men and among women has changed incentive structures leading to wider gender gaps. Currently we know little about whether women and men respond differently to inequality. This project includes experiments (conducted in person and online) and a cross-national study in order to understand individual differences in how people respond to inequality and changing global trends in behaviour. 

The candidate may have a background in psychology, behavioural ecology, anthropology, or economics. They will be committed to the empirical, theory-driven study of human behaviour. Ideally they will have some experience in research design and statistical analysis. Programming experience and advanced computer science skills may be useful. The phenomena we study are often ideologically polarising, and require an ability to write and speak with clarity and nuance. Evidence of excellent writing and communication skills, in academic and/or non-academic contexts, would be ideal. We value diversity of background and experience in our team. The cross-national nature of some of our work means experience working in a variety of cultures will be an asset.

Supervisory Team: Rob BrooksMichael Kasumovic and Khandis Blake

Developing genomic resources to advance the molecular ecology of invasions

Invasive species pose a major challenge to biodiversity worldwide but also provide the unique opportunity to study evolution in action. Rapid changes are often associated with invaders’ introduction to novel environments. Understanding how molecular mechanisms drive these changes enables the creation of innovative solutions to controlling invasions and managing native species’ response to climatic change. The iconic Australian cane toad invasion is one of the best studied globally and is an emerging model for invasion genomics. This project will use whole genome sequencing, novel bioinformatic approaches and proteomics to identify molecular drivers of invasion success.

We seek a highly motivated, curiosity-driven student with an interest in evolutionary biology and bioinformatics, who would like to understand why invasive species flourish. Ideally, candidates will have demonstrated computer literacy and be willing to learn new approaches to analysing genomic and proteomic data. Strong writing skills will be an asset. We will consider applicants coming from either a computing background who want to work in evolutionary biology or those with evolutionary biology backgrounds and a keen interest in bioinformatics. The supervisory team offer a high level of support in the fields of evolutionary biology, genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics. This project provides the opportunity for the successful applicant to develop the most current skills and build a successful career in these fields while contributing to solutions for two major global issues: loss of biodiversity and species' response to climate change.

Supervisory Team: Lee Rollins, Marc Wilkins (BABS) and Richard Edwards (BABS)


Domestic Research Candidate Scholarships

  1. Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship
  2. University Postgraduate Award (UPA)
  3. Faculty Top Up Scholarships - attached to RTP Scholarship or UPA

Full details

International Research Candidate Scholarships

For more information, see International Research Candidate Scholarships

Visit the UNSW Graduate Research School for more information on scholarships and details of eligibility and how to apply. 

E&ERC postgraduate scholarships

E&ERC Postgraduate Writing and Skills Transfer Scholarship.

In addition to these special courses run by the E&ERC, several courses run by senior postgraduate students and typically scheduled towards the end of the year have also been offered as a part of the “E&ERC Postgraduate Writing & Skills Transfer Scholarship”.

These awards support students who have recently submitted their PhD theses to continue the preparation of journal articles from their theses. Students receiving this award will also present a short course. The short course is usually based upon the skills they developed during their tenure as PhD students and is presented to students in the E&ERC graduate program. The aim of these awards is to maximise research output (and to increase competitiveness for post doctoral research fellowships and research positions), and to facilitate the transfer of professional and research skills between post graduate students.

Previous skills transfer courses have included:


Communicating your research visually

Alicia Guerrero


"Shout it from the benchtops" Engaging methods for outreach and science communication

Floret Meredith


Data synthesis and meta-analysis

Si-Chong Chen


Modelling Workshop

Justin Wan


From Sample to Sequence: Can molecular methods help me

and my research?

Melanie Sun &

Sandra Vardeh

2015 Money Makes the World Go Round Rhiannon Dalrymple


Introduction to GIS in Ecology

Suzanna Evans


Introduction to MATLAB

Natasha Henschke


Tree-thinking workshop

Anna Namyatova


Building a Professional Network: Meeting & Tweeting

Katelyn Edge


Winning Presentations

Marie Attard


Clarity, Intrigue and Persuasion: Making Your Scientific Writing

Worth Reading

Margo Adler


Understanding and incorporating genetic and microbial analyses

into your research

Tiffanie Nelson &

Anna Kopps


Introduction to the R Environment

Luke Hedge


A Successful Abstract, Making your Conference Talk Stand Out,

and Speaking to the Public

Alex Jordan


Interdisciplinary Research: melding for maximum impact

Louise McKenzie



Research funding opportunities


Contact Dr Terry Ord ( for a list of further awards, grants and travel scholarships available to postgraduate students. 


Faculty of Science Vacation Research Scholarship


The Vacation Research Scholarship provides an excellent research opportunity for science undergraduate students to experience working in a research environment.


Further information on admission, enrolment, scholarships and costs is provided by the UNSW Graduate Research School.