University of Sydney Handbooks - 2013 Archive

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Talented student program


The Talented Student Program (TSP) is a special program of science study intended for students 'of exceptional merit' who are enrolled in degrees administered by the Faculty of Science (BSc, BMedSc, BPsych, BLAS and their specialist streams or combined degrees).

The aim of the program is to offer students of exceptional merit additional challenging material to enable them to maximise their intellectual growth and potential.

A major benefit of participation in the Talented Student Program is that students receive special supervision by academic staff and often engage in studies with small numbers of fellow students, all of whom have particular interest in the subject. In general, the TSP caters for students whose talent is broad-based across science.

There are two main aspects of a student's involvement in the TSP. Students have greater flexibility in their choice of study (beyond that normally allowed by degree rules), and they have a mentor, a member of the academic staff who assists them in choosing from the great range of possibilities. Participation in the Talented Student Program is recorded separately on the student's academic transcript, as are TSP units of study, so that all potential employers are aware that the student has completed challenging courses of study.

Further information on the operation of the Talented Student Program may be obtained from the departmental coordinators listed below.


Entry to the Talented Student Program is by invitation from the Dean. Invitations to participate in the TSP are made each year for that year. The following guidelines apply generally, although departments may have additional (and more stringent) requirements for entry to the activities they offer in the program:

  • To be considered for the program in their first year, students should normally have a ATAR (or equivalent) of 99.00 or higher and a result in band 6 in at least one HSC science subject area a mark of 95 or better in HSC Mathematics Extension 2. The Dean may consider slight variations to these requirements where a student has demonstrated exceptional performance in scientific study (eg, at the level of membership of a team which represents Australia in an International Science or Mathematics Olympiad).
  • To be considered for entry into the program in their second and third years, students should normally have AAMs of 85 or over and a high distinction grade in an appropriate Science subject area. Intermediate level entry to TSP is available only to students who have been enrolled full-time in units of study totalling at least 48 credit points.

Students who feel that they satisfy these criteria, but who have not received an invitation to participate in the TSP that year, should contact the Dean's office.

Range of TSP structures

The relevant Faculty Resolutions authorise the Dean to give approval for students of exceptional merit to enrol in units of study or in combinations of units of study not normally available within the degree.

In very exceptional cases, particularly for students who have excelled in Olympiad programs, application of these Resolutions may permit accelerated progress toward the completion of the BSc degree. Students will arrange a suitable pattern of study for the year, in consultation with their mentor (who will also consider the entire degree program). TSP studies may be in a single discipline, several disciplines or may include inter-disciplinary activities. Some TSP activities are in addition to normal coursework, whilst others replace the prescribed work.

Many disciplines have an organised activity for a whole group of TSP students studying that field, such as a weekly seminar or group project. In other disciplines, TSP activity involves participation by each TSP student in a research group of staff and postgraduates. Every student is treated individually; however, there are some common patterns that we describe below. For many TSP students who are interested in several fields, (especially if they are not really sure about their eventual direction), a suitable arrangement might be for them to join in separate TSP activities of each discipline. Students might elect to study a broader range of fields than usual, by studying more than the normal load of 24 credit points per semester.

Another pattern is to accelerate a student who (say through Olympiad participation) may be familiar with the topics in the usual first-year units in a discipline. Such a student can go directly to second year study in that field and in related fields, when they begin their degree. By studying more than the usual workload each semester, they may be able to complete their honours degree in less than 4 years full-time.

Constraints on TSP structure

When a TSP activity replaces normal activity within a unit of study, the student will enrol in that unit, but the transcript will be annotated to reflect the TSP activity. When a TSP activity differs from the normal workload, the student will be enrolled in specially designated TSP units. Each TSP activity is assigned a number of credit points, a level (Junior, Intermediate or Senior) and a Discipline area, so it can contribute to meeting the degree requirements.

The maximum number of credit points from TSP activities that can be credited towards the degree is normally 42 credit points designated as TSP units of study that are not listed in the faculty handbook. This 42-credit point total covers all three years of study, and perhaps several different disciplines, so it is important to plan carefully to leave enough TSP possibilities in later years. It is also important that the student meets all the usual degree requirements, involving numbers of credit points at various levels and in a range of disciplines.

The TSP process

At the start of each year, the Dean chooses students to be invited to participate in the TSP. A welcome is held in Orientation week, and at that time, each student who is new to the TSP will meet briefly with the faculty TSP coordinator, who assigns a mentor for the student.

The mentor is usually a departmental TSP coordinator, from a department closest to the student's interest(s). The mentor and the student then plan special activities for the year, covering all fields (this may involve discussions with coordinators from other departments). A proposal is put to the Dean, who can approve enrolment in special TSP units of study. During the year the student will meet several times with the mentor, to make sure that everything is going well. Assessment will be through the mentor and the staff involved in the activities. At the end of the semester the TSP coordinator will report results.

TSP coordinators
Faculty of Science

Associate Professor Anthony Masters
T 9351 3743

Showcase Project Coordinator
Associate Professor Julie Cairney
T 9351 4523
Senior Agricultural Chemistry

Students may undertake, in addition to normal coursework, a special research project directly supervised by a member of the academic staff.

Dr Robert Caldwell
T 8627 1019

Anatomy and Histology

The Department of Anatomy and Histology offers individual projects related to research in the department (for example Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Forensic Anatomy, Structure and Function of Muscle Tissue) as well as a more structured program in cooperation with other departments in the School of Medical Sciences.

Dr Vladimir Balcar
T 9351 2837
T 9351 4035 - Lab

Biological Sciences

Students may undertake additional seminars and/or special project work.

Associate Professor Jan Marc
T 9351 2383

Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli
T 9351 3992

The Chemistry School offers Junior TSP students a challenging program based on the 'Chemistry 1 (Special Studies Program)'. The program comprises the Junior Chemistry (Advanced) lecture series, special tutorials, and special project-based laboratory exercises. Admission to Chemistry 1 (SSP) is by invitation only, and is limited to 40 students each year. Intermediate and senior Chemistry students may undertake a special research project.

Dr Toby Hudson
T 9036 7648


Intermediate Geography
In lieu of some of the normal coursework, students may undertake special project work on an environmental problem. Particular emphasis will be given to the enhancement of student capabilities in the areas of problem identification, problem formulation, data gathering, and analysis and reporting.

Professor Phil Hirsch
T 9351 3355

Geology and Geophysics
Students will be offered extra seminars and/or special project work.

Dr Derek Wyman
T 9351 2924
History and Philosophy of Science

The unit will make special arrangements for individual students. Interested students should contact the TSP coordinator as soon as possible. Topics offered include History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science; Science and Ethics; and Public Communication / Understanding of Science.

From first year onwards TSP students may enrol in advanced HPS for entry into the HPS Honours program. A 'distinction' grade in one advanced Intermediate unit of study, one Senior unit of study and HPSC4104 is required. Students who successfully complete the requirements will be awarded a special certifcate from the school of HPS.

Dr Daniela Helbig
T 9351 4124


Students may undertake a special research project.

Associate Professor Allison Abendroth
T 9351 6867

Information Technologies

The department will make special arrangements for individual students. Interested students should contact the TSP coordinator as soon as possible.

Dr Julian Mestre
T 9351 4276

Mathematics and Statistics

Students admitted to the program have the following options:

  • First-year students in the Talented Student Program are invited to apply for entry to the Mathematics Special Studies Program. In addition to covering standard material, students in the Special Studies Program will participate in their own seminars on specially chosen advanced topics.
  • Students in the Talented Student Program have access to Mathematics units of study in higher years. For example, a first-year student may take selected second or even third-year units. Second and third-year students have access to special projects, which can be inter-disciplinary, according to the interests of the individual student. Second and third-year students are encouraged to tailor their own programs, in consultation with the coordinators.

Dr Daniel Daners
T 9351 2966

Medical Science

Coordinators: Dr Brent McParland and Dr Margot Day

Molecular Bioscience

A special program of study will be developed for individual students enrolled in Intermediate and Senior Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Molecular Biotechnology and Microbiology.

Dr Sashi Kant
T 9351 4024


Dr Bob Bao
T 9351 6156


The department will make special arrangements for individual students throughout their studies.

Dr Brent McParland
T 9036 6477


The Physics TSP program extends the physics course by special seminars and project work, together with an excursion to locations of interest in the July semester break.

The special project work in the July semester replaces part of the laboratory program and is available to first and second year TSP students. It introduces students to the diversity of research activities in the School. The aim is to broaden students' knowledge of physics, and give an insight into how physicists think and how a real research project is tackled.

Professor Dick Hunstead
T 9351 3871

Dr Helen Johnston
T 9351 2152

Students may undertake, in addition to normal coursework, a special research project.

Dr Margot Day
T 9036 3312


The program is available in Intermediate and Senior Psychology. Students admitted to the program have the following options, or various combinations of these options, available to them:

  • additional options in Psychology either in lieu of, or in addition to, other units of study in Science
  • a combination of additional Psychology options combined with special studies in another science discipline (for example, Biochemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics)
  • a special research project in lieu of, or in addition to, normal practical or classwork components.

Dr Laura Corbit
T 9351 7074

Senior Soil Science

Students may undertake, in addition to normal coursework, a special research project.

Professor Alex McBratney
T 8627 1130