Summer Scholarships with the School of Geosciences


Denison Research Scholarships are a great way to gain research experience and an insight into research processes while working alongside our leading scientific researchers. Research projects are available in most disciplines for a duration of 6 weeks over the Summer holiday period (November - early March).

The program is open to both current domestic and international University of Sydney students as well as domestic students from other Australian Universities and New Zealand. Each scholarship is valued at $513 (in accordance with 2017 RTP rate) per week for the duration of the project. Students living outside of metropolitan Sydney may also be eligible for an additional scholarship - valued at $250 per week for the duration of the Denison Research Scholarship project - to assist with travel and relocation costs.

For more information visit the Faculty website.

Summer Scholarship Profile: Lauren Harrington

Project: Tectonic and Mantle Convection Modelling of the Papua New Guinea Margin with Dr Sabin Zahirovic, Dr Nicolas Flament, Prof Dietmar Müller, A/Prof Patrice Rey and Luke Mondy

lauren harrington

Over a 6-week period I conducted a summer scholarship project for the University of Sydney, School of Geosciences, supervised by academics from the EarthByte group and in collaboration with industry contacts from Oil Search. The project aimed to model the effect of dynamic topography on the geological evolution of Papua New Guinea from the Late Jurassic to the present.

The study involved coupling plate reconstructions with numerical mantle flow models to extract dependent dynamic topography signals over PNG. The dynamic topography predictions were also compared with paleogeographic maps for the region, allowing for an examination of the relationship between predicted dynamic topography and ancient inundation patterns. The results showed strong correlations between periods of dynamic subsidence and regional inundation, suggesting that dynamic topography likely played a significant role in the geological evolution of the region. To supplement this, this project also compared equivalent vertical profiles from the geodynamic models to seismic tomography cross-sections at present day, to assess how well the models reproduced the mantle structure. Unfortunately, the results revealed notable offsets between the two cross-sections particularly in west PNG, with the models incorrectly estimating the location as well as volume of subducted slabs.

The results revealed several shortcomings, but also critical insights, which will provide future scope for the subject area. This summer scholarships project was an invaluable experience for both my education and career, and was only the beginning for this particular area of research. In the long term this research will hopefully enable us to come closer to constraining the influence of dynamic topography on the geological evolution of PNG, which has significant implications in the areas of paleobiology, paleoclimate and in the development of economic resources.

Summer Scholarship Profile: Lawrence Wallis


Project: ISO37120 and Sustainable City Indicators with Prof Phil McManus

Over the 2015/16 summer break I had the opportunity to undertake a summer research scholarship at the University of Sydney. I was part of a research team that investigated the implications of a global urban sustainability indicator framework for Australian cities. I was lucky to work alongside two other undergraduate researchers Silvia and Derui and we were supervised by Prof Phil McManus and Elizabeth Duncan from the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences. This was a great opportunity which gave our team of undergraduate researchers autonomy and responsibility for conducting real-world research. Collectively we were involved in the entire research process. This included a background literature review, organising and conducting interviews with local government, state government agencies, NGO’s and international academic institutions, transcribing interviews, analysing data and writing an academic paper for publication. This research process was extremely rewarding, we got to travel all over Sydney and meet a range of urban sustainability professionals. Derui even got to visit Melbourne for one of our important interviews.

Throughout our project we were given useful guidance from our supervisors but also allowed to make our own decisions and meaningfully contribute to the project. Working alongside other summer researchers in the Madsen building was also great as we were able to discuss our work with interested peers and learn about projects other students were working on. This experience gave me the opportunity to hone my research skills, make professional connections and better understand research opportunities within the school of Geosciences. I would strongly recommend the summer research scholarship program to any prospective student researchers!

Summer Scholarship Profile: Elen Welch


Project: The Political Economy of Environment and Development in India with Prof. Bill Pritchard

"It was fantastic to be able to participate in this summer scholarship as it laid the foundations for my Honours project. My summer scholarship consisted of two key components: the first was a role as a research assistant for a project that Prof. Pritchard is involved in about the challenges of feminised agriculture in India; and second, the opportunity to refine my Honour’s project proposal. The scholarship gave me the opportunity to travel to India with my supervisor Bill in February 2016 for a week. The key purpose of this trip was to fine-tune my Honours research proposal and to scope out possibilities for my fieldwork which I am conducting over two months in June-July this year.

Whilst in India, I was also involved in some research work with this parallel project. I was able to engage with this larger project in India and establish my own research project within this sphere. My Honour’s project will use a livelihoods framework to explore migration patterns and the implications for gendered structures of power in a de-agrarianising context. This trip was extremely important for scoping my research project, refining my thesis proposal and meeting with gatekeepers to establish networks that would help me organise my fieldwork.This trip left me confident about conducting my field research in India and navigating language, cultural and social barriers which I will likely face when I head over next month.

Following the summer scholarship, I enthusiastically commenced Honours in Geography with a much clearer direction about my project and so in this way, it was an invaluable experience both personally and academically."

Summer Scholarship Profile: David Lau

Project: The 'collapse' of Angkor: vulnerability of civil infrastructure to cascading failure with Dr Dan Penny


"The Summer Scholarship with the School of Geosciences was both a challenging and enjoyable experience, and was very rewarding in helping me pursue my career goals. The project I participated in involved the analysis of spatial data using ArcGIS to study the infrastructural water network in Angkor, Cambodia. I was able to strengthen my ability to work in a team by collaborating with my research supervisor, as well as scholars from different faculties. In addition, the project allowed me to build on the skills I acquired during university and get a taste of what it’s like working as a researcher. The Summer Scholarship was a very fulfilling experience and is an excellent opportunity to apply your skills and contribute towards meaningful real-world projects."

Summer Scholarship Profile: Serena Yeung


Project: Submarine landslides on the east Australian margin with
Associate Professor Tom Hubble and Dr Samantha Clarke

"During the summer of 2015-2016, I had the opportunity to undertake a summer research scholarship offered by the School of Geosciences at The University of Sydney. Supervised by Associate Professor Tom Hubble and Dr Samantha Clarke of the Geocoastal Research Group, my project was entitled ‘Submarine landslides on the east Australian margin’. Submarine landslides are underwater landslides that mobilise huge volumes of sediment and rock. By studying the characteristics of submarine landslides that have already failed, it is possible to determine their timing, possible causes, recurrence rate and the tsunamigenic potential of similar slides.

Under the guidance of my supervisors, my role was to collect sedimentological data from four gravity cores collected by the research vessel Southern Surveyor from offshore Yamba, northern NSW. I spent almost every day in the geoscience laboratories of the Madsen Building either logging cores, imaging cores, or hand-picking foraminifera for radiocarbon dating. It was my first taste of working independently in the geoscience laboratories and I loved every minute of it. I also spent some time documenting laboratory workflows and learning how to use new programs such as the borehole-plotting program Strater. The opportunity to familiarise myself with the research processes involved in marine geoscience was immensely rewarding. I felt that my involvement in the program prepared me for Honours and made me feel comfortable with conducting my own research. It was also a great opportunity to network and get to know some of the school’s academic and technical support staff, as well as the other summer research students. I would highly recommend the summer scholarship program to any students interested in complimenting their undergraduate studies with some experience in conducting research."