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 scholars 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.  The Scientia Scheme is targeted in that applicants will apply to a specific research area with an identified supervisory team and application is by nomination.

  • Work on high quality research projects with the best supervisory teams in world class environments
  • $40K a year stipend for four years
  • Tuition fees covered for the full 4 year period
  • Coaching and mentoring will form a critical part of your highly personalised leadership development plan
  • Up to $10k each year to build your career and support your international research collaborations
  • At least 5 of these scholarships will be reserved for Indigenous research candidates. 

Scientia PhD Scholarship projects supervised within the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre are listed below. Project details are outlined below. To express interest in one of these projects please start your application by taking the self assessment. Download the editable MS Word version or download the non-editable PDF version (best for Mac or mobile devices). Once the self assessment form is completed, save as a PDF and upload along with your application. To submit an expression of interest click on the relevant project link below and complete the Apply Now form. If you and the supervisory team match up well, the team will nominate you and you will be invited to submit a full application for consideration.

Application deadline is Friday 21 July 2017

Economic Inequality as a Driver of Sexual Competition and Gendered Traits

We propose to test the exciting new idea that economic inequality among households also shapes mating competition, giving rise to many of the stark sex differences in dress, spending patterns, and mental and physical health that pervade societies. While wealthy Western countries have progressed steadily toward gender-equitable opportunities over the last century, differences between women and men in aggression, interests and the incidence of diseases like anxiety and depression have, paradoxically, increased. It is clear that ossified old ways of understanding gendered traits as either biologically essential or socially constructed have little to offer in terms of further understanding. Our approach transcends old territorial boundaries, and promises a newer, better and more general way to understand gendered behaviours, including those implicated in harm to mental health, safety, and happiness. The work will involve both experimental psychological research and analysis of economic data.

Supervisory Team: Robert Brooks, Pauline Grosjean and Khandis Blake

Genomics, Tomography, Neural Networks and the Evolution of Insects

The project will undertake cutting-edge research on the evolution of insects, the most successful group of animals. Much controversy exists about why insects are so successful (e.g., most diverse group of animals, critical 'environmental engineers'). The project will integrate new methods in genomics, tomography, machine learning to understand the evolution of key adaptations (e.g., male and female genitalia). Hypotheses about milestone evolutionary events will be generated from total-evidence analysis of genomic and phenotypic data, and tested using behavioural experiments in the Bonduriansky laboratory. UNSW has world class facilities in genomics (Ramaciotti Centre) and tomography (Tyree X-ray CT, Petroleum Engineering, UNSW) that provide a means for undertaking this interdisciplinary research. Prof. Sowmya will enable application of machine learning and novel quantification of the insect phenotype. The availability of this research infrastructure and expertise will attract quality PhD students, enable interdisciplinary research, and make UNSW a world-leader on the evolution of animals.

Supervisory Team: Gerry Cassis, Arcot Sowmya and Russell Bondurianksy

Climate Change Influence on Species Range Shifts

Climate change is having profound effects on ecosystems worldwide. Many plant and animal species will not survive the changing climate unless their distributions shift. We have numerous documented cases of species range shifts. However, not all species are moving. We do not have a systematic understanding of why some species have moved and others have not, and this is a key challenge for understanding climate impacts on biodiversity.

Supervisory Team: Shinichi Nakagawa, Will Cornwell and Daniel Falster

Consequences of Climate Change for Ecosystem Functions in Tropicalised Coastal Systems

Climate change is driving a universal redistribution of species on Earth. In marine systems, ocean warming is causing the decline of kelp forests in Australia and globally. This loss of kelp is mediated by direct effects of warming and by increases in herbivory by range-expanding tropical fishes. As a consequence, temperate kelp forests are being replaced by low-biomass algal turfs, and associated ecological communities are becoming increasingly 'tropicalised'. Despite these tropicalisation patterns being a pervasive phenomenon globally, the consequences of these shifts to important ecosystem functions remain to be established. This project will quantify the impact of kelp loss and tropicalisation on two key ecosystem functions: primary productivity and fish productivity. This will provide crucial information for the development of climate change adaptation strategies in near shore marine environments.

Supervisory Team: Adriana Verges, Suhelen Egan and Peter Steinberg

Novel Diagnostic Tools for Chemically Stressed Waterways

Humans rely on coastal ecosystems for a range of services, such as food and recreational amenity, and they are amongst the most intense areas of development. Human activities introduce an array of interacting stressors that affect both the diversity and functioning of marine ecosystems, and, in some cases, cause ecosystem collapse. The key to sustainable coastal development is discovering accurate and efficient diagnostic tools for assessing ecosystem integrity ('health'). The vision of this research is to conduct multidisciplinary environmental investigations towards the development of novel ecosystem-health diagnostics. Research techniques will range from ecotoxicology and acoustic mapping to molecular bioinformatics.

Supervisory Team: Emma Johnston, Katherine Dafforn and Graeme Clark



Domestic Research Candidate Scholarships

  1. NSW Research Excellence Awards $29,000 - $35,000
  2. Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) + Faculty top-up scholarship $25,000 - $30,000
  3. Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA) $24,653
  4. University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) $24,653
  5. Faculty Postgraduate Awards $24,928 - $30,000

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:


"Shout if 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.